I got in a dogfight this week. He was in the midst of pouncing on Eddie, and the only thing that came to mind was to pounce on him. Miraculously, I won. Eddie didn't get hurt. And we all walked away nervous but unhurt.
The neighbor kids say he's one of the bully breeds, but I'm not sure and the breed doesn't have anything to do with it so I'll leave out the speculation. He was about 50-60 pounds and muscular.
The incident happened as we were taking our daily walk at Dave Rose Park, a neighborhood park where leashes are required. There is hardly anyone ever in this park in the winter, and I often let mine walk off-leash when I'm in a location where I can see who's coming. But while we were standing on a hill, I heard a neighbor shout loudly and I looked over and saw a brown dog about 50 yards from us, unleashed.
I quickly leashed my three -- Yorkies Eddie and Jillie and Chessie Lucy -- and started walking the opposite direction. I looked a couple times over my shoulder and didn't see anything, so I figured the problem had been avoided. I was relaxed and so were the dogs.
But as we rounded a corner on the circular trail, I saw a kid chasing a dog about 100 yards away. At first, I didn't even think it was the same dog because they were quite a ways from where I'd first seen the dog, but as the kid kept chasing and the dog kept running, I realized I had a problem on my hands. If they followed the trail, they would come right up to us.
TERRIFYING COMEDY OF ERRORS
I looked around quickly for a place to take shelter, but there was just the groomed trail where we were walking and deep, chunky snow everywhere else. I decided not to walk into the deep snow because I didn't want to have a confrontation on ground where I didn't have good footing.
I shouted out to the kid when he was about 25 yards away "I hope that dog is friendly." He said nothing, just kept herding the dog toward us.
It was then the whole situation turned into a terrifying comedy of errors. I'd wished I'd picked up the Yorkies and let the Chessie run free. Too late. As the dog approached, it wasn't even looking at me, it was making a beeline for Eddie and Jillie. They were on harness, so as I was maneuvering myself to get between the Yorkies and the aggressor, I literally lifted the Yorkies off the ground in a semicircle around me.
Big mistake. They looked like a couple of pinatas dangling on a string, and if the dog didn't have evil intentions when the incident started, he certainly did now. Can you imagine how much fun flying Yorkies look to an undisciplined dog?
When I finally lowered them to the ground, the aggressor had run around me and pounced on Eddie. I didn't think. I dropped all the leashes and tackled the dog at about the same time he was landing on Eddie. Thankfully, he hadn't bitten him, just gotten a little slobber on his back.
Just about then, the dog turned his attention on me and snapped just as I was grabbing his collar with both hands. I was able to control his head while my body was still pressing down on his.
By then, the kid had shown up along with his dad from the other direction. I shouted at them to leash the dog. The father grabbed his collar too, but I told him to put the leash on him. I didn't trust the guy who had allowed the dog to escape in the first place to be able to control him without a leash. He complied.
We were all shaken, but as they were apologizing I looked around for my dogs. Lucy and Eddie were still standing there, but Jillie had taken off running. I suspected she was headed home -- about 300 yards away -- which meant running on the streets.
I grabbed the two leashes and took off running toward home. I discovered Jillie had stopped about 50 yards away and was looking at us. She was obviously terrified, because when I called her she took off running the other direction.
Fortunately, I'd driven my car to the park that day and she was just running to the car. She stopped before running far into the road.
As I loaded the last of the dogs in the car, I remembered breathing for the first time since the whole ordeal began. What a nightmare, but we had all escaped. And the only injury was a small scratch on my arm, likely from the dog's toenail.
WHAT'S THE LESSON?
I wish I knew. Part of me thinks I may have had a better outcome if I'd just dropped all the leashes and let the dogs sniff each other instead of dangling the Yorkies in front of the dog.
But that would have required me putting my faith in a charging dog I knew nothing about. I knew my dogs could handle a friendly encounter, but I wasn't sure of the aggressor's intentions. I tried playing back the warning signs in my head as to whether he was enraged. I honestly don't think so. I don't think I could have subdued a dog who was in the "red zone" so easily. But I wasn't willing to take the chance.
I might have picked up the Yorkies, but how would I have fended off an attack if the dog leaped at me to get them? Or attacked Lucy? Lucy was larger than the other dog, but she's also 11 years old. She doesn't need to be fighting a runaway dog.
I couldn't have dropped the leashes earlier because Jillie has been known to run when scared. She might have fled, and that would have incited the dog just as much as my flying pinata alternative.
One answer that's coming to me is to carry some kind of deterrent. I don't like pepper spray because you never know which way the wind is blowing, and I don't want to blind myself. A friend says she carries a stick, which would have been better than nothing. I wonder about carrying one of those pole snares like animal control uses. Loop it around the dog's neck and keep him at a distance.
All of those might help, but they're no solution. The fact of the matter is that a person walking multiple dogs is at a distinct disadvantage when trying to intervene in a dogfight. If I want to "solve" the problem, I'm going to have to walk them separately.
I'm not sure I'll do that. I've made twice-a-day walks to that park for 8 years, and this was our first close call. I'd hate to change our whole routine because of one serious encounter.
It sure makes you think, though, how vulnerable a small-dog owner and dogs are on leashed walks.
'HAIR OF THE DOG'
I took Jillie and Lucy on a "hair of the dog" walk later that night to the same park. Eddie didn't want to go. I don't think he's traumatized because he acted fairly normally the rest of the night.
Jillie was willing until we hit the same stretch of trail where it happened, then she started stopping and needing encouragement to keep going.
When we reached the exact spot it happened, my jaw dropped when we saw ANOTHER DOG! It was leashed and smaller, but Jillie didn't care. That was the last straw. She started pulling to go home as hard as her 5-pound body would let her and no amount of treats could get her to change her mind.
I ended up picking her up and carrying her past the spot. As we started heading back, I put her down and she walked comfortably the rest of the way.
Looks like it might be a long winter getting her confidence back up. So sad.