I recently cut short one of the most frustrating runs I’ve ever been on. And it’s because of the van in that picture.
In the middle of a 7-mile easy run in the bitter cold, I was running through a dark empty field on my way between two parks. Up ahead in the dark, I could see a van parked in the parking lot. Then I saw two large dogs moving around. I thought “Oh I hope those dogs belong with that van.” thinking that if they did, their owner was nearby to control them.
That would not turn out to be the case.
I’m a dog lover. I have a dog, and she is the love of my life. Any other dog I meet gets more love and attention than the person who brings the dog. It’s just a fact. BUT, when I see an unfamiliar, unrestrained dog while I’m out on a run, I am cautious.
I paused my music and slowed my running, as I always do when I see a loose dog. As soon as one of the dogs saw me, she started running at me. Fast.
As you can see in the picture above, the area is pitch dark. The field is where there was a stadium a few year ago. The stadium was torn down and replaced with a big empty field, waiting for a purpose. There’s a gravel path that goes through, which is lit with several small solar lights that don’t do much. Aside from those, there is nothing. And generally, there’s no one who comes through that area except random runners or walkers — which on a night like that night, there was only me.
I stopped moving, and started yelling commands at the dog that was racing toward me. “STOP. NO.” Undeterred, the dog reached me and jumped at me. I was terrified, alone in the dark, and a strange dog was jumping up at my face.
Lucky for me, this dog only wanted to play. She was excited to be outside, and someone had appeared out of no where, and she wanted to play with that person. She wouldn’t stop jumping at me. I didn’t want to play, though. The second dog appeared, and the two ran off together, thankfully.
Finally, someone got out of the van and called from the distance, “Oh she’s so friendly, she wouldn’t hurt anyone.” I got closer and explained, with a raised voice, “Your dog jumped on me. In the dark. It was terrifying.”
The lady laughed and said that her dog just wanted to play, I didn’t need to be afraid. I responded, “You can’t let your dogs just jump on people in the dark.”
The lady got back in her van.
I moved on, walking past her and the van and headed to the other side of the parking lot. The dogs continued to want to play with me and follow me into the dark.
So, like I’ve done hundreds of times when loose dogs want to follow me, I stopped and waited for their owner to retrieve her pets. I stood in the parking lot in the bitter cold, wind blowing all around me, while two strange dogs circled me. Their owner back in the warmth of her van. I managed to get one of the dogs and take her back to the van where the lady finally got back out, admonished her dog for being bad, and finally, finally, took control.
I. Was. Livid.
I continued on my run, but by now I was freezing cold and in a really negative space. I couldn’t stop thinking about how irresponsible that woman had been with her pets. I was not upset with the dogs. They were not at fault. They were excited and playing, and I just happened along into their zone. Lucky for me, they were friendly, and did just want to play.
But it was so frightening to stand while a strange dog charged at me in the dark, not knowing whether she was going to bite me when she jumped.
This was not a bad animal experience. This was a bad person experience. The animals are not to blame. That person should not have dogs, plain and simple. She is clearly not responsible enough for them.
This is all to say: You might think your dog is well-behaved, friendly, and wouldn’t hurt a fly. But that doesn’t make it okay to let them run untethered in a public area. More importantly, if your friendly, well-behaved dog jumps on a stranger, it is your responsibility to get that dog under control and make sure that stranger is not injured, whether your dog meant for injury or not.