Dogs on the loose can cause trouble

Kevin Spradlin Editor/Content Manager

October 21, 2013

I’m a runner. It so happens that I find one of the best ways to become familiar with a new area is lacing up the sneakers and heading out the door. Instead of traveling by at 45 mph, a rather pedestrian pace of about 7.5 mph allows me to stop and smell the roses.

I’m also a time management guru, so to me it made all the sense in the world that I try to log a few miles and see the sights while my clothing swirled and tumbled in the washer and dryer at a local laundromat. On a recent Sunday afternoon, my chosen course took me around Roberdel Pond. It’s a 3.5-mile loop, going up Roberdel Road, then Roberdel School Road and then taking Terry Bridge Road back to my starting point on Richmond Road.

It was a beautiful Sunday evening; clear and about 67 degrees. My kind of fall day. Other than dodging a few cars here and there — and that’s quite normal, though I’ve found Richmond County motorists to be overwhelmingly supportive and willing to give a few inches — there are still several issues that concern me.

Well, one issue, actually. Several examples. And each example has four feet, a bark and, quite possibly, a bite. On this particular evening, one light tan Carolina momma dog was in front of her three pups. It was clear that she wanted to be between me and the little ones; I was happy to oblige her. I tried to make nice, and she even let me pet her. But I didn’t get too near the pups.

On the same road, 2-year-old basset hound came howling after me. Turns out he’s nothing a softy, but I didn’t know that at first. He certainly got my heart racing. And I would have felt awful had he been hit by a car while chasing me — or a rabbit, or a child riding his bike or anything else.

In both cases, it later became evident the dogs were very well-cared for and their owners would not want anything bad to happen.

I have been running for 20 years, in several countries and more than two dozen states. To the best of my memory, Richmond County seems to have the most dogs that run out of their yards, or dogs that don’t seem to belong to anyone, compared to any place I’ve been.

There are generally two types of dogs. First, the dog that gets overexcited after seeing vehicles or people on two feet pass by and the dog simply wants a playmate. Second, the type of dog that becomes aggressive upon seeing a passerby and, whether leaving their home’s yard or expanding their territory as a wonderer, either way can quickly become dangerous for a runner — and for the dog.

Let me profess: I am not a dog lover. At least, not in the way that some folks are, in that they’ll pledge their undying devotion and lifetimes savings to advocating for animals. I generally won’t; I enjoy dogs and have had a few in my life. Some of them have been my best friends.

Regardless of what my level of passion for animals might be, I certainly don’t want to see them get hurt. And one inevitably will as it chases me along Bear Branch Road, Richmond Road, while training on part of the Ellerbe Marathon course or other places around the county. It’s how I choose to explore a neighborhood.

Of course, there also are horror stories of runners being attacked by dogs. I know three people who have suffered attacks; of one, I don’t recall the details, but it was right here in Richmond County. Two others occurred up north, in West Virginia and Maryland.

The one in Maryland was the worst, perhaps because it was the least expected. My friend Michelle was running with her running buddy, Jerry, one weekend morning when Michelle suddenly was under attack. In this case, though, the dog had leapt over the homeowner’s fence to execute the attack.

Michelle was treated with stitches “for a deep gash and my thumb was crushed like a peanut in a vice grip.” The bite went through the bone, so there was a high risk for infection. She now has two screws that are holding her thumb together. Her arm was put in a splint and cast.

Her response?

“Life is great! And I have a whole lot more running to do!”

That is a sample of the positive spirit that seems to unite many runners. But runners generally want the dogs to be okay, too. Dog owners, please maintain control of your pets. I understand they want to play, but if they’re crossing the streets in Richmond County, it’s likely the situation will not turn out well. No one wants that.