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December 13, 2013

On The Run column: When your run turns into Dog Day Afternoon

When they’re on the road, runners are always warned to pay extra attention for oncoming traffic.

But the same can be said for running through neighborhoods or on trails. Just because you’re not going to get hit by a car doesn’t mean there aren’t hazards to worry about ... and sometimes those hazards can be of the four-legged variety.

Nearly every runner has likely encountered an unleashed dog in the course of a run. It doesn’t happen very often, but it does happen.

I run on the Danvers Rail Trail fairly often, and twice in the last week I’ve come across unleashed dogs. One was with its owner and it approached me and barked before running off to sniff something; the owner apologized and I kept going.

The other was on its own. I spotted it on the trail and probably should have turned around to avoid it, but I was hoping its owner was somewhere nearby. No such luck. I approached with caution, slowing down to a trot as I got closer. The dog was an older German shepherd and it took a few steps toward me and barked menacingly. At this point, I was thinking there was pretty much nothing I could do if the dog decided to attack. There were no other humans around and I was stuck on this trail with a displeased-looking dog. I was imagining how painful the rabies shots would be when the dog just walked off in another direction.

I kept going on my run toward Wenham. Of course, I was doing an out-and-back route so I also had to turn around and come back through the same path. I started looking for alternate routes. There were other people heading in that direction on the path, so I figured I’d watch for the dog and if I saw it, I’d avoid it by jumping onto a nearby side street. Fortunately, the dog was gone when I returned so I just continued on my way.

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