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Canine challenges

I'm occasionally bailed up by dogs when running from Copa
to McMasters across the green-marked sand bar.
After walking for 4km this morning, I finished off with a kilometre of slow jogging.  There remains some weakness and tenderness in the arch but the new insoles seem to provide sufficient support to avoid aggravating the injury.  I was not confident about trying to run, but it seemed to go OK and I might try a similar work-out tomorrow.

As often happens on my walks and runs on the Central Coast, I encountered people out walking their dogs.  We never had pets when I was a child, apart from the odd canary and hamster, and I never developed an affection for dogs.  At best, I tolerate them, and when running, I don't like them.

Until recently, I had never been bitten by a dog while out running, but have had numerous unpleasant encounters over the years.  The first instance I can recall of actual physical harm was when out running in the late 1970s with a small group of friends from my home in the inner Melbourne suburbs.  We were running across a park at twilight when I was brought down by a dog careering into my legs from behind without warning of any kind.  I remember hitting the ground hard, sustaining some minor cuts, abrasions and bruises, and banging one knee quite hard.  The owner was very apologetic, but this has not always been the case.

Occasionally, when running across the sandbar between Copa and nearby McMasters Beach, I have been bailed up, pawed and slobbered on by dogs.  It is an "Off Leash Area", but dogs are still supposed to be under their owner's control.  I find it very annoying to be told that it wouldn't happen if I hadn't been running, and have had a few short arguments on the subject with the offending dog's owner.  My usual response is that, if it happens again, I'll be reporting them to the Council, but without the means of identifying accurately the dog or the owner, that's unlikely to happen (and they know it).  In these cases, which have happened in plenty of other places during my running career, I know the dog is usually just being over-exuberant, but that doesn't excuse the dog's owner's lack of control, which is interfering with my activity.

I stayed away from the Beatties Road access to Kincumber
Mountain for five years after being challenged by savage dogs.
Encounters with malicious and/or territorial dogs obviously carry more risk.  One of my good running friends, Keith, and his wife, accepted assignments as teachers in the newly independent Zimbabwe in 1983.  Keith was a very handy runner and tells the story of being the only white runner in the leading bunch of a 10-mile road race through the streets of Harare.  White residents tended to keep guard dogs on their properties that were very antagonistic towards black Africans, and when a couple of these managed to escape their compound as the runners passed by, Keith suddenly found himself in the lead on his own as his fellow competitors scattered.  A couple of them rejoined him in the lead a kilometre or two later, but the others were not seen again.  The corollary of this story is that when we visited Keith and his wife in Zimbabwe in 1985, I joined Keith for a run with some of the students from the poor black school where he taught.  He often paid them a small sum as encouragement to run with him after school, and some of them even ran in their school uniforms ("At least take your tie off!").  Our route took us through the poor African village where most of them lived and the sight of us running generated shouts of delight ("white man running" in the local language) from the village kids as well as unwanted attention from the village dogs who left the black kids alone while defending their turf against the white intruders.

Both towns I lived in while working in the US did not allow fences around houses but required dogs to be restrained or invisible fences (buried boundary wires that generate a radio signal that triggers deterrent unpleasant electric shocks in the receivers on the dogs' collars) installed.  I could never quite get over the expectation that one day, one of the dogs I often saw hurtling towards me across the lawns of a house I was running past was going to burst through the invisible fence and get me.  Apparently it can happen, but it never did to me.

If I am bailed up by dog with malicious intent while out running, I usually do a fair bit of yelling, pick up a stick or stone and act in a threatening manner while slowly moving away.  So far I haven't been bitten in such a situation, but have had some very scary encounters.  Some were so worrying that I have avoided those roads in future.  Locally, there is a nice run up onto the scenic trails of Kincumber Mountain that I didn't use for more than five years after being confronted by two large savage dogs on one occasion.  An old running friend, JB, had mastered the art of letting savage dogs get close to him and then giving them a swift kick under the chin.  I have never been quite brave or confident enough to employ this method.

Blue Heelers are also good at rounding up runners.
In recent times, I have become more cautious around dogs on a lead.  A year ago, as I skirted around a lady walking a large dog in the same direction I was running, it suddenly turned around and launched itself at my throat.  I managed to get my forearm up quickly enough to protect my throat but was knocked sprawling on to the road with scratches on my chest from its front paws.  The owner reacted quickly enough to drag the dog away before it got to me while I was lying on the road, but it was a frightening experience.  Of course, the owner was apologetic and insisted that it had never done anything like that before.  The same excuse was proffered six months later by another owner when their small dog, being walked on a lead, suddenly jumped up and sank its fangs into my thigh as I walked past, drawing blood.  Nowadays, I try and stay out of leash range when passing dogs.

On a lighter dog-related note, another old running friend, Pratty, used to bring his Blue Heeler cattle dog, Bung, with us on some of our long runs.  The dog, which always got very excited when Pratty put on his running shoes, would spend the whole run rounding us up, making sure nobody got ahead, dropped off, or strayed laterally.  It constantly got under our feet and how it did not get run over by a passing car is beyond me.  It is a testament to the strength of our friendship with Pratty that we ever tolerated Bung on our runs.  Ironically, later in life, Bung used to run away whimpering and hide whenever he saw Pratty put on his running shoes.