I like dogs. I don’t own one, much to the continued dismay of my children. But one day I might. However, it’s quite the commitment, especially when you’ve already got a cat, 4 chickens and a large LEGO collection to dust. To be honest, most of my man-to-dog contact at present occurs whilst I’m out running. And it was such an encounter recently that got me thinking, and has thus proved the inspiration for this post. Dogs, for the semi-rural runner such as myself, are a frequent sight/participant/pulse-quickener. How so? Well:
1) The dog as an impromptu companion
‘I don’t know who this chap is or what he’s doing but it looks like fun so I’m going to do it with him!’ thinks Fido as he leaves his owner behind to bound happily alongside or in between the legs of an unfamiliar runner to whom he offers that soppy look of cheery enthusiasm that only a dog can. This happened to me just a couple of days ago, as a large Irish Wolfhound with a 2-foot log clamped between his teeth decided to abandon his elderly female owner and join me for a dash. Of course, what followed was the owner’s cry – usually a rich emotional tapestry of fury, embarrassment and self-flagellation – in a futile attempt to get the dog to ‘leave the poor runner alone’. Amusingly (well, it amused me) this owner’s cry, and the follow-up woman-to-dog verbal scolding, wasn’t in any language I recognised. The noises, frankly, were somewhat alien. Does she converse with the dog in Klingon? Who knows? Well, presumably the dog does. Or maybe he doesn’t. I wonder what the Klingon for ‘Sorry, my dog’s an unobedient bag of undiluted excitement’ is? Hmm, apparently it’s ‘jIQoS, Ha’DIbaH unobedient bag undilute excitement’. Quite the disappointment. The Klingons have no word for bag? Idiots.
2) The dog as an actual companion
I do enjoy seeing people out for a run with a dog in tow. There’s a bloke I pass reasonably regularly whilst out running who has his faithful companion trotting at pace alongside him on a short lead as he runs. Frankly, the dog’s technique is better than mine. But then again, he has four legs. I’d do better with four legs. And I don’t mean if I had two additional legs in place of my arms. I mean as well as. Four legs down below. I’d scuttle. Sideways. At pace. Like a crab or a Triffid. That’s quite the mental image… Anyway, one thing that has occurred to me when considering the ‘running with your dog on a lead’ people is what happens when the dog needs to, well, you know, ‘fulfil the purpose of the walk other than exercise’? Do you build in rest/crap break? Does the dog know it’s then or never? Or do you simply wait until you feel the pace slowing as you realise you’re now dragging a desperate, squatting dog behind you as you run?
3) The dog as an obstacle
Hoho, the dogstacle. I’ve fallen over a dog or three in my time. All of which have been the dog’s fault, naturally. They were dithering. And when you encounter The Dithering Dog, it’s like a Wild West shoot-out: who will draw (well, move) first? As you approach, its become apparent that the owner is mentally elsewhere – immersed in a game of Candy Crush, or mulling over a failed romantic advance or staring in a melancholy fashion down the Tees and wondering if life would’ve been better should they have been born a seal. Hence, it’s a game of chance between you and Rover. Will he go left or right? Or hold his ground? Is he on a retractable lead, thus making the whole scenario a bit like that scene in Resident Evil where the chap has to avoid being lasered to death?
There’s only one thing for it: the audacious leap. And as you take to the air there’s just time for a muttered ‘please don’t let me land on the dog’ from you, and a ‘chuffin’ hell!’ from the dog (he thinks this, rather than saying out loud, just to be clear. Teesside plays host to many delights, but alas the hesitant, talking dog does not yet walk amongst us) before seeing what the fates have in store for you both.
4) The dog as a toxic hazard producer
We’ve all ploughed through a turd in our time, later forced to take to the finer grooves on our running trainers with a small stick in order to flick out the digested tender meaty chunks with Marylebone jelly. It’s like a hideous right of passage. And one that could be completed avoided if the world wasn’t full of irresponsible morons. A particular mention for those who take the time to bag the shite, then leave the bag. Furthermore, those cretins that seem to deem ‘just chucking the bag in a hedge/tree’ as an acceptable way to dispose of the bagged crap should have a special place in Hell reserved just for them.
5) The dog as a snarling terror
The heinous alter-ego to the vivacious impromptu companion is of course the bitey-bastard dog. Occasionally, us runners will encounter a canine that isn’t all too impressed with this running shite and lets that be know. Again, fault of course lies with the owner who should take control of the situation, being the more intelligent of the two. Hypothetically. But all of that is little comfort if teeth-to-runner contact has been made. I’ve only been bitten the once, and it wasn’t anything to worry about as the dog was more ‘skittish douche’ that ‘total raging arsebag’ (I bet there’s no phrase for that in Klingon either). But still. Got the adrenaline going.
6) Ol’ Barky
This one is a bit of a cloud with a silver lining. By ‘Ol’ Barky’ I’m referring to the dogs that are either tethered or contained and thus prove no physical threat, yet will display their pleasure/displeasure at the sight of a runner though the medium of woofing. If, whilst running, you haven’t seen them before the vocal torrent is unleashed and you’re anything like me, you’ll skip three feet into the air, clutch your chest and swear a bit. However, having been caught out on a few occasions by the same garden-dwelling dog on one of my regular routes, I now run past him just to antagonise him and take the barking as a sign of victory. Yes, I am that petty.
7) The dog as an apathetic bystander
The only thing worse than being chased, impeded or barked at by a dog is being ignored by them. ‘Are you not entertained?!’ I want to cry to the indifferent mutt. Hmm, I suppose if the dog was to catch me and rip my gullet out, I guess I’d prefer being ignored. A wholly likely scenario, of course…
As a final aside (Ben, this whole blog merely masquerades as a running blog and is in fact almost totally comprised of asides…), I’ve tried to lever in a reference to the poor, mutated, inside-out dog from The Fly II but to no avail. So here he is anyway.