I had planned out my very first seven-mile run for Sunday morning. As usual, I dawdled getting ready to run, despite waking up before my alarm. I ate some toast and flipped through the Sunday papers as I listened to the steady tick-tick of the clock in the quiet house.
Finally, at 8:15 I laced up my shoes and left. It was a beautiful sunny morning, cool but not cold. I was very comfortable in capris and a short-sleeved tee. I started along my route through my neighborhood, the streets familiar from countless strolls, bike rides and shorter runs. Leaves crunched beneath my feet (already?!?) and I passed a few solo Sunday morning walkers, out with their dogs.
I followed Highland Avenue west, past the construction and the gorgeous Painted Ladies, beyond where the sidewalk ended and a man in a motorized wheelchair sped along on the gravel shoulder, smoking a cigarette I was desperate to get around.
I turned south onto Lyle, into a neighborhood I knew only vaguely, filled with homes built in the 7os and 80s, and then onto Lin-Lor, wondering where the name came from.
And as I turned onto Jane Street, I noticed a dog by my side. I don’t know where she came from. I looked around for an open garage, someone out for a walk or on a front porch, but everything was perfectly, serenely quiet, with no signs of life anywhere. I stopped and looked at the dog, saying, “Go home! Go back home!” with shooing motions in the direction I had come. The dog looked at me quizzically, but patiently. It seemed friendly, but it also looked like a pit bull, and I didn’t want to encourage it or anger it.
After a minute, I decided that maybe if I just resumed my run and ignored her, she would get bored or distracted by a squirrel. So I did, for about a block, but she stayed with me, stride for stride. I stopped again, again saying, “Go home!” and shooing her with my hands, but instead she jumped up on me in a very playful manner. I tried walking a block, with no luck, then running again, but she stayed right with me.
And so we continued, crossing major streets, passing into my own neighborhood, where I hoped I could find someone – anyone! – to help me figure out what to do. At every corner, I’d stop again and try to shoo her home. I tried cutting through yards and taking quick corners to lose her, but nothing worked. She remained right by my side, keeping my pace no matter if I sped up or slowed down.
I’ve been chased by dogs before while running, but never more than three or four house lengths before they either see something more interesting or get called back by their owners.
If I had my phone on me, I would have called the police non-emergency number. We’ve had several problems with loose dogs lately, and the police have begun cracking down and fining the owners (when they can be found). This dog had no collar or tags, so I decided that by re-routing myself onto a more major street, I would hopefully encounter a police car on patrol.
Finally, at Gertrude and Walnut, I was able to flag a passing squad car. The officer rolled down his window and I explained the situation. “Open the back door,” he said, “and see if she’ll hop in.” Without hesitation, she did just that, and the well-prepared officer pulled out a dog treat which she eagerly took. He radioed in the information, hoping to match it against a report of a missing dog. He was very surprised by how far she had traveled – when I got home and tracked it, she was with me a full 2.1 miles.
I wasn’t ever afraid, but rather more annoyed (that my until-then awesome run was screwed up) and concerned for the dog. I didn’t want her to get hit by a car, or encounter another, less-friendly dog, and I was worried she was straying far from home. But wouldn’t a good owner at least have a collar on her?
The officer said they’d take her downtown to see if she had a microchip, and if not, she would go to a local shelter.
I later called my sister – a dog lover and veterinary technician – and asked what you should do if a dog starts chasing you. “Stop,” she said, “so they don’t think you’re playing, and so they don’t have that hunting instinct to follow.” She also said they can sense fear, which I knew, and is why I tried to remain calm and not panic.
Overall, it was very odd, both in distance and how it started. She was actually a pretty good running companion for awhile. I just hope she finds her way home.