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Monday, December 13, 2004

Three Stories About Attacking Dogs


I was always scared of dogs. I lived with a lovely dog for a year in college, the much beloved and much missed Lucy, and that helped. But still, walking down the streets of subrubia on the way to the Metro, I can't help thinking: there are all these dogs around. They bark. They could jump these fences easy and come after me.

I know all about the contract between us and dogs, I know we have a common language (offer hand to sniff, no eye contact, no running, "stay"), but I also know these are not MY dogs. They refrain from tearing my throat out merely based on their supposition that their masters wouldn't like it.

My suspicions are confirmed when I go running. A human who, walking, seems like some unremarkable member of master's pack (namely, me), is transformed by a running gait into a clear threat -- a criminal, or an interloper from another pack -- here to steal meat, or the first wave of an attack?

Or is it just fun to charge the fence, barking one's head off, and watch him slow to a walk and shift off the sidewalk into the street?

Even when I'm just walking, not running, sometimes I'm thinking about some untrained, inimical dog slipping its leash and going after me, and what would I do? Could I outrun it? No. Could I axe-kick it in the head? No. Could I grab its collar and swing it around, flinging it onto a nearby roof? Probably not. Could I fend it off with something, perhaps an antenna snatched from a nearby car? Cars no longer have external antennae...


At Clarion West 2001, Octavia Butler told a story (which I may be misremembering). At some point she was attacked by a dog -- for real. Not the kind of dog who is not just screwing with your mind, nor the kind who really wants to play and you mistake their exuberance for a threat: rather, the kind that wants to make you bleed.

I figure I, or any of the guys I know, would have tried to run or fight, and gotten mauled. Octavia, perhaps, had no such illusions -- at any rate, she was so surprised, she fell onto her back helplessly, exposing her belly.

This turned out to be the right thing to do, she told us drily. She had adopted the belly-up submission posture used by non-dominant dogs. The dog was satisfied, and let her be.


My grandfather, Charles Albert Smith, was a gas man for most of his youth. He travelled the laundry-hung back alleys of Depression-era Cleveland, reading meters. He was very strong.

One day a big dog attacked him. It was too big and too violent for him to control it or calm it down. He had to break its neck with his bare hands.

He cried when he did so, because he really loved dogs.


So a dog did -- almost -- attack me, some months ago. I was running (running in suburbia again, dangerous habit) and it broke away from its owner and charged me, snarling. I don't think it just wanted to play: it's tail wasn't wagging, and its owner sounded awfully frightened and angry as she called after it.

I turned to face the dog. I used my I Am The Master Here voice, a voice I began to practice when I was a Camp Director at TIC Summer Camp and had to control crowds of kids; which came in handy when I worked as a night watchman and bouncer in Israel; and which I use very, very sparingly with my children.

"I am the human and you are the dog," my subtext said. "Let us recall that my species has ruled yours for tens of thousands of years. You bite me, you are in deep trouble."

"Go home! " I commanded, pointing. "Go home!"

The dog backed down. Its owner came and got it.

Posted by benrosen at December 13, 2004 05:10 PM | Up to blog

I think you need to read Greg's story "People Stuff", in LCRW #10, if you haven't already.

Posted by: David Moles at December 14, 2004 12:38 PM

I have, actually... it was very cool.

Aviva used to be scared of dogs too. Then one day she was swinging on a swing at a friends' house and there were all these dogs running around the yard who wanted to lick her (which she was terrified of). So, to distract the dogs, I played Fetch with them. At one point, as I was saying something like "over there, doggie -- it's over there!", Aviva sat bolt upright and cried "Dogs Can *Listen*!!!"

Now that she knows we have a common language, she is not afraid of dogs anymore.

Posted by: Benjamin Rosenbaum at December 14, 2004 01:12 PM

Imagine how much worse it would be if the streets were full of twenty- to two-hundred-pound cats.

Posted by: David Moles at December 14, 2004 04:54 PM


Posted by: Benjamin Rosenbaum at December 20, 2004 12:42 PM

It's all genetic. You got the David Rosenbaum gene. Your sister got the Ellen Rosenbaum gene. David always feared dogs, and still does. Ellen ran with packs of dogs, and Shoshana ran UP to St. Bernards at the age of two.

Posted by: Mom at December 31, 2004 06:09 PM

Advice for joggers/postmen/paperchildren and others worried about being attacked by dogs: carry a little waterpistol filled with ammonia solution.
Works a treat.

Posted by: Doug Hainline at January 1, 2005 04:57 AM

Advice for joggers/postmen/paperchildren and others worried about being attacked by dogs: carry a little waterpistol filled with ammonia solution.
Works a treat.

Posted by: Pets Guide All About Your Pet at December 15, 2007 11:25 AM
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