I recently wrote a column titled, “What are the Best Dogs for Running?” In that column I mentioned that my dog saved me from a potential assault. Here’s the story.
I was running with my first dog, Shelby, on a local running path. We left the car in the lot of a nice complex that has ball fields and all the gorgeous park amenities and ran west. When we were heading back towards the parking lot post-run, I noticed two men sitting in lawn chairs beneath a big cottonwood tree.
What made the situation seem unusual to me is the tree was located next to the running path in gravel and weeds. About 100 yards away is a grassy green park with several tables and giant trees casting shade.
I thought to myself, “Why would these guys be sitting in lawn chairs in the weeds with a nice park right over there?”
About that time, my dog had to poop. Great.
I’m roughly 30 yards from the pair and I can hear them whispering. I’m watching them in my peripheral vision and they are watching me.
I told myself, “It seems unusual, but don’t overreact.”
I cleaned up after the dog and needed to deposit the waste in a trash can. I walked between the men and my car to get to the trash bucket. As I walked toward the can, one of the men got up and began walking behind me, towards their pickup. As he did this, I thought I heard him say, “We’ll show her.”
I told myself, “That’s surely not what he said. It’s noon and full daylight. I’m in a public parking lot in a relatively busy part of town. Don’t be ridiculous.”
At this point, Shelby is heeling directly at my side and on full alert. She was an 85-pound Rhodesian ridgeback with a serious look on her face. She wasn’t sniffing or messing around like dogs often do, she was at full attention.
When we turned around to head towards the car, the greasy looking fellow crossed in front of us and had his full attention on the dog. We walked calmly and confidently to the car and got in. I immediately locked the doors and felt relieved. I glanced at their pickup and trailer loaded with scrap medal as we left the lot. I thought to myself that it looked like it didn’t belong in the park setting. It made me feel afraid and I got out of there as soon as I could.
I went home and immediately called my husband. I explained that I had never felt the way I did that day and I didn’t like it. I also felt that I could be overreacting. There was surely some rational, non-scary explanation for the entire incident. He asked if I managed to get a license plate number and I told him I didn’t. I thought about it as I drove away, but didn’t want to go back. Besides that, I kept telling myself, “No big deal. This is no big deal.”
The next morning I opened the morning paper and read a woman had been assaulted on the trail, about 200 yards or so from where I saw the creepy guys. I felt sick to my stomach.
I immediately called the police station and told them what happened to me the day before. I gave them detailed descriptions of the men and their vehicle. They thanked me for calling in and the parting comment was, “Your dog likely saved you.”
I hung up the phone and hugged my dog with tears streaming down my face. I was certain she prevented me from being assaulted. As I write this story now, some 10 years after the incident, tears run down my cheeks. I’m so grateful I had the dog with me.
A friend that worked at the police station followed up for me. He told me the police determined that the guys were with the traveling carnival that headed out of town. The police checked with the carnival owners and the police in the next town where the carnival stopped. The creeps disappeared.
I don’t know if they ever got caught or went on to hurt other people.
I decided from that point forward, I would always listen to my instincts. If something seems creepy and bad – it is. If someone is acting suspicious, get a license plate number or a cell phone photo. On the rare occasions I run without a dog, I carry mace.
I try not to run scared, but at the same time I do realize there are bad people out there and I need to minimize risk as much as possible.
My dogs allow me to run in peace.