I grew up in a neighborhood where people expected (often encouraged) their dogs to be fearsome creatures. I know I was proud of the fact that I had the meanest Yorkshire terrier in a 10 block radius.
As a result of people wanting tough dogs, almost every encounter with a dog in my childhood neighborhood meant there was the potential of being mauled, possibility to the point of death.
As an adult, I moved to the suburbs and found that suburbanites as a whole don’t subscribe to the philosophy that their dogs should be aggressive to the point of being would-be killers.
Every encounter I have had with dogs in my adult life has been positive. In fact, I had never come in contact with a dog in Belmont and feared for my safety, until the other morning.
I had just dropped off my youngest son for summer camp at Cipriani Elementary and was returning to my car when a muscular caramel-colored dog charged across the playground directly toward me.
As the dog approached, he growled and showed his teeth. If that wasn’t enough to scare the crap out of me, this dog had what looked like foam all around his mouth. The first thought to enter my head was that this was a rabid dog.
After all, it never occurred to me that a non-rabid dog in Belmont would be intent on using me as a human chew toy. Perhaps living in Belmont had lulled me into a false sense of security about man’s best friend.
But it didn’t take long for me to remember what it was like being a paperboy in my childhood neighborhood. But unlike the days I spent carrying around a big stick on my paper route, on this day I had nothing to defend myself. So I used the only thing I had with me at the time – my voice. I shouted, “GET BACK! GET BACK!”
The dog didn’t turn around and run away as I had hoped. He did, however, pause long enough for me to take a few steps back, and rush into a gated area near the Cipriani Aftercare mobile classroom.
As I stood behind the fence that separated me from the dog, the thought that went through my head was what if this would have happened three minutes earlier when my son was present? Because I hate to admit it, but I would have been forced to use my son as a shield to protect myself.
As the dog growled at me, his owner (or at least the person who should have been responsible for the dog) emerged from the Cipriani Dog Park and called the dog. The dog seemed to weigh whether to run to its owner or torment me further. I’m thankful it chose the former.
As I walked to my car, I told myself that my Barry White-like baritone voice deserved credit for keeping the dog at bay long enough for me to get to safety. But in reality I’m not sure I managed to shout in a deep voice. Everything happened so quickly, I’m not entirely sure I didn’t scream like a little girl.
I now laugh (kind of) about my first adult encounter with a vicious dog.
I just hope that it is my last encounter.