This is one post I never anticipated writing. Ayla, my 95-pound Alaskan Malamute, who habitually protects her personal space with a vengence, was attacked during our morning run today. Those who have been at the receiving end of one of Ayla’s nips should feel free to pick their jaws up off the ground. Granted, Ayla did weasel her way out of both her Martingale collar and Haltie combo to charge at what looked like a giant black Lab, but she stopped a foot away at my “No!” and held her ground – mouth open, but teeth not bared.
“Keep walking!” I yelled at the dog’s owner as I jogged across the street toward Ayla. Unfortunately, the woman did not follow my “marching orders.” (If she had, Ayla would have undoubtedly turned tail and returned to me.) Nope. She backed up against the brick wall bordering the sidewalk on her side of the street and yanked “Big Black” back, pulling up so hard on the lead that his feet left the ground. Naturally, Black lashed out, biting Ayla on the head. The resulting brawl featured Black twisting violently the end of his lead while Ayla tried in vain to take him down with a series of variations on the classic mouth-paw combo.
“Walk!” I yelled at the owner again. Then, “Just let your dog go!” I said, as I reached out and grabbed the fur on the back of Ayla’s neck. “Let’s go!” Head down in submission, tail wagging ever so hesitantly, Ayla turned and held still so that my daughter Reiley and I could get her collar and Haltie back on. I noticed Ayla was bleeding from a bite or tear just above her eye, and turned to ask about Black. His owner was still standing there, watching us and muttering about “my God” and her inability to “believe this.” She did not respond to my inquiry.
“Whatever,” I thought. Reiley, Ayla, Cooper, and I continued on our way up the street.
I certainly wouldn’t sanction this morning’s melee, yet I do understand it. Our mid-morning run was accompanied by the excited barking and yapping of the many neighborhood dogs let into backyards when their owners left for work. No doubt, touchy Ayla’s anxiety level was high, and she bolted. Poor Black. His owner literally didn’t provide him with the space needed to assess and respond to Ayla’s advance. I am reminded of Ted Kerasote’s query, “How well would you behave at the end of a leash?”
Kerasote, author of
Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog, is among a growing number of dog lovers and behavioralists who understand the vices of pervasive leash laws. Dogs simply behave more sociably – both on and off lead – when they are allowed to, well, be dogs.