Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Runs With Dogs

My encounters with dogs have usually been good. But, my experiences with dogs and running have not, until yesterday, been pleasant ones. Several years ago, while running in a small Tanzania town early one morning, I had a most unpleasant encounter with a pack of about 6 dogs. They came out from behind the building I had just passed, barking and growling. I decided that trying to outrun them was probably not a good idea, so I stopped and faced them. Sometimes pretending to pick up a rock and throwing it works, but not that day.

This is not looking good, I thought to myself. I spread out my arms, palms forward and began talking to the dogs in Swahili as they circled me a couple of times. I watched in horror as one of them chomped down on my leg. He (or she -- determining that really didn't cross my mind at that point) bit once and then the whole pack turned and ran off. To this day I have no idea why they left -- I don't know if, while backing slowly away, I had crossed some invisible boundary line or if God sent an angel to scare them off or if, as I have teased my African friends, they just didn't like the taste of white meat -- but I was grateful. I happened to be about halfway through a 3 mile out-and-back route and had no choice but to go back -- fortunately, I was able to take a loop through town and circle around the dogs. I ended up getting both the post-bite rabies shot and the vaccine (it had to be flown from Johannesburg, South Africa to Nairobi, Kenya on a commercial flight and then from Nairobi to Iringa, Tanzania on a small plane owned and operated by our mission organization.

Needless to say, that has made me quite skittish about untethered dogs when I'm running. Seven or eight years later, I still have the brown marks on my leg where that dog bit me.

(*License information)
Yesterday, I had run about 5.5 miles at Lake Hartwell (GA) and had already had one untethered dog bark at me and another black lab pup follow me for a few yards. I made the turn into my sister-in-law's neighborhood and heard the patter of dog feet coming up fast behind me. Oh, no, I thought as I looked around. I knew there was a good chance it would turn out fine since it was a black lab and my experience with labs is that they are usually more interested in being petted and playing than in chewing on people, still .... This one turned out to be the friendly type.

The really neat thing about this was that she ran behind and to the side of me for the last 1.6 miles of my run. I chatted with her but every time I would look over my shoulder, she would move to the opposite side. Having her run with me, though, had a similar effect to running with other people. My mind immediately forgot about how tired I was and how much I was looking forward to finishing and I got my second wind. It was great. Pearl (I looked at her tag later) just seemed to be happy to be there, running as if this was the best thing that had happened to her all month. When I finished, she was quite happy to be petted and talked to. In fact, she stayed with me while I cooled down and then preferred for me to pet her rather than to get my stretching done. It was fun!

This morning I hit my 100 mile goal for the month and still have 4-5 runs left to do in December. So I have run 100+ miles each month this year -- 1538 miles this year. I ran a totally new route this morning. Later, my brother-in-law told me I had run through the drug-dealer section of Hartwell. Somehow, though, I doubt that the drug dealers or users were much of a danger at 7:00 this morning. I don't plan to run tomorrow, Christmas Day. But, hey, who knows.

Run well, y'all and Merry Christmas,

* Picture of black lab from Wikipedia. The owner of this JPEG file has licensed it under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License. In short: you are free to share and make derivative works of the file under the conditions that you appropriately attribute it, and that you distribute it only under a license identical to this one. Official license

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