So last Monday, Columbus Day, my wife and I go to Mass. Our parish is not far from a trail I enjoy walking called “Candy Cane Park Trail”. It’s a lovely, leafy canyon that cuts right through my suburban middle class neighborhood. Full of maples, alders, and various evergreens like spruce, hemlock, and Douglas Fir, as well as great hillsides of blackberries that, in the late summer, smell sweet as heaven, it’s like your own private Middle Earth. Indeed, I happened to explore it one fine summer day as I was on one of my diabetes perambulations that I take to burn off glucose while reading a book.
And that book was The Hobbit. And it just happened to be the chapter on the passage through Mirkwood I was reading when I walked out of the blazing sun and into this wonderfully delicious fairy wood with 3/4 long mile trail. I have made it a favorite walk ever since.
Anyhow, one of the reasons I love this walk is that, for about 3/4 of the year, there is a beautiful, musical little crick that runs parallelish to the trail and meanders down to a larger stream that eventually empties into Lake Washington. During the summer, that crick dries up. But round about this time of year, as the rains return, it begins to sing again.
So, after Mass, I drove over to the trail head to check it out and see if the crick was flowing again. We parked about two car lengths from the trail head and my wife and I mosied down the trail maybe fifty yards, listening for the sound of water and hearing only the blop-blop of rain on leaves. Jan had brought her bungie cord walking stick with her since her hip has been achy lately.
Suddenly, we heard behind us the vicious barking of two dogs. We spun around and, barreling down the trail toward us were two big German shepherds. The larger one was the classic German shepherd look–black and dirty blonde. The other was smaller and jet black. Both were vicious. But the larger one came off like one of Bull Connor’s dogs or one of those attack dogs wielded by concentration camp guards. He was clearly the alpha and they were behaving like hunters.
Initially, both were facing me (I had tried to put Jan behind me as she is, very sensibly, afraid of large vicious dogs). I tried holding out my hand, palm out, fingers down, for them to smell since sometimes that will calm a dog. I knew the dogs (sort of). They lived in the yard of the house across the street from the trail head and they viciously barked every time I walked past to go to the trail. So I didn’t have a lot of hope that they would settle down, but it was worth a shot.
The dog tried to bite my hand. Then it circled around us and tried to attack Jan. We wound up back to back, guarding each other’s rears. She thought perhaps her walking stick was scaring it, so she she held it off to the side and tried shouting “KENNEL!” in a loud deep voice.
The Alpha circled around in front of me again and I shouted at Jan to head down the trail in the other direction. (I was mostly winging it and had a vague notion that I could keep myself between them and her while she made her escape.)
She refused, since there were nothing down the trail but a lot of open space and indefensible nothing for a mile. So she stuck to her place. That’s my brave woman!
Meanwhile, both dogs were still barking and lunging, while I was shouting at the top of my lungs to both try and frighten the dogs and to try to rouse their owners to come and get the damn beasts. My most vulnerable parts were right dead even with their snapping jaws, so I had lots of adrenaline making my voice as loud as it could be.
Finally, I asked Jan for her walking stick on the theory that a large man brandishing a big stick and purposing to bash their damn brains in might motivate them to vamoose.
It worked. With the stick high over my head and me shouting curses and imprecations at the hell hounds, they ran up the trail with me in hot pursuit, hoping to kill or wound one or both of them.
“Fight or flight” is funny stuff.
They reached the trail head well ahead of me, took a left and vanished. Poor Jan was really frightened and was, understandably leery of just popping out on to the street where these vicious dogs might be lying in wait. With a massive amount of Manly Female Protection Juices flowing through my veins, I was more than ready to march out there and kill these literal sons of bitches with my bare hands. So I stalked up to the trail head and looked both ways.
Nothing. And no sound of barking. So I sounded the all clear and went back to get Jan.
The moment we reached the street, the damn beasts came barreling down the hill at us, barking furiously again. Jan made a dash for the car and got in. I, meanwhile, was shouting at the house across the street to come and get their $$@#@$ dogs. Somebody over there was shouting something back (no idea what) but nobody showed up to get the damn dogs, who were now circling and lunging and barking at me.
I took a swing with the stick at the Alpha and (as I feared) the stick flew apart at the joints, being held together only by bungie cord. The dog fled a few steps and I managed to get the stick put together as I dashed round the back of the car and headed for the driver’s side. Jan, bless her heart, was lying across the driver’s seat trying desperately to get the driver’s door open. She succeeded and I leapt in, flinging the stick in before me. I slammed the door shut. Safe!
The both of us still had a lot of adrenaline. Jan burst into tears. I was ready to kill something. Dog. Owner. I wasn’t feeling picky. I just knew something big and hairy and full of teeth had tried to kill the woman I love and I was ready to tear and rend something in response.
I took several deep breaths and tried to let the cerebral cortex take control again. Then I started the car, turned it around, and drove round the corner to the house where the owners lived. There was a young man there, maybe 19. We rolled down the window on the passenger side and Jan, trembling and in tears, told the kid what his dogs had tried to do. She, being of giant heart, wanted him to understand how frightened she was and appeal to the better angels of his nature.
I was not so tender-hearted. I told him if that if it ever happened again I will have his dogs killed.
Then we drove home. We reached the point where we were able to laugh about it, about a half mile down the road. We needed gas, so I stopped at the station and filled up. When I got back in the car, Jan was doing sudoku to calm her nerves.
“Safety in numbers,” she quipped, to my deep respect.
As I was filling the car, I started thinking and realized it was just God’s Providence that these beasts had gotten out and attacked two adults who happened to have a walking stick. There are kids in this neighborhood and I have walked that trail with my two and four year old granddaughters. Those dogs would have killed or maimed them if they had caught them running up the trail on their own or if I had been there with them alone and could only hold them while the dogs attacked me and brought me down.
That decided me. I went straight home and called Animal Control to report the attack and to demand the beasts be killed. The AC lady was very cheery.
“Ah! So Rex and Killer have gotten loose again!”
“Again?” I said. Now I really wanted them dead.
“Yeah,” she said. They were good puppies but that family has ruined them.
“Okay,” I said, “I want them destroyed.”
Turns out she can’t do that. You have to fill out this complaint thingie and then it goes to court and then a judge approves the execution order.
I suggested we just turn the vicious bastards loose in the courtroom and the judge would figure out really quick that they need to die. I told her I’m not gun owner, but if I had been I would have shot them both in a heartbeat. (I was still pretty high on adrenaline when I spoke to her.)
She promised to send me the complaint doohickey document and I hung up (it is now filled out and returned).
My wife came in the room (I work in my bedroom) and we just hung on to each other for a bit.
She was very mushy and we kissed each other quite a bit. I thought about it afterward and realized that, frightening as it was, it hit every Man Button a man could have. Rescuing the woman you love from vicious wolves in a forest? It’s like something out of a Greek myth or a fairy tale.
Hot damn, that felt good! Especially because nobody got hurt. I don’t hope it ever happens again. And I’m sorry it scared Jan so bad. But, yeah, it did feel good!