My trekking pole has been vindicated. Validated. Honored.
It is sweet.
You’ll remember my lovely, candy-apple-red pole from earlier posts. The one I chunked into the tree to knock out the Frisbee. The one that kept me from tumping over as I tottered around last fall after my surgery from hell. The one with the diamond-cut steel ice tip that’s glacier-tested after our recent Alaska trip.
The one which D greets with derision, snorts and a big old eye roll.
She calls it my “cane,” implying without further words that I’m old and creaky.
OK, that’s true. But it’s still not a cane. It’s a lightweight, shock-absorbing, ergonomically correct trekking assist device. And did I mention that it’s candy-apple red?
Through the past few months, I’ve stoically absorbed the insults, the digs, the slights. I’ve marched down the street proudly clasping my little red friend.
Here’s the vindication tale. A few weeks ago, we met some of our neighbors. I’d like to say it was to share a nice glass of wine and get to know each other. Unfortunately, I’d be lying.
There’s a nice park about half a mile away from our house, with a stream and ducks and stuff. Chase loves it, because it has a stream and ducks and stuff. But the other day, as we were strolling toward the park, we saw a couple of dogs roaming loose. One looked like an Akita; the other was a pit bull. We weren’t too worried, until they spotted Chase.
Now, Chase is a pretty small boy, about 32 pounds, and he somehow attracts the attention of other bigger dogs who want to jump him, beat him up and then chew on him for lunch. So, I fully admit to being a nervous nelly about him. I’m always on guard at the dog park, yipping like a Sheltie whenever any dog gets too close to him.
This is new for me. I never worried about my other dog, Bailey, a 100-pound Rottweiler. She was sweet as molasses, but certainly able to take care of herself if needed.
Chase, not so much.
So the Akita and pit begin streaking toward us, eyes locked on our little boy. D scooped him up and began backing away, while I looked around for a weapon. The only thing I saw was a twig, about five inches long and weighing maybe an ounce. I grabbed it and brandished it like it was King Arthur’s Excalibur. “Go home! Go HOME!” I screamed at the dogs, waving my tiny little pretzel at them menacingly.
The Akita must be afraid of pretzels, because she turned and ran back toward her house. The pit just stopped and stared at me. D and Chase were a block or so away by this time. The bulldog’s tattooed owner came running out of his house, yelling at the dog until it finally noticed him, then turned away and ran, his owner in hot pursuit. We headed toward home, but I did walk the next few blocks backwards, clutching my little wand o’ power.
A couple of weeks later, we were in the same area when I’ll be damned if the same pit didn’t come flying toward us from the same house. This time, she got closer before we saw her.
D again grabbed Chase and retreated. (It’s not that I’m braver or anything — it’s just that she’s got 9 inches on me, and in her arms, he’s 9 inches further away from snapping dog teeth. If Chase weren’t with us, make no mistake, I’d be climbing onto her head.)
Several people came out of their houses, drawn from their peaceful evenings by my shrieks. “Get BACK! GET BACK!!!! DAMN IT, WOULD SOMEONE COME GET THIS DOG????” This time, the only weapon I could find was a piece of a small metal rod, like a tent pole, that had been bent several times into a “V” until it broke. Believe me, I was happy to have it, although it was only about a foot long.
This time, the dog realized Chase was out of range, and decided I was the closest tasty snack. I whipped my rod back and forth really fast, so it made a swooshing sound: Swwzzing! Swwzzing! Swwzzing! I don’t know whether it was that terrifying noise or my continued screams, which shattered four nearby window panes, but the dog finally backed off again.
I started to catch up with D and Chase, but the further away I got, the madder I got. Soon I found myself back at that house, where I banged on the door until the woman who lived there answered the door. Then I politely, if firmly, told her that I was tired of being chased down the street by her dog, and that I would appreciate it if she would not allow it to escape. She blamed her kids, at which point I politely, if firmly, told her that I didn’t really give a rat’s patootie whose fault it was, I still didn’t want to be chased down the street by her dog.
I think it might have helped make my point that I was still swinging my little metal rod.
With these two events fresh in our minds, I realized I couldn’t depend on the street to provide my weapons. I began carrying my trusty red trekking pole on our walks, despite D’s sideways glances and snide comments.
So the other night, we left our house for a stroll at dusk. We’d just stepped off our front walkway and onto the sidewalk when we heard a rustling noise, like leaves blowing in the wind. But it was a rare windless day here in Big D. D and I both turned at the same time, only to see a dark brown clump streaking toward us like a soundless F-16 from our neighbor’s house across the street.
It was a different pit bull, eyes locked laser-like on Chase, who was at the end of his 16-foot leash. This time, we had much less warning. Heck, we didn’t even know our neighbor had a dog, much less a 50-pound bundle of aggressive pit.
D started reeling Chase back in and I stepped up between the rocket dog and them. But this time, I had Big Red with me. I whipped that trekking pole around so fast it made a little sonic boom.
“HAAAIIIGHHH!!!!” I bellowed. “GET BACK! GET BACK!!!! HAAAIIIGHHH!!!!”
I even thought to pull off the rubber cap over the ice tip, foolishly thinking that two grams of steel would make a difference against that charging bundle of muscle and rage.
The dog stopped for a split second, probably wondering how such a small person could make such a horrible noise. Out of the corner of my eye I saw other neighbors’ doors opening, wondering the same thing.
Then she accelerated. Man, that dog was fast, and quiet, too. I turned my pole around and began wielding it like a fencing foil, poking it out in front of me toward the dog’s face. D by this point had Chase in her arms again. “Get back in the house,” I yelled, at the same time she had the same idea.
And it was a great idea … except that we’d locked the door behind us, and I had the key in my pocket. Yay.
The dog kept advancing, crouched like a panther waiting to spring. It got closer and closer, and I kept parrying with my trekking sword. Uh, I mean pole. Finally, a guy comes out of the garage and toward the pit. So I quit screaming at the dog, and began screaming at him. “Get this dog! NOW! I am so sick of this CRAP!!”
That dog simply would not be deterred. I think it looked at Chase and saw a little golden pile of hairy bacon. Then it looked at me and saw a little chubby pile of shrieking bacon. It came at us at least six times, and only my much-belittled pole kept us from a trip to the emergency vet and the ER, in that order, of course.
The dog ignored the guy, too, until he finally kicked it in the side, knocking it over. Even then, it just rolled, got up and came at us again. It was like that T1000 cyborg played by Robert Patrick in the Terminator 2 movie — eerily malevolent and implacable at the same time.
Between the guy kicking at it and me jabbing it with my frighteningly menacing red pole, we got it back into its own yard, and it finally went back into the garage.
I was shaking with adrenalin and anger, not the best time to have a rational conversation. So it went something like this:
Guy: “So, are we all good? Everything all good?”
Me: “All good? No! No, we’re not all good. We were in our own yard, for chrissakes. Is that your dog??”
Guy: “No, she lives here. I just stopped by to help my friend. He’s not here now, and I guess she got out.”
Me: “You guess? Thank you, Captain Obvious. What’s her name?”
Guy: “Uh… uh… I think they call her Little Mama.”
Now, this made me chortle, which was a good thing at that moment. We often say Chase has two parents: Big Mama and Little Mama (D and me, respectively, in another Captain Obvious moment). So Little Mama (human) stepping in front of Little Mama (canine) has given us several bouts of the giggles since then, and probably also kept me from marching over to that yard that night and shooting that dog. While that and my resulting arrest and prosecution would provide excellent blog fodder, it isn’t really something I need right now.
Let me be clear: I don’t believe in breed-specific laws or stereotypes. I had a beloved Rottie for 13 years, back when that was the breed always used for the snarly, frothing “Dog Attack” graphics on overly dramatic news reports.
But it’s also a fact that we have been menaced now three times in a few weeks, all by pits. And I’m really, really tired of it. I don’t blame the dog, I blame its parents. But it’s still the dog that’s looking to sink its teeth into our necks.
However, the Little Mama/Little Mama incident has brought D to her knees about my trekking pole, which I now modestly call my “Canine Attack Neutralizer Equipment.”
Or CANE, for short.