Bart and I joined BJ for an easy run from his house yesterday. There is a house with two mean German Shepherds a little less than a mile out. We ride our bikes and run past them often. They bark and snarl and scare the daylights out of me every time, but they have electronic shock collars that prevent them from leaving their property. Yesterday as we ran past, they started barking and running toward us as usual. When they reached the property edge they just kept coming. Bart and I each let out a whimpy little yelp. They went right for poor old Bart. Bart kept trying to run behind me for protection while they snapped at him. I was spinning around in circles trying to keep myself between Bart and them while BJ was looking around for something to beat them with. It only lasted a few moments before the owner called them off, but it was scary.
This is a rural area and a lot of people let their dogs run free. In my lifetime, have been bitten 12 times while running. I've been threatened by dogs many more times than that. I can't complain too much because I'm guilty of letting Bart out without tying him up. He usually stays in the yard, but sometimes he wanders off across the neighbor's yard in an Alzheimer's-like haze. If Bart had a tendency to bite, you can bet I would keep him restrained.
Anyway, we continued down the road without pausing too long after the dog encounter. We wanted to get away from there and weren't sure how well the owner was going to be able to control the dogs. A little way down the road we stopped to examine Bart. There were a few places where it looked like they might have pulled out some of his fur, but I didn't see any blood and he didn't seem to be hurt anywhere. BJ picked up a huge stick to protect us with on the way back and we continued our run. Soon a car pulled up beside us and stopped. It was the dog owners checking to make sure we were OK. They apologized and said the German Shepherds hadn't had their shock collars on. I said everything was OK and they turned their car around and went back home. This made me feel better about the whole thing. I think BJ and Bart were still a little angry. Judging by the way BJ kept hitting his stick against the side of his leg, I think he was hoping the dogs would come back out after us on the way back. But on the way back the dogs barked and growled and stayed in their yard.
A little while after passing the German Shepherds again, BJ had a spectacular fall. It looked to me like someone had tied his shoelaces together, he just went over face first and hit the ground HARD. He was wearing his Merrills, which have a lace system where you just pull a plastic grip with one hand while pushing a plastic slide clamp with the other to tighten the laces. You are supposed to stick the plastic grip piece into a little pocket in the tongue of the shoe so it doesn't flop around while you run. BJ had left his hanging loose on both shoes and by a some freak accident they had gotten tangled together while he ran. So it really was just like someone had tied his shoelaces together. There were no serious injuries and we finally made it back to BJ's house. What a run!
This morning I went out alone for 5 miles on roads and snow mobile trails. The trails are really nice right now, frozen hard but not too icy. I ran with bare soled shoes and had no problem at all. I spotted a coyote in the woods behind Chapel Street where they have been logging recently. His coat was thick and scruffy looking. He was shedding big clumps of his winter fur, spring is coming! He was about 25 feet away when I saw him. He looked at me and I looked at him. Then he pointedly looked away in a superior sort of way and walked off calmly. I am lucky about spotting wildlife on my runs. My father, a lifetime outdoors man, thinks it is because I travel quiet and alone in the woods covering a lot of territory. To me Coyote sightings are right up there with Black Bear sightings, rare glimpses of wild beauty and strength. Now that I've said that I'll probably get mauled by a bear this Spring. That's OK, I'll be admiring his strength and beauty right up until the bitter end.
Many people hate the coyotes. I suppose if I were a goat herder or something I might get bent out of shape over them. But I don't understand how the deer hunters can complain that the coyotes are killing off the deer and then in the next breath say hunting is necessary to keep the deer herd in check because there are no natural predators left in Southern Maine. I'm not a wildlife management specialist, but it sure looks like we have a healthy deer population in this area.
I have seen deer carcasses that coyotes have left in the woods. Yes, they are quite gruesome. Coyotes literally tear the carcass to shreds. But in a few days all that is left is bones and fur. And judging from the coyote droppings, they eat a lot of the bones and fur too. It looks very efficient.
It struck me as I was returning home... with all the Black Bear, Fishers, Moose, and Coyotes I have gotten close to while running in the woods alone, I have never really been threatened by any of them. Yet, I have been bitten by dogs 12 times and harassed by people more times than I can count while running alone on the roads. I really should stick to the woods.