Gone to the Dogs
How to deal with threatening canine encounters
Suddenly bursting through a thicket, some 15 feet to our right, was a black-and-white spotted dog, baring its teeth ...
Illustration by Daniel Yagmin
We descended the switchbacks zigzagging down Lookout Mountain outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The winding trail gave way to a gravel path behind a line of houses and trailers. We were eight miles in on a 26-mile training run that promised to take five or more hours to complete. My training partner and I talked, enjoying the momentary break from technical footing.
Suddenly bursting through a thicket, some 15 feet to our right, was a black-and-white spotted dog, baring its teeth, and another wild-eyed companion behind it. They lunged toward us, snarling and barking. We had nothing but our water bottles to defend ourselves. We shouted at the dogs, which brought the owner out of a dilapidated trailer to retrieve them, and we were able to back away and move on down the trail. This is a scenario all too familiar for runners.
A Not-So-Happy Ending
Long-time runner Karen Smith was not so fortunate. In December of 2009, she was attacked while running less than a mile from her home in Franklin, Tennessee. Smith laced up her shoes and headed out her door as she had done many times, to run a route she knew well and on which she felt safe. On this day, though, Smith spotted the unmistakable shape of a pit bull watching her from a porch as she passed.
In an instant, the animal was in motion, charging toward her. The pit bull launched himself, snapping and biting. Smith was knocked into a ditch and the dog latched onto her leg. "As I was getting up, I got bit in the calf. I started yelling for help," she says. In the vicious attack, she was bitten several more times, once on the nose. Smith eventually managed to break free and run to a neighbor's house. She was taken to the ER and received numerous stitches. The dog was euthanized and the owners had to pay Smith's medical bills.
Smith is back to running, and says, "I love trail running. It is very therapeutic until I see a dog off its leash!"