One of my worst nightmares nearly came to pass yesterday when Pan and I were set upon by an unleashed dog. I heard a jingle of tags and looked up just in time to see the dog sprinting across the street. Pan leaned into my legs and froze, and held perfectly still as the dog pressed its muzzle aggressively into his side, hackles raised and growling fiercely.
Time stopped. I quickly reviewed my options, none of which were good. Any move - a jerk of the leash, a wave of the arms - could set them both off. I decided to follow Pan's lead, and kept my body turned sideways and my eyes averted.
Luckily, the dog's owner appeared, and thankfully, it responded to him, snarling once for good measure before turning to leave. Pan made a gratuitous air-snap as it was leaving, but I had a good hold on him. It seemed more like a tension release than a serious attempt to throw down.
When the dog got back to its owner, the owner called it a bunch of impolite names and then yelled across the street, "Are you OK?" We did not respond. I mean, what would be the point? Instead, we just hoofed it on down the road. A minute later Pan stopped to relieve himself. I felt like joining him. I asked him how he was doing and he just shrugged his shoulders and asked for a treat.
Had it had been Ondine on the leash, we all might have ended up in the emergency room. She's leash-reactive and super-protective. (In the picture, though, no worries - she's playing.) What's strange, though, is that Ondine is super-excellent with children. I wouldn't hesitate at all to let a well-mannered child pet her. Cute and cuddly Pan, though, wants nothing to do with unfamiliar children. He had a traumatic experience with a child once, and border collies remember everything.
There are three or four things about dog-walking that worry me, and have convinced me never to let the dogs off their leashes: cars, skunks, snakes and strays. We have a couple coyotes in the neighborhood, but I consider them a theoretical threat compared to the much higher probability of encountering an unleashed dog. I look at it this way: coyotes aren't stupid, but dogs often are, especially those with stupid owners. Symptom number one, of course, is the classic, "Don't worry, he's friendly..." Bluh. How many times do we have to hear that? (At least this owner didn't insult us with that...)
Upon a day's reflection, all I can say is thank heavens for Pan. He didn't have any good choices, but he saved us both from enormous harm. Hip hip hooray, and a handful of treats!