Along for the ride:

Monday, January 25, 2010


Photo by Rene de Haart

The Rhodesian Ridgeback, or African Lion Dog, is a large muscular hound; ferocious in the hunt; they are brave and vigilant and possess considerable stamina. Without enough mental and physical exercise they can become high strung and unmanageable. This breed needs a firm pack leader. Meek or passive owners who treat the dog like a human rather than a canine will have a hard time controlling this breed and may also cause them to become combative with other dogs.

Okey-dokey then... What the heck are my neighbors thinking putting the leash of their ninety pound, menacing, cross-eyed Ridgeback in the hands of their cute, blonde seven year old daughter?

This is my third encounter with this dog who obviously wants to harm my dog. My dog is in her teens, a Lassie look-a-like who is now rocky on her feet. If she were human she would be using a walker and would be every child's favorite Auntie. We have developed our own special technique for patting Diva on one side whilst supporting the other against our legs so that she doesn't keel over.

The first encounter with our canine nemesis,he was out with his adult mistress, properly on-leash. As we crossed paths a few feet apart he lunged without warning and went for Diva, grabbing her neck and frightening her mightily. Thanking goodness for a dog with a full protective fur coat I stuck around long enough to hear The Mistress say "So sorry. He doesn't usually behave like that". This I have since learned to be untrue or severe amnesia. There are accounts of other residents whose dogs were attacked in the past.

Second encounter was on a quiet stroll around the block. We had passed Devil Dog's lair and were around the corner and out of sight. Diva is stone deaf. I heard the scrabble of claws on tarmac and the jingle of a dog tag, turned at the last minute and the cross-eyed bastard was right there, in Divas face barking and intimidating. I think the lack of a reaction on Diva's part probably saved the day. I always use my "Outdoor Voice" in a situation such as this and his shock at someone louder than him and being face to face with a social dog bought us the few seconds it took for his owner to coral him once more. "I didn't think anyone was around" she whinged, meaning that she had let this untrained Baskerville wannabe out loose on purpose. Mercy me!

Yesterday late afternoon Diva and I took our habitual constitutional. The cute blonde kid had a friend over and they were both driving the bright pink dune buggy, electric car that she had received for Christmas. The street is a quiet loop, practically a cul-de-sac, no danger from traffic. The Dad was outside with them, a glass of red wine in one hand. We chatted for a moment and carried on. As we rounded the return portion of the loop I caught a glimpse of the Ridgeback and when my eyes followed the leash back to the tiny hand of the little girl, I knew we were in trouble. Dad was momentarily out of sight, which didn't help matters.
Diva and I stood stock still in the hope that our lack of movement would calm the other dog's prey drive. Yeah, Right! The caramel creature went from zero to full launch in a second, despite the valiant efforts of the little girl to hang on. She was calling for her Dad whilst I was positioning myself in a semi-crouch in front of my dog; like a pro-tennis player ready to go left or right at a moment's notice.

It is hard to tell the line of attack intended by a cross eyed dog but his initial trajectory was a straight line dead ahead. I have a secret weapon, in addition to my "Outdoor voice" yelling "Off!" and "No!" repeatedly  in the firmest, deepest tones I could muster. We have a leash that rolls out to twenty-five feet. It is housed in a sturdy blue plastic housing about eight inches across. It has a handle and feels very familiar in my hand. I have clunked bad dogs up the side of the head before. It feels good and gets their attention. They often choose to never bother us again.

By the time the Dad appeared from his garage his dog was running back towards him. I hadn't actually connected with him but the yelling and the wild swipes of my blue paddle must have convinced him I was serious. I was.

The image of that dog, in that "Oh Shit" moment just before the attack gave me a very disturbed sleep last night. I refuse to stop using a section of the public thoroughfare in deference to a family who will not believe that the dog they love should be trained or restrained. He can do no harm in their eyes.

I am going shopping for pepper spray. They will probably complain that I am harming their dog. "Ya think?"


  1. Assholes...

    Hope you plan to carry a Louisville Slugger on all future walks with Diva. Might I also suggest a video camera to film the evidence for the local magistrate when you have to drag them into court for negligence and public endangerment.

    Watch your back and Diva's too.

  2. Oh, phooey. The Ridgeback sounds far too underexercised and would probably not be a bad dog if he had some proper work to do and some discipline. (Ceasar Millan, where are you?)

    The fact that you can intimidate him is a good sign, however. Wonder what he would do with an umbrella opened in his face--it's supposed to work with angry wild turkeys?

    I have always had a problem with people who do not train/control their dogs. It's usually a problem with little dogs, so I can't even imagine what it's like with an athletic large dog like a Ridgeback.

    Speaking of...the photo in your heading is pretty dramatic. If it wasn't taken with a telephoto lens, I have to wonder what happened a split second later when dog contacted I can't see any hope of escape.

  3. Just went through 11 hours of a jury trial today... more to follow.... but...depending ...if something happens now to you or your dog... you were already in full knowledge that the dog is like he is and therefore if anything happens to you... or your dog.... guess who isn't at fault!

  4. Pliers, Their fence scares me as it is full of loose planks and holes. Obviously the dog isn't too smart.

    Jean, I agree. He defers to humans. If I had him I could fix him. He is the ugliest dog. The photographer has pages of photos of ridgebacks leaping, bounding etc. all action. I chose the shot that represented my experience best but I suspect this is a dog at play. There are great Ridgebacks out there. People have a lot to be responsible for. I do not blame the dog, however I do not accept his behaviour.

  5. @eloh, welcome back. I hope you vanquish your foes and I hope there is a settlement in your future. Regarding the dog, it is funny how there is no doubt in my mind, in the moment, what to do in dramatic situations where someone human or animal needs protecting. We both know the law has nothing to do with justice. That's a much bigger battle and the rules of engagement are not nearly as clear. I just feel better for getting this off my chest.

  6. Oh it makes me so angry when people don't take responsibility for their dogs especially dogs such as this that need a good ownder. It makes what should be a pleasurable experience of walking your dog into a stressful and dangerous activity.

  7. My first and only dog owning experience was when I adopted two adult Belgian sheepdogs, and my biggest mistake was not to educate myself before I got them. Due to my mishandling, the female (whose relationship with 99% of humans was all you could ask) turned dog-aggressive, or at least her already existing tendencies became much worse due to my ignorance.
    The she bit the neighbour. I was going to say 'nipped' but that would be typical of a dog-owner who downplays their dog's bad behaviour. After that I had to keep an eagle eye on her, and didn't dare let her off leash unless it was at 3 AM.
    So I have a tiny bit of sympathy for these people, who are plainly ignorant, and ignorant of their ignorance. However, they're probably also the same kind of people who would never believe their kid could do anything wrong.
    Education is the key!! But will they listen? I certainly hope so, otherwise every walk of yours will be fraught with anxiety. You have way more of my sympathy than they do, ER, and good luck.

  8. Go for it. We had trouble last year with Rottweiler that kept escaping from our neighbour's garden and rampaging into ours making us fear for our 2 year old who loves playing outside. In the end we rang the dog wardens, numerous times, spent £1k on a new fence to keep him out and got our other neighbours on board. In the end the dog was "rehoused" and the neighbours moved out. Never give in to them!

  9. I have no sympathy whatsoever for dog owners who will not control their dogs. IMHO a vicious dog that attacks other dogs or humans should be put down pronto, or locked up tight where it cannot get out and terrorize anyone. And if the owners won't do it, anyone in fear of their own life or their dog's life should not hesitate to use all means to protect themselves... I'm not sure it's pepper spray you need, I would opt for a .45 caliber pistol or a 12 gauge. Well, I say that with tongue partially in cheek, as we don't need more firearms on the streets either, but seriously, I hope you have called the police already to start lodging complaints. Something needs to be done fast before you or your lovely sounding collie end up like that lady in San Francisco... mauled to death...

  10. AAARRRGGGGG>>>!!!
    It drives me nuts.. mind you, a lot of things about animal ownership drives me nuts! We can all have stupid moments... but some people just seem to have no iota of common sense (this drives me nuts above anything else!)
    Fair play to you for swiping and growling, I think you've probably sorted the problem ;-D

  11. I am angry just reading this, ER. You know you will have to do something don't you? Because like Eloh says, they will not have any responsibility. Although it may bring about disharmony amongst your neighbours, you may have to file an injunction against your neighbour and his dog and you may have to involve animal control - all so you can have a record of preventative steps you took.
    I had a similar, although much milder, situation a few years back and I had to do all this just to make sure I was on record.
    Although I would never advocate cruelty to an animal, I certainly believe you would have to beat the hell out of a dog like this just to save yourself and your own dog.

  12. St Jude, I am always concerned about the whereabouts of their dog when I walk by.

    Deborah, my sympathies. You took on an established pack without knowing it and a breed of dog that is intelligent, independent and in need of a job. Someone set you up for failure.
    In defense of my neighbors, their children are polite and well raised. I suspect the dog has reached maturity, about two years old, and is exhibiting behaviors that they have not previously seen. Very typical of this breed. They do jog with him in the early morning but the wife is petite and can barely hold him. I hope they are smart enough to see the direction this is headed and to seek help.

  13. Steve, I remember that episode in your lives. Good fences make good neighbors, especially in your case. So far, our encounters can be classified as accidental, with a little negligence and denial thrown in. I will take immediate action if anything escalates.

  14. Did want to say that my time with my Belgians (12 years in all) was very special and except for the dog-aggressive behaviour part they were wonderful companions. I had about 50 children a week coming in my front door to take music lessons and the dogs barked ferociously at every one, who without exception just patted them on their heads.

  15. Trudi, straight for the gonads, huh?

    Owen, I can tell you would be a good defender to have on my team. Thank you.
    The San Francisco case was horrendous. That reaches a whole other level of dog madness. We all still believe that it was most likely deliberate that Margery Knoller set her great mastiff attack dog on her neighbor because she was gay. The whole story with the son in Pelican Bay high security prison, who she adopted in his thirties, long after his incarceration began and of course the kinky photos. We have more than our share of weirdos I think.

  16. Watercats,When I walked by this morning the dog barked at us, but less than usual. He stands on his hind legs and looks over the wall, but you can't tell where he is looking. The rest of the fence is wooden plank with gaping holes and rotten wood that most dogs would go through in an instant. So far so good.

  17. Dave, If I or my dog are ever bitten or even knocked over we will report them right away. Regarding your last paragraph, it is a strange feeling to acknowledge that you are probably going to be bitten and determine that fighting back is the best defense. I think that sensation of impending doom and the adrenaline it released were the reason I couldn't sleep afterward.

  18. Deborah, It sounds as though you adapted to the reality of the situation. I have several friends with rescue dogs that need special caution. They take responsibility and manage their needs. The dogs would be put down otherwise.

  19. I think it's a great shame when good aminals' needs are not properly catered for, leaving them to become unmanageable. My sister has a couple of aging labs and there's a boxer in the next street who is basically psycho towards other dogs - owned by a foolish, my-dog-would-never-do-that type of woman. Walkies can be distinctly hazardous.

  20. Argent, your reference to "walkies" rang all kinds of memory bells. I hope you enjoy the post on Barbara Woodhouse, the legend before all the Whispering started.