Traffic is stop and go. You are splitting lanes. As you squeeze past a bus, you see it. Ears flapping in the wind, eyes closed and nose up, enjoying the new smells of this stretch of road. It is a dog making the most of the car ride.
I am always uneasy when I encounter this scenario. I love dogs, but I know that one day, I will split past a dog with serious road rage. This week I encountered that dog.
In more than 7 years I have passed scores of dogs with their heads out the window. Some in the back of pickups, some with their heads out the back window of a Blazer or Forerunner. Almost all have had a curious interest in this bubble-headed human rolling on a noisy machine. Just about all I could have reached out and petted as I passed. So you can see, when envisioning the worst-tempered Kujo junkyard dog, why I might be apprehensive about passing certain breeds of unrestrained dogs.
I pass a lot of dogs in the back cargo area of Subabrus and Volvos. I have had these dogs bark at me, even though the windows are not open and I think that is part of the problem. Dogs can get “barrier frustration” and when a unexpected and unknown entity gets too close their instinct is to defend their territory. With the windows that muffle the sound and keep the dog from lunging at me, I don’t get startled by these instances.
The other reason dogs scare me while I am splitting is that there is no way to get away from them. You just have to blast past them minimizing your exposure. It kind of reminds me of Ulysses’ encounter with Charybdis on one side and rocks on the other. That is why I will be naming this mean-spirited dog Charybdis. I was traveling back from work on the Bay Bridge approach in San Francisco and spotted the dog about 7 cars ahead. As I approached the dog was eyeballing me intensely. This is your first clue. It was more than curiosity and I got a feeling that I should exercise greater care. It was a retriever mix, which usually have low aggression, but this one opened up once I was right next to it. It did not lunge or try to bite but it gave one of those “go away” barks that is really three short barks crammed into one loud “wofwofwof". The kind of bark that would go on longer but the dog runs out of breath. Slober was projected out and onto my visor.
Although I expected that someday this would happen, admittedly I was off guard when it did and the wobble was proof. My hart missed a beat, I tensed up and by instinct I steered away, towards a Jetta. I was able to straighten out but I was on an adrenaline rush for the rest of my commute. So whether you split lanes or not, be ready for that one in a million dog hanging it’s head out the window that wants a piece of you.
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