COLUMNS The Bike Madame

Advanced Tips on Cycle-Dog Relations

dogs-and-bikesTHE FUZZY brown object on the porch of the yellow house may look innocuous, like a bath mat or a discarded wig, but as I approach, it comes alive! The hairy monster barrels across the yard and onto Route 26 after me, barking and growling as he skitters at top speed for an out-of-shape canine. No amount of shouting “Go home!”, “Bad dog!”, or “Hey, fuzz-brain, I’m not a deer!” deters the mop-like menace.

As a rural cyclist, I’ve had my share of being chased by dogs, but this guy is the most persistent pursuer I’ve ever experienced. Cyclists are attractive to dogs because they’re just fast enough to trigger their chase instinct, not too slow for a challenge and not too fast (which is why cars at highway speeds elicit a response of “Why bother? Let me just bask on the porch.”) All of my other canine pursuers turn back upon hearing a human voice emerging from atop that tasty-looking metal deer with wheels, ashamed to be caught menacing a potential dispenser of food and petting. This scruffy adversary, however, is going to require more extreme measures. Here are some I’m considering.

One of my friends advised me to carry dog biscuits and toss them at the offender. Dogs think with their stomachs, so the enticing combination of food and something else to retrieve might keep the marauder at bay long enough for me to make my escape. There are several drawbacks, though: dispensing treats could reinforce the misbehavior (as Fido’s getting rewarded for trying to run you down), dog biscuits aren’t free, and it’s difficult to throw something while riding a bike (especially if you’re me).

Another friend of a more dour turn of mind (and Puritan heritage) suggested aversion rather than reward: a squirt gun. As soon as the enemy gets within range, I’d deploy the old water Uzi and give him a good high-pressure soaking. There are also holes to be poked in this method. Once again, it’s difficult to aim a water gun while riding (especially if it’s the “machine gun” type that requires two hands—and a delicate water pistol won’t pack the wallop necessary to discourage the dog), and this guy puts up with rain and hail to come after me, so I doubt it will dissuade him.

A host of others recommended communicating with the dog’s guardian. This ended up happening one morning when the dog started his usual Big Game Bike Hunt and I heard someone calling him. I stopped (whereupon he got hold of my trouser leg and worried it; so much for assuming he was just playing) and saw a lady in a bathrobe and fuzzy slippers holding another yipping, squirming bundle raring to get at me. I explained that her cute little pal has been chasing me daily. I don’t know how much she heard, as the offender was barking the whole time, once he’d decided not to rip up my pants or my leg. My words probably ended up sounding like “Your bark bark chasing bark bark day bark bark bark.” I could write a letter and stick it on her door…if the dog permits me to get that close to his domain.

If I had an inventive bent, I’d design a special ray gun that gave the dog an instant embarrassing haircut, at the same time removing the characteristic wet-hair-and-dead-frog odor dogs are so proud of. Until then, I can only resort to a journalist’s favorite weapon: embarrassment in print. (Alas, Fido has other uses for newspapers.)