If you run enough, you are bound to come across an animal or two, or three, or ten while you log your miles. We have all been there: while running by a house you hear a dog’s barking growing louder as you see it charging at you out of the corner of your eye. You are not quite sure whether it is on a long leash or if it is going to stop at the boundary created by an invisible fence. When the dog comes to a sudden halt but still keeps barking, you let out a sigh of relief, knowing that you can continue safely along your way. Or when you see a cat sitting in the yard and he does…nothing…absolutely nothing…after all, he’s a cat and he frankly does not care about you at all.
Every so often there is no barrier to stop the dogs and they keep on charging into the street. I have been fortunate that every time this has happened to me, the dogs have been friendly enough. More often than not, they have bounded about at my feet, maybe run a circle or two around me, and then headed back for home after losing all interest.
Not all animal encounters are of the canine variety. Last Fall Steve and I were running through our local municipal forest, and we came upon a large tortoise in the middle of the trail. He was just hanging out, content to let us go around him. In the same woods, I often encounter a large family of 6-10 miniature white tail deer who appear to be more curious about me than I am about them.
Perhaps sparked in part by my run-in with a mean SUV driver who has deep-seeded hatred of runners, this got me thinking about what animal encounters have other Casual Runners had while training or even during races? We would love to hear your stories you own animal encounters (see how to contact us below), but in the meantime, below are my top five Casual Running animal encounters. Enjoy!
#5) Leash laws. Literally every entrance to the municipal forest near my home has signs reminding everyone that dogs are required by local ordinance to be on leashes at all times. This may be the most-ignored rule in the park. One day while running, I came upon a woman who was carrying a handful of thick leather leashes, and noticed that none of them were attached to any of the 3 large dogs who were playfully bounding about the trail. Out of caution I slowed my pace as the dogs approached me, and the woman kindly said “oh, they won’t hurt you.” At this moment, all I could think of was that she must have known that I was concerned about these large dogs. At least she was observant enough to try to reassure me, but I would have been more reassured had they been on the leashes she was pointlessly carrying. Normally this would be no big deal, except for the fact that, not only did this interrupt my run (which is not that big of a deal), but, while I am sure the dogs were just being playful and meant no harm, they got themselves tangled up in my legs, nearly knocking me to the ground. Needless to say, I was not happy.
#4) Not my dog. While I live in a nice suburban bedroom community with quiet streets, I spend a lot of my summer at a local lake that is out in the country. This means I log a lot of summer miles running along country roads with cars and trucks whizzing by me at 55+ miles per hour. One day, a beautiful collie came up to me while I was running. He (or she? I really don’t know) was a happy dog who just wanted to run with me, and so he (or she?) did, for maybe a half mile or so. I tried encouraging him (or…oh never mind, you get the point) to go home, but he wanted to stay and play, and started weaving around the street. One of the aforementioned trucks was coming down the road and, seeing the dog running back and forth, slowed down. The driver rolled down the window, assuming it was my dog (which it was not), and started yelling at me (I will refrain from repeating what he said) for not having my dog on a leash. Again, not my dog. When I tried telling him this, he was kind enough to suggest where I “could go.” At least the dog did not seem to mind too much, he was having too much fun to care.
#3) Not really a “leash” story. After law school I had the good fortune to spend a year living and working as a law clerk in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. At this point I was not yet a Casual Runner, but I occasionally tried to pretend to be one. One day I was out running and noticed that traffic was backed up, which was unusual for a weekend. After a few minutes I found out what was causing the commotion: it was a horse, proudly walking down the street. You see, in St. Croix it was quite common to see horses tied to trees and fences along the side of the road. You may be wondering why this horse was not tied up. Well, you see, he was. Whoever tied him up decided to tie him to a dead tree, and the horse ripped the tree apart at the trunk. He was still tied to the tree, but he was walking down the street dragging half of the tree with him. As if this occurrence was not strange enough, a few weeks later, while driving to work at the courthouse I came upon another traffic jam, and yup, another horse was dragging part of a tree down the street.
#2) More leash laws. What about when dog walkers do follow leash laws? One night, while running in the dark, I came across the proverbial ninja dog walker, only, because it was dark, I did not immediately see him or the dogs he was walking, OR the leashes that he was using to walk them. While this ninja dog walker was obeying the town’s leash laws, he was not obeying the rules for pedestrians and was walking on the side of the street that was with traffic, not against it. He clearly had no intention of moving to the correct side of the road, so I had to move over farther into the street to make room for him as I passed. Because it was dark, I did not see that his two dogs were on extendable leashes walking on the far side of the small road. Did I mention that it was dark? Or that he was dressed all in black and had dark colored leashes and dogs that were invisible in the dark? I gave the ninja dog walker a polite “good evening,” and then proceeded to trip over the invisible leashes, falling to the ground. Out of propriety I will not recount just what the ninja dog walker said to me as I picked myself up off of the ground, but suffice to say, he inexplicably thought that it was my fault. At no point did he give me any warning or indication that he was about to take my legs out from under me or show any concern for my well-being. He was, however, also kind enough to suggest where I “could go.”
#1) Sic’ em on a chicken. Last summer I was running at the lake and found myself chased by an animal when I passed a house. No, this animal encounter was not with a dog, but rather it was with….a chicken. I am not kidding, it was an honest to god chicken. He was pecking around in the front yard, saw me pass, and then started chasing after to me. I am proud to say that I outran the chicken and he eventually gave up and went home. Strangely enough, a few days later, while running in the neighborhoods around my house, I found myself being chased again…by a chicken. I kid you not There is a house that has a free range chicken setup in their front yard – I have no idea why, it is in the middle of a bedroom community – and one day one of the chickens decided to chase after me. Again, I am proud to say that I outran him (or was it a her?). I assure you, no chickens were harmed in the telling of this story, but to celebrate my second sprint victory in a week, that night I dined on…you guessed it…chicken wings.
That is my list of my top 5 animal encounters, now we want to hear about yours!
The Casual Runner Team wants to hear from you. If you have any questions about anything we cover here on Casual Runner, if you have any questions regarding running gear or training for your own Casual Running needs, or if there is anything that you would like us to cover on Casual Runner, please leave a comment or email us using the links below. To ensure that you do not miss all of the great content from Casual Runner, please be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel. See you out on the running trails!