Recently, in the locker room at the Glens Falls YMCA, I had a conversation with a friend about dogs in Cole's Woods that I've had before with other people. This friend is an avid runner and loves the shade and the quiet and soft dirt of the Cole's Woods trails.
What he doesn't love is having to dodge the unleashed dogs of irresponsible dog-walkers. Inevitably, when you're out for a stroll or a jog and someone's large, slathering beast comes charging at you, the owner will sing out, "Don't worry, he's a nice dog. Doesn't bite!"
Owners tend to judge dogs by their actions at home. The dog has never bitten anyone in the family, all he does is wag his tail and lick the baby's face. But a dog's behavior in his own home is meaningless when the dog is galloping toward a stranger in the woods. If you're the hapless runner, your bare legs exposed like pork chops, what are you supposed to do? You can't outrun the beast. Supposedly, you shouldn't show fear, although you have every reason to be scared. It seems wrong to kick it. Your best strategy is probably to stand still, keep your hands at your sides, and let the dog sink its long sharp teeth into your calf.
Really, it's wrong to let your dog roam around like a coyote, and it's relevant, I think, that city law requires dogs to be leashed in public places like Cole's Woods. Dogs like to be walked on a leash. People do not like being chased by other people's dogs. Being afraid you could get bitten is justified, far more justified than fear you'll get attacked by any wild animal. According to the Centers for Disease Control, dogs bite people about 4.5 million times a year in the U.S. From 1979 to 1994, dogs attacked and killed 279 people in the U.S.
The playful pet at home may be, outside the house, an aggressive creature capable of doing great harm. Leash them!