Encounter With The Canine Kind

I hate dogs. Well, hot dogs aren't that bad, and so are corn dogs, which are actually called 'American Dogs' in Japan.

Last night I jogged home from work, in high humidity although it was not that hot (it was past 8:00p.m. when I set out). It was hard out of the door, and it took me some time to find my pace, but once I did, I felt I was jogging as a slightly faster pace than usual. Crossing the pedestrian bridge over the Yodo river gave me some added impetus, and I felt comfortable by then.

Most of the remaining trail is along the river, which passes next to an approach gold course, some baseball fields and some blue tent (homeless) encampments, many of whom keep dogs. I often see them sitting by the road, just lazing around, while others bark from a distance at times, but except for one encounter while on bicycle a good while ago, they've never seemed dangerous or aggressive.

Until last night.

It's kind of spooky because I remember that approaching the spot where they have been barking recently, I imagined telling them to relax as it was only me, the gaijin jogger who passes from time to time. Maybe by thinking this, I released some pheromones that smelled of fear, but out of the bushes, two or three them came out running and barking.

Of course my first reaction was one of fear, but quickly I remembered that with animals, composure and attitude are everything, and I started barking, too, in French Canadian mind you! I also figured that, like an umbrella being opened (it really works against dogs, ask any mail carrier), my backpack, containing clothes, wallet and water bottle, would work as a good deterrent, or a weapon in the worst case scenario. I unclipped it and swung it over my shoulder, the bottle going out flying, hitting the pavement with a bang. This seemed to have unsettled the leader of the pack, who took a few steps back, encouraged by my continuing raving.

I picked up my bottle, holding both items in separate hands, banging them together and swinging them around. This also gave me the chance to see if I were the only one of my kind around, partly by embarrassment, partly hoping to get better numbers on my side. But by then, the dogs were barking a lot less, showing much more defense than offense. Continuing insulting them in my deepest voice, I started walking away, keeping my most intimidating stance (not very), keeping an eye on them, making sure not to look as if I was running away, even if it were the case. Less than 50 meters away, their barking had stopped, but I was still fuming.

I took a short break, put my bottle in its holder, and started jogging again. I approached a bridge where the Midosuji subway line and a boulevard pass over another homeless grouping. A dog was around, but I guess it had heard the previous encounter, and alone, it didn't even dare make a whimper. By the time I was on the other side of the overpass, there were quite a few people around, and finally I felt completely safe.

I climbed up the dike, and started on the final river stretch all the way to Juso. I started to feel some fatigue, but I really wanted to continue jogging. It didn't prove to be too hard, although as I neared the shrine near my place, the temptation to walk grew stronger. But after the canine encounter and visualizing strongly finishing the Kyoto Sanjuromine 30km mountain race next December, there was no way I was going to stop short.

In the end, my time was average, around 90 minutes, and I did do a bit most stretching than usual, thinking about capoeira. Today my thighs did hurt a little going down stairs, but nothing bad.

Returning to the dog scare, my reaction kind of surprises me. To be honest, if I had thought about such an encounter before, I might not have bet on my side coming out stronger. Except for the first second or so, I never panicked, and quickly took control of the situation. It's the kind of experience out of which you come out stronger, finding inner strength where you doubted you had any. I think that from today on, dogs will intimidate me a lot less. I really understand the expression that their bark is a lot bigger than their bite. We domesticated those lesser wolves, not the other way around. I'd add an derogatory using a term describing female dogs, but I'll keep this decent.

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