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If getting chased by a dog is a rite of passage for runners, I have arrived. For years and thousands of miles I’ve endured ho-hum, no-need-to-run-for-my-life runs. Now I know the special thrill of realizing there’s no one awake at dawn to hear you scream. The horror of sprinting across the street and down the block only to look back and see big pup still coming with his mouth open and ready to chow down. The tingle of dog breath on the backs of my legs. Speedy times.

No bites so that’s good.

This was my very first time being chased by a dog as an adult. When I was a kid, the biker family across the street had these pit bulls and dobermans that hopped a chain link fence and chased my sisters and I on a weekly basis. Regular doses of the very real fear that goes along with running from an aggressive animal sort became a drug for us. Now flight is my first reaction in abrupt situations. My feet take off while my brain continues processing potential danger, which came in handy last weekend. So thanks, childhood neighbors’ pets.

It was my last day hanging with my nieces and I woke up early to squeeze in a run before the piggybacking resumed. Cool and drizzly, it started out as a perfect run. They live in a valley, so my attention was on surrounding mountains as I crossed soccer fields into a cluster of residential blocks comprised of brick row houses. One block in and I hear that distinct scramble of paws on concrete followed by I’ma-coming-for-you growling. At first I stayed on the sidewalk because most dogs in the neighborhood are barky but harmless as they’re chained up to the porch. Not this one. This massive dog charged and kept running. He was on my heels crossing the street and rounding a corner. I didn’t notice when he turned around, but at some point he gave up.

Right now I know more about avoiding bear attacks than dog bites. Everything you’re supposed to do to keep a bear from charging goes against my gut instinct to quietly flee. Fortunately, black bear attacks are rare. I’ve counted 7 fatal attacks in the U.S./Canada since 2010. Guess how many people are victims of dog bites each year? 4.5 million.

My boyfriend was chased by an ankle biter once and nearly got bit because he didn’t want to kick it off. I have no qualms about kicking an animal about to bite me, but this was no ankle biter and I’d rather not get mauled. As kids we always either made it to the back door juuuuust in time or climbed up a tree until the owners came out. I should probably do some speed workouts for next time. What’s the smart thing to do in a dog chase?

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