An encounter that might have gone badly

Peggy and I have been taking advantage of breaks in the weather to go biking in the woods with the dogs. Yesterday, we saw a pygmy owl sitting on a low limb. Our presence did not disturb it in the least. I wondered that an owl’s light sensitive eyes could bear the afternoon sun, but later read that pygmy owls are diurnal.

Last week, we encountered two large, strong dogs that came from a house that stood between one gated Weyerhaeuser road and another. They stayed with us for a disturbingly long distance, although I thought they seemed more curious than aggressive. Peggy—who was at the rear of our little procession—later said that one of them had growled at her, and forced her off her bike by pushing against it. When we passed them on our return, I encouraged Bonnie and Baxter to run so we could get past them quickly. This did not work, because the other dogs were upon us too fast. I nonetheless persisted with my approach until Peggy yelled from behind that they were becoming aggressive. “They’re okay,” I yelled back. “I don’t think so,” she said.

I did a U-turn, and found them on the verge of attacking Bonnie who was snapping furiously but unconvincingly at her powerful foes. I parked a few feet away, strode between her and them, and warned them sternly that they had damned well better back off. Their eyes met mine unflinchingly as they searched for some sign of weakness. Finding none, and without any apparent communication with one another, they turned in unison and walked away.
I marveled at their intelligence and perceptiveness, for the encounter would have ended badly for them had they been brainless brutes. I had in my pocket a can of Fox pepper spray, and I sorely wanted to see what it could do after being choked for several minutes last week when I sprayed barely a whiff of it on the patio floor.

With the marauders gone, I expected to find myself alone, Peggy and the dogs having had plenty of time to make their escape. Instead, there stood Bonnie right by my leg. I didn’t know whether she stayed to protect me or for me to protect her, although she invariably comes to me when she’s afraid. Baxter shows no preference, being as apt to run to a shrub as to a person.

I kidded Peggy about running out on me, but she knew that I handle dogs well—and that I had the spray. More than that, she wanted to get Baxter to safety, because he’s dumb enough to attack a passive wolf yet cowardly enough to be panicked by an aggressive Chihuahua.