By John Ray
I recently read this in a Facebook post from a friend: “I was involved in a bicycle accident tonight. A large dog was on the loose and attacked me while I was riding my bike. I flew off the bike and landed hard on my left side. Emergency services were called and advised me to go to the hospital. Pretty bruised up and my shoulder, back and collarbone are extremely sore. Thankfully nothing is broken. I couldn’t be more grateful for the super sweet witnesses who helped me. My bike didn’t make it out alive, sadly.”
This didn’t happen on some secluded dirt road in the country, but blocks from downtown Fayetteville. It can end worse than this though, as reported here (Dog Attack).
One of the truly great things about riding the Razorback Greenway is the abundance and variety of critters you see. I have encountered (without incident) skunks, opossums, groundhogs, foxes, deer, all kinds of turtles, a few snakes, and far too many squirrels and rabbits to ever count. That’s in addition to a crazy number of hawks, egrets and other fowl sharing the airspace around the trail. With just a small amount of caution and common sense, these encounters can enrich any ride and turn an average commute into a mini-safari.
But dogs are a different matter. Now let me start by saying I am 100 percent a “dog guy.” I’ve had dogs my whole life and love ‘em something fierce. I think that’s part of the reason I get so riled up when I’ve an encounter like the one my friend recently had. More often, I find myself braking hard or quickly swerving to miss a non-aggressive but totally clueless dog roaming leash-free along the trail.
Being aware and prepared for such encounters is part of being a smart rider. Here are some tips for doing so.
Start by assuming the worst. Just count on the clueless dog wandering straight into your path, and assume the aggressive dog is going to come after you. That way you can act in anticipation. With a dog wandering into your path, you should be thinking what are my options to avoid this collision. Assess left & right alternatives and be aware of who is behind. It is split second decision making that can save the day. With an aggressive dog. We have had good results with squirting dogs with water from our water bottles. Make sure you are comfortable riding with one hand on the handlebar before trying this one. You might even practice it first. After that, get vocal. The dog might be familiar with the command “NO.” I have found this to work on occasion. This might keep the dog from attacking while at the same time alerting anyone within earshot you need help.
If the situation escalates and you are certain you can make a sprint for it, hit the gas. Most dogs can do around 20 mph, but for only a short distance. With an adrenaline boost and flat grade, you oughta be in the clear. If the dog causes a wreck and is still threatening use your bike as a shield by swinging it between you and the dog. Try to back out without making direct eye contact.
So you’ve been harassed or attacked. Who you gonna call? Well that depends. If you are in the city. It is best to go through the cities channels. Most cities have a process that can be very helpful. Here is Fayetteville’s:
Encountering a Dangerous Animal
Residents who sight an animal they believe to be dangerous or vicious should not approach the animal and immediately contact the Animal Services Division at 479-444-3456 . If you encounter a dangerous or vicious animal during times outside our normal operating hours, contact the Police Department at 479-587-3555 and provide the location of the sighting so that the dispatcher can alert the on-call Animal Services Officer. Animals are not determined to be dangerous or vicious merely due to the breed.
If you are outside the city it is best to call 911. Take a picture of the house. Look for a number on the mailbox. Even if it means going back later in your car to protect you from the dogs do it.
Unfortunately, bites do happen. In the very worse case, the Humane Society recommends curling up in a ball, hands covering your neck and ears, and playing dead. Not sure I could ever do that, but that’s what they suggest. But protecting your head and neck seems very important. When the dog bites and you have managed to run the dog off or are somewhat protected. Call 911. It is important to get help on the way. Next you need to be thinking, stop the bleeding by applying pressure to the wound. Click here to read a great article on first aid. Hopefully you will be able to get everything under control and stable.
Once the sheriff or local authorities arrive it will be important to get them involved. The owner of the attacking or clueless wandering canine who causes a wreck or attacks someone needs to be held accountable. Don’t write it off as “bad luck.” By not reporting the incident and having your expenses such as medical bills and repairs paid for by the dog owner, you are only inviting the same thing to happen to someone else, putting the dog in danger and probably discouraging yourself from getting back out on the bike.
As more and more people hit the trails and roads, these encounters are bound to increase. So let’s be prepared, and be safe out there friends. Perhaps you have a tip that you would like to share. Please do, in the comments section below.