Somewhere in the DNA of every dog is the desire to chase. Some do it because their predatory instincts still burn brightly. Other dogs look upon the chase as pure fun. No matter which instinct sets them off, riding on a bicycle past dogs is sure to get a reaction.
Generally, Laura and I love the chase. Riding out of Topeka on 2nd Street towards the Scenic River Road, there are two dogs about a mile from the Shawnee/Douglas County line. They truly enjoy the chase. They have a long run from their house to the street but are always game to give it their all.
If we are on our road bikes for a quick 20-mile ride, we’ll turn around when the road turns to gravel at the county line. It never fails that the dogs have been waiting by the road to see whether we’re coming back. That’s when the real fun starts. They close quickly just as a short hill forces us up and out of the saddle for a spirited effort for dog, man and woman. These dogs certainly aren’t out to do us harm. Our worry is only getting tangled with them and going down.
When a young black lab ran directly into my front wheel in 2008 on Highway 24 east of Topeka, that dog was simply having fun in a head-long run. The danger for both dog and man came with the crash and the resulting blessing of not getting hit by a car racing up behind us. I never saw the dog again after it raced back down the farm house road. Fortunately, the owner came out to tell me the dog was fine. The man certainly didn’t seem as concerned about me sitting beside the road bleeding.
The next summer I road in a gravel race in the Flint Hills with a rider from Kearney, Nebraska, that had earlier in the summer won the Dirty Kanza 200. This guy logged some monstrous miles in training and races and was a true beast on his mountain bike. As we road together for miles, he displayed an almost mystifying ability to stop dogs in their tracks with his deathly cry of “NO!” Dogs were so terrified by the shrill severity of the cry that they often would turn and run back to their yards cowered in fear. While the same cry has helped us, Laura and I still lack the proper death tone.
In the 80’s, during my triathlon years, I was training southwest of Topeka. It was a miserable day – hot and humid with a stout southwest wind. At best, I was slogging along thinking only about the turnaround that was coming and the wind-aided ride home. I never saw or sensed the Doberman Pinscher that had somehow glued itself right behind my left ankle. The sight of that dog with all his teeth bared for action scared me enough that I cried out in shock and even fear for one of the few times in my life.
Soon after I was on the same route with my friend Michael York. I warned him about the dog, and we both were on full alert as we approached the danger zone. Sure enough, the Doberman came racing. We were in full flight and watching as the dog came upon the drainage culvert between the yard and the road. Leaping to fly over the culvert the Doberman came up short. Slamming hard into the side of the culvert must have knocked some sense into the beast because we were never chased by that dog again.
Laura and I are hoping the same sense of enlightenment will come to a pair of dogs we crossed paths with last Sunday. New owners of a home south of Topeka where we often ride have dogs. They are chasers.
We accelerated and really had no worries until we saw a car approaching north directly in the path of the charging canines. The sound of car hitting dog sucked the air out of both of us leaving pits in our stomachs. Turning back, we were happy to see both dogs running off safely. Thankfully, the driver of the car had slowed enough to prevent serious injury. That sight didn’t stop a tear streaking from under Laura’s sunglasses and down her cheek.
We love dogs and worry so about the safety of the many dogs we see running free in the county. We take great care to keep Rocket safe from the dangers cars present. We only wish others would do the same. The county has no leash laws. However, we would happily give up any good chases for the safety of this man’s and this woman’s best friends.