Dogs may be ďmanís best friend,Ē but that isnít the case when you are riding a bike. In preparing for our bicycle adventure from San Diego to Melbourne Beach, Florida, I had read several articles about techniques used by bicycle riders to defend themselves from aggressive dogs. As we rode along we learned that we could speed away from dogs that came out to chase us and most of them either had little stamina or lost interest once we had pedaled past the territory for which they were responsible. Sometimes I would even slow down to stay just ahead of a chaser as a way to get it to run a little longer. Helen didnít appreciate my doing this, especially if she was following me. I told her I was thinking of the dog and doing my part to help it stay physically fit.
Iím not sure why, but most of our dog encounters were in New Mexico and Texas. As we traveled from town to town, we grew to enjoy hearing them barking as their way of cheering us on as we rode out before sunrise. Our most memorable encounter was in New Mexico on our 27th day out from San Diego.
Helen and I had ridden from Las Cruces to Alamogordo the day before. Now we were heading to Ruidoso. The 50 mile ride was mostly uphill and included going over Apache Summit. At 7591 feet, this was the highest point on our adventure and our last mountain climb. We were feeling strong at this time and made the ascent with little trouble, except for the dog encounter.
There were three dogs in the yard of a house very close to the highway. We assumed they were behind a fence, but they werenít. Helen was in the lead when one of them burst out of the yard and came at me snarling and barking in a very unfriendly way. Accelerating on this steep ascent was not possible, so I went to an optional technique. I thought that perhaps I could talk with the beast that was fast approaching my leg. After all, he should know English. I hollered ďSTOP!Ē Of course, Helen thought I was talking to her since one strategy we had always considered was to stop pedaling and make friends with the attacking animal. Helen hit her brakes. I, however, was looking back at the charging, snarling, wild animal on my heels. The collision made us both fall off our bikes. While I was still pulling myself out from under all our equipment, Helen jumped up and went after the dog which was stopped in his tracks at the sight of two bike riders falling right in front of him.
The dog stood still except for the tail wagging. Helen was in no mood to make friends with an animal that had caused us to fall. She went at the dog with her finger wagging in its face telling him how naughty he was. As I was examining my skinned knee, the dog was tucking his tail between his legs and doing everything he could to apologize. Helen was having none of it and chased the dog back into his yard wagging her finger at him the whole time. I got the impression the other dogs were very impressed that this lady was intimidating their alpha male.
We finally picked our bikes up, dressed our wounds and got ready to resume our ride to Ruidoso. As I looked back I saw three dogs peeking around a tree and I think they were giving a sigh of relief that we were getting out of their lives and perhaps they were thinking that chasing bikes was not such a good idea after all.