That moment when you realize you’re not alone.
The sight of a stray dog off in the distance caught my eye as I made my way down our street on a recent morning walk. Getting closer, I began to size up the dog and it was clear the medium size German Shepherd had taken notice of me.
I was walking in the street, to the chagrin of the occasional driver, and the dog was on the sidewalk to the right of me. My extra senses kicked in as I can see his full attention is now on me. Moving to the opposite sidewalk, my hope was that by putting some distance between us, I could pass by unscathed. In hindsight, it’s easy to think the dog saw this as a submissive move… which I suppose it was. Either way, as I moved away, the dog started making a beeline toward me. Not running, but with an increased gait.
Seeing no signs of friendliness, I started entertaining the idea that I may have to defend myself and do so real quick. Trying to keep one eye on the dog, which is about 20 ft. away at this point, I scanned my immediate surroundings and saw nothing that would be of any use in that endeavor — all I carry with me on my walks is an iPhone.
The dog is getting close now and it’s clear he is going to make contact. In my head, I’m debating the dog’s intentions. Is he going to attack me or is he simply looking for a pat on the head? There are no signs of aggression, like snarled teeth, but I still see no signs of friendliness. He’s not barking, just coming straight at me with a serious look on his face.
It’s funny how, in moments of stress, your brain can process so much information in the blink of an eye. It was at this point that a scene from my childhood raced through my mind.
As a young boy, I was attacked by a large German Shepherd while retrieving an errant soccer ball. About 12 years old at the time, I vividly remember hearing the galloping footsteps as the dog closed on me through a field of leaves. Having already bent over to pick up the ball, I looked through my legs just as the dog pounced. But for my older brother, who managed to scare him off, I would have been in real trouble. As it was, I got away with a few minor cuts and scratches on my back.
Back to the present. The dog is about 10 ft. away and it’s clear my time is up. I need to act and act now! I saw a wooden fence along one of the two houses I was now in front of, and thinking I might be able to scale it –God willing — to safety on the other side, I began to move toward it. But my heart sank as I got closer and realized the fence, in place to obscure trash bins, was open at the other end.
And that’s when it caught my eye!
Like a mythical sword bequeathed from heaven above, I saw a wooden stake about 4 feet long and a good inch thick… the perfect weapon to keep the dog at bay. It was leaning against the house, for no foreseeable reason. As pristine as the day it was purchased.
The dog is no more than 4-5 feet away now. I quickly grab the stake and point it in his direction, shouting No! No! No! The German Shepherd hesitated, looking at me as if he was having his own inner debate about how serious I was. Not wanting to give him any reason to doubt my resolve, I again yelled, No!
This stand off continued for a few brief seconds before the dog determined that, a) he was not going to get a pat on the head… at least not with my hand, or b) that I had just evened the odds substantially in this encounter. Either way, he began moving away. When I was certain he was in a full retreat and not going to come back, I reluctantly relinquished my sword from above and beat a hasty retreat hence where I came.
As I put more and more distance between us, I couldn’t help but think about how that stake just seemed to appear out of nowhere and how fortunate I was that I chose to go between the two homes. Call it fate, a stroke of luck or a freak occurrence if you will, but the moral of this story is never doubt that someone from above is looking out for us.