Blowing Off Dogs

By David C Lawrence

This was originally posted to the Usenet newsgroup rec.motorcycles in 1990. It was prompted by an ongoing discussion of evading police that had been under the subject "Blowing Off Cops".

[ Hmm ... maybe I should have changed this title a little bit more; people who are nuking the cops thread might not get to see this oh-so-worthy contribution of mine. ]

I really don't care to blow off cops. They don't really bother me. In fact, I think I've been stopped more times on my bike than in my car, but I never so much as even got a written warning from them – even the time the NY State Trooper pulled me over for doing 72 on the Thruway at about 4 am one cold morning last August. Heck, she was so nice I almost asked her out on a date ...

Anyway, that's not the point of this article. Dogs are. They can get me a little uptight, probably stemming from an incident of my very early teens where one rather large retriever jumped up from behind its owner and clamped on to my face. For the most part I don't really let them intimidate me but there are those times that they get my adrenaline flowing.

As an adventurous motorcyclist I frequently find myself on quiet country roads that are very infrequently travelled and host only one or two homes. People in these areas are often the sort that have big hunting dogs – not the dogs that go hunting with their masters, but the kind that will strike out its own to stalk and kill a moose and then drag it back five miles through fields and streams and woods to the farmhouse doorstep.

As if that wasn't enough for one dog's day, it then sits proudly on its porch, besides its daily moose trophies, waiting for unsuspecting motorcyclists to come upon its way so that it can have some nice Metzelers to frame the moose heads with. Now, being the fool-hardy soul that I am, one rider-bearing-Metzelers tends to be me. Of course in most situations this isn't that much of a problem because an extra beat of the heart and a twist of the wrist later the dumb dog has completely forgotten that I even existed. There are those times, however, when it gives me considerably more consternation than I really want to deal with on my normally pleasurable drives.

One way a dog sets up the trap is to call the county surveyor's office to get his master's driveway on the maps as a road. Sometimes he is even so bold as to declare it a through road, as though it connected to some genuine artery on the other side, but nearly always it is really just a one-car wide strip of dirt that leads right up to the porch. If the dog was really fortunate, he had a hand in the design of the driveway and its approach to the house and got it to come in around a curve. That way the unsuspecting rider can't really tell that its One of Those Traps until the last possible moment, even though his own premonitions have been telling him from the moment that he turned on to that road that he should be at home eating ham sandwiches and watching Happy Days re-runs. Even if they can't get it on the maps then they will attempt to create their own road post, in hopes of snagging those motorcyclist who simply feel the Wanderlust and do not bother with such triflings as road maps. Of course these signs are usually dead give-aways to the true nature of the road as dogs tend to be pretty poor limners since they lack opposable thumbs, but I did come across one Lab who hired a professional to make his road signs.

The problem comes up in that there is generally no room to turn around peacefully and leave once the motorcyclist discovers the trap that he has unwittingly stumbled into. There sits the dog on the porch, amidst a pile of rubber-framed moose trophies, staring at the motorcyclist with a knowing look. That dog knows he doesn't have to jump yet, because the rider has nowhere to go. He's surrounded by woods. The only access was through the road that brought him in, and now his tail pipes are pointing to it. The dog might throw in some barks, but they are primarily for show. He isn't concerned that the prey might escape, but is amused by watching it sweat under its layers of leather clothing and spaceman headgear.

The two times (sigh, some people never learn) I discovered myself in such a snare I was fortunate to escape without even so much as as teeth marks in the taillights, but it was close. Both times the dogs had let me get perpendicular to the side of the road, with my rear tyre against the road edge, before they started their breaks. This was their undoing. For the one case I merely had a small bunker to hop up to give me a turn that had suitable acceleration to leave the cur behind. For the other case I didn't even have a rise to conquer in order to to use the adjacent field to help facilitate the turn; there was, however, unbeknownst to me until seconds before I was upon it, a rather deep irrigation ditch squarely in the line I had picked to return to the driveway. It was not especially wide, perhaps two feet (though I of course did not take the time to stop and measure it), but it presented enough of a hazard that I was not at all happy to see it. A tug up on the handle bars and a rise off the seat fortunately saw me across that hurdle without any seemingly ill effects on my mount, but I did have to promise it an extra quart of oil when we returned home as it kept muttering something to me through the exhaust about "475 pound street bikes _were_not_ meant to do that!"

The other trap which dogs use is employed by those who are unfortunate enough to not live on their own dead-end. They must sit near the road, ready to leap at a moments notice. Often times they will post bogus speed limit signs heralding "Spead Limit 10, Radar Kontroled". These signs are normally easy to recognise for their origins, but once again if they enlist professional help then even the most skilled dog-avoider can be caught at unawares. Getting the motorcyclists to slow down even more is sometimes accomplished by other means which either augment or completely replace the speed limit hoax. One is to push toys into the road, such as brightly coloured balls, frisbees or little Tonka trucks. The cautious rider will then slow down as he expects a child to enter the roadway shortly in an attempt to retrieve his plaything. Another method was developed by a particularly crafty golden retriever who spends some time out in the road with a jack- hammer, adding potholes that swallow Volkswagens. He is truly an artist; with a large rubber mallet he smoothes the holes to make them appear as though they were created by the forces of nature, and not, in fact, a dog with a jackhammer. He knows that he probably won't catch a rider in one of these holes, though all but the most skilled of trials riders will certainly have to slow down to a crawl to negotiate his labyrinthine handiwork.

On a sufficiently wide road with a sufficiently spineless motorcyclist, this will not be a problem. The dogs generally don't advance from their zones and so as long as the trap has been seen in time it is easily avoided by turning the bike around and hoping that the next road over will be free of such hazards. Not wanting to appear overly bold in claiming that I have a spine, I will instead restate my fool-hardiness before the recounting of two more incidents involving the No-Dead-End Dogs, though I certainly have had many more than two encounters with such beasts. Generally such encounters do not make good tales, though these two stand out to me a little more. Whether they make good tales is still another issue.

First, about two years ago, was the time I came across the previously mentioned golden retriever. I had spotted him from maybe a quarter of a mile away but did not know whether he was a genuine threat or not. Not all dogs, of course, engage in the nefarious sport of motorcycle baiting and I do not want to prejudice those who remain aloof of it. This was my first (and to this date, only) trip down this road and I really wanted to continue on my way so I slowly motored forward. When I was within fifty yards he began his posturing to show me that indeed, if he had his way, my ass was grass. I could now clearly see that the road was surely more pockmarked in front of his home than along the not-so-wonderful-itself stretch I had already travelled. A simple flick of the wrist this would not be, not only because of the road condition but also because my foe stood at roughly eleven o'clock to my position, perhaps only fifteen feet from the road. He was barking furiously and was not visibly intimidated by either the high-revving engine or the admittedly unimpressive horn.

Wanting the conflict to be resolved, either with my own demise or more hopefully a successful escape, I gunned it through the cratered roadway. The dog's slow brain was apparently surprised to see that some idiot would actually cross that section the way I did, as I believe my steed was too. (It was only two quarts of oil that convinced it not to forsake me and advertise itself in the Want-Ad Digest.) He did start chase as I was about two-thirds through the hazard, but by the time I had reached a slightly more even section of road he was still not upon me and my safety was practically assured. He gave up as I clearly began to outdistance him up a small, blind hill that was only a little way ahead.

When I approached the crest of the hill I slowed down to a speed and noise level more appropriate for the area. A mother and child were walking another smaller dog in my direction; I moved slowly forward and opened up my visor with a smile on my face, hoping to placate the look of concern on the adult's face. I apologised for the noise, described the incident and told her that I did't know how I would feel about walking that puny dog that she had up near the Beast that Eats Volkswagens. During my brief conversation with her a cruiser pulled up; the officer had been checking out the private beach just a couple of hundred yards away when he heard all the noise and wanted to make sure that everything was okay. I explained to him what had happened and everyone sort of got a laugh out of it and told me that the dog who had given me the trouble was "Really a very friendly dog" and that I "should go back and see for yerself". I passed on the kind offer and went on my way after talking to the little girl (I dunno, maybe she was 8 years old or so?) a little bit about my motorcycle and letting her try on my helmet.

The most recent incident involved a curious form of bait-and-switch. I was in another rural, residential area where the speed limit was posted as twenty miles per hour. At least this time the road was paved. I had just turned onto the road and was startled to see a medium-sized mutt trotting down the road in my direction. I stopped abruptly and looked at him directly; he didn't seem to want anything to do with me and moved quite fully to the opposite side of the road where he continued his trot. I started slowly again, watching him all the while. As I watched him I was taken by some very load barking very near ahead. Stopping abruptly again, I turned to see a short- haired German shepherd about ten yards ahead of me very near to my side of the road.

He was no longer barking but was clearly acting as though he was ready to jump at a moment's notice. Once again all manner of engine-revving and horn-honking did little but disturb the neighbourhood; the dog was not really impressed, though he was hesitant. Twice I made short lurches forward, only to cause him take one step backwards but three or four forwards. He eventually made the first move by lunging toward me. I did gun it, but the reason I hadn't before were the same two concerns that stayed with me until I passed him – that I would either hit him or he would tear off my leg and use it as an umbrella stand. Neither happened, though I do believe that he came the closest to me that any dog has succeeded in getting when I've been on my motorcycle. I think he even managed to get his face right up where my right leg was before I lifted it in fear of amputation. Actually, come to think of it, I think the snare these two had set up would have certainly have finished me off if only the mutt who originally distracted me had snuck up again behind me while I focused my fear on the dog ahead. I suppose they are still perfecting their operation.

There are two sad footnotes to all of this – one is that I will probably be the owner of just such a menace to country motorcycling when I can afford a nice parcel of land and make my home there. I'll keep an eye out for possible traps though. The other thing is that the adrenaline levels double or triple when I am instead on my bicycle and end up in such situations.