Monday, June 25, 2012

The neighbourhood dogs: a rating system

When doing runs around the local suburbs, there are only a few things I invariably stop running for. One of those things is obviously traffic (duh). Another is house alarms. If I hear an alarm go off in my proximity, I freak the fuck out and immediately stop running for fear that (a) some authority will see me running and assume that I'm an escaping criminal and (b) actually, no really, that's about it.

Then there's dogs. Dogs give me the same fear that house alarms do, except in this case the dogs are both the alarm and the authority and they probably spend many restless nights in their kennels thinking of new ways to afford me an excruciatingly painful death.

Presented without comment.

I am not a dog person. That's not saying that I have an unusual fear of dogs or anything. I'm just wary of the ones that leap up at you and pound against the fence in a 50kg blur of toothy froth and fury, spit and blood flying at you in menacing globs as they bellow out a string of barks so forceful and so murderous that you cannot help but think (in your final moments of pain and terror) that the three-headed hell hound of legend begat some mortal offspring just so that these creatures could one day meet you and drag you back to hell with them, kicking and screaming and drowning in your own blood.

So I decided to rate some of the dog encounters I've had in my City Bowl meanderings. I'm not going to talk specifics, since I fully believe that half of my reader base are hardened criminals. Instead, I'll remain suitably vague, and draft in the first images I find off Google searches. Each dog will also come with a rating of 1-10, where 10 is hell-squared levels of crazy and 1 is a miserable yapping puffball that just pissed itself barking at your ankles.

This should be cool.

Case study #1: The German Shepherd
Image search: "german shepherd"
Scariness rating: 8

It's quite apt that this is the first image Google brings up, because this is the most common view I have of the one I know. I'm sure that there's a face hiding behind the jaws somewhere, but I've never been able to confirm it.

The first time I saw this dog, it was quite peacefully minding its own business on the pavement just outside the house while its owners were unloading something or another from their car. I walked past unmolested, only to be shocked when, approximately 0.068 seconds later, the dog's entire general attitude shifted from amiable mutt to get the fuck off my lawn levels of slathering toothy fury. Fortunately, this swing only happened after it was locked behind a gate.

Now on the one hand: the dog didn't attack me while outside. So hey, maybe not that scary. But on the other: wow, mood swing of the century. And there's always the simple, horrifying possibility that the dog hadn't noticed me until just then. Shudder.

Case study #2: Roof Dog
Image search: "roof dog"
Scariness rating: 6

I cannot remember offhand what breed Roof Dog was. It wasn't a big dog, to be sure, and it seemed docile enough to allow safe passage on the sidewalk. That said, how safe can you ever actually feel when there's a mutt looking down on you from the perfect murder perch just a few metres away? No barriers, either. At any moment, that brute could choose to launch itself at my head like some Alien-style facehugger (albeit with less extraterrestrial wang and more angry canine teeth), which is a slightly unsettling prospect.

And now you will permanently associate that thought with the image of alien wang, so you're welcome.

Quick google-related fact: the search that led me to this picture revealed that "roof dogs" are actually a pretty common thing in Mexico, where they often serve as sentinels in crowded living spaces. There's no front or back yards attached to the houses, so the (often flat) roofs serve as home. Yep, my blog is educational.

Case study #3: Fuck Yeah, Border Collies!
Image search: "fuck yeah border collies"
Scariness rating: 4

Upon googling this image, I was delighted to find that there was already a Tumblr called Fuck Yeah Border Collies. I think this little discovery just made my entire week.

There's a couple of border collies in one of the houses who bark at me rather vehemently whenever I see them. They certainly look like they mean business, but they always remind me of the lovely, gentle border collie I had as a kid. His name was Badger -- an odd-one-out in the litter with some weird reverse colouring and a playful attitude. Sweetest animal ever. Could chase a mean tennisball back in his day, too.

Border collies are hands-down the loveliest dogs around. And while I'm sure that this particular pack would cheerfully tear me apart and feast upon my innards if I even set so much as a foot inside the property, I like to think that I would die with a happy, half-knowing smile on my face.

Case study #4: The Yorkshire Terriers
Image search: "yapping little rat yorkshire"
Scariness rating: AAAHAHAHAHA

I really do have to suppress laughter every time I see these fluffy little shits in action. Despite the fact that their most radical security feature involves being loud and obnoxious to no end, they still have the nerve to crowd up against their gate in a heartwarming attempt to frighten me off, like a bunch of wannabe bouncers protecting the annual meeting of the Especially Harmless Knitting Club.

In a post which has admittedly described canine violence more often than the rest of this blog put together, I am relieved to say that I fear nothing of these walking toilet brushes. Well, aside from the very real and ever-present terror that I'll accidentally step on one some day. That would be horrible, messy and awkward to explain.

Case study #5: The Ghost Dog
Image search: "ghost dog"
Scariness rating: ???

First of all: wow, yeah, so apparently Ghost Dog is a movie about ... well, jeez, just check out the Wikipedia entry. Weird stuff.

So I have a special phantom canine in my neighbourhood. I say this because I have never seen it, but I know it's there. I guess that means it's the closest thing I have to a god right now. Ghost Dog exists somewhere behind a thick green hedge that I often walk past while doing the whole work commute thing.

This one is quite subtly the most sinister of the whole bunch. Nine times out of ten, walking past the hedge goes without ceremony. But on the tenth pass (often at night, usually as close to the witching hour as possible), the neighbourhood will, for no good reason, spontaneously exchange its eerie quiet for a sudden, somehow directionless bark, always at the precise moment when you are most off-guard. A second or two will pass, followed by a brief but terrifying eruption of deafening dog noises -- just long enough to shoot ice-cold daggers of terror into your soul.

Then the night returns to silence just as quickly, and through the hedges you think you may -- or may not -- hear the rustling of some large creature stalking you. But you'll never know for certain, and you'll never see it. Not until it gets you. Ghost Dog exists to take you by surprise, to remain threatening but unseen ... a valuable reminder that there are always things in life, great and dark and terrible, which even science could not hope to fathom or explain.

Beware of Ghost Dog.

In summary:

Cats and goats, people. The only animals you'll ever need. Dogs are entertaining and diverse creatures, but for the most part I encounter them as noisy, angry creatures who do their damned best to tell me to fuck off whenever I'm around. Not someone I'd be likely to hire after a job interview, though admittedly interviewing a dog is kinda weird in the first place.

In contrast, neighbourhood cats are great at two things: (1) looking adorable and elusive and (2) occasionally extending enough friendliness to come out and rub themselves on your legs or roll onto their tummies. It's a rare and heartwarming experience to come across a local cat, and such occasions are invariably cherished.

I do not see many goats in my neighbourhood, but I'd be pleasantly surprised to come across one some day. If you find any, let me know.

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