Mazzuca: As a dog owner, keep control of your dog (column) | VailDaily.com

Mazzuca: As a dog owner, keep control of your dog (column)

Butch Mazzuca
Valley Voices

So you're out for your morning jog; it's mid-January and the temperature hovers near zero when you notice a large white canine sitting in front of a home set back about 30 yards from the street. Suddenly the dog takes an interest and begins running toward you. You expect the dog to stop when it reaches the property boundary but instead it accelerates and leaps at you from 15 feet away.

You're wearing two sets of heavy-duty gloves and several layers of clothing under your down jacket, so when the dog bites into your arm you're somewhat protected. Fortunately you're a former Green Beret and know a little bit about martial arts and you jam your right fist down the dog's throat, but he shreds both sets of gloves. You then shove your left fist down the dog's throat and the canine rips through those gloves, too. The initial shock of the attack is over, you regain your equanimity and put a well-placed kick into the dog's tender area.

Not waiting for Cujo to recover you run to the nearest home and begin banging on the door. Meanwhile, the beast regains its footing and resumes the attack. Luckily there's a snow shovel on the front porch and you use it as a cudgel.

The dog is bloodied and at bay, so while keeping an eye on the wounded canine you bang on the front door even harder. Finally, the owner comes to the door and you say to yourself, "Thank God," but as you open the storm door, a Doberman pinscher lunges at you.

The foregoing story is true and happened to a very dear friend of mine. Fortunately, the owner of the Doberman was able to control his dog and my buddy was OK.

Meanwhile the first dog's owner arrives saying, "I am so sorry but Snowball (yes, I'm not making this up, that was the dog's name) is normally so friendly, he's never done anything like this before."

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Yeah, right.

Keep 'Control'

While not nearly as dramatic, I too encountered a situation with a large breed when I was in my 30s; a 180-pound Saint Bernard who was also "very friendly" and had the owner not been just 2 feet away, I could have been seriously injured.

About two years ago my daughter who owns the sweetest and most affectionate Brussels griffon you'd ever want to see came across a "very friendly" Lab that without warning lunged and took a bite out of Fetta's backside. Fetta hasn't been the same. Once a playful and demonstrative pooch, her gait is now restricted and she's become withdrawn and skittish. The problem in each case wasn't with the dogs; the problem was with the owners.

My wife and I have a new puppy — Smokey. He's an adorable little Shih Tzu and it's been an interesting experience considering our previous dogs were large breeds, i.e., a Saint Bernard and a German shepherd.

As new dog owners we're frequently out walking our puppy and frankly we've been amazed at how many people do not have control of their pets.

I cannot count the times a large breed has approached us off lead, with its owner shouting "Don't worry, he's friendly," and frankly it can be a bit scary when you don't know the dog. So I have some news for these dog owners, there are spaces in Eagle County where dogs are allowed off leash.

Otherwise, the ordinance is clear, "Owners must have control of their dogs" to which I'll add, if an owner cannot command their dog to come sit or stay from 10-15 yards away, then they're not in control of their dog.

Quote of the day: "Imagine a world where dogs could take irresponsible owners to the pound," — B.T. Rice.

Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes biweekly for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at bmazz68@comcast.net.