This morning, I drove over to the dike to take a walk. I had taken maybe a dozen steps when I looked up to see a 20-pound Jack Russel terrier about 30 yards ahead, crouching at his owner's feet. Then, like lightning, he took off, snarling, hell bent for leather-right at me.

The male half of the young couple, who I assumed to be in charge of the dog (or not) laughed, made a half-hearted attempt to call off his mutt, and then just ambled forward as if nothing were amiss; while I-fearing for my ankles or worse-waved my arms, stamped my feet and hollered in my best 'mom voice,' 'No! Get out of here! Bad dog!'

The dog veered at the last second and trotted off into the weeds behind me. I turned to watch him, and out of the corner of my eye, ascertained that a second terrier had broken away from the people and was now also hurtling down the gravel path at me.

The young couple continued to stroll amiably and looked slightly amused as I reprised my screaming, hand-waving, foot-stomping act, in two directions now, as by this time I was badgered from before and behind.

I looked up angrily at the inexplicably unfazed young couple, who were by now about 15 feet away.

'Maybe you should put a leash on these dogs!' I sputtered.

The amiable expression disappeared from the young man's face and he sneered at me, 'Get over it!'

Two leashes dangled limply from his hand.

'I have no problem with cute little dogs,' I informed him. 'But when a dog comes charging at me with his teeth bared, that is not a good thing.'

And I walked on.

Last I heard, he was whining something about, 'Yeah, look at him!' As if his dog were so adorable and so inoffensive he could not possibly frighten a sane person.

It seems like dog owners have gone completely around the bend in recent years. There is that subset of dog owners who believe that controlling a dog in any way is cruel or repressive.

Get with the program, people.

The relationship between humans and canines is not one big 'Born Free' moment.

We haven't gone out into the woods, captured dogs and forced them into servitude.

Thousands of years ago, humans and canines hammered out a mutually beneficial relationship. We've been in partnership for millennia, but communication and bonding between the two species is imperfect at best. An uncontrolled dog can still pose a threat to humans - this is even more true since humans have chosen to breed some dogs for aggressive behavior.

Dogs are pack animals. A dog's behavior toward its pack is not an indicator of how it will treat strangers.

To eliminate the possibility that an encounter will end in bloodshed, a dog needs to be under control when there is a chance of it coming into contact with non-pack members. If the human does not have verbal control over the dog, there had better be some kind of physical restraint used. This is known as a leash. It is not a torture device. It protects both humans and canines from the unpredictability of their behavior toward each other.

But we're not concerned about our pets' welfare, are we? We just want to puff ourselves up with that feeling of largesse and magnanimity we get when we let our companion run free and unfettered. And don't nag us about the well-being of other people! If they're frightened, intimidated or attacked by our pet, they need to 'get over it.'

So now, I will either have to stop taking my walks when there is any chance that some fool with an unleashed dog will be claiming the territory, or I'll to have to pack an umbrella, a walking stick, a can of mace or a grenade to ensure that I can complete my relaxing encounter with nature without fear of puncture or mutilation. So not the mood I was going for.

- Lisa Raminiak, Scappooose

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