Yesterday, as I was taking a neighborhood walk in between running errands, I turned the corner on Russell Street at Claremont Blvd. and continued walking downhill. I got about two houses in and heard barking and saw a sudden flash of white out of the corner of my eye. A rather large white dog, a little shaggy, and the size of a full grown labrador retriever, ran up to me barking and growling.
I know enough about dogs to know that you don’t look one in the eyes as they take that as aggression. And I know enough about dogs and have had enough experience with dogs of all sizes to trust myself around them. Dogs usually instinctively like me, and I like them. Oten, I am approached with lots of tail wagging, high pitched “I like you” sounds, and the front leg bow and bounce that says “let’s play.”
This dog did none of that. It barked and growled. It ran up so close to me that it’s front paws stepped on the back of my sneakers repeatedly. I couldn’t quite read its intentions. Its tail seemed to be wagging from what I could see out of the corner of my eye. But it kept barking loudly and growling in between the barking.
I had on capri pants, a light jacket, a straw hat, one of my batik masks, and sunglasses. With the exception of my hands, a thin horizontal strip of skin on my legs, and the parts of my face that were not covered by the mask, I was pretty unrecognizable.
I kept walking forward on the sidewalk. The dog followed close on my heels, stepping on my heels, barking and growling. I decided to step out into the street and walk there. The dog followed. By now, we were at least 4 houses away from the house, driveway, porch, or yard the dog had come running out of. The oddest thing about all of this was that no one came out to see what the dog was making all of this noise about. No one came to call the dog.
Finally, still walking in the street with my back to the dog and the dog on my heels, I stopped and stood still. I folded my hands around my torso so that the dog couldn’t bite my hands or fingers. I had my jacket tied around my waist as I’d become warm while walking in the sun. The dog never tried to pull on the sleeves, which were dangling.
This was weird. The dog continued to bark, growl and stand right behind me. So, I decided to keep walking, looking ahead, with this dog trailing behind on my heels, barking and growling.
I walked a few more houses down and the dog finally stopped following me. Once it was gone, I stepped back onto the sidewalk and kept walking forward, down the hill. I didn’t see where it went or why it stopped. I just kept looking ahead and walking.
A few more houses down, I came across a couple working in their front yard. “Excuse me, excuse me. Do you know who owns the big white dog that lives down the block?” The woman answered, “How big was the dog?” I showed her the dog’s height with my hands. “The dog came rushing at me as I walked and was barking and growling. It kept following me for about 4 houses or so. It wouldn’t stop following me. I usually don’t have trouble with dogs. This was so strange.”
She asked me to tell her where the dog had come from. I explained that I thought it might have rushed out of a yard, driveway, or house about two down from the corner. She said that she didn’t know of a dog of that description, but if she saw something or someone, she would mention it to them. I thanked them both.
By now my heart was beating near its normal pace again. I continued my walk down the street, and saw a man laying on his lawn, while his son ran up and down the sidewalk nearby. I contracted as a reflex, wondering whether I would be looked at as someone suspicious. Me, a middle aged woman in a straw hat with a batik mask, capri pants, athletic shoes and a Berkeleyside Uncharted canvas bag slung over her shoulder. Me, with the peaceful vibe that many have told me I have. Me, who minds her business and wishes everyone would do the same. Me, who just wants to take a walk and run some errands in her neighborhood.
When I arrived at the store and said hi to the young man behind the counter, he responded, immediately recognizing me. I exhaled, relieved to be recognized for who I was, a regular customer.