Trail running has its minor risks, and I’ve seen my share of sprained ankles, skinned hands from tripping, and bug bites. But that’s usually about it. Aside from the wear and tear on these aging knees and hips and the occasional lung burn that inevitably accompanies an uphill run at altitude, the sport is pretty safe, and I usually feel safe.
That changed last year when I was bit by a dog. He was like any of the hundreds of dogs I’ve encountered on the off-leash trails around Boulder: bounding about and frolicking happily. But something about the way I looked or moved made him feel threatened, and he went straight for my leg without hesitation. His owner was astounded and horrified that it happened. In fact two minutes after the bite the dog was as friendly as could be toward me, while I collected his owner’s contact information. Luckily, the bite was not deep and no infection came of it. I was back on the trails within a day or two, just a puffy spot on my thigh.
I’ve noticed, however, that I do not view dogs on the trail as cavalierly as I did before. Even when the owner is nearby and paying attention, I’m now wary the dog might get spooked for unknown reasons – my sunglasses, my hat, my gait, the sound of my breathing. Sometimes I wonder if the mere exhibition of caution in my persona alerts the dog’s senses, creating a self-fulfilling scenario. It’s probably good to be more alert, but I’m sorry to report I’m also more apprehensive than I was before.
Maybe this is how we become old and crotchety. A lifetime of proverbial dog bites, unpleasant surprises encountered in all the various parts of our lives. Some bites are big, some are small, and many have been forgotten, but they all leave a residue in our psyche that impacts how we approach the world. The child who has never known the bite sees only a happy panting smile in those teeth.
The thing is, I probably still get to choose how I wish to encounter these situations. Even with dogs, I can choose to be open, not fearful. I can choose to let go of old wounds, though it does require personal energy and commitment.