Dear Oak Park runners, 

I have joyfully walked my dog in Oak Park every day for 16 years. However, with increasing frequency I have been attacked from behind. OK, well, not really attacked. But to my dog it may seem that way. I don’t know you’re there and suddenly you are on my shoulder and I jump to the side, yank on her leash and yell at her to heel. 

Dogs are not humans, and they may interpret their owner’s reaction as defensive. They may in turn decide they need to protect their owner. Any animal with teeth is an unknown threat to you. 

Now I promise I will do my part to keep you safe as I have always done. When I see you coming, I pull my dog in to a tight heel, move off the sidewalk, move to the other side of the street, or just stop and let you pass. I will even issue a cheerful “Good morning” when I see you coming. 

But when you overtake me from behind and I don’t know you are there, I am only able to manage my dog and can’t be the friendly neighbor I am. If you run up behind someone walking a dog, you might startle them and that is dangerous. Last year it happened to me in the early morning when it was still dark out and I was very startled. 

I saw my neighbor walking his dog and mentioned it. He said that a few years ago a guy ran up behind him and his dog bit the guy, drawing blood. I was mortified; I asked, “What happened next?” He said, “Nothing, the guy knew it was his fault. I had my dog on a 6-foot leash.” 

Runners, here are your choices, other than rolling the dice and continuing to run up behind people: 1) run out to the street and around the person returning to the sidewalk once you are clear of their dog, 2) move to the other side of the street and continue running, or if you just can’t bring yourself to take another path, 3) from a good distance behind (like half a block), call out and let the dog walker know you are coming. 

Runners, please don’t ever run up behind someone walking a dog. If the dog is on a leash, under the owner’s control and is within eight feet of the owner, you are responsible if you are bitten. We dog walkers will do our part to keep you safe. Now please do yours.

LeAnne Tourtellotte

Oak Park 

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