Give dog-walkers wide berth or fair warning

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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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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Reader Comments

7 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Deb Brown  

Posted: June 22nd, 2016 10:21 PM

Thank you for writing this! I walk my dogs every day and I do my best to protect them and other people. Is it so hard to use common courtesy and shout out "on your left" or "coming from behind"? I'm happy to get out of your way if I know you are there. Perhaps runners who do not have dogs have not thought of this simple solution. This letter is good information for everyone.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: June 22nd, 2016 7:04 PM

And in response to that Kyle - then it might be nice for runners not to wear them as well. And I will say, that "On your left" yell from about 5 ft. behind, jolts the living hades out of me. Just add a few more steps to your Fit Bit by being thoughtful. Or give more advanced warning than a couple of feet. Or do that thing where runners run in the middle of the street and make it difficult to drive b/c for some reason the sidewalks are problematic for runners (I'm definitely kidding about that).

Bruce Kline  

Posted: June 22nd, 2016 7:01 PM

Mr. Borgerson: Didn't you ever here of blame the victim? Yes, a dog bites you and it's YOUR fault! That's the way it goes in the Peoples' Republic.

Kyle P. Eichenberger  

Posted: June 22nd, 2016 6:54 PM

Common etiquette for walking/running/biking on trails is a simple "on your left!" when you're within earshot (usually a few feet away). Whoever is being passed moves to the right and you share the sidewalk. Ms. Tourtellotte's suggestions are a bit extreme: heading to the other side of the street? Half a block? But her point about courtesy is valid. While we're at it, dog walkers please don't be on your phone or have earbuds in so you can be aware of your surroundings. Sometimes I politely give notice that I'm approaching but music is too loud, etc.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: June 22nd, 2016 6:14 PM

Brent - I don't think she's asking too much of people. And I agree with her - barring verification of legalities. If you are a runner, is it really that hard to just zip a curve around her, or cross the street. Dogs are animals, and if they are attached to their owners and can sense their fear, then it would not be a stretch to say they might bite you. Just be neighborly.

Christopher Bell  

Posted: June 22nd, 2016 5:40 PM


Brent Borgerson from Oak Park  

Posted: June 22nd, 2016 4:44 PM

"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." Let me get this straight:: Your dog, on a public way, bites someone and it is the bitee's fault? Obviously, the dog is not under your control. Maybe you: Buy a muzzle. Train the dog. Get it socialized. Leave it at home I'd like your statement to be verified by an attorney.

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