Lazy dog owners are a winter threat

One second the road was clear. The next it was filled with dogs. The animals hopped a snowbank on a shadowy stretch of Hamilton Boulevard at about…

One second the road was clear. The next it was filled with dogs.

The animals hopped a snowbank on a shadowy stretch of Hamilton Boulevard at about 6:15 a.m. Friday morning.

I was in the right-hand lane. A second car was slightly ahead of mine in the left.

I was heading to work. The two dogs were, presumably, heading home after a romp in the bush.

They were dark-coloured animals, swift and graceful as they leapt onto the boulevard.

The dogs stopped for the first car, putting them smack in the path of mine.

On the slick road I started pumping my brakes…

****

It’s bitterly cold outside, and the last thing anybody wants to do is get dressed, don heavy winter garb, grab a wrinkled plastic bag and leash up Buck for a early morning stroll.

It’s far easier to slip out of bed, amble over to the back door and let the animal out for a little early morning wilding on his own — then you can pop back into the warm bed for a little extra shuteye.

Yukoners are conditioned for such laziness.

There are plenty of greenbelts and in some cases boreal forests abutting our subdivisions.

Letting our pets run free for an hour or so seems pretty harmless.

And, more often than not, you and your pet get lucky.

But sometimes you don’t.

When you let your dogs run free, bad things can happen.

We all know this.

They tear into garbage, creating a mess and, in some cases, poisoning themselves.

They chase snowmobilers and ATV drivers.

They kill other dogs, as happened this summer in the trails that ring Logan subdivision.

A few years ago, loose dogs badly mauled a local child.

Loose domestic pets can be attacked by coyotes and wolves. This often results in demands for conservation officers to rid the region of the wild animals that are putting pets at risk.

Loose dogs chase indigenous wildlife, like the threatened Southern Lakes caribou herd.

And, of course, they often run, unexpectedly, in front of cars.

****

One dog, the one I dub the sidekick, got lucky.

As my tires made that rasping sound on the ice, the dog scrambled, crab-like, to the right and bolted across to the median. He was safe.

His buddy wasn’t so lucky.

There was a dull thump as the front-left bumper of my car caught his hindquarters, knocking him flat on the road. And then he vanished.

I checked my rearview mirror, catching a glimpse of a shadow vanishing over the far bank.

At the Canada Games Centre, I pulled a U-turn and returned to check on the animal.

His buddy was on the multi-use trail. The animal I hit was in deep snow in the ditch.

I got out and called softly to him. He turned and looked at me a moment.

A dark-haired fellow, heavy set and muscular. He looked a bit like a mastiff, though smaller.

“Hey, boy, it’s alright,” I soothed in a low voice. “Come on, let’s get you some help.”

I crouched down, held out my arms to him.

He regarded me a minute longer. Then made up his mind.

He bolted up the embankment, onto the multi-use trail. And then vanished from sight.

He moved fast. I didn’t see a limp.

Nevertheless, I gave chase. I jumped into the knee-deep snow and struggled up to the top.

By the time I’d made it, he was nowhere to be seen.

He’d bounded into the brush surrounding the McIntyre Village.

He was gone.

At work, I checked the car.

The bumper skirt had shattered. About $1,500 worth of damage.

I hope the flexible plastic absorbed some of the impact.

I hope that dog’s OK.

It certainly wasn’t his fault.

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