Taking Back the Forest

Do you ever have mornings where you are determined to be in a bad mood? I slept in ten minutes too long, I couldn’t find the shirt I wanted to wear, and I spilled coffee grounds (I hate coffee grounds) all over the counter. By six am, I decided the whole day was a write-off. Marching out the door, I directed Shiva toward the forest. I just wanted to get the next ten hours over with as fast as possible.

Now I realize this isn’t fair or logical, but I have become a bit, well, possessive over our morning walking spaces. For the last two years, Shiva and I have walked in the same areas at the same time almost every single day. I try to change it up so that we never walk the same route twice in a row but there are only so many streets. It doesn’t take long to run out. We walk through the forest at least three days a week. I like it because it is private and I can let her off-leash when no one else is around. Usually at six am there is nobody else around.

Until now.

For the past three weeks, someone else has joined us in the forest during our time of day. Again, I know how obnoxious these feelings are yet I can’t help feeling a little resentful at the intrusion. For one, this man and his dog walk so slow. There is no hope of hanging back a little to let them get ahead. For another, his dog is of the little, yappy, and reactive variety. He starts barking at us when we are no less than fifty feet away.  This man walks him on one of those retracting leashes and doesn’t appear to have any control over his dog. So there is also no real hope of passing them on the forest path. Thus far, every time I have seen them ahead of us, I have turned around and left the forest completely. Which sucks.

I want to be kind. I want to be understanding. I’ve been there. I know what it is like to struggle with a dog who just doesn’t like anybody else. That’s why we walk in the forest so early in the day. Furthermore, I know I don’t own the space as much as I wish I did. It’s a public park and I have to share it. But doesn’t that go both ways?

This morning, in my overly cranky frame of mind, I decided it did. I decided I was done with being nice. Rightly or wrongly, this morning when I saw his reflective jacket glowing through the trees, I decided I was just going to keep walking. Shiva is normally smart enough to leave barking little dogs alone so I wasn’t worried about her doing anything. As long as the other dog also left her alone. That was the only thing I couldn’t trust. It may not have been smart, but I just kept marching forward. I didn’t even stop when the man made it clear he wasn’t going to move off to the side to let us pass.

Amazingly… Nothing happened. Treats in my hand, I kept Shiva on my opposite site and walked a little ways into the brush as we passed. The man’s little dog was going nuts barking and growling and trying to be as loud as possible, but somehow we made it to the other side of them with our ankles intact and unmolested.

I couldn’t believe it! We had successfully taken back the forest!

Of course, now I feel like a jerk for being so annoyed. I always try to give others the benefit of the doubt. If someone is walking his dog, I always assume he is at least trying. So many dog owners don’t even bother to take their dogs out of their backyards. This man at least is doing something and I have to commend him for that. I just wish he’d do it at a different time of day. Is that so much to ask?

23 thoughts on “Taking Back the Forest

  1. Oh, I have so been there! And worse, I’ve even had the nerve to resent people for walking their dogs early in the morning in my city neighborhood. Didn’t they know how hard they were making it for me!

    But cheers to you and Shiva. Sounds like you managed the situation great!


  2. Oh man. Can I ever relate to this post!

    I know exactly what you mean about being possessive over my morning walking space too. I love my quiet time with my dogs – and sometimes I need that quiet time, especially when my days starts out like the one you described.

    I can also relate to just wanting that time for my dogs to have the opportunity to run and play while I walk. I admire you for getting past it today. I also admire you giving the other guy the benefit of the doubt. Depending on how crabby I am on some days, I don’t know that I would have done the same.

    But, as Pamela said – Cheers to you and Shiva! Great job!


  3. Oh my gosh. This post cracked me up!! I feel the exact same way whenever someone is out during my walk time with Lucas. Because it’s OUR time, not theirs! 🙂 But it sounds like it went perfectly well for you and Shiva. Way to go!!


  4. OH! Yes, I have been there. MY beach! MY trail! MY woods! The nerve of someone not respecting that. I would get up earlier and beat the interlopers to the desired place. It’s different in dirtville. No one walks their dog. But the ferals and dogs running loose pose a whole ‘nother threat.

    I’m glad it worked out so well.


  5. Ahhaha! Yes, we’ve been there too. We go hiking during the weekends. I try my best to find lesser-traveled parks and when we run into other people, especially people with dogs, I’m like uh-uh, my park, my trail, get OUT. Well not really, but that’s how I feel inside.


  6. I know how you feel, believe me! When I had Dakotah many years ago (I got him in 1992), there were no dog parks, and with his wandering Malamute heritage, I had to be really selective about where and when I let him off leash. Back then, you could go to the ball field in the early morning or late at night, and as long as you picked up after the dog, the groundskeepers never said boo about it. So we’d go there, or I’d get up really early – like 4 am – and drive to the ocean about 20 minutes away where there was one beach we could have unleashed dogs, and we’d walk all the way to the inlet and back. Doing this four or five times a week and walking/training him twice a day the rest of the time, kept him sane, which helped to keep ME sane, but one winter one of the houses on the beach was rented to a couple with a Cocker Spaniel who would come charging off the deck where the people were having coffee every time we passed by on the way back from our walk to the inlet. Which by itself wasn’t the problem – Dakotah was fine with the dog, and the dog seemed to be fine with him. The problem was the people, who because Dakotah, I guess, LOOKED scary, were afraid that he was going to eat their dog. Even when off-leash, he was under control, and I always took treats and periodically called him back to me and rewarded him. After this happened a few times, I’d call him back to me and leash him up before we passed the house, but the dog would still come tearing out and the people would always freak, even though the dogs were happily sniffing and wagging with loose bodies. Finally, I said something smart to the man one time, and we just stopped going to the beach until the rental season was over because it just wasn’t worth it. So good for you for reclaiming “your” outdoor space.


  7. I’m glad you resolved that situation! Kelly and I have an awful time walking, we are in the city and there are many loose and some aggressive dogs. When a dog comes our way we try to turn around, not many choices since we can’t step out into traffic. I would love a nice forest to walk in, but I see by your post that no place is perfect!


  8. Your post reminded me of a recent run at the park. For at least five minutes, there was a girl on her bike behind us, ringing the bell to warn us she was coming up behind us. For FIVE minutes! At the time, I wanted to scream out of frustration, but in retrospect realize that she was just doing her thing. I’m sure the newbies didn’t realize they were taking up so much space…one can hope anyway. 🙂

    I’m glad you and Shiva were able to take back the forest and be on your merry way. 🙂


  9. “They” are annoying 🙂 But it is awesome you could pass by the way you did with Shiva. Fantastic, kudos to you and all the training you do with her.


  10. I don’t think it’s too much to ask. He could have *asked* you if it was okay for him to march down the way… or at the very least brought you cookies as a peace offering!

    I totally know what this feels like. Very cool that you stepped right past them!


  11. I’m a bit surprised the man is still walking in the forest at that time when he must know that’s when you and Shiva walk after meeting you for 3 weeks. You’d think he’d go a bit later, unless seeing you guys is the lesser of other evils. There might be more owners and dogs there later.

    I always try and have a conversation with people like this and find out why they do things and also introduce Frankie to their dog and make sure there’s not going to be a problem. He’s like me, I don’t like every person I meet and he doesn’t like every dog. But the ones we don’t like ARE few and far between.

    I enjoy our walks when we don’t meet anyone else and also when we do hook up with doggie friends. I don’t enjoy being told off when Frankie does something he shouldn’t but hey, he’s a work in progress and probably always will be:)


  12. My girlfriend would always say this about her 6:00 a.m. walks with her two dogs. Her dogs had… issues, so she always tried to exercise them when she knew no one would be out and about. And she would get SO mad when people would start walking their dogs earlier on her route. That was HER turf. I totally get it.


  13. I hope he was reminded about good pet behavoir as you confidently strode by him with a well-mannered dog. I think it’s awful that he wouldn’t do something – at least pick his dog up and stand to the side as you passed.


  14. BOL!! That was too funny! I understand. I am the same way when I go the park where nobody goes, until one day there is someone. I need the alone time and the distraction. I started coping an attitude when another dog walker in our neighborhood was walking her dog the same time as I was. First time I’ve seen anyone else out on the streets in years and she was walking at the exact same time as me. That was just too much!! 🙂

    Hope you have a better day tomorrow. Sounds like you could use some smiles! 🙂


  15. Yeah, we understand completely! It’s OUR path and the darn trucks don’t have to be so noisy and people shouldn’t slam doors – this scares Daisy a lot! So proud of Shiva and all the progress she has made…oh, and you too! 🙂


  16. We have a wooded park by our house where I walk Sampson and Delilah. Most of the people up there walk their dogs off leash and are fairly respectful, but there are always one or two who seem to be clueless. I too have felt resentment during our walks and am glad that I am not the only one! Good job and please let me know about your treat training, yesterday Delilah took off and wouldn’t come back, I’m curious how you have trained Shiva.


  17. I think I feel for the wrong party here… We couldn’t take Our Best Friend ANYWHERE for months; he went berserk every time he saw another dog, and as a result he got almost zero exercise. But now he’s the mutt of the park, all due to a great trainer and gradual exposure. He still gets out of line sometimes when he’s leashed, so I definitely know the feeling of nervousness when your dog is about to confront something yappy!

    Maybe Shiva and Mia need to be walk companions! 😉


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