It’s an old rule that “Dog bites man” isn’t news, but “Man bites dog” is.
Well “Dog bites jogger” is definitely news when I’m the jogger.
A greyhound it was, or maybe a whippet. Either way it was young, fast, sharp-toothed and way ahead of its owner.
It charged up the muddy track of the country lane towards me. “Aha, a rabbit, but a large one,” its eyes seemed to say.
I tried to jog past it, not making eye contact in line with my usual policy (something to do with alpha dogs, I seem to recall).
The dog steamed past me, turned round and bit the back of my thigh.
“Noooooo,” I screamed at it, as it considered its next nibble, and I jogged on down the lane, looking over my shoulder in fury, shaken and definitely stirred.
Two Barbour-jacketed men appeared, several terriers in tow.
“Did something happen,” asked one, obviously wondering if I normally scream “Noooooo” at the top of my voice while out jogging. Perhaps some kind of primal-scream-meets-cardiovascular-workout therapy? Letting off steam while working up a sweat?
“Yes,” I say, as calmly as I can in the circumstances. “Something did happen. Your dog bit me.”
Profuse apologies followed; I politely suggested the introduction of a lead for his bloodthirsty hound; the guilt-stricken owner hoped over and over again that the dog hadn’t “drawn blood” (no it hadn’t but that was hardly the point).
If you’re going to be bitten by a dog, you couldn’t have asked for a nicer owner.
But out-of-control dogs stewarded by out-of-control owners are an almost daily occurrence on country walks.
I’ve been jumped at and yapped at and snapped at and snarled at more times than I can remember. Cream jackets have been wrecked by bouncing labradors. Legs have been scratched by the claws of Jack Russells (surely the nastiest little dogs on the planet?). Mud has been distributed liberally onto expensive running trousers by someone’s darling pooch.
Nerves have been frayed and angry words exchanged.
“He’s only a puppy,” they say.
Or “Don’t worry, he won’t bite,” as their horrid slobbering muddy creature jumps all over your Ronhills.
Joggers, like postmen, clearly represent an irresistible target for any self-respecting dog.
So it’s the usual story – it’s not the dogs, it’s the owners.
OK, many now clear up after their pets. And many, many dog owners are decent people who will hold onto their dogs as joggers or others pass, and who have trained them properly in the first place.
The attitude of the rest can perhaps be summed up as: “My freedom to own a dog outweighs your freedom to jog without being jumped at. “
The clash of rival freedoms is, of course, nothing new and nothing rare. It’s no less an issue in the country than in the city.
The freedom to walk in peace and safety on the South Downs Way is now severely compromised by the freedom of other people to ride their mountain bikes – often at break-neck or at least break-leg speed.
The freedom of people to hold fireworks parties clashes head-on with the freedom of farmers and horse-owners to keep their animals free from terror.
The freedom of people to go clay-pigeon shooting ends the freedom of others to enjoy a quiet Sunday morning.
The list goes on and on, and will do until people figure out that freedoms are relative not absolute.
So I’ll go on getting jumped at and yapped at and snapped at and snarled at – and quite possibly bitten again – as long as people exist who want the betoothed lifestyle accessory that a dog seems to be.
But I’ll carry on jogging – and biting back.