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Pit Bulls & Other Perils

live in a rural area and our home is located approximately 300 yards from the Mokelumne River in San Joaquin county. A large cherry orchard and an expansive dry-farmed field lie between our home and the river.

A network of dirt paths and a gravel road atop the river levee make the area ideal for

walking or jogging. I’ve mapped out a half-mile, training circuit along the river in preparation for running the Honolulu Marathon with my son this coming December.

He’s a police officer in Honolulu and having run the marathon twice, he’s somehow convinced me that this mutual undertaking is part of my bucket list. I hope it doesn’t turn out to be my swan song!

I’ve been using the location behind our home for several years, and this brings me to the point of this writing. While engaged in activities in the area, I’ve had more than a few encounters with wild and domestic animals. And my dog was once struck by an inconsiderate teenager barreling past us on his dirt bike. He’s very lucky it was a “hit and run.” He undoubtedly sensed from my demeanor (cursing loudly at him with clenched fists) that a retrograde movement was in order. Otherwise, he would have probably ended up with a few knots on his already-hard head.

A large, male coyote once followed me aggressively for over a quarter mile. It was during mating season, and I was between him and the female coyote. Yelling at him while making threatening gestures had no effect on him whatsoever. I struck out in a direction away from the female coyote, and that solved the problem. I think coyotes are similar to people when it comes to mating.

My dog and I have had a few meetings with skunks, and we’ve both been sprayed.

I came to point where I began to worry about rabies. A rabid skunk will attack anything in its path. My Lab is up to date on its shots, but what about me?

I’ve had more than a few encounters with stray dogs. A few years ago while walking with my Lab on the Levee road, we came face to face with a large, black dog that looked like a cross between a mastiff and a pit bull. I grabbed my dog and hastily moved down off the levee to lower ground, and the large, mean-looking canine continued past us like he was on a mission. I shudder to think what would have happened if he’d decided to attack my Lab. I don’t know if I would have been able to prevent the attack, even at the risk of being harmed myself. That dog was built like a Sherman tank, and he had teeth like a Mako shark. He looked like a canine version of Mr. T.

Ever since that encounter, I’ve made a point of carrying some form of protection while walking or jogging. When I head out from the house now, I’m carrying pepper spray,

a small but very sharp Kabar knife, and a 52-inch walking stick fashioned from a shovel handle. The end of the stick is festooned with nine large nails, both ends sharpened to points.

Call it paranoia if you like, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s a good thing. Lately, I’ve been running into two, collared pit bulls that obviously belong to someone and have made a point of roaming the area. They can evidently sense that I mean business, because they leave me alone. But I wonder what they might do if I wasn’t armed to the teeth. They can obviously see my walking stick, and they can tell I’m not afraid of them.

I leave you with this advice: don’t assume that you are safe when walking, jogging, or engaging in outdoor activities. The world is full of hazards. Read the news. Bad things happen to good people. Remember the Boy Scout Motto—BE PREPARED.

Don E. Webster has been engaged in a wide variety of outdoor pursuits for over 60 years. His recently published book, Bury Me In My Waders -- An Old Duck Hunter Recalls His Fowl Past, currently ranks among the most popular, best-selling duck hunting books on Amazon Books and Amazon Kindle. His next book, “Double-Ought Buck” a novel, will be available in December. Webster was the recipient of the 2013 Phil Ford Humor Award from the Outdoor Writer’s Association of California for his hilarious description of hunting dogs in his MyOutdoorBuddy column entitled “Canine Comics.” Don's website is


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