I started power walking in high school. We lived in a busy neighborhood and I’d love to head out after school with my Walkman and daydream. That tradition has been something that has gotten me through the years.
I walked with my girlfriends in college. Then, when I started my career it was something I could fit in after work that helped me unwind after sitting inside all day.
After I had kids, strapping them in their stroller and heading out for an hour to get fresh air is what gave me life and kept me feeling like me. It was the truest form of self care, and even in the days I didn’t think I had it in me, getting outside pumped life back into me.
When my kids got older and were in school full time, I really wanted to start running, and so I found a few routes I liked and I’ve been running them ever since.
A few people have asked me if I get nervous or worried about dogs. My answer has always been no. Because for over three decades, the only encounter I’d had with a dog on a walk or run was a friendly one — a golden retriever followed me for three miles once and decided to come to my house for a visit.
That all changed a few weeks ago when I was running along, feeling very inspired by a podcast, caught up in my own world. I could hear a few dogs barking as I was running by a house I always pass less than a mile from my home, but it didn’t faze me; I’d run this same route for six years and heard them many times.
Before I knew it, two huge dogs were at my feet — and one jumped up and bit my arm. It tore my long sleeve shirt and I immediately knew she wasn’t going to leave me alone, so I yelled for help.
She jumped up and bit me again, this time latching on a little longer.
The other dog was very wound up and I thought for sure he was going to come after me too, and I continued screaming.
Thankfully, both dogs ran home and my injuries were painful, but not critical. I know it could have been much worse. I knew I had nothing to protect myself from these dogs and that really hit home. I immediately got some pepper spray I can wear on my wrist, and I will never go on a walk or run without it again.
If you enjoy walking or running, I urge you to do the same.
It doesn’t matter if there are only “friendly” dogs in your area — this was a friendly dog too. She’s never bitten anyone and the family has three kids. Both dogs were even wearing shock collars, but they broke through their fence and were chasing me down the road. I was absolutely helpless when one started biting me; I shudder to think about what could have happened if the other one got ahold of me too.
The animal control officer told me that sometimes dogs go immediately for the face. I was lucky that didn’t happen to me.
He also said dog bites inflicted on runners or walkers are more common than people think, and a lot of times they are from dogs who have never shown any sign of stress or aggression before.
I don’t want to stop running— it’s a huge part of my life. I love being outside and can’t stomach the thought of being confined to a treadmill. It’s just not for me.
I don’t want to live in fear and be scared every time I go out there, though. And, I’m definitely more rattled and anxious now than I’ve been in the past. I feel so much better knowing I have some way to protect myself now, and no matter where you live — even if you have a walking or running partner — I strongly suggest you do the same. I have no idea what took me so long, other than that fact I truly believed it would never happen to me.
The universe certainly has a way of reminding us we don’t have much control over what can happen in a split second. This time though, it’s allowed me to be more prepared in the event that there is a next time.
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