Something prehistoric is happening in that angry dog’s brain, some chemical echo of protecting the pack from real danger. As a result, something prehistoric is happening in your brain, too. It consists of an adrenaline spike, a sudden collapse of peripheral thinking, small hairs on end, a lightness in your head, a precipitous clenching of bowels, and the too-rapid firing of muscle fibers. It’s fight or flight, but let’s be honest.
You’re not gonna fight.
If you’re lucky, you saw/heard this one coming, and you’ve made a smooth acceleration in order to put more distance between yourself and a set of canine canines. If, on the other hand, that angry dog ambushed you, as some will, then it’s possible you mis-shifted, maybe even unclipping one spasming foot and nearly catapulting yourself onto the ground. If this were on video, we’d all be laughing. But you’re not laughing. And that makes it, for the rest of us, just a little funnier.
Here, in this moment, there are a few categories of angry dog to consider.
First, there is the pantomime killer. The scene you’ve just helped him/her reenact is only the cursory reply to the prehistoric echo. S/he doesn’t really want to tear chunks of flesh from your trailing leg. S/he is only obligated to answer the echo, a barking homage to a long dead ancestor. This angry dog has given up before even reaching you. S/he was never really angry in the first place. You let out a long, relieved breath and chuckle to yourself.
Next, there is the herder. This dog never meant you any harm at all, but as a moving object of a certain size, you demand to be managed. The good news is the herder won’t come too close, and his/her barks are more harrying than menacing. The bad news is the herder is probably in better shape than you are. You ride and ride, and s/he barks and barks, and you want it to end. You’re no longer scared. You’re annoyed. What a blessing it is to be annoyed.
Because finally, there is the genuine danger, a really angry dog. It is likely angry because it has not been properly loved, possibly even abused, and we should take a moment to think about that. The cruelest truth here is that the genuine danger is actually less dangerous than the human person who both produced this dog’s behavior profile AND failed to keep it from chasing you down the road/trail. You have a genuine problem, one that, hopefully, the ambulance/police will not be called to solve. None of us is laughing now. OK, I still am. A little.
Now let’s look at the bright side.
First, and I mean this, I think it’s healthy for humans to have the prey experience. We spend too much time lording it over all the other species and not considering what it’s like to be under actual threat. That angry dog has shifted your perspective. You had that coming.
This is also going to make a great story, one in which you are braver and faster than the video-we-did-not get might suggest. Let’s be honest, that angry dog is never as big as it sounds. Besides, regular life is pretty boring. There are toilets to clean and lattes to drink. Yawn. A good dog chasing breaks up the malaise and makes you more interesting to your fellow humans.
Consider also, that angry dog has helped you establish a new max heart rate. As a man of middling age, I can tell you my max has been dropping steadily, year-over-year, much as my doctor predicted it would, that dick. I always like to prove him a little wrong, even if it means a close encounter with someone’s too playful Rottweiler.
I know cyclists who know good and well where all the angry dogs live, and if you’re not paying attention, they’ll drift off the front of the group in anticipation, laughing as they yell “DOG!!!!” over their shoulder. It’s a good trick, but not as good as letting all the air out of that person’s rear tire while they nip into the coffee shop to pee.
Overall, I give that angry dog 5 stars and 10/10. That angry dog is a staple of the cycling experience, a check against complacency, a reminder of our vulnerability, a spur to great performances, and sometimes they’ll even let you pet ’em if you only dare to stop, put a foot down, and offer a hand in true friendship. But be careful. That angry dog smells fear, and yours might not be the first pair of Sidis they’ve chewed to bits.