Thursday, February 7, 2008

September Postscript: The Bad German

I’m not sure how I managed to overlook writing about this incident; maybe it just upset me too much and I decided not to write it down, but I thought I should document it since it’s pretty much the most negative experience I had with a German in our entire time here.

One brisk morning in the middle of September, as I was out with Marlena and Evelyne on our daily walk, Cody and Eiko ran up ahead on the “high road” trail and disappeared over a low rise. I try to keep Cody within sight, but Eiko tends to wander way ahead on this part of the trail and Cody, being the gregarious dog that he is, tends to follow Eiko. There’s usually hardly anyone out in the mornings on this particular trail so it’s normally not a problem. This time we heard a bit of a commotion and then saw a scruffy black-and-white dog come tearing down the trail towards us, with Cody and Eiko in hot pursuit. Normally this is no cause for alarm, as Cody loves to play chase with other dogs, and they usually tire themselves out and come back. But as the three dogs rounded the corner in front of us and continued down the narrow footpath leading back to the lower trail, I recognized the strange dog as the scruffy mutt belonging to the rude man that we had encountered way back in April. We hadn’t seen him all summer and I was really hoping never to see him again.

Evelyne responded quickly by rushing down the trail after the dogs, yelling at Eiko, with me following and Marlena bringing up the tail, making her way slowly down the steep hill on her bad leg. I think Evelyne was hoping to catch up with the dogs and continue down the trail without having to deal with the man, but that effort was thwarted as the man soon caught up with us and ran ahread down the trail, yelling what I’m sure was something very rude at us as he passed. By the time we reached the lower trail, the dogs – and the man – were out of sight. I started to get a little worried – Cody had never run off like this before, but if the other dog was as unpredictable as his owner, who knows how far they might run?

I called and called for Cody, my voice seeming to echo up and down the length of the valley, but I couldn’t hear a thing – not a distant bark or a whine – in return. I ran ahead down the trail and quickly left Evelyne and Marlena behind as my panic mounted. I began to imagine all sorts of terrible scenarios: what if the guy had gotten hold of Cody and was dragging him off, to be turned in to the police as a runaway dog, or worse – what if he was going to hurt Cody? I jogged further down the trail, past the point where we normally turn to head back up to Evelyne’s street, and approached the area near the road where we had encountered the man last year. An elderly woman was walking along the trail towards me and I stopped to ask her if she had seen three dogs running past. She hadn’t seen them, but she had seen the man. She asked what had happened and I tried to explain it to her. She gently chastised me for having my dog off the leash and I tried to explain that normally it is not a problem, but she pointed out that if I couldn’t call Cody back, then I had a problem. I grudgingly agreed with her. Unfortunately I’ve gotten a bit lazy with Cody’s training and, in all honesty, when he gets going with another dog it is very difficult to distract him. The lady tried to soothe me by saying that dogs usually find their way home, at which point I stared dismally up towards the houses on the opposite hillside and imagined Cody running through the streets of Botnang, where he most certainly would get run over.

I thanked the lady and was continuing on down the trail when the man approached me, now pedaling furiously on a bicycle. He stopped to ask me if I had seen the dogs and I said no. I stumbled over my German and said, “I’m sorry, I’m American and my German is not very good,” to which he responded in a patronizing tone, “You can speak English with me.” I pointed out that it was his dog that was always running off first, so we were really both at fault. This only enraged the guy further and he proceeded to scream at me, telling me to “get my f**king dog under f**king control.” I tried to stay calm and said that he didn’t need to speak to me that way. I repeated that Cody was only trying to play. He said, “Oh, right!” and left without another word, pedaling up the trail. There was nothing I could do except turn around and walk back up the trail after him.

When I finally reached the pond, you can imagine my immense relief when I saw Marlena and Evelyne come around the bend with Eiko and Cody in tow. I yelled at Cody to come, but Evelyne yelled back that she had put him on her leash with Eiko. When we met up, Evelyne explained that they had found Cody and Eiko playing near the pond. They had been yelling for me but I didn’t hear them, nor had they heard me yelling for Cody – odd, since my voice had sounded so loud to my own ears! They had of course run into the man on his bike, and when he saw that they had collected their dogs, he proceeded to beg them to help him find his dog. Evelyne told him in no uncertain terms that she would not dream of helping him given the way he had spoken to us previously. He went off in a huff and we didn’t see him again. Evelyne and Marlena were anxious to hear about my altercation with the man. They had been terrified that he might try to hurt me, a thought that had never crossed my mind – I was only worried about him stealing or hurting Cody. They told me that the fact that the man had used such foul language with me was very bad indeed and if we ended up having to deal with the police over this matter, that I should report exactly what he had said. In the end, we didn’t have to do anything about it at all. I was just relieved to have Cody back, safe and sound.

Postcript to the postscript: We never did find out what happened to the man and his dog that day. Evelyne saw him driving around Botnang a few weeks later and was able to write down his license plate number, just in case we ever needed to identify him. I actually saw him twice more while jogging on the “Dog-o-bahn” with Cody. I already had Cody on the leash in both instances since I don’t like to run so close to the busy road with him off the leash. The man saw me coming both times and quickly put his dog on his leash (not without some trouble, might I add) and stood off to the side while we passed. One time his dog growled and barked at us as we went by. The other time the man actually said hello as I passed. Shocked, I simply said hello in return, without making eye contact, and continued on my way.

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