Most mornings Travvy and I head out in the general direction of Old County Road and the bike path beyond it. We have three basic routes, all circular and all taking about an hour’s brisk walk to complete.
Sometimes, though, when I’ve got something to mail or I’ve run out of something that can’t wait till the next serious grocery run, we go in the opposite direction, toward the West Tisbury post office and up-island Cronig’s. This takes us through the Island Farms subdivision.
After trespassing alongside a house that’s deserted most of the year, and where a big pine that went down in one of the March nor’easters is still blocking the driveway, we come out across from a single-story house with a big garden on one side and goats and chickens out back. Trav is intrigued by the goats, and since the chickens do occasionally cross the short, dead-end road I keep an eye out.
The main event at this house, however, is always the dogs. There are two of them, medium size, short-haired, one brown, one brown and white. As soon as Trav and I come in sight, they start tearing back and forth along the perimeter of their invisible fence line. There are craters in the dirt at either end where they wheel and start back in the other direction, dodging around the considerable plantings en route.
They’re good-looking dogs. Until yesterday, I hadn’t given much thought to what breed they are, beyond surmising that if they belong to a breed, it’s probably the same one.
A few mornings ago, the brown one crossed the invisible fenceline onto the pavement and came at us teeth bared. I stood my ground, yelling — I’m pretty good at yelling — and the dog finally retreated to the yard. I should have reported this, I can see now, but every one of the dozens of times we’d walked by, the dogs had stayed on their side of the “fence.” So I thought it was a fluke.
When Trav and I passed that way late yesterday morning, with Trav, as always, on a leash heeling at my side, both dogs crossed into the road snarling and barking and ambushed Trav from behind, knocking him down. One of them tried to sink its teeth into Trav’s hindquarters. I screamed bloody murder and charged at them, making them back off but not give up.
What I really didn’t want was Trav to start fighting back. A 10-year-old malamute against two apparently much younger and more aggressive dogs, and me hanging on to a four-foot leash — this could have been very ugly. Surely someone would hear me yelling and come out of the house?
No one did. I hope this meant no one was home. A guy did appear some ways up the road into the subdivision, ready to intervene — didn’t I say I’m pretty good at yelling? — but by then I’d managed to scare the two dogs back into their yard.
Trav scrambled to his feet. We moved out of range. He seemed OK, but when I cleared away some tufts of loose fur toward his tail I found a scrape that was bleeding slightly and what looked like the imprint of a tooth tip. Under a wet place on his side was a similar scrape.
On the return trip, I was on guard. I also wondered if Trav would be leery of passing within range of those dogs again. Did he get why those dogs who always raced back and forth barking so ferociously hadn’t come any closer, and why this time they had?
Trav trotted along on my right side while I gave strenuous warnings and the evil eye to the dogs on my left. We made it through.
When I got home, I called West Tisbury animal control to report the incident. I learned from ACO Tony Cordray that the commonwealth does not consider invisible fencing to be restraint. In other words, if you’re ordered to restrain your dog, invisible fencing alone will not meet the requirement. When I described how the two dogs had stayed in their yard dozens of times as we passed by, he said that the batteries in the collars that must be used with invisible fencing must eventually be replaced.
Tony also said that because the dogs had drawn blood, they would have to be quarantined. Even if they’ve had rabies shots? I asked. Apparently so: State law requires a 10-day quarantine for any dog or cat that bites or scratches another animal or a human. I ventured cautiously that I didn’t know, but I guessed the dogs might be pit bull mixes, hoping I wasn’t getting into canine profiling.
Then I posted a short account of the incident to the Islanders Talk group on Facebook, as a cautionary note both to those who use invisible fencing and to anyone in the Island Farms subdivision. Trav got a lot of sympathy, and I got some useful info about invisible fencing. One user commented that dogs who consistently run back and forth along the boundary line are not considered good candidates for invisible fencing. It was also suggested that other complaints had been made about those two dogs. Hmmmm . . .
I cleaned Trav’s wounds, thinking all the while that a smaller dog with much less fur could have been seriously injured in a similar attack. As the afternoon wore on, he growled when I stroked his left foreleg. He’s a growly dog under any circumstances, but these growls advanced to snarls, so I took them seriously. When we went out for our early evening walk, he favored that leg and didn’t want to go faster than a walk. We took a shorter and slower than usual stroll and returned to the apartment. He gamely made it up the stairs.
This morning he was back to normal, trotting along, bushy tail waving. It was a close call, but we’re both OK.