Another hot and ridiculously humid day today in middle-earth land. Instead of spending it indoors, which was my first inclination, I subjected myself to the heat with a morning cycle ride with a group of ladies. We cycled just shy of 39 miles, finishing minutes before noon, with the sun beating down upon us through blue skies and clouds resembling puffy white cotton balls. There wasn’t a dry woman amongst us; we were all drenched with sweat from head to toe. How lovely it would have been to fall backwards into a swimming pool à la the Lipton ice tea plunge. Remember that? Thankfully the ride was uneventful…meaning, no dogs gave chase and heart rates didn’t soar off the charts out of fear and peddling for one’s life.

These lovely women don’t know how close I am to hanging up my bike because of the unleashed dog problem in my area. Or maybe they do. I’ll admit that I talk about my fear nearly every ride. In my defense—should you think I’m a wee bit off in the head—I have been attacked by a dog and that experience is still so fresh in my mind even though it happened three years ago!  So all rationality goes out the window when a dog comes running after me and I turn into an emotional mess. Believe it or not, I do try not to become overly fixated about these “redneck” dogs. Still, often the fear catches a hold of me and once it does, I just can’t relax.  And yes, I have a cute little stun gun that I got on Amazon.com in my jersey pocket.  One would think this would ease the tension a bit but little good is it when a dog comes charging out of nowhere; I’m clipped in… and when there is an angry dog at your heels in a flash, there is simply not enough time to safely respond to the situation with the stun gun.  God help me if my vocal cords fail me.
Case in point:  Last weeks’ ride featured a large dog that came out of nowhere. In the blink of an eye he was out in the road, determined to get a piece of someone. Our very accomplished ride leader successfully yelled the dog out of her way and we thought the dog was retreating but apparently he had second thoughts about the whole thing and decided for another go of it. Barking wildly and clearly not friendly, he aimed for the next in line, which was me. He was a breath away from my right ankle. I screamed so hard that I thought I had damaged my vocal cords.

This is so NOT fun people.

We stopped not even two minutes later as we saw a parked patrol car. The officer was sitting in his car doing something on his cell phone. Our breaths were still somewhat labored with emotion from the encounter as we reported the incident. We were met with a languid, unconcerned response.

“You should call animal control,” was all the officer said. Seriously. It took everything I had not to unleash an expletive or two. A fleeting image of being behind bars in an Alabama jail cell came to mind so I thought better of it. I did manage a mildly cloaked sarcastic response: “Thank you for your help officer” before riding off.

Folks, I’d really love to be able to enjoy the Alabama countryside (and, for those who know me, that’s a huge thing for me to admit!). It’s no joy to be constantly scanning for Cujo-like dogs whose purpose in life seems to be to terrorize cyclists. Some of the ladies, long time locals, are of course very familiar with all of the various cycling routes so they know where the bad dogs are. They often alter routes to avoid dog encounters. But invariably, despite planning and precautions there is a bad dog encounter. It’s not unusual to hear: Where did he come from? That dog (or worse, plural—those dogs) wasn’t there last week!

Alabama Barn

Alabama Barn

Though I still fiercely miss the beauty of Southern California, there is much beauty to behold in the Alabama countryside. There are acres upon acres of soy, corn, and cotton fields. There are beautiful barns–some bright red, some strikingly white, and there are the old, fallen down ones too.  There are quaint little white churches and farm homesteads as well as dilapidated abodes which cause my mind to wonder as to the history behind their life and sad decline. Beautiful Crepe Myrtles dot the countryside and when they are in bloom it seems the entire countryside is awash in pink and white.   And, It’s always lovely to pass by lush green pastures where cows, seeking respite from the sun, rest their hefty bodies under the shade of trees, or horses …casually strolling in their fenced-in pastures, their long tails gently swatting at flies as they nibble on whatever treat is before them. And lets not forget the occasional goats, donkeys and chickens, and even Alpacas and Llamas. One such farm is a favorite on our route, where a good-sized herd of these animals live a sweet, cozy life on a farm that spins their wool into lovely yarns for sale as well as scarves and such. So cozy is this place that it is in fact the Cozy Cove Farm and this ride has been dubbed the Mama Llama ride. This setting, and more, are interesting sights to take in and enjoy during our morning or evening cycle rides.  But for me, always on the lookout for bad dogs, I’m often too tense to take pleasure in the beauty around me.  Sigh.

Llama beauty

Llama beauty

Our ride leaders—ladies and gents alike— do an awesome job of planning and leading rides in the Huntsville cycling community. They are working hard to establish Alabama as a cycling friendly state. We currently rank an abysmal 49th in that department (thank God for Mississippi!).  But it seems to be a difficult task making dog owners accountable for their pets which is beyond my comprehension. Cyclists are getting injured because of dog attacks!  I pray every time I get on a bike that someone doesn’t lose their life because of a dog taking them down. And, paraphrasing here, as one gal put it: It’s sad when you’re more afraid of dogs than cars.

Suffice it to say that irresponsible dog owners is one mega PET PEEVE of mine!