Dogcatcher for an Hour - thursday 2011-03-31 0214 last modified 2011-04-11 0120
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Dogcatcher: a man with a cap dressed all in white holding a net on a long pole slung over his shoulder. I understand the stereotype. Well, I understand the long pole. The rest is a little weird and sexist.

My hiking activity has waned lately. I have no goal to train for at the moment, and routes out of Vermont canyon in Griffith Park are no longer fresh and new. But it's healthy and a nice change of scenery, so I went yesterday.

As I walked, I pondered what it would be like to fight a dog. I'm certain this idle fascination comes straight from True Lies, the early scene where the former Governator's character casually turns, grabs the heads of two airborne German Shepherds, and smashes them into one another before continuing his escape. Hollywood unreality aside, what could you actually do if faced with a canine aggressor? If the dog leaps for your throat, it is immediately and foolishly subject to laws of momentum. Move sufficiently out of the path of its jaws and parry with an uppercut or grab and piledrive. Otherwise, be more aggressive than it is, and maybe its pack instinct will submit to your alpha dog impression. I don't see any other openings. The dog ground game has four legs to gambol around on, and all that muscle and claw means you lose.

While continuing on my way to Griffith, my ridiculous train of thought was interrupted by a family with a small, white, loudly yapping dog in the wide, lush median. It seemed like a strange place to train or play with a dog. The dog, the kid, the responsible adults, could step into traffic on either side. See, not half a block down, there's this 4000 acre park...

And wouldn't you know it, the dog, no leash to be seen, caught a sight of me, and it came running. My entire conscious was already focused on dodge-grab-throw.

But I had a time table, and Coco looked so skittish with her plaintive barking and immediate retreats whenever I faced her that my plan was clearly wholly unnecessary. So on I walked, and on she followed, barking and barking and hopping on and off the curb. An overly entitled woman - with her own well-trained dog in the backseat of her SUV, naturally - stopped next to me, rolled down her window, and told me, "Excuse me, you need to put him on a leash," before driving on. Devoid of context as she was, it certainly could look like the dog was heeling to me. If you completely ignored its behavior and all the other people obviously chasing it.

Thus began my gradual absorption into the process of capturing a dog that refused to let anyone come within a yard of it without running in the opposite direction. The teenage girl to whom it seemed might fall the nominal claim of Koko's master was tired out already from trying to put a hand on the pup, and her grandfather bellowed to all to try to grab the dog if it came near. Most people averred or didn't take him seriously. After all, there are five sharp ends on a canine. I tried to help form a perimeter and dragnet, and this one time early on the girl managed to accidentally touch the dog, but that was the closest she got.

I somehow ended up in proximity to the grandfather who proceeded to express his exasperation in exceedingly profane exclamations. I did concur that it was inconceivable how badly behaved this animal was and knew which way grandpa's vote was going down at the family council, given Cocoa didn't end before then. Gramps had had animals. He knew this one was beyond polite description.

By this time the dog had gone on a tear chasing after some bikes. I did think it was a bit weird when a man ran out of a nearby house with a pair of squeaky toys. I thought it was rather neighborly - and weird - to come out and help with the chase.

And I did think it was a bit weird when I guy drove up in his black BMW and made a few face plants lunging for the dog.

And it was really weird when a lady in another black BMW drove up later and started shouting Coco's name. Maybe she picked it up because everybody else who joined in was yelling? That seemed feasible.

I made a flat out sprint after her. No luck. When I turned around, I realized she was intensely interested in chasing me if I wasn't facing her. Light bulbs. I announced to all in hearing distance that if I turned around and walked away, she would give chase, and quite closely. I was tempted to pull a fast one and grab her without looking but didn't want to risk putting her off the chase vibe. I suggested someone follow her following me and grab her from behind.

That's when someone from yet another black BMW said to me, "We just live in that house over there. Could you get her to follow you inside?" The things you wish you knew when you started. These people are all family. I did, in fact, get her to run after me, and once on the property, they found a way to shut her in. I'm thinking of leaving them a leash on the doorknob. I hope Gramps doesn't get his way. A little bit of training and being pack leaders instead of the previous spoiler owners will go a long way. But keep that gate shut for a few months.

And so, friends, put that pound puppy on a leash before you leave the kennel. And have some respect for Dogcatcher Dan. Twenty fully ambulatory adults and a fleet of black BMW's lost to Koko's physicality, only for her to be undone by a canine lack of door comprehension. A real dogcatcher would know you can't always trick a dog into coming to you. The want of a net on a long pole must have run through everybody's mind that day.

Also, I'm now certain I would either lose in a fight with a dog or at least suffer some unavoidable attrition in the melee. Unless I - well, hold on, I need to go for a hike to think this through.

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