A Most Ferocious Dog

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I received a subpoena for a person living in Virginia's boondocks.  The trip was a long winding drive through the mountains where I eventually found the house, set back in the trees, 150 yards from the road.  There was a creek and small wood bridge between me and the windowless, garage side of the house.


I crossed the rickety bridge, and a large dog that resembled Cujo (the dog in the 1983 horror film) started barking from the second-floor deck that ran along the left side of the house. When I stopped the car, he ran down the stairs and charged my car, barking ferociously.  

I sat in my car, honking my horn, hoping someone was home, but no one came out.  Fortunately, I had a Virginia subpoena that could be posted on the front door of the residence.  Unfortunately, Cujo had his two paws on my window, barking, and growling, challenging me to get out or go away.

Other than this angry, snarling dog, two major issues faced me: This job was from a new client, who I wanted to impress - and - the hearing was in a few days.

But the overriding issue was - I didn't want to make another 4-hour roundtrip and contend with this long winding road a second time when all I had to do was post this subpoena on the front door that was only 100 feet away.

I looked at the angry beast that was still clawing my window, and thought, "What if it is not an attack dog, what if he's just trained to look ferocious and scare people away?"

I did have two previous experiences with dogs that made me wary.  The first was a house set about 100 yards back on a dirt road, with a 4-foot chain-link fence at the front of the property by the street.  The gate was unlocked, so I entered and started walking toward the house, which had thick bushes running the length of the front porch.  I got halfway up the dirt road when I heard a deep growling sound.  I stopped and saw a Great Dane's head pop up from behind a bush on the left corner of the house. Two seconds later, another Great Dane's head appeared.  "Oh, crap!" 

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Together they leaped over the bushes, and suddenly I was in a race for my life as I turned and ran for the fence. Our race to the chain-link barrier was almost a tie, but I was a split second ahead of them and barrel-rolled over the fence as they hit it full force.   The great escape!

The second frightening event was at a long brick ranch house.  The driveway sat to the left side and set several feet below the house.  The front door was around the corner of the far end of the house.   I thought it was strange that the entrance was so far from their driveway.   I climbed the stairs and made the long walk to the end of the house and turned left to the front door.  

Laying in front of the door 30 feet away was a Doberman Pinscher that jumped up and ran toward me barking.  I took off, doubting that I could outrun this dog because of the distance between me and my car.  I leaped over the stairs to the driveway, ran around the car, and managed to get into my front seat.

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Frantically I tried to close my door, but my arm was at an odd angle, and, as I yanked on the handle, my left arm popped out of joint, falling painfully limp at my side.

The Doberman was there, his front paws firmly planted on my hip and his cold wet nose touching my nose, saliva (his) dripping on my shirt, as we stared into each other's eyes.   I can only imagine the look on my face as we both seemed frozen in time, nose to nose.

A few seconds later, a man's voice called from the top of the stairs, and the Doberman retreated to his master's side.   I managed to work my shoulder back in place as the man came down to my car with his dog and accepted the subpoena.  I asked him about my "nose to nose" experience with his dog; he said, "I trained him not to bite, just to go nose to nose."  My adrenalin spent; I decided to call it a night.

Now, I'm face to face with Cujo, who wants to kill me - but did he really?   Maybe he just wanted to frighten me?  If so, he succeeded.  What if scaring me is all he wanted to do?  I was going to test this possibility.  Maybe he didn't want to eat my face.

I opened my door a few inches, and, thankfully, he took a step back, but continued with his fierce barking and baring his teeth.  I opened my door a little further, and he started toward me, then abruptly stopped and took a few steps back.  I slowly stood up, and he backed up a few more steps.  It appeared that he wouldn't attack if I faced him, and that proved right.

His ferocity was constant, but with every tentative step I took toward him, he backed up an equal distance, still wanting to kill me.  

When we got closer to the front door of the residence, he suddenly turned and ran up the stairs to the 2nd-floor deck, but continued his barking.  As I finished taping the subpoena to the front door, I realized that Cujo was no longer barking. I glanced over my shoulder, and he had silently snuck down the stairs and was charging at my back. I immediately spun around and spread out my arms and shouted, "No!"  He slid to within a few feet of me and then backed up and resumed his vicious barking.

Had I not turned to see him, he could have severely injured or killed me.

Once again, we resumed our familiar two-step dance, him, wanting to eat me, and me, not wanting to be eaten, all the way to my car.  I escaped unscathed, and that was the last time I ever challenged a dog. 

Tony Snesko, CEO
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