I know I’m not supposed to let my dogs off the leash anywhere in the City of Riverview and I’m not supposed to have them on school grounds. The school grounds across the street from my house are a special place. I played there as a kid with my dogs. I think of it as mine; after all, me and my sister discovered it. It’s about 2 square miles total with a marsh and woods adjacent to it adding 2 more square miles and a golf course behind it. I know I’m making the wrong choice when I let my dogs off the leash, but it’s too darn fun not to.
The grounds are a flood plane for the Frank & Poet Drain now called Creek. Originally, it was an arboretum planted by the farmer who owned the land as insurance against the lean years. There are a variety of hardwoods including some massive English and White Oaks. The purpose was to grow burl wood to sell. Burl wood is highly prized by carvers and goes for a good price.
On the school grounds they cut all the scrub trees, so it’s hardwoods and grass. A beautiful piece of property. Excellent habitat for all kinds of critters, hawks, owls, night hawks, bitterns, the occasional eagle, ducks, geese, herons, raccoon, deer, coyotes, skunks, groundhogs, minks, weasels, frogs, toads, salamanders… I could go on. It’s as wonderful at night as it is during the day.
I have walked and trained my dogs back there for decades encountering very few people. They put in a disc golf course about ten years ago and more and more people show up with their dogs. I stopped going in the daylight hours. I usually go at 5 am, but occasionally after 9 pm.
The night of this incident I was not feeling that great and took my dogs back there around 8:30 pm. I seldom run into people after sundown. It was very dark, with no moon. I saw a white thing move fast toward my dogs. My first thought was it’s a coyote. I’ve encountered them before. I immediately took a deep, calming breath and clapped my hands. It was not a coyote. They don’t move like that and they usually hang back, watch the dogs and take off when I clap my hands. It must be a stray dog. I was about to turn and head the other way quietly calling my dogs when a woman said,
She was walking her dog(s) off-leash. I thought it was the Doodles again. A group of 2 Doodles and another dog I’ve encountered before.
I said in a normal voice, “I think they’re okay.”
The woman calls the dog with a note of panic, “Hunter!” It wasn’t the Doodles.
I was thankful she didn’t yell because that would ensure a big dogfight. It was enough to start a scuffle, though, or my hand clapping did. I heard a bunch of yelping and did not know if it was my dogs or the other dogs. Henry was by me and I put him on a leash. Not wanting to make it worse, I quietly called my other two and leashed them. The woman was gone. Never saw her or the dog. It was too dark.
Dogs are sensitive to changes in their human’s emotions. If you are anxious about another dog, it puts your dog on guard. They read energy. Yelling, flailing your arms, or calling your dog can put them into fight mode. That’s why when you have an encounter with another dog the best thing to do is turn around and calmly walk the other way. Another tactic is to stand them down by making yourself big and making a loud noise. I usually say, “Sit!” in a command bark because it’s the one command most people teach their dog.
The hardest part for me was learning to be calm as opposed to acting calm. You can’t fake it around your dog. I have stopped many dog altercations by forcing myself to accept the sudden appearance of another dog as normal.
When off-leash, my dogs were great with other dogs. What has changed is there are more dogs around since the pandemic. New 2020 dog owners tend to treat their dogs like humans and not dogs. I don’t mean that in a bad way. Dogs are not human. To treat them as such puts an expectation on them that is unfair. They are dogs, canines, they do not understand sentences. They understand energy. Many dog owners don’t get this. Many dogs aren’t properly socialized. There is an alarming trend in my area of socializing a dog by tethering it in the front yard. That’s how you teach them to be aggressive.
When the woman called to the dog the note of panic in her voice signaled danger and put the dog on guard. My dogs were attacked by loose dogs 5 times in my subdivision since 2020 while they were leashed. That’s not counting the number of charging dogs I was able to stop before they made contact with mine. One attack resulted in a $1600 vet bill and GG losing a canine tooth, the guy never paid. My girl GG, a 12-year-old Ridgeback mix, is quick to defend because of it. It wasn’t an issue at the school until this incident.
After the woman was gone I let my dogs loose again and continued my walk. I went home, finished some work, and went to bed around 11 pm.
At about midnight, I woke to my phone lit up. I should have ignored it. I didn’t. This was the message from Matt Dominski.,
“Are all your dogs up in their shots? Mine is the one yours went after at Seitz and bit. He has a large bite on his leg.”
The person with the dog was a woman. Who is Matthew Dominski and how did he get my number? My first instinct was to ignore it and go back to sleep, but I didn’t. I regret it. I replied,
The message was through Facebook Messenger and it dawned on me it was the guy who ran for the school board. Why would he be messaging me about my dogs?
It was his wife with the dog. The messages were aggressive and continuous. I denied it was me. He’s a bully and right away issued threats. He asked me if I was calling his wife a liar. I said nothing. Then this,
“Ok, that must have been someone else with two poodles and a brown dog. The school has new cameras up. I’ll contact principal hill (Gill) in the morning and get some pictures maybe you can help identify the dogs for me since you walk all the time.”
I could not see the woman or dog at all. How could she see my dogs and that one was brown? I don’t believe for a second he can get pictures. The school told me the footage can only be viewed by law enforcement or for incidents pertaining to school security. Not for private use.
He sent me more threatening texts the next day, while I’m at work, about his dog’s injuries and threatened to post photos of me on social media. I sent a text about the lady that has two Doodles and another dog that runs on the school grounds. It irks me that I get blamed for a lot of stuff because me and my dogs are easy to recognize.
When I get home from work, I make a report to the Police about the incident. I admit to them my dogs were loose, but so was the other dog. I told them exactly what happened and about the threatening messages. Only then did I admit to Matthew D. that it was me and I told him the entire story as it happened. Of course, he had to belittle me because I lied about it, and he started running me down as all bullies do when you don’t bow to their will. I had no obligation to tell him anything. He was not there, it was his wife with the dog. I don’t have an obligation to tell her anything either. I wished I said nothing.
Here’s the deal, when you let your dog off-leash and there is an incident like this, it is your fault. It doesn’t matter whose dog did what. Dogs will be dogs. It is your fault. You made the choice to release your dog. End of story. If your dog is on a leash and attacked by a dog, not on a leash, the owner of the unleashed dog is at fault almost without exception. Leashes longer than 6 feet are the same as the dog being off-leash in most jurisdictions. In this case, it did not matter if the dogs were leashed or not–they were not supposed to be on the school grounds.
I blocked Mr. D. and hope he does post those photos, I think the Superintended of the school district and parents would like to know how easily the Principal of Seitz Middle School provided pictures from the school security system for the personal use of a board member.
At the end of the day, it is the dog owner who is responsible, but you can’t accuse others if you don’t have clean hands. Mrs. D. and I were both wrong, but what Mr. D did was worse.
My 12-year-old dog was injured. That is my fault. I sorely regret replying to that message. I cannot explain why I did it other than I don’t like to be bullied; especially by men. I’ve put up with enough of that in my life.
As I trained myself not to react to strange dogs, I need to train myself not to react to bullies.
UPDATE March 26, 2023: I seen Mr. Dominski’s dog infront of his house without a leash; no stitches, no drain, no shaved area on his leg. Seemed perfectly fine.
3 responses to “When Dog Meets Dog”
Your description of the school grounds and their significance to you is enchanting. It’s understandable that the nostalgic memories and the allure of a spacious area for your dogs make it tempting to let them off the leash. The combination of hardwoods, marsh, woods, and the adjacent golf course sounds like a picturesque setting. The history of the arboretum and the purpose behind it adds a fascinating layer to the land’s story. Thank you for sharing this captivating glimpse into your special place.
Reading this post brought a smile to my face, as the author’s love for their dogs and the special place across the street from their house is palpable. While I understand the importance of following the rules and regulations, it’s heartwarming to hear about the joy that comes from letting the dogs off the leash in this beautiful space. The history of the land as an arboretum and the variety of hardwoods adds to the charm and uniqueness of the area. Thank you for sharing this lovely post and giving us a glimpse into the special bond between you, your dogs, and this beautiful piece of property.
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I kindred! Thank you so much for this! That’s exactly what I was trying to convey! It is so good to know some else gets it.