"The Troll of Teneriffe Falls"
“If I had a gun, I’d shoot your dog.”
I have spent the last couple of days repeating these words in my head, over and over, it turns my stomach, boils my blood, and has brought me to tears multiple times. I simply cannot digest the thought. The thought that a grown man would say this to a woman hiking alone with her son. The thought that there are people out there who are SO quick to pull the trigger. The thought that my sweet Gibson could be taken from us in an instant at the hands of such an arrogant prick. The thought that the trails we flee to when we need to run free no longer feel safe.
Let Me Explain What Happened:
We hit Teneriffe Falls early Monday morning, were the first at the trailhead, and didn’t run into a single soul hiking up. Gibs and Molls run off leash up but I like to leash them coming down. I took Gibs off while passing over a slick rock field. Gibson weighs 95lbs and I was not going to risk him pulling me down or tripping me up while wearing Finn. Anyways, he took off into the forest. He started barking as a man approached and I went into the woods as fast as I could to leash him. I apologized profusely. Gibson was nowhere near the man. And as he passed me those are the words he said, “if I had a gun, I’d shoot your dog”.
It took me a second to grasp what had just happened.
Yes, I know, they were only words. But, threatening words. And they cut something deep.
Even though Gibson is a gentle giant I know he can be intimidating. He is beyond friendly with all other animals but shy with people. I don’t mean shy as in he’s scary barking at your ankles or growling as you go by. I mean, he literally will do everything he can to get past a person without coming 10 feet near them.
I mind other hikers and understand not everyone shares the same love for animals I do. I leash them when it’s necessary and take them off when it’s a matter of safety AND FOR THEM TO ENJOY THE OUTDOORS AS WELL (gasp of shock from all you baby boomers and a handful of Gen X’s out there… & also cat people). I see both sides. I respect both sides. I don’t understand how some can be so ignorant.
This is a forever debate about trail etiquette and dogs. Hike the same trail two days in a row and you may run into dogs freely running one day, where the next every pup is leashed. I believe dogs should be able to run free on the trails if they are with responsible owners. No, I don’t think its okay for dogs to bark incessantly, or run up to others without permission. What Gibson did was not okay and he was in trouble the rest of the hike because of his behavior.
Lets Get a Little Deeper:
You’ve been bit by a dog before and now your scared: 80% of dog bites happen at home. Just because your walking in the woods doesn’t mean dogs suddenly go wild and begin attacking everyone that walks near it. According to World Atlas its estimated that their are 900 million dogs in the world, if you want me to be blunt- it may be time to face your fear. Also, I don’t know who gave you the impression the forest belonged to you, but it doesn’t. It is here for all of us (dogs, cats, children shit bring your parrot, ferret, mouse, I really don’t care) to enjoy together.
It also might be beneficial to understand why dogs bite before you go all murder-y on them. They bite because they are feeling threatened, because they are protecting themselves/puppies/their owners, or if they’re startled/ in a stressful situation. You may not like dogs but they’re here to stay, so you should be aware of your own actions and how they could negatively effect a situation. Troll of Teneriffe Falls it was clearly your bad vibes (a little bit of sarcasm… truly, a VERY small sprinkle).
An off leash dog is less aggressive than an on leash dog: This isn’t proven to be true or false with numbers but I did find this awesome article that goes a little deeper into how the US leash laws contrast majority of the rest of the world and the comparison of dog bites recorded per year.
Is an off-leash dog, in fact, a better-behaved dog than a leashed one? Well, I grew up in England, where the approach to dogs is exactly the opposite of what it is in the United States. There, dogs are allowed off-leash anywhere that doesn’t expressly require leashes. And those places are pretty rare. In the United States, where dogs are mostly required to be on-leash except in areas that expressly permit otherwise, there are about 800,000 dog bites each year that require medical attention. In the UK? That number has reached an all-time high of 7,227, nearly double what it was a decade ago. But with a population of 8.5 million dogs, the percentage of dogs that bite humans is far lower, at just .085 percent. In the United States, with leashes being standard, it’s 1.142 percent.
-Wes Siler, Outside Online
I believe an aggressive dog is an aggressive dog and should be treated as such: muzzled when in public (if necessary, yes I know it’s sad), leashed, etc. I also can respect a reactive dog and their space. Ultimately that’s what this all comes down to right? Respect. Respect for the animals, the people, the outdoors.
Off leash dogs ruin the environment: I’m sorry but hush your mouth. One of the most beautiful hikes I have ever done was in Wyoming, and it was COVERED IN TRASH. I’m serious guys. I was sitting at the top of this beautiful mountain overlooking an icy lake right next to a pair of old boxer briefs and food wrappers. The trail was littered with human hands and I thought to myself “but my dogs can’t be here because they’re too disruptive…”. Marc Bekoff, an animal behavior scientist states, “off-leash dogs generally did not travel far off-trail, that when they did it was for short periods of time, and that they rarely were observed to chase other dogs, disturb people, chase wildlife, destroy vegetation, or enter bodies of water…” We are the ones that feed the animals to get closer (guilty- those Mt. Rainier birds got me), we are the ones stomping over wildflowers to get that “perfect photograph” that’s been seen a million times, we are the ones who litter, graffiti, and leave our shit everywhere we go. I mean that last part literally. PEOPLE are just as guilty of leaving their human waste on or near trails, we have ran into their piles and toilet paper MANY times. Pack it out people.
Why The Fight:
When I was training Gibson I walked him and Molli every day, multiple times a day. We worked on his basic commands and really we just spent the first four months together attached by a tether, getting to know each other. We built a bond, love grew, and then trust. I will never forget the moment I let Gibson off leash for the first time. It was magic- pure wild happiness. He ran down the trail through the muddiest, wettest part and back up right to me. Then we took off together, the three of us, running through the woods. See, I don’t believe dogs are meant to be broken. I believe dogs and people are meant to be partners, to coexist and live together- us keeping them grounded, them keeping us free.
I’m Not Done Yet:
Look guys it really doesn’t have to be as dramatic as we’ve all made it out to be. It’s pretty much common sense: You hella uptight “on leash only” people, relax… seriously. We aren’t all going to be on the same page any time soon, well… really ever, so stop being so aggressive towards us free spirited dog parents. Your energy is only making a situation worse, and really your going to be the one sulking the rest of your hike. And off leash supporters, BE RESPECTFUL! It’s up to us to make sure life with dogs is a positive experience for others, not a negative. Please keep that in mind when going anywhere with your pup- on and off leash.
Things you can do to not ruin it for the rest of us:
Keep your dogs close by. Your dog should NEVER be out of your sight, jumping on other people, or eating their sandwiches.
It takes a second to do a courtesy leash when crossing paths with an on leash pet- do it.
Barking at someone is not okay NO MATTER THE SIZE OF YOUR DOG. I know it happens and you can’t always control a dog and how much they bark, trust me… I deal with it with my Molli, but pass by quickly and remind your pup before hand there is no need to bark.
Don’t leave his poop on the trails!
To sum this long rant up:
The troll of Teneriffe Falls was an asshole, I’ll never forget his face, the aggression of his words, or the fear he made me feel. There is no excuse to not be kind… even if you see things from opposite ends.
I hope to hike solo again soon, I don’t like to spend too much time licking my wounds. In the meantime, enjoy some of the photos I took during our hike. It was a great day and such a strong waterfall- the energy was out of this world!
Live Inspired , Respect One Another, & BE KIND,