Boxer with a Death Wish
One of the most unnerving things that I've had to adjust to when driving in rural Ireland are the crazed farm dogs who apparently think it's great sport to try to herd cars. Usually, these are bored border collies and they tend to have an unsettling way of running straight at your front wheel. Every once in a while, I meet a Jack Russell terrier with delusions of grandeur, but they're the exception to the border collie rule.
I've been told by more than one person that the best thing to do is to stay the course, ignore the dog, and hope for the best. It's the dog's responsibility to keep itself alive and the dog apparently has certain expectations regarding the traveling trajectory of your car. You're more likely to hit the dog (or someone or something else) if you swerve than if you just stay the course.
There's a pair of these demonic dogs on a road I travel with some regularity. They're border collies and I call them the The Twins, even though they probably don't look anything alike. The look like twins when I'm driving and I can see them lining themselves up on the other side of this stone gateway. Their butts wiggle and they hunker down like Olympic sprinters waiting for the starter's gun.
Whenever my car passes the magical line, they both lunge out into the road. Even though I can see them in advance and I know what they're going to do, it still freaks me out every time.
Last Saturday, I was finishing up my last graveyard trips for RAOGK. I was up near Rathcormac in north County Cork and was headed home. The quickest way would have been to hop on the M8, drive down around Cork City like the early spacecrafts sling-shotting themselves around the moon, and then head up northwest to my little corner of the Middle of Nowhere. But I'm sure you can agree, the quickest way is rarely the most run way and I instead set out to bumble along little squiggles of tertiary roads and rutted farm tracks.
With the help of my trusty GPS, I was quite happily rolling up and down hills past acre after acre of farmland. Toby was in the backseat, hanging his head out the window. My car doesn't have electric windows in the back, so I always roll down the window behind the driver's side for him. That way, in a pinch, I can reach back and roll it up if necessary. Plus, it allows me to see him in my side mirror. With his hair flying and his contented yet focused expression, he looks like an early aviator in an open-cockpit airplane.
At one point in this journey, we were on a potholed, single-lane track with grass growing up the middle. I came around a corner and started up a hill, only to find a boxer standing nearly in the middle of the narrow lane. I edged over as far as I could, but was still directly on course to hit her if she didn't move. I gave the horn a little beep, but she stayed her ground.
I slowed down, hoping that she would move. When I was close enough to see every fold in her muzzle, I knew she wasn't going to move. I crept over even more into the edge of the road, so that brambles were scraping the side of my car, and bought myself enough space to pass her. I could see her house on a small rise to my left and a chubby yellow lab was lumbering down the driveway to join the fun.
The boxer ran along side my car, barking and leaping. The lab joined and took a position behind the car. Toby was going nuts in the backseat, lunging to the side window to check out the boxer, then swinging around to look at the lab. The boxer then ran along in front of my car, tossing the occasional bark over her shoulder.
I didn't like that move at all. I slowed down and beeped the horn, hoping perhaps someone would come out of the house and call off the dogs. No such luck and I knew I'd have to keep driving and trust the boxer to stay out of my way. I accelerated slowly and the boxer drifted off to the right side of my car. I used her change of lane to reclaim more of the center of the road and sped up a bit more, figuring my best bet at this point was to outrun them.
I saw the lab fall back soon after. I couldn't see the boxer in my right wing mirror or in my review, but I could still hear her barking. My foot pressed down on the accelerator and I watched my speed climb to 20 mph. The boxer breezed in front of the car again like I wasn't even moving. She almost looked like she was skateboarding in front of my car, effortlessly moving forward while looking back at me and barking.
I slowed down and she again drifted off to the right side of the car. I saw her drop back in my wing mirror and then take up on my rear bumper. At least I think she was on my rear bumper. Toby had leapt up onto the back window ledge of my little hatchback. His entire body, hackles up, filled my rear-view mirror.
I took the chance to accelerate again, pushing the car close to 25 mph. And again that crazy boxer came up along the left-hand side of my car and crossed over in front of me. I was hoping this would play out the way the previous front-of-car encounters had. I slowed a bit, allowed her to drop off on my right side and waited until I knew she was on my rear bumper. Then I gunned the car, pushing it up over 30 mph. I kept my eyes glued on the road in front of me, which was straight, offered a lot of open space, and was blessedly clear of other cars and dogs.
When Toby collapsed onto the back seat, I was pretty sure we'd lost our boxer friend. Sure enough, when I checked my mirror a final time, she was standing in the middle of the road. I didn't know boxers had that much stamina and speed, to be able to hang in there for that distance at that pace.
I thought bored border collies were scary and dangerous, but I'd take an encounter with The Twins over the boxer with a death wish any day.