I was walking along Crissy Field the other day when I spotted a crowd of people standing around a pile of sand. As I walked past one of men said to me “what is that?” He was pointing at a gopher that was popping out of a hole in the sand. I chuckled and said, “it’s a gopher.” A woman then said, “What do we do?” I chuckled again and said, leave him alone.
Further down the path I began doing some walking lunges. Just then a dog that had been walking behind me with it’s owner started barking. I stopped and looked back to see the woman scolding the dog. She then apologized for her dog’s outburst. I appreciated the gesture but knew that I was the one to blame, I had frightened the dog by my sudden change in movement. I then asked the woman if I could say hello to her dog, when she agreed I knelt down to the dogs level, put my hand out for him to sniff and said hello. The fluffy fellow then ran up to me and licked my face as I pet him and explained to Dude (that’s his name) that I was just exercising and that he had no reason to be afraid. The woman was very thankful and happy to have encountered a person who understood that her dog did not mean any harm.
It was at this point that I realized that some of us become confused when we encounter strange critters in our path.
Here are a few basic rules I thought would be worth remembering.
Basic human etiquette
- Don’t hog the entire path.
- Bikes yield to pedestrians and both bikes and pedestrians yield to horses.
- Don’t litter & pick up your doggie doo.
- Smile or nod at those you pass. Be nice.
Dogs in your path
- You really should not bug dogs too much. Don’t run up to a dog or approach them. Let them come to you. If a dog comes up to you to have a sniff, let it. If you want to pet the dog ask the dogs owner if it’s okay. Sometimes they will say “no,” but most of the time the owner will be happy to let you have some doggie love. First show the dog the top of your hand (fingers closed under). Once you’re sure the dog is friendly, open your palm to so it can see that you have nothing hidden in your hand. Get down to the dogs level (squat down) so you appear the same size and it’s not intimidated by a larger animal (that would be you). Never put your face down by the dog’s mouth unless you’re pretty darn sure it’s friendly.
If you encounter a horse on the trail
- Communicate to those on horseback as you approach. If you’re approaching from behind, warn them of your presence before you pass. All you have to do is say, “hello, nice day”. Just let them know you’re there and that you’re friendly.
- The rider should reign the horse to the side, allowing you room. When a horse is passing you, step off the trail to give the horse plenty of room, but remain in plain sight. When you’re passing a horse, do the same.
If you see a coyote
- Give the coyote space. Do not approach the coyote. They say if you see a coyote you should scare it so it will go away. Wave your arms around, yell at it and throw rocks. I’ve run into coyotes in the middle of the city as well as on the trail. I’ll admit I stop in my tracks but never have I had to throw anything or yell. In my experience the poor hungry soul will just walk away on its own.
- Take note – There have been some episodes of coyotes going after pets so put dogs on a leash so your pet will not be enticed to chase after the coyote. The closer your pet is to you the safer it is.
In the end – Enjoy your encounter with the critters. I leave you with a quote from John Muir.
“Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way.”