By RALPH BURKE
On Tuesday, April 1, April Fools' Day, the temperature was in the lower 60s and quite welcome after months of cold and snow. It was a good day for a bike ride.
It was mid-afternoon as I headed out onto Middle Road, past the Nestle-Purina plant, past Urban Road and turned left onto Werle Road. It's a short road with few homes on it.
Suddenly, snarling and growling, there appeared a brown pitbull, circling the bike; it tried to get at my legs. Dogs are nothing new to us bikers and walkers and I was prepared. I retrieved a hand-held ultra-sound device that proved effective in the past by temporarily halting any charging dog, and time to outdistance them. However, this dog was not affected. I couldn't maintain my seat under his attack, and dismounted, keeping the bike between him and me. This went on for a few minutes; him trying to find an opening while I kept fending him off. I was getting tired.
No one came out of any of the homes nearby. However, a school bus came down the road, put its flashers on and dropped off a boy. The young man was apparently from the family of the pitbull, for he didn't hesitate to go up to it and grab its collar. The animal's attention, now divided, broke away from both of us and just ran off. I owe that kid.
On Tuesday, animal control officer Steve Purol called to explain and apologize that he was out of town and couldn't contact me sooner. He asked some questions about the attack and affirmed the right of a person to be able to travel or walk on any road without fear of harm from a domestic animal. He said he would try to find out the owner of the dog and decide from there. We had a good discussion on animal behavior and patterns. I feel he's got a tough job, and many times a thankless one.
In closing, I thought about carrying something more effective to ward off vicious animals. But why should that be necessary? Why don't we have laws as they have in more citizen-conscious communities that make the owner responsible for keeping a dog under control: a well-anchored fence to run around inside when outside the home, additional liability insurance, muzzled when walked or a microchip; whatever can protect a walker, biker or bystander.
To sum up, I haven't any hope for legislation in this state regarding this concern. But, at least I got the word out and this letter may help others from venturing too far afield and stay within safe areas. Check out DogsBite.org. There's some good advice there. Also, the number of 2013 fatalities. It's no way to die.
Ralph Burke is a Dunkirk resident.