Is this the end of the solitary dog walk?
I take a lot of pleasure from walking our dogs, often over the meadows or in the woods. I find the process of tootling along behind them while they dart in and out of the grass or chase each other cathartic. After my cancer diagnosis in March it helped me process the information and now all the drama is done it helps me put things back together.
But are we facing the end of the solitary dog walk? The horrific murder of an elderly dog walker in Norfolk this week, the rise in dognapping and reports of sex attacks on walkers and runners is enough to make anyone think twice about taking the dogs out on their own.
Solitude as a Freedom
When we are walking over the meadows and it’s deserted, once I would have enjoyed the solitude, but now I find myself feeling vulnerable. What would I do if someone tackled me for the dogs, or if I walked into a crowd of ne’er-do-well’s intent on intimidation?
Once I turned around and came home because of the way some bloke on a bike slowed to look at the dogs. This encounter led me to do some research and write the article ‘Chihuahua are being dognapped‘ and they are, along with Frenchies, Staffies and Gundogs. Dognapping is not an opportunist crime it is a serious, organised crime wave. With lone dog walkers and professional dog walkers being targeted.
In the UK, it is an offence to have any kind of weapon that you could use to defend yourself. Producing a Smith & Wesson from your back pocket is likely to see you surrounded by a SWAT team. Even a can of pepper spray if you use it on another person could get you arrested.
I don’t really want to see people walking around armed to the teeth. It damages social structure and erodes our way of life. But what are you meant to do as an individual when it feels like the law and the odds are against you?
Are the attacks on lone individuals any worse than it was ten or twenty years ago? Someone will probably have figures that tell me it isn’t. Maybe it’s me that’s changed, a loss of confidence in people to behave with the decency that a functioning society needs.
There are some basic steps to help you protect yourself, walk with a buddy, change your route, walk when there are more people about. But this takes away the idea that you are free to take a walk with your pooch and enjoy the isolation.
So, what does the future hold for the simple pleasure of a ramble with your dogs? It’s not much to ask for in the grand scheme of things. For the time being I will make damn sure I continue with my solitary dog walks. I might get myself one of those trekking poles, but obviously I would never use it as a weapon!
How do you feel about walking your dog on your own? Have you changed your habits because of the fear of attack?