"Have A Nice Ride" -- A Story of a Bike Ride, a Big Dog, and Grace

Furiosophoto © 2007 Javier Prazak | more info (via: Wylio)

Last week I was headed out for a bicycle ride.  That, in and of itself, is not unusual.  But, it had been about 6 days since I had gone on a good ride because of my schedule with a work team here and lots of baseball games to attend for my daughter.  So I was really pumped about going.  I was excited.  I had the time to spend 2.5 hours riding and I was ready.  I got on my biking clothes, my biking shoes, my biking glasses, my biking gloves, my helmet...everything.  And I hopped on.

I started off down the street.  We live on a hill so I can hit a pretty good speed just down from our house.  I was off.

But...then...a dog came at me.

This was a brown pit-bull dog.  It's a big dog.  This is new to our street as we have some new neighbors who have some friends who come and bring their dogs and leave them untied out in front of their house.  Loose dogs are a dime a dozen in our community.  Yes, there is a leash law.  But, when you're 45 minutes from Anchorage, it's more of a suggestion than a law.  And, really, most dogs who are off leash are quite well behaved and problems are rare. 

The neighbors have only been here a few weeks, really, and already these dogs have a reputation on the street as being aggressive.  No, they haven't actually bitten anyone or any other dogs as far as I know.  But at least 4 other people have been chased by the dogs when walking on past or riding bikes or whatever.  One neighbor has taken to going a "back way" through the woods to avoid the dogs.  I had been chased a little by the two dogs before, but yelling at them drove them away quickly.  That time I was headed up hill on my bike and, therefore, going v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y.

However, this time I was going by fast and the dog came at me fast.  This dog did not have a "hey-biking-looks-like-fun-would-you-take-me-with-you" approach.  Hackles were raised.  Teeth were bared.  And the dog was on my heels quick. 

It's amazing what happened to my emotions.  It was instantaneous.  Immediately I was furious.  I could feel the anger burst within me.  And I was scared.  I could feel the adrenaline kick into gear and I SLAMMED on the brakes, nearly falling off the bike (thank God I hadn't clipped my shoes into the pedals yet).   I dropped the bike to the ground after leaving a thirty foot skid mark on the dirt road.

I turned to the dog and I yelled.  I yelled loudly.  I'm sure I had an ugly face.  "NO.  NO.  NO.  NOT TODAY YOU DON'T.  YOU WILL NOT CHASE ME.  YOU WILL NOT DO THIS.  NO.  NO.  NO."  And I aggressively moved the dog back to his house.  (I might have mentioned that I was mad.)

And I was going to tell SOMEONE that this was NOT acceptable.  By this time a young woman with four young children appeared on the porch.  I know her.  I know the kids.  And I left no room for doubt at how mad I was.  I yelled, "THIS CAN'T HAPPEN.  THESE DOGS HAVE TO BE TIED UP OR SOMEONE ELSE IS GOING TO DO IT FOR THEM.  THEY CAN'T CHASE EVERYONE WHO COMES UP OR DOWN THIS STREET.  IT CAN'T HAPPEN.  IT'S NOT SAFE."

The woman, mother to a couple of the kids I think, said they weren't even her dogs but she'd tell the owner...who was coming by frequently and leaving the dogs out.  She said they were "nice dogs."

I didn't respond to this, but I'm sure in my head I said, "I'M SURE THEY'RE NICE TO YOU.   I'M SURE THEY'RE CUDDLY AND GOOD WITH THE KIDS.  BUT NICE DOG DON'T AGGRESSIVELY CHASE PEOPLE, MAKING NEIGHBORS FEEL UNSAFE."  I didn't say this.  Perhaps I wanted to.  I was becoming surprised at how mad I was feeling.

THEN, at this point, I started feeling guilty at how mad I was and how I had expressed all of what was going on.  There I was, standing there, looking at the young kids and wondering how I appeared to them.  I'm a pastor.  I'm sure I didn't have a very pastoral face.  I said, "Look, I apologize for being as livid as I am.  But these dogs have scared me and it's not the first time.  It needs to change."  I was furious.  But at least I was calm enough not to yell now.

Then she said it.  She said, "Have a nice ride."

Those words didn't sink in until I had gone about 20 miles or so -- and, with my adrenaline pumping because of the dog, they were the fastest 20 miles I'd ever had.  But on the way back home I realized how gracious those words were when I was as angry as I was.  It may have taken 20 miles, but the words were disarming.  I was touched by them.  Each time I've been by the house I've looked to see if the woman is there to tell her thanks for kind words when I was not even in a state of mind to receive them.  And I want to tell her that, despite how it began, it was a "nice ride."

So, I'm thinking...

Are we able to offer grace to those refuse it?

Do we, at times or places in life, move to where we are the ones who refuse?

What does grace look like in the various trials and tribulations that come up in life? 

This has given me a lot to think of.

I've had some talks with neighbors about my confrontation with the dog.  I'm not the only one who's said something.  I feel bad about how adrenaline and fear and anger moved me to a pretty ugly place very quickly, but everyone I've talked with has said those feeling are very natural when in a situation like that.  I don't know.

But...I know that I have not seen those dogs outside for a few days.