“I think I’m going to buy some pepper spray,” my friend Ginger announced.
“What?” I replied as I bent down to free my dogs from their leashes.
“For protection, in the woods,” she emphasized, waving her hand straight ahead.
I watched the dogs, my two and her one, dash through the meadow that leads to the trailhead at the edge of the trees. In over two years of almost-daily walking in the forest, I’d never even once felt the slightest bit endangered, never seen any weird person or any mean dog.
“You know I won’t come in here by myself,” Ginger added as we walked through the field.
I did know. She won’t. But several times per week, when friends are busy, I do go alone into the woods and hike the 3-mile loop with my dogs. And I always find the experience to be very peaceful.
“I know. But it’s a bit over-the-top, Ginger. Have you ever felt threatened in here? I haven’t heard about anything more serious than minor spats between dogs. Have you?” I asked.
“Well no, I just worry,” she admitted.
“Seriously?” I laughed. “You have an 80-pound pit bull mix, a leash as thick as any bullwhip, and an endless supply of big sticks and rocks at your fingertips,” I said, marveling at her desire for superfluous pepper spray. “My dogs look like teddy bears, and I come in here by myself all the time.”
“I know. Still, you can never be too safe,” she held firm.
“I suppose that’s true. Whatever makes you happy. So, how are the girls doing on their college applications?”
Naturally, the hike was completely uneventful as were the many others we did over the next couple of months. Ginger neither bought pepper spray nor mentioned it again.
A parks and recreation guy approached us in the parking lot.
“You ladies know you should keep your dogs on a leash, right?”
“Of course!” we replied, knowing full well we’d release them once he was out of sight. Technically, dogs must be on a leash in the reservation, but no one follows that rule. Even county employees typically turn a blind eye. The regulation is widely regarded as a formality that absolves the county of any liability, not something ever intended to be enforced.
“It’s really important,” he continued. “A woman was attacked by a pit bull this weekend. You’d better keep your dogs close.”
“Oh no, is she ok?” I asked.
“Yes, she’ll be fine, but she did get bitten on the thigh, no stitches, thankfully.”
“That’s horrible! I’m so glad she’s ok.” Ginger exclaimed. Turning towards me, she pronounced, “I’m buying the fucking pepper spray.”
I considered, for the first time, that she might have a point.
The conversation above represents the gist but isn’t verbatim relative to the original. My memory just isn’t that good. And, my memory may have decided to make it slightly more interesting than it actually was. We have hiked in the woods for several more months with no issues requiring chemical warfare. Ginger still does not own pepper spray.
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