Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Beware Of Retractable Leashes!

For a long time, I have loathed retractable leashes. Walking two sight hounds who weigh eighty-one and seventy-eight pounds respectively, I must maintain control of my dogs at all times. I use four foot, reinforced velvet leashes with adjustable loops to wrap around my wrist. Any moving object will get my dogs' attention, and if I am not alert, I will be pulled along by two running machines that can reach forty-five miles per hour in a few strides. A sight I dread is a small dog being walked on a retractable leash. A small animal, dashing about erratically, is the most tantalizing prey for Bingley and Magic. Trying to control them under such circumstances is challenging, and, if I fail, serious injury can result. And I am not speaking only of the little dog. A friend of mine recently told me her story which illustrates a quite different, but equally serious, danger of retractable leashes. My friend is a tall, large-bone lady who is perfectly comfortable riding very large horses and jumping them over hurdles. She is at ease around both horses and dogs, and for years has always had an Australian Shepherd as her canine companion. Her Aussies are beautifully trained and well behaved. Recently, my friend was taking a walk with her sister and her dog. They were in the country-side, following along a gravel road. To give the Aussie a sense of freedom, my friend had her on a retractable leash let out to eighteen feet. What happened next is the intersection of innate dog behavior with physics. The Aussie saw a squirrel before my friend did. My friend does remember being lifted up in the air. Mercifully, she cannot remember the following seconds--or minutes. She came to her senses after having been dragged down the gravel road, her face, arms and one hand bleeding profusely. With help of her sister and husband, she was able to get to an emergency room for treatment. But the healing has been slow and painful. She will be consulting a plastic surgeon. If you are using a retractable leash, I hope I have frightened you.

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