Department Of, Curses – My Cover Has been Blown!
According to a rather irrelevant and batshit crazy deranged, ad hominem attack/comment someone made about moiself on a Facebook group…
(Which makes MH, Mr. Abner Kravitz. Yep, I’ve been having fun with that all week).
For those readers younger than 50, Gladys Kravitz was the nosy neighbor of the TV series Bewitched‘s protagonist, Samantha Stevens. Gladys was convinced that there were extraordinary goings on in Stevens’ household, and was exasperated to the nth because she couldn’t prove her suspicions to her husband ( “Abbbnnneeeerrr!” ) 
Background to this startling revelation about my heretofore secret identity: Dateline, Tuesday morning, circa 7:30 am. I was at the coast, out for a morning walk…
But first, a relevant digression. A long time ago…oh, no – here it comes again…
From my late high school years until my late twenties, I ran  between two to five miles, every day. As recreational runners know, unleashed dogs and runners are not a good combination.  Every runner I’ve met has stories of being confronted, harassed and/or attacked by an unleashed/unaccompanied-by-its-human, aggressive dog. The stories, and the avoiding-being-a-dog-bite-victim advice runners receive and pass on to other runners, are mostly similar, but sometimes divergent.
A person running triggers the prey instinct in many dogs; thus, the common wisdom shared amongst runners: when approached by a dog whose posture and behavior…
* stiffening or freezing of the body;
* forward-leaning, hunched down, hunting/stalking posture;
* “whale eyes” (wide, with a lot of white showing);
* teeth baring; tense mouth/curled lips; wrinkled nose;
* ears laid flat against the skull or stiffly held straight up (not relaxed);
* barking, growling; “air-snapping”….
…indicates aggression, and there is no dog owner in sight, you should:
* stop running
* stay as calm as you can
* avoid eye contact (which can be seen as aggressive);
* speak to the dog in a calm, firm, but non-threatening voice; 
* remain upright;
* don’t scream (or flail your limbs or panic or jump up and down);
* back into a corner or against a wall so the dog can’t get behind you;
* look for a tree or car to climb  and hope to f***’s sake the owner appears…
I faced the aggressive dog situation many times when I was running for exercise. Those strategies worked for me, as they did for other runners…except when they didn’t. I heard too many stories of someone who did everything right and got bitten anyway.
Fellow runners also shared the WTF?!?!? confusion of hearing sure-fire advice from so-called experts which contradicted advice shared by other experts. As in: ignore the dog; *don’t * stop running. Continue what you’re doing, because some dogs will pay you no mind when you walk or run past them but if you stop, they “think” (okay, no human really knows what a dog thinks, we are trying to guess/interpret) you are a threat to them.
In other words, encountering an aggressive dog is situational and dog-specific: sorry, but there is no sure-fire, works-every-time, strategy. But, human nature being what it is, there is this sure-fire reality: there will always be some person who will tell you that, whatever you did, you should have done something else.
Back to the future background to the Mrs. Kravitz revelation: Dateline: the Oregon coast (Manzanita); Tuesday morning, circa 7:30 am; out for my morning constitutional. On that day I decided to walk north along the imaginatively named Ocean Road, which parallels the beach, then splits into two roads, one of which (Beulah Reed Road) continues along the coast and up into the streets winding around the base of Mt. Neahkahnie.
I walked along the road, noting the increasing number of vans and other vehicles I’d been seeing in my early morning walks – vans and campers parked alongside Ocean Road which look as if they’ve been there all night (as opposed to the vehicles whose drivers pull over, watch the waves and savor their morning coffee  before driving on to their jobs, or what/where ever). Those been-there-overnight vehicles are situated in such a way to indicate that the occupants are camping there, despite the fact that it is illegal to do so, and despite the “No Parking between 11pm – 5am” signs posted along the road.
As I turned up Beulah Reed Road I saw two more looks-like-illegal-camping vehicles parked on the west side of the road. Safety-conscious pedestrian that I am, when I am walking along a sidewalk-less road, I always walk facing traffic; thus, I passed close by both of the vans, whose occupants were presumably still inside/asleep (the vehicle’s windows had shades and other objects blocking the windows and windshields). One of the vans stood out due to its color and décor: a green van festooned with white and yellow flowers, sporting a Nebraska license plate and a message – “love mother nature and she will love you back” – painted on the van’s rear window.
The Green Van was in the same spot on the west side of Beulah Reed Road where, in the past few months, I’d walked past other camping vehicles one of which provided moiself with a memorable visual a couple months ago. The naked man who’d emerged from that vehicle and began urinating by the side of the road just as I was passing by was an unpleasant sight, but a minor startle compared to what happened Tuesday am.
I continued walking up Beulah Reed Road for a few more minutes, then headed back to Ocean Road. As I neared the Green Van (this time, walking on the far side of the road) I saw a husky/malemute dog lying in the sand by the right rear of the GV. The dog had not been there five minutes ago, when I’d first walked past the GV, and there was no sign of any humans (other than moiself ) about. When I was about thirty feet away from the GV the dog’s eyes fixed on me; it got up and slowly began to cross the road toward me.
Oh, shit. It takes minutes to type what flashed through my mind in nanoseconds Some of the nicest dogs I’ve met, and some of the meanest, have been husky/malemutes – and those two breeds consistently rank high on the Biting Dogs lists…. 
The dog was obviously not going to be one of the nice ones. It slunk toward me, in a crouched position (the classic hunting posture – have you ever seen footage of wolves or other carnivores stalking their prey?). Its approach was menacing, but silent…which I found more disturbing than barking.  If it had been barking, that would have (hopefully) alerted its owner.
I stop walking and spoke softly but firmly, remembering not to make eye contact. I did all the “right things,” which had no effect on the dog’s aggressive body language and approach, so I slowly began to continue my walk. The dog circled in front of me, blocking my path. It growled, bared its teeth and walked stiff-legged toward me, then began to snarl and bark. I put my walking poles between me and the dog and called out loudly: WHOSE DOG IS THIS – COME GET YOUR DOG. I did this several times; finally, a woman appeared from the west-facing side of the van. She had long, reddish hair and looked to be in her late 20s – early 30s. She made no apologies for her menacing dog, but unenthusiastically attempted to
(1) assure me that her dog was not aggressive (“He just has a lot to say” she said,
as her dog began barking even louder, flattened his ears, and raised his hackles)
(2) get her dog under voice control.
She failed at both (1) and (2).
She held no leash (and with the dog’s thick fur I couldn’t tell if it even had a collar to which a leash could be attached). She kept calling to the dog, which would turn to look at her, take two steps toward the GV, then turn around and bark and take three steps toward moiself. As the dog continued to ignore the anemic “suggestions” of his owner to return to her, I swung one of my walking sticks at him, which temporarily stopped his advance (at that point he was less than two feet from me).
Oh, for some pepper spray, I thought – not for the dog, but to use on that pathetic excuse for a human being. GV lady may make van-decoration-declarations on loving Mother Nature but she obviously doesn’t give an oyster’s ass about walking responsibly through Mother Nature’s land while respecting and protecting *all* of Ma Nature’s creatures, including bipedal ones.
I made firm, aggressive eye contact with the woman when she repeated her, “He’s not mean/he has a lot to say” bullshit excuse. I replied, “Yeah, he’s saying a lot and none of it is nice – I’ve been bitten by a dog; I know when I’m being threatened. You need to get your dog under control, RIGHT NOW.” The insolent look on her face reminded me of a pouty adolescent whose parents had threatened to ground her until she cleared the dinner table. “I am going this way,” I pointed toward Ocean Road, “and your dog needs to go that way.“ I pointed toward her van.
Which eventually happened. After the woman and her dog disappeared behind the other side of the van, I took a picture of the back of the GV.
I was seething when I got home (and really hungry). I posted the GV picture on my FB page, along with a very brief description of the incident. As I was doing so I remembered that on my way back I’d passed an elderly couple walking on Ocean Road, headed in the direction I’d come from. Damn, I chastised moiself – should I have warned them about staying away from that van? With that thought in mind I posted the same photo and incident description, with an “FYI” warning/introduction, on a FB page where locals post pictures and info about items of North Oregon coast interest.
I knew I should report what had happened to “the authorities.” As I fixed my breakfast and mulled over whom to call (The town? The county? ) I was contacted by my Friend and Neighbor ®. F&N had seen my post, and urged me to report the incident. I called the police non-emergency number; the dispatcher who finally answered said that Beulah Road was under Tillamook County jurisdiction, and that she’d have a TC deputy contact me.
The TC deputy took down the details of my report, and then…oh my my (“Officer Chatty Cathy,” my mind soon nicknamed him). He had a lot to say about what had happened to me, and about related incidents he had been/was currently dealing with. I was apparently a sympathetic ear into which he unloaded his and his law enforcement colleagues’ frustrations with similar incidents and with “what’s going on in the county,” including:
* increased illegal camping
* increased reports of aggression between illegal campers and county residents
* illegal campers’ aggressive/unleashed dogs (who go after both people and other dogs)
* the overload of reports the county has to investigate without the staff to do so….
He said that TC had a backlog of *hundreds* of calls about illegal camping and other violations, but that because what happened to me involved menacing, he could prioritize my report, and would head for Beulah Road. I thanked him, and noted that the van had probably moved on. Actually…probably not, he said. And, in his experience, if it did move it would likely move to somewhere nearby, and a green van with Nebraska plates would be easy to spot. Should he find the van, he said he’d have an in-depth conversation with the van/dog owner. How he handles these cases, he explained, is based on the dogs’ and or vehicles’ owners’ demeanor and response. If they listen respectfully and are forthright and apologetic, he tries to educate them and lets them off with a warning. If they are unapologetic and insolent, and even (as some people have done) go so far as to assert that they have no intention of abiding by the _____ (leash, parking/camping/trash disposal, etc.) laws, he’ll give them “as many citations as possible.”
He asked me to spread the word: please tell people to report these encounters, even as he acknowledged the perception that “They (law enforcement) will do nothing,” and so most incidents go unreported. It’s true, we (local police/sheriff departments) are understaffed, he said, but people need to know that the reports, even if they cannot be immediately investigated, help them gather statistics in general, and make records in particular for individual menacing dogs and their owners, so that if (or as he put it, “unfortunately, when“) the dog harasses/attacks another person or pet, the dog owner can’t get away with, “Oh, he’s harmless/he’s never done that before….”
At one point in our conversation, I told him how I’d began my walk thinking about the increase in illegal parking/camping, and asked if he knew if that is indeed the case, or just my anecdotal impression? And is this uptick (in illegal beach camping) related to homelessness? He told me the increase in numbers wasn’t my imagination, but that my assumption about the cause was incorrect. He then asked me something which led to an “aha” turn to the conversation: “Have you heard of the website, ‘vanlife’?”
“You’ve seen the hype around #vanlife. You’ve seen the stunning photos on social media. Now you want to throw everything to the wind, quit your job, build out a camper van, and live a carefree life of adventure….
This page is designed as a jumping-off point for your personal vanlife journey. We go over the pros and cons of this lifestyle, the reasons why full time van life is awesome… We answer the most frequently asked questions about living in a van – everything from bathrooms and showering…to finding sweet camping spots.”
(excerpts from the intro to Van Life How To: Complete Guide to Living in a Van Full Time,
my emphases )
I said I knew of the site, but had never visited it. I thought it was similar to other sites I’d heard about, where people share information about RVing and/or traveling and living in trailers and vans. It is that, Officer CC said, but has become so much more: it has become a source of the increased “incident” calls faced by local law enforcement. He proceeded to express his frustration re the influence of the van-lifestyle sites, where people post info for others who’ve chosen to live in vans, sharing tips about where to travel and camp “for free” (but not necessarily legally).
More and more, Officer CC said, the people he speaks to and then warns and/or cites for illegal camping are mentioning (in some cases, boasting) that they were “referred” to the Oregon coast by vanlife and similar websites and online bulletin boards. And, he stressed, these people are *not* homeless– they seem well-funded (trust fund babies?) and/or are working remotely. For whatever reasons, they have romanticized the idea of public urination and defecation  life on the road. They…
* find it glamorous to be house-less by choice;
* take pride in ridding themselves of the bourgeois trappings of consumerism:
* receive positive feedback from like-minded folk when they post
cool pictures on Instagram of their adventures in livin’ on the road;
* believe that dogs also “need freedom” and so they ignore local leash laws;
* tell him that they love livin’ “for free”…
which – surprise! – turns out to be anything but free for the people in the communities who pay the taxes that fund the services to clean up after those freedom lovin’ van lifers, who leave their trash and toxic waste behind as they move on – and the damage these love-nature-and-she’ll-love-you hypocrites do to natural habitat areas frustrates him to no end…
As he described his dealings with these voluntary nomads, more than once he referred to van-life enthusiasts as, “hippies.” I could tell from Officer CC’s voice that he was much younger than moiself; it took all of my maturity (ahem) to refrain from correcting him:
“Actually, they aren’t hippies – that was an older generation. Any surviving hippies are at home rubbing patchouli and/or CBD oil on their aching joints…I think y’all need to come up with a more contemporary epithet for the younguns whose lives and values you find disrespectful, or just fruity.”
I’m not criticizing or mocking the deputy. He was amiable, empathetic, and eager to articulate the frustrations of law enforcement officers who cannot adequately fulfill their oath to serve and protect when they are overwhelmed by calls they cannot address.
Our talk turned to what people can do to protect themselves against aggressive dogs (Officer CC said his wife is a runner, and that she and her running buddies frequently deal with unleashed and aggressive dogs). I said that, due to my afore-mentioned, bitten-by-a-dog incident, I’d done my research, and ordered a cannister of citronella spray  and an air horn, for self-defense. Before I could tell him I’d ruled out bear sprays/pepper sprays, he strongly advised that I tell my friends *not* to carry pepper sprays, because
* Unless you’re an expert who practices with pepper spray on a regular basis you can end up inadvertently spraying yourself, particularly when you’re under duress;
* At the beach, where gusts of wind can arise seemingly out of nowhere, pepper spray can backfire, as in, get blown back on *you.*
He said that while he hated having to recommend it (“Nobody wants to hurt an animal,”) carrying a club might be called for (I said thanks/no thanks, and mentioned my walking poles). He expressed admiration for the air horn strategy: “What a great idea!” he enthused, noting that the loud noise would both startle the dog and alert nearby humans.
After my conversation with the deputy I drove to Hillsboro, where I had business to attend to. While driving I received a voice mail from my Friend & Neighbor, and pulled over to return her call. F&N said that my local/beach group FB posting had spawned a comment firestorm: most were from people relating their own/similar incidents, and/or expressing sadness re what happened to me in particular and what they saw happening to their community. Other posters engaged in unfounded and unsolicited second-guessing, reframing the incident, and even claiming to know the dog’s intentions, despite having not been there.  Several of those I-wasn’t-there-but-I-know-what-really-happened posters also opined on what I *should* have done to avoid being menaced by the dog.
( Ladies, does this sound familiar?
“If you’d only done this/said that/worn that/walked this way,
you wouldn’t have been assaulted.” )
I’d read a few of the early comments, including two which asserted that “people should mind their own business” and “stop caring about who parks where or does what.”  The MYOB theme was picked up by a few other unbalanced strident posters. How that became a thing, considering the context, was a mystery to moiself. Translation: I found it bewilderingly irrational. The afore-mentioned Gladys Kravitz remark came from one such poster, who addressed her remarks to moiself and fumed about why I was being Gladys Kravitz, and that I should have minded my own business….
Say what? Minding my own business – exactly what I was doing. I did not approach the dog and try to determine whether he was neutered. My business, which I was minding, thanks for your concern, was walking. I was out for a walk on a public road, enjoying the scent of the briny coastal air and minding my own beeswax, when an aggressive, unleashed canine decided to make his threats my business.
F&N and I had a giggle about how comments on my post had spiraled into many tangents. I said that, after violating the never-feed-the-trolls rule (I corrected one unhinged commenter, who seemed to be reading comprehension-challenged and tried to rewrite my story to fit her outrage at…whatever), I’m not going to read any more comments on that group. F&N said she’d keep me apprised of the more entertaining (read: whackadoodle) posts…although, I told her, the Gladys Kravitz epithet would be hard to top.
The next morning my phone rang: it was F&N’s update call. Apparently, by the end of the previous day, “things got nasty,” as she put it. She’d checked the FB local/beach site before bedtime: there were “248 or 258” comments, including a thread where people posted pictures of when they’d been bitten by an unleashed dog, and others posted either support or criticism for the bite victim. Then a man mentioned that he might carry a gun when he goes to the beach, and lawdy mama, it took off from there, with about 40 more posts related to carring concealed weapons on the beach. In the morning when F&N rechecked the site, about 40 of those packing-heat-on-the-beach posts had disappeared, taken down by the group moderator (or perhaps, I posited, by the posters who’d developed cooler heads overnight?). F&N said the nastiness also included some posts which made blatant or tacit references to class warfare, claiming that heartless “rich people” at the beach hate “the rest of us” and harass people who have no choice but to live in their cars…in sharp contrast with the deputy’s testimony that the majority of the people he and his fellow deputies encounter and warn about/cite for illegal camping are neither destitute nor homeless, but self-obsessed, “van life” adventure seekers, whose idea of freedom is mooching off of public services they can well afford to pay for….
And moiself? Oy vey. I’d not even considered filing a report about illegal camping.
I just want to go for a walk, anywhere it’s safe and legal to do so, and not get bitten.
* * *
Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week 
* * *
May you enjoy any/all outdoor activities free from dog (or human) harassment;
May you delight in observing online trolls but not in feeding them;
May you enrich the public discourse by coining a better word than “hippies”
to describe Gen Z…hippies;
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Or at least, channeling her spirit.
 And of course, Gladys Kravitz turned out to be spot on: Samantha Stevens *was* a witch. Despite promising her mortal husband Darrin that she would *not* use her powers, just about every episode of Bewitched involved Samantha using witchcraft to create unusual happenings, or to try to undo the wacky situations created by her witch and warlock relatives, who would make mysterious arrivals and departures and mess with the mortals. Mrs. Kravitz witnessed just enough to have her suspicions, which would always be explained away by Samantha or others. Yep, Mrs. Kravitz was a nosy neighbor, but her suspicious were correct, and she was gaslighted.
 Or I could say, “I was a runner,” but I never took my identity from that; I ran for enjoyment and exercise, as opposed to training for the Olympics or whatever.
 Unless the dog belongs to the runner and is also running because…well, it usually isn’t the dog’s idea.
 This is not to make yourself the alpha or assert dominance, but to get as much control of yourself and the situation as possible, and to make any cues you give the dog – “sit; down; stay; go home” as understandable as possible.
 The strategy used by one elderly gentleman, in a neighborhood I used to live in, when he was attacked by two free-roaming dogs when he was doing his early morning neighborhood rounds, delivering advertising flyers. The man and I had greeted each other when I went out for my morning run, and I was able to rescue him when I returned and saw that the dogs had treed – carred? – him.
 Or sometimes, doobies…as I notice when I pass the vehicles and they have the windows down.
 Many a person who has survived a dog attack says that the silent ones, who approach you steadily, are more dangerous than the barkers.
 That was my snarky thought, not his.
 The smell of citronella is irritating/offensive to dogs, but not harmful.
 Perhaps there is a Canine Psychic Intentions website I am unaware of.
 Those comments seemed to be related to other posters who focused on the illegal parking and camping situation, not the aggressive dog.
 “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists. No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.” Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, ffrf.org