There’s a 13.7 mile stretch of two lane highway that extends from the edge of León, Nicaragua to the Pacific coast to the beaches of Las Penitas and Poneloya. I travel this road frequently via bus but never on foot. The locals assured me it was a safe route….. but none of them mentioned – the dogs.
An unexpected encounter with an overly aggressive dog a few miles west of Sutiava, a neighborhood of León, Nicaragua, cut my scheduled training run of 8 miles down to 5 when a very fast and angry dog hurled itself at me from an intersecting dirt road.
It was 7 AM and the temperature had crept upwards of 90 degrees. I assumed the heat with occasional lewd cat calls from men were going to be the toughest obstacles for this route not overly aggressive four legged animals.
I left the house at 6:45 AM with a light backpack, 32 ounce camelback, and my keys to enjoy the city streets before they became crowded. By mile four I was already struggling. I was hot, thirsty, and slow but I as a rounded the corner it was a downhill stretch lifting my spirits. Suddenly a furry mass entered my peripheral vision and was coming straight towards me – it was a dog that had emerged from an intersecting street . My brain frantically began cycling through options in conjunction with random thoughts – What do I do? Look the dog in the eye? Don’t look? Run? Stop? Walk? Crawl? Throw rocks? Scream? Why didn’t I bring something with me for protection? Why is this road so isolated this morning? What am I doing in Nicaragua? Why didn’t I stay in bed this morning?
The highway between Leòn and Las Penitas.
I slowed to a walk and held my breath, hoping the dog did not sense my fear. He continued to bark savagely. He was close enough that I could feel his hot breath and spittle on my knees. I wanted to run but instinctively knew that probably was not the best thing to do. Suddenly he stopped and loped away. What just happened? Was he distracted? Who cares what happened – he’s gone. Yay! The moment of relief was short lived as I crossed to the other side of the street. He was coming back for round two and he had brought a friend. Oh no. One mad dog is scary but having them multiply is absolutely frightening. Luckily, they only followed me for 100 feet or so and then trotted away just as quickly as they appeared.
At this point I opted to return towards my apartment in a barrio of León, at a moderate walking pace. It’s better to abandon a run than end up mauled by a dog or if you’re unlucky – a pack.
I am learning more about Nicaragua every day. There are many unexpected surprises I have experienced while living in this developing nation. Living conditions and cultural differences are abundant. While doing some research I found some disturbing articles about dog attacks including one about a jogger mauled by pit bulls in California.
Defense sprays are illegal in Nicaragua, therefore, making protection a bit more challenging. I asked a local man how he handles unwanted attention from stray dogs. His response, “A backpack that has a brick stuffed inside”. I prefer something that will put a some distance between myself and the canine or whatever else I may encounter and have decided to make my own defense spray and found this video helpful and simple Homemade Pepper Spray.
I should consider myself lucky for all the miles logged and for the dogs that have not given me a second glance. Most lie down due to heat and hunger but there are more aggressive dogs here than I originally thought. Here are some dog Prevention Tips to help keep you safe. If you have had animal encounters or would like to share some suggestions, please leave a comment!