I have two dogs that I frequently walk around Cloverdale, which is a safe place to walk. There are raised sidewalks protecting us from the traffic. The town is generally well lit at night, and I walk in a combination of residential and business area. It’s not isolated and I’m comfortable walking my dogs around town at all hours. My dogs are big, and generally speaking anyone with ill intent to a woman would be stupid to stalk or attack a woman walking good sized dogs.
I’ve lived in Cloverdale all my life and have walked many dogs over the years, always big dogs, I’m not a little dog person. I always feel safe. Cloverdale is not a bad part of Surrey, the larger town that’s used as the mailing address. Aside from a few bad encounters with other dogs while on our walks, and some of the worst drivers around who barge through marked intersections and don’t care less about pedestrians, nothing bad has ever happened while dog walking. Or even overly odd.
A few months ago I had the most creepy experience I’ve ever had while walking my dogs – a border collie cross and a black lab, both about 80 pounds. I was walking on a sidewalk in the daylight, and a man crossed the street to get on the sidewalk to walk a little behind me. I didn’t think too much of it because the side he crossed from doesn’t have a raised cement sidewalk. The other side of the street just has a dirt shoulder, so it might be safer to stay on the side of the street with a sidewalk.
He was smoking a cigarette and I could smell it, so I decided to cross to the other side of the street. I’m highly allergic to smoke and I’m outside enjoying the fresh air with my dogs. Why should a smoker spoil my walk? I cross the street and go to the side where he’d just come from. I was nearing a condo building and the beginning of a raised cement sidewalk.
I was keeping a sideways look at the man and he steps off the sidewalk, walks on the street for a few seconds, and then follows me across the street. This was when I first began to feel uncomfortable. Why would he cross the street only to immediately cross back to the side he just came from? The only answer I can think of is because he’s decided to follow me.
I take quick inventory. I’m walking my dogs no differently than normal. I’m wearing walking shorts, a polo shirt and sneakers. I don’t carry a purse, a camera, iPod, money, or wear jewellery. I’m walking at a good pace. My dogs and I are not just sauntering along here. We’re out here for a purpose, and that’s to walk. There’s nothing distracting me.
I’m in a well populated area and it’s daytime so I’m not too concerned that I’m in danger. I reach the corner and turn left. My car is parked about a block up on the opposite side of the street. I continue walking and keep an eye on the creepy guy to see which side of the street he’s going to walk on. He turns the corner and walks along the sidewalk behind me. Seeing as how the traffic is clear, I pull my dogs across to the other side of the street.
You guessed it. Almost immediately he follows me to the opposite side of the street so he can stay behind me and my dogs.
Some people might be thinking I have an over-active imagination and the man needs to be on the same side of the street that I’m on. Maybe he lives in the apartment building just ahead. The one I parked my car in front of.
I probably wouldn’t have given him a second thought except for his original crossing the street to walk behind me and then immediately crossing back when I made my move. If he’d stayed on the side of the street he was already on, and then crossed to the other side of the next street, he’d have been nothing more than a man out for a walk going in the same general direction I was heading.
I approach my car and use the remote to unlock it, hustling my dogs to the driver’s side, closest to street traffic, giving creepy man the sidewalk all to himself.
As I drove away, creepy man was crossing the street at the 4 way stop, going straight. He did not go into the apartment building on the corner, the only thing that would have made sense to me to have him follow me across the street. Seeing as how he was still walking north, he could have remained on the opposite side of the street so as not to give off the creepy vibe.
Was he a stalker? A thief? A rapist? Or just a creepy guy who likes to make women nervous? I’ll never know for sure.
Here are 10 tips to keep safe while walking your dog, because defending your safety is up to you, not your dogs:
- Walk in a safe well-lit area where other people or residences are nearby and within shouting distance
- Stay vigilant. Keep an eye out for potential dangers (human, animals, or vehicles)
- Don’t wear valuables
- No chatting or texting on your phone – distracts you from danger
- Don’t carry cash
- Avoid carrying a purse, but a backpack might be OK
- Keep your cell phone in a pocket
- Carry mace if it’s a not so great neighborhood
- Don’t wear headphones – you can’t hear what’s going on around you and attracts thieves
- Walk confidently and look alert