01 February 2023

A Danger Nobody Talks About

When I delivered newspapers on my department-store Murray bike (shh...Don't tell anybody), I carried a can of pepper spray.  I wasn't worried about being robbed or jumped--not by humans, anyway. 

In the then-still-smalltown New Jersey where my family moved in the middle of my puberty (talk about changes!), many yards were unfenced and dogs roamed them--and outside them--freely.  Most were friendly or at least non-aggressive.  But every once in a while, one would violate any sense of personal space I had or even give chase.

Being young, I could outride them. But once, an Irish wolfhound managed to set on me before I could take off.  I was lucky, I guess:  the dog's teeth scraped me just above my hip but didn't leave me with a deep or serious wound.  

Justin Gilstrap is not so lucky.  The 11-year-old was riding his bike near his Georgia home when, according to reports, three Pit Bulls set on him and dragged him into a ditch on the side of the road.  Now he's missing part of his ear and 70 percent of his scalp.

The dogs have been euthanized and Justin’s family is suing their owners.  One can only hope that he has a good recovery.


  1. My own newspaper delivery history had just a couple of such dog encounters, but only one left a lifelong scar. That was from a dog inside a house when I was collecting. Ralph was a large German Shepherd who did not like visitors and he sneaked up from the garage just after I had taken off my gloves to handle the money. He lunged from behind the customer and bit into my right hand then, thankfully, switched to my arm which was well padded with a heavy coat.

    The only feral dog encounter I had was early one morning near the end of a street that led to a path into the woods. I had returned to my bike and was ready to head back home when three dogs tried to surround me. I was lucky enough to be able to position myself behind my bike with my back to a parked car and there we stood in a stalemate for around 20 minutes until the pack got bored and wandered away.

  2. Anon--Did that German Shepherd know you were collecting?

    The feral dog encounter sounds scary. But you did what, I think, is the only thing you can do in such an incident: Outwait the animals.