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A year later, karma bites

Open Space
Derek Franz
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

The woman climbing the steep desert cliff made the only noise for several minutes even though there was a small crowd watching. I stood among the boulders at the base of the red wall with the others, hardly moving, listening to breaths on the breeze.

Then my pants were ripping as four teeth sank into the back of my knee.

I cursed in pain and surprise, jumping away from whatever it was that bit me from behind. A large black dog barked and strained against its leash to get at me again while everyone else scrambled to figure out what was happening.



I had failed to notice the dog under a rock I was standing in front of. There hadn’t been so much as a growl, which seemed strange and spooky. In retrospect, it might have been karma.

My girlfriend and I were climbing at the same cliff about a year ago. We had our new young dog, Soleille, and a guy came hiking up to us. Mandi was struggling on a climb, making sounds of distress, which seemed to make Soleille protective as the stranger approached.



Our 40-pound pup often rolls on her back to submit to wiener dogs and is mostly quite harmless. As the other climber got within 50 feet of us, however, her hackles raised, she growled and bared teeth.

“Hey, you should have that dog on a leash!” the stranger chastised. I knew he was right but I couldn’t do anything about it then because my hands were literally tied up, belaying Mandi on the climb. We had been tying Soleille up for most of the trip but her incessant whining eventually convinced us to trust her off-leash for the sake of our sanity.

When I know I’m in the wrong and already feel guilty, I don’t respond well to someone rubbing it in my face. The stranger stepped onto a soap box there on the trail and continued to make a theatrical production of the situation while Mandi struggled up the wall above us.

Out of immediate options, I raised my middle finger to the indignant character, who finally shut up and sauntered off. Once Mandi was back on the ground, I went over and apologized for everything. The man admitted he had exacerbated the issue and felt bad, too.

Until two weeks ago in almost the precise location as before, I had forgotten about the confrontation.

My first impulse was to attack the snarling mongrel with a rock. Fortunately, a cadre of cooing women was already flocking to my aid with medical kits – which works wonders for calming male fury – and I never picked up a stone.

The dog kept barking for some time since its owners were on a different climb about 100 feet away and had simply left it there. That might have been a lapse in judgment – they were the dog’s third set of owners and knew its temperament — but I couldn’t say I wouldn’t have made the same mistake.

An unleashed dog can be harmless, a leashed one can still be dangerous, and despite all the laws and good intentions, I have yet to meet a dog owner who follows perfect protocol at all times. Two-thirds of the time is more typical.

The only way to inspire much change in this behavior would be strict enforcement of laws with fascist consequences. Even then, we can only control an animal, or anything, so much.

There will always be occasions when we could have done better. Life is fluid and survival is a responsibility that ultimately lies with each individual. And karma is what we might call in polite company a female dog.

As for the woman who was climbing, she stayed focused and finished the climb without falling. That might be an example of when it’s smart to mind your own business even though you’re surrounded by hoopla that almost concerns you.

Live and let live. Karma will sort it out when least expected, so it’s best not to get in the way.

– “Open Space” appears on the second and fourth Friday of the month. Derek Franz writes for the Eagle Valley Enterprise and lives in Carbondale. He can be reached at dfranz@eaglevalleyenterprise. com.


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