Pack of fear


A lunch date with a friend almost ended with the usual routine: the hug, the I’ll-call-you-soon, and the parting of ways to our respective cars. But my friend hesitated and stopped me from leaving. She confessed that she didn’t want  to go to the underground parking garage alone. Would I accompany her in exchange for a ride to my car?

I agreed to be her escort. Together we descended the crumbling steps and dodged water droplets leaking from rusted pipes to find her car in this shadowy dungeon. A place where Freddy Krueger and rats the size of small dogs were certain to roam.
As I wondered how she managed to get herself down here at all, she asked me if I had any fears or phobias.
I told her I don’t like spiders, but thought I might add underground parking garages to the list.

But today I encountered my No. 1 fear, one I had forgotten: 
Packs of feral dogs.
I was circling a block in a not-so-nice neighborhood (think abandoned houses stripped of siding and roofing, junked cars on lawns, groups of  shady characters huddled in alleys) looking for a potential preschool  for my daughter. My nerves were on high-alert. I was wondering if I had the wrong street. Why would a preschool be in this godforsaken place? Then three dark and dirty dogs darted into the street. I slammed on the brakes and  pulled to the curb.

I grabbed my cell phone. I watched the dogs run a zigzag course around the school playground. I saw a teen girl walking on the sidewalk about 500 feet away. She stopped and stared, too. I wanted to make sure there wasn’t an owner nearby, maybe just letting his pets run on the playground. But I already knew these lean and mean canines weren’t pets, or hadn’t been for a long time.

Nope. They were feral. I knew it by the  look in their eyes. I knew it by the way they ran. They were street dogs. I punched in the number to the local police department. I saw the girl on the sidewalk slowly walk  back to her house.

A bored dispatcher answered and took my message. I wasn’t too confident he’d patch through my request. Knowing these dogs were on the prowl and deciding that I’d never send my 3-year-old to school in such a neighborhood,  I tossed the brochure onto the car seat and drove away.

But I couldn’t get the image of those dogs out of my head. 

Feral dog packs are a huge problem in Detroit. We live one-half mile from the border.  In my mother’s neighborhood, which borders Detroit on the east end, wildife officials recently  confirmed the existence of an established coyote population.

When I lived in that neighborhood,  my best friend and I came upon a pack of five or six dogs.We were about 15 years old and walking after dark. The pack trotted down the center of the street. They picked up our scent and bolted to the sidewalk straight toward us. We ran, making it to my friend’s front lawn. She was pinned by the biggest of the pack. We both screamed. Her brother threw open the door. Flipped on the porch light. The dogs scattered.

We got away without a scratch. But we never liked to walk alone after dark again. And those dogs, they still roam.

They are everywhere.