I took my usual run down Orchard Lane, out onto Russell lane and then on to Forestville itself. I waved at the odd neighbour I’d become familiar with through my regular runs. Dogs barked at me from behind fences and ran the length of their properties. I turned back after twenty-five minutes. It was a baking summer afternoon and the journey back up to my girlfriend’s house would be a punishing 300ft climb in the heat.
I ran up Russell Lane and dug in for the steepest part of Orchard Lane. Just where the road changed from Tarmac to gravel, I heard a deep and unfamiliar woof. I looked up to see a massive Rottweiler bounding down towards me. Its docked tail gave me no indication of its mood — here was a real test of my supposed ability with animals. I decided to do what it would least expect: I kept on running towards it on a collision course.
I can’t recall which of us side-stepped the other, or perhaps it was both of us. I heard it scattering stones behind me as it turned. The barking continued and I heard it closing on me again. I shouted “Bad dog!” over my shoulder as it jumped and snapped at my heels. It ran past, turned, and ran at me again. It was the Beast who side-stepped this time, though my heart was pounding. I shouted some obscenities at it, which I hoped the owner might hear and call off the hound.
Towards the end, Orchard Lane turns into a steep-sided cutting, with impenetrable undergrowth on both sides: I was in a real fix if things turned nasty. But the path also dips slightly, so I upped my pace easily. Behind me, the Rottweiler’s pace seemed to slow and I could see the gate to Shannon’s property, which would mark the limit of this dog’s domain. The last thirty yards to the gate were uphill again, and as my pace slowed, the barking grew louder and the Beast streaked past me again, this time brushing my right leg.
It stood snarling and barking in front of the gate, ignoring the abuse I shouted at it. I ran past the car gate, through the open pedestrian entrance. After a couple of barks from its territory, it trotted back down the lane.
Neither Shannon nor her stepson — whose friend lives on Orchard Lane — knew who owned the Beast. A search in the car the next day revealed nothing either. I couldn’t afford to have this running route closed to me, but could I risk taking it with the Beast unleashed? Would it let me away with a second incursion into its territory?
Continued . . . Read The Beast of Orchard Lane (Part II)