Dear Police Force: My dive instructor was a state cop. When I asked him if he'd joined the force for the adventure, the excitement, he replied no, he wanted to change things, to help people.

I know you do a tough job, and most of you are in it for the same reasons the superheroes of our favorite films are: to make a positive difference in the world. But, as Spider-Man's Uncle Ben said, "With great power comes great responsibility."

Really, I don't buy your excuse for shooting the family dog. Nope, not a bit.

Dogs have been with us for thousands of years, and unless you have a primitive breed (like my Siberian Huskies) from a culture that didn't have livestock or other stuff to guard, you have a dog who understands its job is to guard its territory, its family and its resources.

With most dogs this takes the form of a good, solid warning bark, but even your Shih-Tzu will use its "super powers" (hearing and smell detection far beyond the human range) to alert you to possible danger. Many dogs will stare, advance, growl, assume a position that in the natural world is understood as a threat display.

Emphasis on "display." Even grizzly bears and moose (the real most dangerous animal in Alaska is the moose) will usually threaten first. An actual attack wastes energy and puts the attacker in danger of death or injury.

My friends and I put ourselves in the path of potentially aggressive dogs all the time. In cooler weather we do recreational mushing on local trails; in warmer weather we hike or do canicross with our dogs.


Let me tell you about the number of people who assume their beloved Rover is an obedience champion and let him (illegally) off lead, which causes Mr. Offlead to bound into the middle of our teams, wreaking havoc.

It has little to do with breed or type of dog. I've had a Golden Retriever jump into my team and start a loud and toothy discussion. The loose dog may be a young, overly enthusiastic dog, or a little one that pulled loose from Grandma, or a mostly well-behaved Pitty or Dobie, or a mutt walking with a guy who spends his entire hike shouting "Rover, come here" while Rover blithely ignores him. If your dog is on a leash, or as mine are, harnessed, they may feel threatened (by being restricted) and react more to any dog bounding into their midst.

I've learned to defend my team.

Now, if I was in Alaska, I'd carry a gun to drop that moose stomping into my team (it's happened to many mushers).

This is not the howling wilderness. And even there, you might not need a gun. I attended a sportsman's show where a guy did a program on grizzly bears ... with a live bear he'd raised himself. We're talking think fluffy pit bull the size of a horse. He advised hikers to carry pepper spray. Yep, pepper spray for grizzly bears, North America's top predator (actually omnivorous, but still hazardous if disturbed at its lunch).

I carry pepper spray, a whistle, dog spray and a hiking staff if hiking. A whistle blown in the face of a potentially aggressive animal (including the human sort) will give anyone pause. Dog sprays can be found at pet shops and are designed to stop aggressive dogs. The one I carry is citronella based, and my friends and I have used it on our own dogs ... it definitely stops whatever behavior they are engaged in, and doesn't hurt them (unlike pepper spray which is more virulent). A really big stick is a useful hiking tool (used like ski poles to propel you along) and can create a barrier between you and a pushy dog. (It can also be used to bap idiots upside the head for letting their dogs off lead. Ha ha, just kidding maybe.)

Seriously, there are many ways to deal with potentially dangerous situations. Those of us who grew up in an earlier age remember the lesson the Lone Ranger taught us with his silver bullets: Life is precious; don't shoot first and think later.

Our police force does a tough job, but maybe they need some education in a few areas. Not just dealing with potentially aggressive dogs, but with the mentally ill, with teens (let me tell you about the cop that harassed my well-behaved, intelligent young friend who had a minor traffic violation), with people of color, with everyone.

There is no room in our culture for gun in hand, brain in neutral.

— Teanna Byerts is a resident of Dover.