Vermont: Is it dog friendly?

A Rant about the Dogs of Montpelier,

or rather about their irresponsible owners


“Oh but Vermont is so dog friendly! You see them everywhere!” That’s what I’m told repeatedly by locals.

This morning, a Great Dane corners me and my two dogs on a street near my home. His owner says the dog is friendly, don’t worry. She calls him. He keeps on charging at us. I back up, further away but the Great Dane keeps coming at us.

I tell her that my dogs don’t like off-leash dogs lunging at me. They’ll react. “I’m doing my best,” I tell her “but please, get your dog under control.”

She calls her dog, he doesn’t come to her.


This morning, a Pyrenees charges at me and my two dogs on a street near my home. The owners are inside. The dog is outside, a bark deep as the Rio Grande, jumping in place. I freeze. My two dogs flinch, scared and fearful of such a huge dog threatening us. The owners stay inside.


Since moving here, a year ago, my dogs and I have been charged at, cornered, and lunged at while owners have called, “oh he’s just being friendly.”

  • Another Great Dane pulled her owner off her feet to charge at us. “She’s a puppy, it’s okay,” claimed the woman helplessly.
  • A huge black lab ripped himself off his rope and cornered me against a lamp post while a man, his owner presumably, sat on the deck and didn’t react. Luckily my dogs weren’t with me as this one pushed at me, nipping me, keeping me in place until a woman came out of the house telling me how friendly the dog is. “This is not friendly behavior,” I said evenly while the dog had me stuck in place.
  • A white lab pulled his owner off her feet as she yelled at me that it was all my fault and her dog was under control and fuck you bitch she screamed. She is a neighbor.
  • Two standard poodles charge at us each time they see us on the street where we live. Walks are timed to when these two are locked inside their house.
  • A German Shephard charges at me at work one day and bites my knee from behind, ripping through the Carhartt’s thick material to leave puncture wounds and a large fist sized bruise that lasted ten days. The owner tells me that he’s done it before.


Responsible. The ability to respond.

I’d add, the desire to respond.

My dogs now are reactive to others. Before we moved here, they loved to see and play with other dogs. Nowadays, it’s a different story. One that will take consistent monitoring and work on my behalf. They cringe and bark and defend me as these oh-so-friendly dogs charge at us, scare us, corner us. I don’t blame them. I feel the same way. I’d love to yell and scream and scare the fuck out of these dogs and their humans.

I don’t.

These owners do nothing either. Not one of these owners has apologized. Instead they turn it around, blaming my dogs for reacting and barking back, for trying to keep me safe. They claim these dogs of theirs are friendly. One even screamed at me outside her home. These examples above are not the only times, I could list many more times that we’ve been threatened.

I don’t agree that Vermont is such a dog-friendly place. Apparently, I have a different understanding of how to be a responsible dog owner. I’m doing my best for my dogs but it’s not easy.


2 thoughts on “Vermont: Is it dog friendly?

  1. Sarah!
    How are you? Other than the “friendly” dogs.
    Missed you at Overland Expo!
    Okay, you got me started…
    I lived in SF and would run through the Presidio to Baker Beach nearly every day. Dog owners and their walkers loved that route, too, and often there would be four or five of them with 6 dogs each, mostly off-leash, often chatting in a group.
    Lots of those dogs loved to PLAY with me by oh in the most friendly way of course and I’d end up with scratches and dirt all over myself because when one dog got excited, well… let the games begin.
    Lots of apologies of course but when I suggested they control their pack of – let me count – 24 dogs by (gasp) keeping them on leashes, as per SF law, they became hostile.
    Even the owner of the dog who jumped on me as I was meditating, eyes closed, at the end of Baker Beach one foggy morning, ugh. I thought I’d been attacked by a gang of rapists or something. The dog just “liked me” said the owner, as I trembled and sobbed in relief, and when he said that, well, in an adreneline-fuled fury I punched him in the stomach and fled.
    A week later I was cornered at the other end of the beach by a pit bull with a barely audible growl and show of teeth. Yes, he liked me, too.
    I started carrying pepper spray and I called the cops on them every time.
    After several incidents with pepper spray – one aimed at a hostile dog walker – and grumpy motorcycle cops who hated having to park at the end of the street and trudge through the Presidio (a forest in SF) to find these people, the problem lessened, but my hikes and runs became less enjoyable as the hostility against me grew.
    Bad me, for not wanting to be attacked – in the friendliest of ways, of course – by packs of dogs.
    Hang in there. And carry pepper spray. And call the cops. Really, there are laws against this and for good reason.
    Hope to see you on the road!
    Best, Carla


    1. All so real, thanks for writing about it. I’m going to get some spray and carry it on the dog’s leash so I don’t forget. I’m moving back to NM soon luckily.


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