Yesterday I was walking Z in the very early morning. Pre-dawn, but not so pre-dawn that it was still dark. I’d taken her up a white sandy road that led past the dumpsters out of the campground. The road had a “No Vehicles” sign posted but no other signs, so I wasn’t sure where it led, but since we were just walking for the sake of walking, it didn’t matter to me.

It felt incredibly lovely. The still of the early morning, nothing manmade in sight except for the road itself, just me and Z, alone in the world. And then I saw a flash of dog, tall dog, just a glimpse of leg and tail, crossing the path a long way in front of us.

Dang it.

You never know with off-leash dogs—are they off-leash because their owners have trained them well or are they off-leash because their owners are terrible owners? Zelda is a Jack Russell terrier, which means she is genetically incapable of backing down from a fight. If she decides a dog is a threat, she’ll get aggressive and size won’t deter her. Although she’s never gotten into a fight with a dog smaller than her, only dogs bigger than her, so I guess size does deter her, just not in a fearful way. But I’m wary about bringing her near strange off-leash dogs that she might decide need to be taught a lesson.

I paused and the dog disappeared. It looked like it disappeared into the brush, but that seemed unlikely, so I decided the road must have a path I couldn’t see leading off it. And since the dog and its owner were moving on, they were not a problem.

I kept walking. It was grey and chilly, at least by Florida standards, but I was enjoying the cool air and the brush of moisture in the fog… and then I saw dogs again.

Three of them. Tall, skinny, and a matched set, all a sort of grey brown with flags of white on their tails. Someone had a pack of dogs.

A pack of dogs that they were letting run off leash.

In a state park.

In fact, in a wilderness area.

Yeah, I don’t think so.

I stopped walking.

Two of the dogs disappeared into the brush, but the third stood where it was and stared at me. I stared back.

It wasn’t really close, not so close that I felt immediately threatened. And I did, in fact, have a little mental debate of whether I wanted to keep going on the path that I had been so enjoying and trust that I would scare it/them off. Coyotes are not known for attacking people.

But — my mental thought process went — coyotes are known for taking small animals and I am walking with a small animal that I love very much and that would never back down from a fight, even if it was with a pack of coyotes. And I am not the biggest of human beings myself. I’m not short, but I don’t think anyone would ever suggest that I could be threatening. Even to dogs. And these weren’t small dogs, they were definitely long-legged and tall. And like I said, skinny, so maybe they were hungry. Also out in daylight, even if maybe they were headed home after a night of hunting, but still… daylight plus night-time predators has at least the potential of meaning hungry predators.

So I took some careful steps backwards, not letting my eyes off the watchful coyote and then turned around and walked back to the campground. Zelda and I took the rest of our walk around the paved loop of the campground, admiring our neighbor’s various vehicles and tents and appreciating the day from a carefully sanitized distance.