I have a bad habit.
I like to talk to strangers.
Maybe that seems sweet, even endearing to you.
But I’m here to tell you that I’m pretty sure I was targeted by a serial killer yesterday.
It all started when I took my unsuspecting pups, Bonzer and Tucker, to a new dog park. We just moved to Texas, and our furniture has been delayed in arriving to our new apartment–which means we have a grand total of two camping chairs and an inflatable air mattress in our home. That’s it.
As I contemplated the day’s activities before me yesterday morning, I had a choice between A) Reading the 10th book in 4 days, B) Color-coding my husband’s clothes, and C) Searching for a dog park that would entertain my perpetually wound-up Australian Shepherds.
I went with option C. And after trekking to the local library to access the internet (and pick up 3 new books to devour), I found a brand-new dog park only a few miles from me.
We hopped in the car, leashes and water bottles in tow, and explored the new park. The dogs ran around wildly, splashing in a lovely pond, barking and rolling around in the dirt with others dogs. It was when Tucker started playing with a strange-looking dog that resembled a hyena-wolf mix that I jogged over to make sure he wouldn’t be mauled to death by this creepy-looking animal.
Now, I’ll be honest–I’m not sure what a “wild jackal” looks like. But I think that’s what Tucker was playing with yesterday at the park.
As I jogged over to the hyena-wolf-jackal, I noticed a middle-aged man standing in the shadows of a grove of trees. As I walked over, he emerged from his hiding place and said hello to me. Not wanting to be rude, I returned the greeting and asked him if he was the owner of the hyena-wolf-jackal. He nodded, saying, “Oh yes, that’s Gene, my good ol’ boy.”
I looked at the dog, now stalking Tucker across the dog park like a lion stalking an impala in the African sahara. “Oh”, I said, trying not to sound concerned, “What kind of dog is he?”
His own looked at him and smiled. “He’s a terrier mix. Sweet lil’ thing, isn’t he?”
Dog expert I am not, but this was no terrier mix…unless Satan himself bred his own line of terriers and let these hounds of terror loose on humankind.
Despite me walking across the dog park in what would surely be a futile attempt to save my puppy from the jaws of certain death, this fellow followed me. I politely answered his questions, deflecting his more personal questions like, “So, where do you live? How long have you lived here? What do you do? Where did you go to college? Where do you hang out?” with vague answers. I was getting a weird vibe from this quirky man, who doggedly pursued me across the park.
After fifteen minutes of small talk–in which the Mystery Man gave me his whole life story, tried to get my number, and tried to get me to head to his car with him to give me a “CD”–I was desperate to get away from him. I pulled out Tucker’s favorite toy, a soft frisbee, from my purse.
“Oh!”, cackled my unwanted friend, “You’re a creative girl, aren’t you? Yes, you most certainly are! Oh, boy, I knew I liked you!”
Something about this phrase, “I knew I liked you!” rang out in my head with warning bells. Suddenly, I realized that I living out what was likely to be the opening scene in a Criminal Minds, Season 8 episode, where the serial killer stalks unsuspecting women at a local dog park.
One that I wouldn’t even be able to enjoy, as I rotted in a shallow unmarked grave in the far end of the park.
It was at that precise moment that Gene–the Hound from Hades–turned his attention on me. I stumbled back as he lunged at me, sailing through the air to snatch Tucker’s toy out of my hand. He sprinted to mangle the toy under a bench, snapping ferociously at Tucker when he tried to retrieve his toy.
I tried to get it back, but decided my hands were probably more precious than a $4.99 dog toy. So I asked Mr. Serial Killer to get my toy back.
“Well”, he said hopefully, looking me up and down, “I could just give this toy back to you next time we meet up.”
Criminal Minds indeed.
I decided it was time for Operation Escape-With-Your-Life. Claiming that my other dog looked “exhausted”, I bolted to him with some water and then ran around the park with him, refusing to stay stationary so I couldn’t get cornered. Eventually, after attempting to talk to me several times, my serial killer friend begrudgingly exited the park with his beast.
Once the coast was clear, I booked it out of the dog park with my puppies, checking my rearview mirror the whole way home to make sure I wasn’t being followed.
I thwarted the serial killer this time. Let’s hope I’m just as lucky the next time I take my dogs out for a trip to the dog park.
Let that be a lesson, kids–don’t talk to strangers with pet jackals.