"Don't worry. He's very friendly."
The freedom-loving mutt tears across the rolling lawn like a lightening bolt, ears flapping like a hummingbird and paws pounding the turf with the swagger of Secretariat.
As a recreational walker, however, how am I supposed to know whether I'm dealing with Toto or Cujo?
Inevitably, the dog's master barks out the kind-and-gentle disclaimer while walking with the canine's leash in his hand instead of having it attached to Man's Best Friend. The dog might not have the same innocent thoughts in his head.
While I'm all for animal health and fresh air, I think it is best manifested with man and beast joined together for their mutual benefit. I trudge through my neighborhood in latent fear that I will appear as a mobile chew stick to some dog who has had a bad day.
My experience with all of this activity usually happens in the late afternoon when people get home after a hard day's work. They're not in a really good mood and certainly the pets who have spent all day in the family homestead with only warm water, dried food and no company are not in the best of sorts either.
So enjoy your dog, your neighborhood and your exercise...but tie it all together with a leash.