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The Home Team Westport’s most dangerous place 

January 31, 2019

Austria avalanche kills 3; Ski patrollers killed in France (Washington Post, Jan. 13, 2019).

At 24, NFL player retires after his 6th concussion: ‘My well-being is more important’ (Today, Aug. 2, 2018).

Teen Surf Star Loses Arm in Shark Attack (ABC News, Nov. 3, 2003).

Yes, skiing in the Alps can be dangerous, I think we’d all agree. Ditto pro football in any NFL city. And make that double for big-wave surfing in Hawaii.

But why isn’t dog-walking in Westport’s Winslow Park on this list?

Last week, while playing fetch with Kemba at Compo Beach (what else would I be doing?), I ran into my friend Ana, a professional dog walker. I was surprised to see her with just one dog, her own Lucy, a 7-year-old Boxer/Pointer mix.

Usually she looks like the Pied Piper of Winslow (aka “the dog park” to most Westporters), with a whole pack trailing her. I was also surprised to see her right arm in a sling, which got us onto the subject of the perils of dog walking.

“I was doing my last walk of the day,” she told me, “with five well-behaved dogs. My easy group!”

They were on the lower trail at Winslow. The golden in her pack came running up from behind and clipped her on her right side.  She went down hard, putting her right arm out to break her fall. Instead, she broke her elbow — in two places.

The good news, Ana said, was that “all my dogs stayed right there with me, licking my face, waiting for me to finally get up.” And her story also featured a good Samaritan.

“When Mike, the guy I was walking with, realized there was no way I could drive, he drove all my dogs home, and then dropped me off at the ER.”

I felt bad for Ana, but she was talking to someone who just might be leading the league in dog-walking injuries.

Back in January 2015, when Kemba was a 5-month-old pup, I was walking him on an icy Vermont road, fell backwards on my head, and when I came to, he was perched on my chest, licking my face frantically. That was concussion No. 1.

In April 2017 in Winslow Park, two large white dogs running at full speed smashed into the back of my knees. Once again, I landed on my head and wound up in the Norwalk Hospital ER. Concussion No. 2.

Oh, and I’ve also just finished two months of physical therapy for nerve damage in my neck and pain radiating down my right shoulder and arm — primarily from throwing tennis balls to Kemba pretty much 24/7 — mostly at Winslow.

Ana and I are not the only victims, not by a long shot. Abby, a customer of hers, was also knocked down by two dogs a while back, and broke her ankle. And Ana’s friend Eric had to have hand surgery after breaking up a dog fight.

Ana also told me tales of a broken hip, a broken shoulder, and another concussion — all from collisions with dogs. All occurring at Winslow Park.

Last winter, my wife Carol took a header while skiing at Bromley Mountain in Vermont, suffered a bad concussion, and has since “retired” from skiing.

But think about it: She skied for some 45 years, and had one concussion. I’ve been walking Kemba for a little over four years and have had two, plus the shoulder injury.

So you tell me which is most dangerous.

“The Home Team” appears the first Friday of every month. You can also keep up with Hank’s adventures on his blog, “Beagle Man,” on the Westport News website, at: http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman/ To reach Hank, e-mail him at DoubleH50@gmail.com.

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