Metering Technician Woodee Manuel is no stranger to uncomfortable encounters with man’s best friend.
At least a few times each month, a family dog charges the TEP Metering Technician. He once received a bite to the back of the leg from a small but very persistent canine who squeezed out when the owner opened the door.
But one recent morning was particularly scary. He and an intern were tasked with exchanging a meter at a large property with an open fence. Even with Manuel’s 20 years of experience in the utility industry, it’s hard sometimes to tell if a dog is in the yard, and harder still to know if customers have dog doors.
Manuel, who himself has a shepherd-chow mix at home, received no answer to his knock on the door. He rattled equipment to make noise to see if a dog might bark. As they reached the meter on the side of the house, three large shepherds came lunging forward, snarling and barking.
Typically, he would have tried to fend off the dogs and back away to the truck. But a dog behaviorist had recently provided training to 60 Tucson employees so he drew on that recollection. He yelled to the intern to stay still while he took a step toward the dogs and yelled, “No.” To his surprise, they stopped. “Your inclination is to back away from the threat. When you think of three dogs running toward you at full speed, moving toward them was really counterintuitive.”
He kept his eyes trained on the dogs and told the intern to back away to the truck. As the owner came out to investigate the commotion, the three lunged again. He took two steps this time and yelled “No” louder. “They stopped again. As quick as it was, it felt like it was happening really slow and I remember thinking I couldn’t believe it was working.”
“Homeowners don’t intend for their pets to hurt us – in fact, I hear quite a bit that people think their dog is friendly and wouldn’t hurt anyone. But as much as we love them, dogs can be unpredictable so it’s best to guard against any possible confrontation,” he said.
Homeowners who are aware of an upcoming service call can help protect TEP employees by taking three precautions:
- Know where your pet is when a technician is on site
- Secure your pet or use a leash to help provide a safe distance for the work to be completed
- If dogs are left unattended, ensure they are separated from meters or other utility service areas by a safe distance
For Manuel, who has known colleagues over the years injured in similar attacks, it was a good outcome. He went home that night and shared the techniques with his family. “It was pretty intense and it could have gone really badly. I’m just glad I had the training to be able to act as deliberately as I did in that split second.”