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Going to the dogs

Chris Puglia
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 09/02) - Every job has its hazards but some may not be as obvious as others.

Police officers, miners, firefighters, all these professions come with pretty obvious risks. But, what if you were a meter reader with Northland Utilities?

At first glance, recording numbers off a utility meter sounds like a pretty secure and stress-free summer job.

But many of us don't know the dangers that may lurk in our own backyards.

The furry canine pet that we have come to know and love may not be man's best friend when it comes to the faithful meter reader who enters your yard on a regular basis.

Janell Mueller, with Northland utilities, started as the companies summer meter reader back in May.

Coming up to Yellowknife, where her parents live, from Calgary she says she has wanted to work for Northland Utilities for quite sometime.

This year the 21-year-old, who attends Mount Royal College in Calgary, got that wish, and although she enjoys it, she has to be careful when it comes to the yards she enters to do her job.

"Every time you go into a yard you have to be aware of your surroundings," she says.

She recalls one incident last week where a dog chased her out of his drive way and into the middle of the street.

But for the most part she says the dogs she meets are generally friendly.

"You have a dog barking and they sound really loud and really mean, but they are just as nice as can be," she says.

What is important to remember, she adds, is you are entering their domain.

"When I first approach a dog I kind of test the waters, most of them when you let them acknowledge you they cuddle up to you," says Mueller. "You're going into their domain.

Craig Yeo, who is on Mueller's route recalls a time when he let his large dogs out into the yard not knowing she was there.

Mueller who stands 5'6" tall says she remembers the dogs being a little intimidating but they ended up being extremely friendly.

"They jumped up on me and they were taller then I am," she says. "They were really friendly, I think they just wanted attention.

Overall she has not had any serious encounters with dogs, she has not been bit or forced to leap a six-foot fence in a single bound.

She was forced to climb down a the side of a raised deck however when a dog let her in but was unwilling to let her leave.

"I've been pretty fortunate, I try to keep myself out of those situations," she says.

Luckily the meter reader before her also ensured she was aware of what dogs she should avoid.

Although Mueller has never been injured by a dog, she has sustained wounds in the line of duty. "I was attacked by hornets once. I was reaching over the fence and jiggling it to get it open and there was a hidden nest and before I knew it they started stinging me," she says.