Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Horrifying Reality of a Dog Attack

It happened so quickly.

I'd brought my happy dog out for a walk in the deep, soft snow - something he always adores - and we were just on our way home from the off-leash park. I clipped him back onto his leash for the walk home through the neighborhood streets.

My dog had just bounced back to his feet from a playful snout-first romp in the snow, when out of the corner of my eyes I saw a blurry flash.

Then I heard a scream.

A scream that came from my dog, who had been knocked down by two big shepherd cross dogs who had appeared out of nowhere to attack him.

Until you actually experience it - and I hope you never do - you don't know how horrifying it is to hear your dog yelping and screaming in fear and pain. My dog is only about 30 pounds; a happy little guy who was minding his own business when he was attacked for absolutely no reason other than the fact that he was there.

I don't know how long the attack lasted. It was probably only about 5 minutes, but it seemed like forever. My mind was a jumbled mess of rage and fear, and it seemed like my dog's yelps of pain were piercing my brain and stabbing straight into my heart. I punched and kicked and yelled - but the dogs just kept coming.

The owner of the shepherds finally heard the commotion and came running out. He tore his dogs away and chained them up at his house, which was across the street on the other side of a small park. Later on, he said that even though he knew his dogs were animal-aggressive, he didn't think anyone would be out walking in that kind of weather!

My dog was lucky. He was shaking, but he didn't have any serious physical injuries. In fact, having the bouncy happy personality that he does, he was rolling in the snow in our backyard about an hour after his attack. He yelped in pain at one point and stopped.

I took him to the vet who checked him over and gave him some antibiotics. My dog is pretty hairy so it's very hard to locate puncture wounds, even for the vet. When we got home I slowly and carefully checked him over and found 15 puncture wounds, two of which were quite bad. His right side was extremely sore.

The owners of the shepherds paid the vet bills in full. They admitted that it was their fault. At the same time, they also tried to persuade us not to file a complaint. We did anyways, and they were fined for allowing their dogs to run at large.

Intervention usually won't work if a dog is aggressive and is going to attack. It happens blindingly fast, so fast that initially your mind just can't comprehend what's actually happening.

If you're unfortunate enough to have it happen to your own dog:

Do NOT pick up your dog in an effort to protect him. The attacking dog may leap at you instead (in a bid to get at your dog) and you may be seriously injured just for 'being in the way'. If you are hurt, you won't be able to help your dog.
Soothe and comfort your dog as best you can afterwards - but be careful. Dogs that are fearful or in pain may bite - even if they're normally very gentle.
Get the names and phone numbers of any witnesses - or if your dog is severely injured and in need of immediate vet care, consider telling them your address and asking that they drop off their names and numbers there.
Note any details you can about the dogs, where they live, and their owner.
Note the day and the time.
Get your dog to the vet - even if he doesn't show any external signs of injury. Better to be safe than sorry.
File a complaint with the local animal control officers as soon as you can. Even if the owners apologize, pay the vet bill, seem like nice people ... file a complaint. If the dog has a history of aggressiveness, animal control can make a decision on what additional steps they may need to take. If yours is the first complaint then it's on file should anything ever happen again.
Pets that are known to be aggressive should never be given the chance to exercise their aggressive tendencies. Owners need to keep these pets securely leashed and under control at all times.

So if you or your pet are attacked, don't feel guilty about reporting the incident - no matter how apologetic the owners are, or how nice they seem. You're doing your part in helping to keep others safe.

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