My dog got attacked yesterday. We hadn’t even left our own driveway. I saw the dog walking toward us from across the street and didn’t know it was going to be so awful that I would blank out a portion of it from my memory. He wasn’t racing toward us, he wasn’t barking, he was simply trotting toward us, as if to say hello. I knew the dog, he belongs to the family that lives in the house in front of us. We walk past this dog every single day, multiple times a day, as he barks at us from behind his fence. I’ve gone over to the side of their yard where the dog can see me to get him used to me and my dogs in an effort to make him more comfortable, to help him relax, to let him know that we are friends, not foes. I’ve spoken to the owner to find out more about the dog, is he good with other dogs? They said he’s pretty good, they used to take him to the dog park all the time and he lives with three other small dogs.
I feel scared, defeated, frustrated, angry, I have an ache in the pit of my stomach. Vivi (my 3 year old standard poodle) is doing great. The emergency vet said she was extremely lucky, as it appeared the “dog went in for the kill.” There were no puncture wounds on Vivi’s throat, just extreme bruising, some swelling, and surface abrasions that were shaved and cleaned up. The vet said, “she will be fine.” But will she? The physical wounds will heel, but what about the psychological impact of the attack? That has yet to be determined….
My mind continues to spin as I replay the incident in my head and tell my story to family and friends. It was a surreal experience that lasted for what felt like an eternity. The neighbors helped out, the owner came rushing out of his house to grab his dog who had my dog by the throat and would not let go. I did all the things that you are supposed to do in a dog fight, all the things that I coach my clients to do in a dog fight, yet Vivi continued to yelp in pain. I had enough time to yell for help and tell other people what to do. I had the foresight to avoid sticking my hand near the dog’s face to get him to let go, as he wasn’t even wearing a collar. We had the dog by the hind legs, we got the hose and sprayed his head with water. Then all bets were off as we resorted to physical pain to get this dog to stop. Finally it ended with the assistance of the owner. Adrenaline coursed through my body like I had never experienced before. I picked up my 50 pound dog and walked back to the safety of my home, as my daughter rushed out of our house, closed our front gate, locking out all the hysteria of the neighbors. I gently set my dog down, not realizing that we were both soaking wet from the hose and that I couldn’t even see out of my glasses. The examination of my dog began and all I thought about is “where is the blood? Is she breathing?” No words were spoken as Vivi leaned into me, the two of us breathing heavily, me still shaking. She licked my face, as she always does, and I stopped to take some big breaths of air as she simultaneously stopped to shake herself off. Blood was minimal, my heart calmed, and so did hers. We sat frozen in time, and I never felt so connected to this dog as I did in that moment.
She sits next to me now, still wanting to start the day off by some ball throwing, even though she is on pain medication and antibiotics….amazing, simply amazing. More thoughts course through my mind, as my dog trainer brain still processes the outcome of the attack and the recovery process that has yet to even begin. For me, the worst part of all of this is twofold: first, will Vivi still be the same? How long will it take to get her back on track? Can she be “fixed?” Am I capable of giving her the guidance that I know she needs? Or am I too scared? These words sound so familiar to me that it’s frightening. They are the questions that my clients ask me on a daily basis, as I work with their fearful dogs. The second part is that the dog that attacked Vivi is a 6 year old in tact pit bull. Did it have to be a pit? Did I have to witness the strength of his jaw and the lock that he had on my dog? When I was checking out at the emergency clinic and walking away with Vivi and her freshly shaved neck, people asked what had happened. They asked what kind of dog did this? I found I couldn’t tell them the truth. I didn’t want to perpetuate the stereotype.
My neighbor, who owns the dog, was also very distraught and extremely remorseful about the incident. His dogs got out by accident because a gate wasn’t properly shut. He willingly covered the cost of the medical care and was trying to speak with me throughout the day. He has already decided to get rid of the dog and told all the neighbors as well. One would think I would be happy, but I’m not. I’m not happy because the fate of this dog was determined in a split second, a blink of an eye. The owner believes he is being responsible and doing the right thing by helping me out and re-homing the dog. What he fails to understand is that HE had a large part in what happened between our dogs. Yes, his dog could be predisposed to this kind of attack, but it’s a combination of nature and nurture that determines a dog’s overall temperament. The nurturing part is OUR responsibility as dog owners. It is not enough to provide exercise, food, water, and shelter for our dogs. We OWE it to them to understand and meet their mental and emotional needs, as well. Until the public becomes properly educated on how to do this, I know I will continue to play my part in helping people understand the beautiful gifts dogs give us and the lessons they can teach us every day.
Vivi is patiently waiting for me to throw the ball for her. I’m going to meet her need to play, since she met my need of being patient.