Last week when I wanted to go to the beach I had a car to get there. I’ve given the car back now and this means in order to get to the beach, I have to walk 1.2kms along a couple of roads. I would have absolutely no problem doing this if I did not have a major fear of dogs.
I have this fear for a very good reason – I have been bitten twice already, and one of those was a major mauling that left me on crutches for a week. Yet people seem to think it is fine to let their dogs wander around without a leash or even without an owner present at all. They trust their dogs. I do not, and I do not think they should either.
If you have a fear of dogs, that can be enough right there to encourage them to bite you. No matter how wonderful Fluffy might be to your kids, your family and other animals on Fluffy’s own territory, when a dog is out on their own in the world, Fluffy can turn into a growling, snarling, biting beast in the right circumstances. If they feel threatened.
The first attack was so traumatizing and terrible that I still have trouble thinking about it – and you may have trouble reading about it. I apologise for that in advance, but let me write it and get it out, I’ll feel better.
I was 16 years old. I had a friend (yes, he was only a friend) who needed to drop back home and grab a couple of videos to return to the video shop before we went out somewhere. When he opened the front door the dog came running to me and I said to the dog “Hello, are you going to be nice to me today?” My friend said “No, he is not” right before the dog grabbed my thigh with his teeth.
He was a huge dog, well over a metre tall, a cross between a Labrador and German Shepherd. He knocked me to the ground and then he began attacking my left calf. I have to say I didn’t truly understand what was going on, I couldn’t feel any pain at all and I guess I was in shock.
My friend had the dog by the tail and was trying to pull him off, but the dog was far too strong. He told me to kick the dog with my other foot to help him get the dog away from me and I did what he asked, kicking the dog as hard as I could. The dog let go of that leg and proceeded to grab the ankle of the other leg.
Now it became a tug of war – my friend had the dog by the tail, I was trying to scrabble backwards away from the dog. You can see in the scars where the dogs teeth were, and where trying to get the dog off me only resulted in tearing the skin and making the bite marks worse.
After what seemed like forever, my friend managed to pull the dog away from me, and told me to get outside fast because he did not know if he could hold onto the dog. Stunned by the attack, I went outside and sat down on a wall. I was completely dazed but I could feel something cold in my shoe and something made me take the shoe off. I was once wearing white socks and I was shocked to see they were now a different color. I honestly could not believe I was bleeding because I felt no pain at all.
I could hear my friend yelling at the dog, and then I saw him get a rope and tie up the dogs mouth so the dog couldn’t open it. My friend came out with the videos and said “Let’s take these back”. Can you believe that? Seriously? He had just seen his dog attack me.
I said “No, I think you better take me to the hospital, because look at this” and I showed him my foot. We got in the car and all the way to the hospital he tried to convince me his dog was not dangerous and I should not say what happened or how I got the wounds. He knew something I did not know – his dog had attacked before.
When I got to the hospital I was starting to feel some pain. I hadn’t looked anywhere else for wounds. I only knew my foot was bleeding and I was too scared to take the sock off and see the wounds. I couldn’t put my shoe back on because my foot had begun to swell. They took me straight in when they saw my foot – leaving my friend outside – and asked me what happened. I told them the truth – a dog attacked me, but we all thought it was just my foot.
They had me on a bed and were looking at my foot (I couldn’t look) and then they wanted to cut my jeans but I didn’t want them to, so they asked me to get up and take the pants off – when I got up we saw a huge amount of blood left on the bed where my calf had been and then I began to freak out and asked them to call my parents. I could not look at my legs. The nurse began to clean the wounds and that is when the pain came to me as a surprise. I asked her to give me something for the pain and then let that kick in before she went back to cleaning the wound.
They gave me a shot of morphine. Now I understand what all the fuss is about with that drug. It was totally wonderful. They took me for x-rays and they’d given me a bunch of magazines which, my mother tells me, I tried to give out to all the other patients waiting for x-rays. I do not remember it. In fact I don’t remember anything after they gave me that shot.
The next day I woke up in a world of pain. This had happened on a Friday so I had the weekend to recover, because my mother thought I should go to school on Monday. She was obsessed with not missing a day of school. The trouble was, I could not walk. The hospital had sent crutches home and I needed them but the trouble was, both legs were injured. I had to pick the least painful one to walk on. That was the leg with the injured calf because the ankle was less damaged but a lot more painful. Walking on it caused the puncture wounds to re-open themselves. My scars are a lot worse because I couldn’t miss a week of school. ;(
I had not seen the wounds due to the morphine shot but the police arrived to take photographs and a police report on Saturday – the hospital had reported the attack. So Mum took the bandages off and I was horrified at what I saw. My left calf had four large holes in it. My right ankle was twice the size it should have been, and there were long scars around it. I had a large puncture hole in my right foot and a large puncture hole in my right thigh, where the dog first bit me. My shoes which were leather Dr Martens had a big hole in them, my jeans had a lot of holes in them.
I had to fight my friend’s family for months to get that dog put down. I did it because I knew there were a lot of little kids who lived in the street this dog lived in, and also just a short walk away there were many elderly people living in a retirement village and nursing home.
My friend left long, sad messages begging me not to have his beloved pet murdered. His mother left nasty, threatening messages which I also gave to the police. That woman was a real piece of work, threatening a 16 year old who had been attacked by her dog!
I did not have to fight the council – they agreed that the dog should be put down because it was very dangerous and had attacked two other people – and one other dog – previously. Usually with the council it is a three strikes and you’re out policy.
When I found out one of the previously attacked people was an elderly person from that retirement village, and the other was a young girl who was in her own yard bouncing on a trampoline and the dog got in there and attacked her, I knew I had to fight to have that dog put down.
Even worse, I now discovered I had a real fear of dogs. People gave me all kinds of stupid advice – for example, if a dog is attacking you grab its front legs and pull them outwards, it will kill the dog. I just did not want to go near any of them. I would not visit friends who had dogs.
If I saw someone walking a dog when I was out, I would turn and go the other way. If someone walked a dog without a leash and the dog approached me, I would be terrified. Dogs can tell. They can pick that up – and that alone can make them attack you.
If they are on their property and someone they do not know is walking (or cycling) past, they can take off like a rocket and attack them. That’s what happened to me on the second attack. A dog who had not previously hurt anyone did not like bicycles, and I was delivering mail for the post office – on a bicycle.
When I saw that dog – a blue heeler cross kelpie – running towards me barking, I decided I didn’t want to stick around and find out what it wanted. It chased me and bit me, I’m embarrassed to admit, on the butt, it then retreated a little and was barking and growling. My bike and I fell over, and I started picking up mail and throwing it at the dog to keep it away from me.
The owners arrived, grabbed their dog and apologised deeply. They took the dog inside and then told me to go inside while they called the post office to collect me. As I walked in the dog had somehow got out from where they put it and it ran towards me barking. I opened the first available door and it was a bedroom – I ran in there and jumped on the bed.
Had that dog attacked me, I was now ready to attack it right back, I was terrified but also furious. The owners retrieved their dog and locked it away. The post office was called, I was picked up and taken to the hospital for more wound cleaning and more shots. I never went back to work for the post office again. I was just too scared.
So this left me in a place where I could not be around dogs at all, for quite a while. Then some good friends of mine had a huge big dog that scared me just to look at it, but he was such a puppydog. If you approached him he would lay down and wait for you to rub his belly. He was also a lap dog and if he liked you he would sit on you. I loved that dog but was still fearful of other dogs.
I still find it difficult today when dogs I don’t know are wandering around off the leash. It is not fair when people do that. The first thing they will say to you when their strange dog who you have never met before walks up to you is always “Don’t worry about him/her, he/she won’t bite you.”
How about they give a seconds thought to worrying about me and how I might feel? How about they give a seconds thought to what would happen if their dog did actually attack someone? How about they be a responsible pet owner and put their dog on a leash? It is possible for your dog to attack someone. It can happen. It does happen.
So I have thought of ways I could protect myself in case a dog did venture too close and there is no owner to be seen but so far I have not been able to think of anything other than getting a gun, or mace, or something loony like that. I mean I would probably hurt myself more with a gun than a dog ever could hurt me, and I would not be comfortable owning one or learning to shoot.
It is insane that I have to sit here and try to come up with a way to protect myself, just in case. But I won’t feel good about walking or cycling near houses until I have an action plan for this, I think.
I am less scared of snakes than I am of dogs. That is mainly because I know they’re not going to attack me unless provoked and I have a plan of how to deal with finding one when out on a walk.
Any ideas? Other than pulling the dogs legs apart which causes bones to break and pierce their heart, I mean. Cos I don’t think that is true at all and I don’t want to be in a position where I have to find out..