My Fears Come Back To Me As A Surprise.

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..

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17 thoughts on “My Fears Come Back To Me As A Surprise.

  1. I’ll tell you a secret: I’m scared of dogs too. I have a dog, I love him to bits, he’s a maltese x shitzu and delightful, but if I was out walking and saw a dog I didn’t know without an owner I’d be scared too. And I’ve never been bitten. There’s a reason I don’t want to let Hubby get a big dog.

    I don’t know what to do to protect yourself on your walks, other than getting your own dog, which is a bit extreme. Plus here we’re not supposed to take dogs on the beach (council rule, but they actually have no jurisdiction). And I know how much you love your cats *grin*. I’d much rather a cat than a dog any day, but I love how the dog is with the kids.

  2. Wow… you’ve got a special affinity for dogs. And you’re right, being nervous of dogs is something dog owners can never understand and comprehend.

    Here in India the situation is made worse because of the large prevalence of stray dogs roaming the cities. In our new house, we have to keep the gate open because we have no space to park the car and a couple of strays keep coming and sleeping underneath.

    “Dog is a man’s best friend” is a load of bull. I’m always nervous when I’m walking on the road and I see dogs nearby. Pet dogs or not, they smell out your fear (maybe the chemicals which you release through sweat?) and they start chasing you.

    I try to be indifferent when trying to walk near dogs, but I am inwardly quaking all the time. I can totally relate to your experiences.

  3. If you’re close enough to pull on a dog’s legs then the dog is also close enough to get hold of your face, and dogs are faster when already in attack mode, much faster than people who first panic then have to remember what to do to defend themselves. I had my own dog put down the day after he turned on me during a training session. My injuries were not serious, he was just a puppy, but there were small children living in our street and if he attacked me when he was 10 months old I couldn’t risk raising him to full size and strength.I have never had another dog since.

  4. I’m a dog lover, but I’m also able to admit that I’ve been frightened of certain dogs I’ve come across.. it’s all about the temperament. They don’t have to be big either, I’ve seen many a little dog who has a scary look about them.

    My own chihuahuas wouldn’t hurt a fly, but I would never push someone into TRYING to be comfortable with them. If they’re not comfy, they’re not comfy, that’s that.

    As for keeping safe around dogs on the prowl, I’ve heard to avoid eye contact and keep walking at the same pace rather than breaking into a bolt. Don’t ask me where I heard that, but you never know.

  5. I’m scared of dogs too – and I grew up with blue cattle dogs and kelpies on the farm. I was bitten more than once by other farmer’s cranky dogs.

    I own two small dogs and have had them viciously attacked while on the lead by free ranging dogs – one was a staffordshire terrior, the other attacks were by large dogs.

    My son has been chased by angry dogs on his paper run…

    This list could get quite long…

    Pets should be kept under control or in their own yard (I object to cats killing blue tongues and birds in my yard) and pick up after them, please!


  6. I’m not surprised the folks didn’t want their dog put down, people tend to be ridiculous about dogs. I have seen stories where a pit bull kills or maims someone and numerous offers come in to adopt the ugly vicious beast!
    I have a mild-ish fear of dogs myself. I often carry a “weapon” if I think there’s a risk of dog attack. This might be a golf putter, a telescoping baton (my Italian son-in-law calls this thing a “guinea stick” and he got it for me!), or some other such thing. I’m thinking of getting some repellent.

    I am not a dog “lover.” I also do not hate dogs. The kids’ dog is lovely and I play with it, and so on. Stray dogs–I’d kill ’em all. Ditto dogs which are not “stray” but allowed to wander by their “loving” owners.

  7. It is one of the most unsettling things that happens when I’m out walking to hear a dog coming near me. While I love dogs heartily and have had one around me all my life (including the one who bit me in the ear when it was a pup, and someone else’s dog who bit me in the leg when I was about 3 or 4 years old), I kinda freak out when it happens.

    I should mention that if the dog is on a leash and is just curious about me, I’ll go over towards the dog and try to interact with it; the same can be said if I can see that it’s acting nicely and the owner is nearby.

    However, in a case like happened last week, where the people had a few dogs who started barking and running towards me, that’s when I get jumpy. Of course, they apologized; my only reaction was to say (under my breath) “don’t f–kin’ apologize, get a freaking leash for the dogs”.


  8. Wow. That’s quite the story. I love dogs, but i hate it when people do not have their dogs under control.

    I can’t believe that woman left you threatening messages. I mean, i guess i can believe it, but what the hell was wrong with her?

    It’s good for me to be reminded that not everyone sees dogs as friendly.

  9. What a terrible and frightening story. Here is what happened to my little 5-year-old nephew a few months ago:
    He was with his two older brothers playing in a fenced-in elementary school on the weekend, his dad just inside with a boy scout meeting. A man lets his two pit-bulls off-leash to run around IN THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL! One of the dogs charges at my nephew, who turns and runs away. The dog jumps on his back, and grabs him by the neck, and shakes him. My little nephew was taken to the ER to have his neck lacerations sewn up, and an x-ray showed a fractured vertebrae in his neck. I shudder to think how close to a true tragedy that was.

    The dog owner does not think he did anything wrong, because it was a fenced-in area he let the dogs run around in. Of course, it was a school yard with kids in it…

  10. Came here from Chani’s site….
    I am very sorry to hear about you experiences. I am a dog owner, and contrary to Hari’s claim I can understand your fear of dogs. I always put my mutt on a lead when I see someone coming and I keep a good eye on other people’s body behavior b/c I can usually tell if they are afraid or not. I will say that not all dogs will attack, truly and most that do attack are in areas they are familiar with (as seems to be the case with both of the ones who attacked you). Unfortunately however, we humans have bred dogs with attack genes for some time and people refuse to take the responsibilty and put down dangerous dogs. Your friend knew better and he acted completely wrong. He should have warned you about the dog and asked you to stay in the car and made sure his dog stayed in the house when he went to get that video.

    Here’s what I would reccommend:

    1)If you see dogs with owners off leash, yell at them to please put their dogs on leash b/c you are scared. If they insist their dog is friendly insist again that they put it on leash. Some owners are oblivious, unfortunately, so you will have to educate them. Most owners will comply even if they are surprised – as you mentioned before some are just oblivious but if you ask they will react appropriately.

    2)Purchase and carry a can of bear spray which should be available at any outdoor store. Buy two containers and use one to practice with so you can see how far it sprays. Then carry it and use it against any dog you feel threatened by. It will stop it in it’s tracks and in a few hours it should be back to normal (by which time you are out of there). I’ve used this stuff on bears & moose and I think it would be useful here – the quanitites in a pepper spray bottle for humans is not generally enough for a dog. If you have to use it, empty the entire bottle. You should be able to clip it or otherwise attach it to your belt or bag.

    And by the way, many kudos to you for standing up to your friend & his awful mother and making sure that dog got put down.

  11. Came here from Hari’s blog. You sure have had a hell of a time with dogs. And I support your decision to have had that dog put down. It must have needed a lot of determination to do so. I hope you lead a calmer and dog-free life in your future.

  12. i am am HUGE dog lover who seriously believes in leash laws. i NEVER let my dog (before she died)off leash in public. and she was properly trained(i hate it when people don’t bother to train dogs not to jump)and when people came over who were nervous of her i put her away in another room.

    i say get a can of pepper spray.

  13. oh man, I am very scared of the dogs.. I hate it when dog owners pretend as if you are strange to be scared of their dog!! My next door neighbor has two dogs that start barking at me each darn day I pull in the drive way.. and neighbors been living there for quite sometime now, but dogs don’t necessarily get that! and the neighbor keeps saying, they wont bite..they are good dogs! how does she know what the dogs mean when they bark at me? One day one of the dogs almost lunged at me and i jumped back in the car! its scary and I am thinking of calling the animal control officer and asking for suggestions…. I am the same way Snos, in my neigborhood, there are many people’s dogs just hanging out in the front yard with no leash and no owner in sight and going for walks has become a real problem.. I sympathize with you, and I would suggest calling the authorities on it! and definitely keep bear spray with you..

  14. Ian – The trouble is, some dogs become savage out of nowhere. They do it to protect themselves, it is the fight or flight thing. If you back them into a corner with no way out, they’ll sometimes attack. :(

    Kin – There’s a couple of dog owners here who have trained their dogs really well. I’ve been on the beach and what looked like a scary dog walking off the leash won’t even go near me – they look back at their owner and keep walking. They are curious and probably would like to approach me but have been trained not to.

    I think owning a big dog is ok if the owners are prepared to do the hard training work. It is hard work.

    Hari – I would be absolutely terrified in that situation. I was at the old house waiting for the landlord and two pit bulls were wandering the neighbourhood together, if I had a phone I would have called the RSPCA to pick them up.

    Is it possible to maybe get an electronic gate? They’re not nearly as expensive as they once were here, but I don’t know how much they would be there.

    River – That is one hard decision to make. You truly have some guts for doing that. Most people would have just given up on the training and allowed the dog to live.

    You know what though? The RSPCA often have excellent dogs available. It might be worth keeping an eye on their website. When I go there I just want to adopt everything I see.. especially greyhounds. I love a greyhound. He would not love my cats, though.

    Alynda – I know that you can safely be around a Cheetah as long as you don’t try to run. They have a chase, trip, bite reflex. I certainly don’t want to have to run at all.. I’m not fit enough yet!

    Ali – my cats are both indoor only cats because I do not want the wildlife harming them or them harming the wildlife. I once lost a cat to a snake bite. I love a blue tongue lizard, we had one in Tamworth which used to live in the backyard.

    Gerry – I agree with you, it is horrible how people want to allow their vicious dogs who have seriously maimed or even killed someone to live.

    I am thinking maybe a taser of some sort might be the best option however I would have no idea how to use it. I’m going to have to do some research into this, I think.

    Sephy – I like it when a dog approaches me tail wagging on a leash. I can handle that. I really would love to trust dogs more. I also would love to have one to walk. I just don’t see it in my future given the past. ;( Plus The Other Half is not keen on picking up the droppings.

    Meno – she was pure evil. And she left a LOT of messages before the police told her to quit. I wish I could see dogs as friendly but I just don’t know them well enough.

    I guess if dog owners took a moment think about it, if this were a stranger approaching them on the street, that would be pretty scary for a lot of people! ;)

    Daisy – that is outrageous! I hope the owner was dealt with by the proper authorities. :( A fractured vertebrae? Ouch, poor kid and that could have resulted in a much worse outcome. ;(

    Wayfarer Scientista – I think Hari was agreeing with me.. :) I live in Australia and we don’t have bears, so I don’t know how I could get the bear spray. Maybe it can be ordered over the internet? But customs might not allow it in, I’d have to check with them first I guess.. Thanks for the wonderful comment – you took some time to write that and I appreciate it. You have seen Bears and Moose live and close enough to spray with that stuff? And I thought dogs were scary! Bears just plain terrify me.

    Sudipta Chatterjee – Thanks for dropping over! ;) It was really difficult to stand up to the friend and his mother, but I knew it was the right thing to do. I think that was the first real time in my life that I stuck to my guns because it was right. I have been doing it ever since. ;)

    Christine – There are retractable leashes the owners can get which allow the dogs to run off a bit, say when you’re walking on a beach. I don’t know why people don’t make use of those, unless there are issues with dogs tangling things up around trees etc. Good on you for training your dog properly ;) That is not an easy thing to do.

    Pearl – I am going to add the local RSPCA number into my mobile phone, and call it when I see a dog wandering alone. Sometimes dogs do get out of yards and I understand that, but it is really scary to me. ;(

    Thanks for the comments everyone, I appreciate it! ;)

  15. You should be able to get bear spray over the internet…but I don’t know what the customs laws would be. Another idea I was thinking of is to buy yourself a slingshot and train yourself to use it (a piece of cardboard propped on a stump in the yard would work). When you feel you have good aim put a blown up picture of a dog on a wagon and have a friend run towards you with it so you can practice aiming at a moving target that looks a little like your fears. A good slingshot should be easy to carry and be effective in keeping a scary dog at bay (& if that owner doesn’t put their dog on leash tell them you will spray/slingshoot their dog if they don’t!).

    Oh – and yes, being charged by bears & moose is very scary but I tell you the bear spray does wonders (but your heart is still thudding in your mouth later).

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