Who Let the Dogs Out?

The popular lyrics, “Who let the dogs out?” once brought grins. Now, it”s more likely to solicit my grimace. After my dog, Sebastian, was attacked twice in the last month those words take on a darker meaning.

These incidents come on the heels of an Antioch friend witnessing their beloved pet mauled to death in front of their home by a pit bull a few months back. Add some chilling statistics: Nationally, reported dog attacks doubled in the last fifteen years, topping one million people yearly. Over one third, one thousand people daily, end up in emergency wards; half of them with face bites.

An estimated 27,000 dogs live in Antioch. About 40% of all households own one or more dogs. Here’s the tale of two; more precisely, of two Masters. It’s fascinating what you learn about human character and psychology from reaction to their dog attacking.

Exhibit #1: My wife was finishing her morning walk when a large pit bull bounded out of an open door. It chased her and our pooch down the street, bloodying our lasha apso’s legs, who resembles the mop-haired Benji.

Sadly, nobody came out of their house or waiting car to help. When I rang the owner’s doorbell minutes later nobody answered. Allegedly, he was in the shower. Sadly, a handful of times previously the dog was either unleashed or had lunged at my wife, myself or neighbors from an inappropriately long leash tethered to a tree. Habitually, the owners took a cavalier attitude.

Hence, I called Animal Control. The dog was impounded that day. Being the first inflicted injury, the dog was released. I understand, though, that a fine and warnings were levied.

Exhibit #2. A couple of weeks later Sebastian was attacked around the block by a small but unrelenting Snauzer. It took the owner minutes to come out and corral the dog, who was unfazed by a score of my kicks. Sebastian was uninjured but in a state of shock for nearly an hour.

I returned to talk to the owners and was pleasantly surprised. They apologized profusely saying that they had spent hundreds on training with no issues until their dog, too, had been attacked twice in the last month. They offered to pay any vet bills. That night they came by asking about our dog’s condition and delivering a restaurant gift card and doggie toy.

Two distressing incidents; two markedly different owner reactions.

Lessons learned:

I now document any and all incidents with phone calls (779-6989) and letters to Animal Control, copy furnished the owners. Be part of the solution or Antioch will go to the dogs.

I’ve learned strategy. An approaching slow gait is friendly, a steady-on run signals trouble; head down o.k, level -headed approach not. Of course, never run, panic, move or scream violently. Stand still and don’t confront. Dogs take staring as a threat, a sideways posture as a calming signal.

If you are trying to separate dogs, your safety is preeminent. If water is nearby, douse them. Also, lifting hind legs or tails disorients them.

We now carry protection. Consider a putter, umbrella, or expandable billy club. Dogs will take appendages as your extension. Distance matters. Mace, dog or pepper spray deter. Learn their use. They make this stuff for bears, so it works.

If you are jumped on, painful as it seems, don’t tear yourself away. Pulling only causes greater damage. If you have outerwear use it to extend. If needed, offer a leg or arm. Protect the fingers and face by making fists and covering your head. If knocked down, curl up in a fetal position protecting the head. Motionless is best. God willing, the attacker should quickly lose interest.

If you fight back, realize that a general head blow will, invariably, further infuriate. Instead, strategically aim for the nose or base of neck. Remember, too, dogs don’t wrestle. Turning them over and compressing your weight will cause them discomfort, if not broken bones. This is no time to be soft-hearted.

In short, be knowledgeable and document.

The attack tips are unnerving but, hopefully, sharing them can, perhaps, save somebody serious injury.

My wish for you, though, is that you never need this advice because most of your neighborhood dogs have the temperment of Lassie. For those that don’t, may their owners have the sense to act accordingly.

Happy t(r)ails!

Walter Ruehlig

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