Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Horror to begin this. Last weekend I was outside taking photographs when I heard the neighbor scream "No, oh my God!". I didn't know what was happening but I knew someone was in trouble so I ran over there. The person in trouble was my wife Karen. I did not know that she had gone next door to ask them if they knew anyone who might be missing a cat that was recently found down the street. The neighbors have a large mixed breed dog they normally keep inside an invisible fence. That afternoon they had the dog out in the backyard letting it run around. When Karen arrived the dog ran up and attacked her, ripping open her left arm and taking out a large chunk of flesh. I ran inside and grabbed a roll of paper towels to wrap the arm in and rushed her to the emergency room. The xray showed no bone involvement so they cleaned out the wounds, stitched up most of the wounds, leaving the largest one partially open to drain, and bandaged everything up. A tetanus shot, antibiotic, and pain medication completed the visit and we went back home. Monday she went to our regular doctor who restitched everything, trying to close the wounds better. She went back Tuesday to check for infection. The wounds are healing slowly but with no infection so far. She will have some bad scars but no nerve damage or movement problems once it heals in a month or so. I watched the cleaning out process and saw how bad it was. The large wound with missing tissue tore through the fat layer. One of the puncture wounds went through the muscle layer almost to the bone. She took the week off because as the city chemist she did not want to get the wounds around some of the nasty germs she works with. She also wanted some time to heal and let some of the swelling and bruising go down. Fortunately there has not been a great amount of pain after that first day. Karen is just taking it easy this week. She is going back to work next week and the stitches come out in about another week.

Here are my thoughts about all of this. The neighbors were both very shaken up by this and wanted to euthanize the dog. We both asked them not to do this because we did not blame the dog. In his mind he probably thought he was defending his home from an intruder. No, we are not going to sue the neighbors. They are kind people who we have known for years. I do think that no one has a need to have a vicious dog like that as a "pet". They got it at the local shelter when they found out it was scheduled to be killed so their hearts were in the right place. It was a horrible accident that should not have happened. The only thing I really blame them for is not knowing their dog well enough to anticipate something like this happening. Too many people are like that these days. Part of the "Southern good ol boy" mentality is that dogs are not really family members. For that reason the neighbors spend a lot of money on keeping up shots and getting the invisible fence and not enough time working with the animal to get it accustomed to strangers. If they aren't going to better civilize the dog then it should stay inside the fence at all times. I would rather see them work with the dog so it is not half wild. So many people are ignorant that way and bad things often happen as a result. When it does they are shocked and blame the dog. I blame the owner for not doing a better job. Dogs and cats left outside with minimal training will always remain feral, or something close to it. My dad was the same way for years. Dogs and cats were considered to be more like livestock than pets and you didn't form a close bond to them. It makes me upset to see this but it is the norm rather than the exception. I know from experience with taming feral cats that almost any animal can be civilized if you are willing to put in the time for it and have a high degree of empathy for animals. We have taken cats into our home who were so wild they would try to claw our eyes out if we touched them. Every single one of these cats are now a part of our family and are well adjusted. Yes, a couple of them are still shy and have to be approached on their terms to pet them but none of them were untrainable.

I have real concerns about raising dog breeds that are naturally aggressive. There are probably some individual dogs out there that I could never adequately civilize. Why would anyone want an animal like that except as a some type of warped status symbol of power? This dog does not seem to fit into that limited category. I really think that with proper training and incorporation into the family this could be a very nice animal. He appears to want to please his owners and that is a good sign. I just hope they follow through and work with this dog. In the meantime Karen has learned the hard way not to assume that other people regulate and train their animals properly. I think if she goes next door in the future she will call first.


Sadie said...

Firstly, I am so sorry to read about what happened to your wife. The whole incident left me shaking and I wasn't even there or nearby.

And while I was actually reading the part about your wife and the mauling, I was certain that a battle between you and your neighbor about the handling of their pet, was imminent.

You and your wife are really rare, broad minded and bulging at the seams with humanity. I think 8 out of 10 people would have decided on euthanasia. And if I were in her place, terror would have guided my decision and I would have been one of the eight that would have elected to have it done to this animal.

The incident was unfortunate to say the least, but I am really glad you shared your insight on this occurrence with us...

Michelle said...

Poor Karen. I hope she makes a complete recovery soon.

I think you're right to handle the situation the way you have. It shows a lot of understanding.

I certainly hope that we can eventually get Wile E. where he is not so nervous around people. We are trying, and he is a hard case!

Jess said...

I hope Karen is doing better. That is sure a terrible thing to go through.

I agree with every single point you made in this post. One thing that really stuck out was what you had to say about particular breeds of dogs being naturally aggressive. I really wish more dog lovers would adopt this attitude instead of constantly preaching that it's ALL in how they're raised. It may be largely due to how they're raised but there are still genetic factors to be considered and it drives me nuts when people think they can just kill those genetic dispositions with unconditional love and training. If dogs can be naturals at things like herding, retrieving etc. then why is it so hard to accept that some are naturally prone to violent or unpredictable attacks?

I guess I got a little off topic there, it's just nice to hear a genuine animal lover say that it isn't ALL in how they're raised. I get so sick of hearing people say that.