Bruised

Just over a week ago I was attacked by a dog.

As I have mentioned before, for the last two years I have volunteered as a dog walker at a shelter. It's been very rewarding and I truly admire everyone who devotes some part of their lives to animal rescue.

Ike was a beautiful dog and seemed completely manageable at first, but it is sometimes hard to identify all of a dog's challenges when you meet them in a shelter. What's more, a shelter (no matter how clean, friendly and positive) is stressful place for any dog. Dogs often react in ways that they wouldn't otherwise when in a caring and stable home. 

This 88lb fellow was by no means the largest dog I've walked, but he was up there. We started off our walk on the right foot. He got his potty business done and we were heading for the trail when things took a turn. Another volunteer let a dog off leash in the field adjacent to where we we walking. That off leash dog instantly charged at the fence, barking and lunging in our direction. This flipped a switch in Ike's brain and he got instantly anxious, so we moved in the opposite direction and walked a bit more. All the while I could tell that he was seriously stressed by that initial dog interaction and now that stress was compounded by being on a leash (no place to run!) So, we made our way back to his room. Better to end it early. I could tell he wasn't going to settle.

When we got back to his room, the act of me reaching over to release the leash from his collar must have indicated to him I was leaving, and that is when I learned that he was also prone to separation anxiety. Poor Ike, it was too much for him. 

Suddenly, I was being attacked. There was no escaping it. I was in a small concrete room with an 88lb dog who, when standing on his hind legs, was the same height as me (5'6"). I kid you not when I say that time suddenly slowed down. All told it was probably only 40-50 seconds but it felt like forever. At first I tried using clear language to get him off me. His anxiety escalated and I quickly realized that no verbal queues were going to work. He was beyond listening. I then tried turning away and kneeing him off me. All the while he lunged at me, biting.

That's when I experienced something I've never experienced before, and I hope to never experience again. I literally feared for my life; realizing that if I couldn't get out of the room, and soon, I was going to be severely injured. Turns out adrenaline fueled fear is a real thing. All the while, despite there being 6-8 other volunteers in the same building as me, no one heard me and came to help. I was on my own. When I eventually got out of the room (which involved me having to knee him off and then trap his head between the door and door frame until he pulled back into his room), I was shaking. I ran to restroom to cry and when I gained enough composure I reported it to the staff. 

Let me tell you, I cried for a long while that day. And the next.

That evening I showered and found 9 bite marks on my arms. Thankfully I was wearing a coat and long sleeved shirt, so the bites didn't break skin. That said, the nine large teeth shaped welts and bruises were enough to remind me how serious that interaction was. The next day the bruises had fully 'bloomed' into large purple welts and my neck and back had stiffened to complete contraction.

All that aside, the human body heals. The worst part is the emotional wear and tear. I feel like a failure. It may not sound logical, but I feel as though I failed Ike and I failed myself. My confidence in my ability to handle dogs in that environment has greatly suffered. I keep asking myself what I could have done differently.

As a no-kill shelter, dogs are kept until the right home is found, no matter how long it takes. I agree with that policy. A lot can be done with a dog like Ike; with the right love, patience and expectations he will be wonderful. Since then, he's no longer on the shelter's website so I can only assume he was adopted. I truly hope it was by someone who can help him flourish. As for me, I'm taking a break from dog walking right now. I'm bruised and emotionally broken, but my love of dogs and my support of all the good work done by shelters is still as strong as ever. I'll get involved in animal rescue again at some point. It is a cause held close to my heart.

I'm lucky to have the love of Teddy and Luna. Both of whom, may I add, were adopted.



Have you experienced a dog attack (as an adult)? Any advice to share?

Comments

  1. Your blog post gave me chills. I was bitten in front of a local coffee shop when I stopped to admire a woman's 2 dogs. I did not reach toward the dogs, and I was standing at least 2 feet away from either of them. Apparently the large dog (probably 75 pounder) was already nervous and anxious from the long drive from out of state and from being in an environment where strangers were walking by, and he lunged at me and bit me!! I was horrified and so upset that I too had to go to the restroom to cry for a bit before I could go back and talk with the dog owner. I am so lucky because although the dog broke skin, he did not get enough of a hold on me to do more than graze me--no puncture wounds. Like you, I am now rather spooked about strange dogs, especially big ones. I have not gotten closer than several feet to any other dogs since, except for my daughter's very dear pit bull who is a true dog ambassador, probably like your two poodles.
    I am so sorry this happened to you. It sounds like a real nightmare. I'm glad you weren't physically hurt worse. Take good care of yourself.

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    1. Your experience sounds terrible. Thanks for sharing it. I think people sometimes forget that human things can stress a dog out, like the one who bit you. Being in a strange environment can be too much for some dogs.

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  2. OMG thank GOD you are ok!! That had to be the most horrific experience ever. I can only imagine how frightened you had to be. I am praying whomever adopted that dog will know how to handle him. I worry about this all the time, my step daughter is a manager of a local "no kill" shelter here and she is working with dogs all day every day almost 7 days a week. I will say that "no kills" in "theory" are "no kill"............but...I DO know that when they are full to maximum capacity..........guess where the "overflow" goes? Exactly. To the shelters that sadly have to be the ones to get the blame. Once again, thank GOD you are ok, none of that was your fault!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words. I'm hoping he went to the right home too!

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  3. I had many would be attacks averted as I was a child abuse social worker and went into many homes. Always little dogs but I wouldn't go near the big ones. On a walk one day I petted a little dog in passing and when my back was turned he nipped my leg! Cole accidentally bit me once and it punctured through my jeans. It took a long time to heal and trust him again. Terrifying. I observed an attack on my dogs several times as well... it's not something easily gotten past.

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  4. I've been bitten a couple times as an adult, I worked at boarding kennels and animal hospitals. Once I even had to climb on top of kennels to escape a viscous dog attack. Some how the memory fades, and you just remember how wonderful dogs really are...

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    1. Yikes! I'm glad you still embrace dogs in your life. They are wonderful.

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  5. Oh no!!! I am so very sorry. I know it's heard to wrap your head around the events, but as you described them, I don't think you did anything wrong. I hope your bruised heart heels quickly and completely. Thank goodness you weren't seriously hurt, but know all too well that emotion injuries heal at a different pace. Hugs those adorable poodles for me and let them minister to your wounds. ❤︎

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  6. Oh my gosh, how scary. I am so glad you are OK. I don't see where you have anything to blame yourself for. You did everything right.
    I got bit by our own beagle once. She and our golden were about ready to get into a fight over a toy, and I had just reached in to get the toy, and she lunged at Moses and got my wrist instead. It didn't break the skin, but I was very bruised and sore for several days. There is a lot of strength in a dog's jaw, even a small dog like her.
    I admire anyone that volunteers at a shelter or rescue. I hate to admit that I am just not strong enough emotionally to do it.

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    1. Fighting over a toy happens to the best of them! Amazing how strong dogs can be!

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  7. So sorry about the attack and injuries (to body, mind and spirit). I appreciate your sharing the experience; it shows me your clear thinking and handling of what turned into an explosive situation through no one's fault. It must have been very frightening. I walked dogs at our local shelter for three years, and understand how vulnerable one feels with an almost-out-of-control large dog. I was fortunate to have staff nearby to help me out of a couple of situations where I found myself in over my head.

    Re Ike not appearing on the website the next day: I hope that the shelter realized that he was not adoptable at this time, and pulled him from the list until he had undergone a physical and behavioral exam and a behavioral modification plan was in place. As you say (and what a big heart you have to know this despite the attack), in the right circumstances Ike would shine. Here's hoping the shelter has the resources to help him reach those circumstances.

    Heal well in all ways. Glad you have Teddy and Luna to help with that!

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    1. Just to clarify: "with an almost-out-of-control large dog" - that was MY experience. Ike's behavior was out of control, and well beyond what I've experienced.

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    2. Thanks for the wise words! Vulnerable is a great way of describing it. I think a buddy system is potentially a good option for shelters, but I know they often don't have the extra hands to afford that luxury. I'm truly hoping Ike goes to someone who can help him through his struggles.

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  8. I am so sorry, Z
    That must have been terrifying. I honestly don't know what I would do in that situation, but the crying in the restroom would be part of my steps.

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  9. I am so sorry that happened, but also: thank you. My younger dog struggles with disengaging after walks and training. It has never occurred to me to think of it as a form of separation anxiety (which he otherwise shows zero sign of), but that framing makes a whole lot of useful sense. I hope your bruises and spirit heal swiftly and well.

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  10. I am very sorry you went through this. How terrifying. I'm glad you are (mostly) physically okay. I hope you emotionally heal quickly as well. Hugs.

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