A little while ago, I was officially initiated into the world of dogdom. At least, that’s how I’ve decided to view the, uh, “altercation”. That way It sounds more like a formal rite of passage than the sad event it was. You can probably guess from the title: for the very first time, I was bitten by a dog.
The time and the place don’t really matter. Other than the fact that it was a location the dog never should have been.
He was a pretty boy. Energetic and strong. He gave off no obvious warning signs. None that I was capable of picking up on anyway. I could tell he was edgy and I wanted to help calm him down.
Because of who I am, I initially blamed myself for the incident. Something in his eyes should have alerted me. I should have paid more attention. However, the more I look back on it, what strikes me the most was that the dog approached me first. Perhaps he felt trapped, like he had no choice. Looking away, I knelt down and let him sniff. I then offered him a treat, which he took without hesitation. Reaching out, I slowly pet his side. He tolerated this without complaint. A few seconds later, just as I was about to pull away, his mouth was on my arm.
It happened so quickly, so silently, I didn’t know what to do. I just stood up and watched the dog’s owner yank him away. The man growled at the dog, correcting him with the leash, but did nothing else to remove the terrified animal from the situation.
In the intensity of the moment, I just wanted to shake it off. I told the owner it was okay and I carried on. My arm hurt and the dog’s teeth marks were visible, but I pretended not to notice. There was a little blood but I only spotted that later, after the dog was gone. Mostly I was too shocked to take it all in.
Hours after the fact, when I was able to consider the event rationally, I became angry. Not with the dog, of course, with the human who is supposed to take care of him. I have always felt that a dog’s actions are never, ever, the dog’s fault. When a dog bites, the only one at fault is the owner. Period. The way this man handled the situation suggested to me the dog has bitten before. He went through the motions of being upset and telling the dog how bad he was, but he didn’t seem fazed.
Furthermore, the dog gave no obvious warning signals. He didn’t growl, he didn’t curl his lip, he didn’t flatten his ears. No doubt there were cues I didn’t pick up on, but I would have noticed those central ones. This tells me the dog has been punished in the past for giving such cues. The only time I witnessed any clear fearful behaviour was when the owner spoke to the dog. That’s when the tail went between his legs, that’s when the ears pinned to this side of his head, that’s when he started to wildly pant.
I am not saying his owner abuses him, but I do think he is clueless regarding his own pet’s feelings. He had no idea just how freaked out his dog was. If he did, I like to think he would have kept the poor animal at home.
Have you been bitten by a dog? How did you handle it? Was there something I should have done afterwards? The bite itself wasn’t serious and I didn’t bother getting it checked out. The worst part was the ugly bruise but even that has faded now. The only lasting affect is that it has made me more hesitant about approaching strange dogs. That probably isn’t a bad thing.