My little blind dog, Dusa, now has staples that look like zippers across the right side of her face and on the top of her head. (Staples are the new stitches.) She also has a wound on one shoulder, on a front leg and under her mouth. She has a laceration under her right eye. For the next few weeks she will be sporting the canine version of Goth fashion with multiple piercings and a large blue collar to keep her from scratching at her wounds with her hind legs. When she is sniffing around the kitchen floor and under the dinner table she will look like a strange vacuum cleaner on four legs with a wide blue attachment.
Walking Away Didn’t Help
The attack happened quickly.
We were walking in a park where we walk almost every day. This park is a large park with several athletic fields and signs saying pets must be on leashes at all times. It is not a designated “dog park” where dogs are allowed to run freely within an enclosed space. We were walking after 9 A.M. because most of the people who walk their dogs earlier in the morning allow their dogs off the leash. This is not generally true of dog owners who walk their dogs later in the day. I would say this is more an evolved tradition rather than an indication of the law abiding nature of the different groups of dog owners.
We were walking on a sidewalk by a parking lot when a married couple we had recently met a few times drove by and pulled their car into a space in the direction we were walking. Knowing that their dog is usually off his leash, Dusa and I started walking away to avoid getting too close. It has become standard practice for us to cede the right of way to dogs who are off their leash.
Here’s what happened next. The couple let their large breed dog out of the car, accompanied by a small breed dog they had been taking care of for a friend. (In my opinion, the breed of the dogs is irrelevant.) Unprovoked, at least by anything a human would understand, the small breed dog immediately came growling and charging at Dusa. Dusa responded with growling, but since I had her leash on I was able to restrain her. This, of course, didn’t do any good because the small breed dog was not restrained.
The rest is a blur, but this is for certain: The couple’s dog, a large breed dog who usually walks placidly alongside his owners carrying a blue frisbee in his mouth, followed the small breed dog and came charging and growling straight at Dusa. The next thing I knew he had Dusa’s neck and part of her head in his mouth. It was a very violent scene.
I didn’t know what to do. Pulling on Dusa’s leash was not an option while the large dog had her in his jaws. I thought of kicking and hitting the large dog to drive it off, but decided on grabbing him by his collar from behind with my left hand, because I had Dusa’s leash in my right hand. I had to get into the fight to accomplish this. Moments after I grabbed him, his owner got there and somehow got him away from Dusa.
“I Never Thought He Was Capable of Anything Like This”
It was a matter of seconds. I looked at my trembling and defeated little blind dog and saw that she had a puncture wound on her head. I told the owners of the large dog, now at a safe distance and with their pet on a leash, that I would take Dusa home and put some antiseptic on her “breaks.” I was so shook up I couldn’t think of the word “wound.” The large dog’s owners are very nice people and they were very sincerely upset and sorry about what had just happened. The man said, “I never thought he was capable of anything like this.” This struck me, because it’s approximately the same words we have all seen many times in newspaper stories about all breeds of dogs who, out of the blue, have attacked children.
Instead of going home, I went immediately to Dusa’s vet. It was then that the full extent of the damage became known and that Dusa had her wounds cleaned and stapled together. The vet said that Dusa was actually “very lucky.” I shudder to think of what “very lucky” meant.
I puzzled over some tiny punctures on one of Dusa’s front legs and realized they could have been from the small breed dog. The small breed dog was quickly forgotten once the larger dog got involved, but could have been there.
Who Is To Blame?
So, what went wrong and who is to blame?
What went wrong is the easy part, though many might reasonably disagree. The special cause of out-of-character behavior on the part of the big dog that day was the small breed dog’s actions. The big dog, normally quiet and peaceful, followed its natural instincts as a pack animal and got drawn into the fray by the small dog. If the small dog had not charged at Dusa, I’m certain the big dog would have gotten out of the car and marched on its happy way with its cherished blue frisbee in its mouth, as usual. Its owners and I would have exchanged a few pleasantries from a distance.
Who is to blame, besides the authorities who rarely enforce leash laws? In a case such as the one I’ve described, where other dogs not on their leashes charge at your leashed dog, it’s pretty certain who is at fault: the owner of the unleashed dog(s). I’ve been told that this is the case in the eyes of the law even if your dog on its leash actually starts the fight. If your dog is off its leash, you are by definition not in control of your dog.
People have encouraged me to sue and ask if I gave the other dog owners a piece of my mind. No, I did not. I don’t feel this way, though the thought did occur to me very briefly. The owners of the other dogs involved are no different from so many others. It could just as well have been the fault of many other dog owners. They all want to see their dogs romp freely and be dogs, even where leash laws are posted. I understand this and am not previously (and possibly in the future) without sin, which is why I have tried to keep from sounding self-righteous here. Most dog owners believe their dog is not capable of seriously injuring another dog because they never have, or because of their breed characteristics, or because their dog “would probably just roll over if another dog wanted to fight.”
Did Dusa “Diss” the Little Instigator?
What about Dusa? Does she have any fault? Did she bring this on herself? Did she send out a dog vibe unrecognizable to humans that “dissed” the small breed dog who instigated the whole mess? Does the fact that Dusa is quick to respond in kind and might attempt dominance if a dog in her immediate proximity snorts, growls, breathes heavily or displays any other sign of canine aggression have anything to do with it? It might, except for one thing. I have her on a leash. I have control over her. Unless I allow it, she cannot act upon her instincts. (Okay, there’s the self-righteousness you’ve been waiting for.)
I have never seen Dusa attempt (remember the leash) to charge another dog without provocation… What? This sounds familiar? Where could you have heard this before? (Smiley face.)
Note: For another blog about Dusa see bit.ly/auc6mh