Thursday, September 4, 2008

So much for man's best friend

Let's just hope his bark is worse than his bite.

I normally love dogs. I grew up with a springer spaniel, Bandit, and later in life my parents had a Dalmatian, Lucky. I see my brother's dog, Bella, at least once (if not twice) a month. I have grown to love my friends' labs, setters, beagles, pugs, terriers, poodles, chihuahuas, collies, boxers, bulldogs, greyhounds, and mutts of all sizes. If we weren't always on the go, we'd get a dog. Most of them are loving, gentle, and playful. Yesterday was the first time I have ever felt threatened by a dog.

Around 7 a.m., as I was taking out the garbage in the back alley, I was startled by a loud (ferocious-sounding) bark. When I turned around, I was “greeted” not so pleasantly by our neighbor’s Rottweiler, Molly. (I only know her name because I hear the neighbors yelling at her so often.) She was growling/snarling at me (teeth bared and all) and within seconds I was cornered by my garage. My heart started racing. She did NOT look like she wanted to “play.” What do I do, what do I do? Wait here in the hopes that someone will be leaving for work and "rescue me"? Make a run for the house? Throw a dirty diaper at her head?

I had read somewhere that you’re not supposed to make eye contact, so I didn’t (making eye contact gives dogs the idea that you’re a threat). She kept growling and barking at me, which only elevated my blood pressure. I also remembered that you’re not supposed to panic. Animals sense fear. (I tried to stay calm but ohmygod was I freaking out inside.) I told Molly to “GO HOME!” a few times, hoping it would throw her off. I didn’t run away (I didn't want her to chase me) but instead stood perfectly still for what felt like forever, then walked, slowly, to the gate that was my refuge to safety. Amazingly, she kept her distance. Once I shut the gate, she sort of lunged for me and then, just as quickly as she'd run up on me, bolted off to terrorize someone/something else. In retrospect, I probably should’ve called the police. This isn’t the first time this not-so-friendly dog has been seen roaming around.

I was going to go right to work, but I thought I should warn Aaron and Adam. My hands were shaking so hard I could hardly unlock the front door. Once I was in my kitchen, I started sobbing. My nerves were shot. My heart was still pounding. Aaron was in the kitchen, getting ready to bring Adam to daycare, and I think I startled him more than Molly startled me. He consoled me like any good husband would. Adam looked at me with genuine concern in those big blue eyes and gave me a sympathetic smile (maybe that was just my imagination, but it’s a nice thought that he might have sensed my distress and tried to make me feel better.) It took me awhile to regain my composure, but after a minute I stopped shaking. I was still wiping tears from my eyes as I drove to the park and ride. Aggressive dogs scare the crap out of me. And there’s no shortage of aggressive dogs in our neighborhood. On our half-mile walk to Lake Phalen, we pass two Rotts and two Pit Bulls. They sound like they want to rip your throat out when you walk by.

The good news is, I survived to tell the story. The bad news is, not everyone does. Here are some pointers on what you should do, should you ever be cornered by a big, mean dog (and I truly hope you never are!), courtesy of “How to Handle a Dog Attack:"

Most dogs are not aggressive but rather just curious or defending what they perceive as their territory. It is important to be able to tell if a dog is just playing or is being truly aggressive.

* If the dog approaches you with its head held high or low, it is probably not going to attack. A dog whose head is level means business.
* A loping gait means the dog is playful and checking you out. An even, steady run means business.

If the dog lunges, place a direct hard kick to the chin, that can stop even a big dog in mid-lunge. If you miss, then protect your face and neck. If the dog is now biting you, poke the dog in the eyes as hard as you can with fingers/thumb, ... do it again -- harder! Judo chops may be easier and more effective than fists at hard angles up close.

If the dog is biting, the last thing you want to do is struggle or pull away, as this can cause open, torn wounds. If you stay still and protect your ears, face, chest, and throat, the dog will only be able to inflict puncture wounds on areas of your body that have thicker skin.

If the dog is biting someone else, do not pull the victim away for the very same reason. Try to force your arm in the dog's mouth. Push your arm in forcefully towards the throat to minimize damage to yourself. If you have time, wrap your arm in a shirt or jacket first.

If the dog bites you, remember that one of the most sensitive spots on a dog is his eyes. A quick jab in the eye will seriously disorientate a dog, allowing you more time to defend yourself.