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Dear Abby: Child Rode My Dog, Now My Dog is Crippled for Life

A letter to Dear Abby today describes what happened when a 9-year-old boy tried to ride someone's dog as if the dog were a horse.

Maria Goodavage  |  Mar 8th 2011


A letter to Dear Abby today describes what happened when a 9-year-old boy tried to ride someone’s dog as if the dog were a horse. The dog is now injured for life. The boy, who doesn’t have his own dog, certainly wasn’t trying to hurt the dog, and the adults didn’t see what was happening until it was too late.

I admire the letter writer’s concern for not wanting to place undue guilt on the boy while wanting him to never do this again to another dog. Do you agree with Abby’s advice? What would you have done?

The letter follows, but I wanted to bring up the fact that on YouTube there are lots of videos of kids riding dogs as if they’re horses. Children don’t realize the damage this can cause, and many parents don’t either. Ugh, there’s even a wikiHow page on how to ride a dog.

But as Cornell University Veterinarian Sarah Bassman told The Stir: “Children riding on the back of their family dog is very dangerous for the animal, and the child, even if you have one of the giant breeds as your family pet. The muscles in a dog’s back are not strong enough and not designed to carry a passenger and could be damaged by this activity. We worry about muscle sprain and strain, vertebral subluxation, and disc-related problems. Lesser sprains and strains may need to be treated with pain medications or physical therapy while serious spinal injuries could lead to paralysis which may or may not be able to be surgically repaired.”

Here’s the Abby letter.

DEAR ABBY: My 9-year-old sons friend Isaac was over for a visit. He was captivated by our Labrador retriever, Layla, who is very loving. Isaac doesnt have a dog, so he wanted to play with Layla. At one point, I overheard him say to my son, Look, Im riding your dog! I immediately intervened, but I was too late.

A day or so later, Layla was unable to descend our stairway and was clearly in pain. She has been on pain medication for three weeks and is growing progressively worse. The next step is to get X-rays and/or an MRI to see if she has a spinal injury, and then determine her treatment. Its possible the damage is irreversible.

My wife and I are extremely upset about this, but were afraid to tell our son or Isaac and his parents for fear it will place undue guilt on a 9-year-old boy. On the flip side, I wouldnt want him to do this to anyone elses beloved pet. How do you recommend we proceed?

Heartbroken in New York

DEAR HEARTBROKEN: Children are not mind-readers. If you dont tell them when they make a mistake, they wont realize they have made one. Contact Isaacs parents and explain what happened. If your dog needs treatment, they should be responsible for whatever damage their son did.

What do you think, Dogsters?

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