It was a bright, crisp day about six years ago. My husband was out of town on business and I had run home at lunch to walk our dog Ranger.
As we rounded the corner on our street, I noticed a large Shepherd mix in a neighbor’s driveway about the time she noticed us. In a flash, she broke away from the small boy who was holding her leash and made a beeline for us.
I was surprised but not alarmed. We had been rushed by dogs before. Typically, it was just a bluff and if we stood our ground, the dog would back away or just come in for a sniff.
Not that day.
Before I knew it, the 110-pound dog was on my 20-pound dog, growling and snapping. The young boy who had been holding her leash ran after her and leapt on top of her, grabbing at her collar, trying to pull her away, and screaming, “LUCY! NO! STOP!” However, his small frame was obviously no match for this huge tornado of a dog.
At this point, I was concerned but remained calm because I just knew the boy’s father, who was in the driveway, would quickly pull his dog off Ranger. But he just … stood there. I suppose I should’ve shouted at him to come get his dog. But I was so stunned by his inaction and what was occurring that nothing came out of my mouth.
It was one of those weird life moments when everything seems to slow down and speed up at the same time. I forced myself not to panic but my mind was racing. Quickly, I went through my options:
- I could drop Ranger’s leash and let him make a run for it. But if I did that, I worried that the chase would cause the larger dog’s prey instinct to kick in even more. And I sure as hell didn’t want to lose sight of them.
- I could grab the dog’s collar and pull. The small, screaming, flailing child made this impossible. His body was literally on top of his dog’s. I would first have to first somehow pull the child off and then the dog, all the while keeping hold of Ranger’s leash.
- I could hit the dog. Once again, the child took away this option. I knew I would have to hit the dog hard to get her attention, and with all the confusion, I was bound to hit the child instead of (or in addition to) the dog.
- I could grab her back legs and pull. I had read somewhere that this was one of the best options when breaking up a dog fight. But I only had about 10 pounds on the dog and I doubted I had the strength to pull this off.
All these thoughts ran through my head in a split second. My next thought was, “I have to do something or she’s going to kill my dog.”
So what did I do? Probably the worst thing I could have done in that situation.
I laid down in the street and forced my legs between her and Ranger. I knew that there was a strong possibility that she would bite me, perhaps badly. But I would survive. If I didn’t do something, Ranger wouldn’t.
I don’t know if my action surprised her or what, but she momentarily stopped the attack and backed away.
As I lay in the street shaking, my legs firmly on top of Ranger, bracing for another go, Lucy’s owner finally sauntered over (no, I’m not exaggerating … it was most definitely a saunter). Without so much as a word or a glance in my direction, he grabbed her collar and started back toward their house. The little boy followed, sobbing, obviously traumatized. I lifted my legs off of Ranger and to my relief, he looked unharmed. As I unsteadily got to my feet, the owner, almost as an afterthought, turned back and asked, “Is your dog okay?”
If looks could’ve killed, I’m sure mine would have dropped him in his tracks. “I’ll let you know,” I said.
When we got back to the house, I looked Ranger over thoroughly. Spots of blood had started to appear on his white fur and I immediately rushed him to the vet. Miraculously, Ranger’s wounds all turned out to be superficial. The vet said that if Lucy had shaken him, the damage most likely would have been much, much worse and that we were very, very lucky.
Because our neighbor seemed completely unconcerned about the incident, my husband and I decided to file a complaint against him. We didn’t want anything to happen to Lucy — it was obviously an owner issue, not a dog issue. We just wanted him to take responsibility. We ended up settling out of court for the cost of Ranger’s vet bills and a requirement that he and his dog attend obedience training together.
This happened almost six years ago and to this day, I replay it in my mind, trying to figure out how I could better have handled it. If the child hadn’t been involved, I would’ve had more options for sure. But I still feel like I could’ve done something differently and that it was pure, dumb luck it turned out like it did.
So, tell me: If you had been in my place, what would you have done?
Read more on dog bites and aggression:
- 6 Ways to Thwart an Off-Leash Dog Rushing You and Your Dog
- My Dog and I Were Attacked by Three Rottweilers Near My House
- Some Common Triggers For Dog Aggression
- Dog Aggression Expert Jim Crosby on Dog Bites and Attacks
- Dog Bites: Let’s Talk Root Causes and Prevention
- How to Prevent Dog Bites: Make Sure Your Child Isn’t a Statistic
- Don’t Get Bitten by a Dog! Here Are Three Things to Keep in Mind
- Los Angeles Tops the 2012 List of Dog Attacks on Mail Carriers