Even though it was the middle of August, I really didn’t mind walking to work. I had replaced my gas-hog pickup with a 150cc scooter, but the bike was under its tarp with an engine problem. All I had to get me to and from the office were my own two feet.
The road didn’t have a sidewalk for most of the 1-mile distance to campus. It still doesn’t, although the road is wider now.
As long as I left early in the morning before the Texas heat had time to build, I could be on campus in air-conditioned comfort in about 15 minutes. As a responsible pedestrian should, I always walked on the left, toward traffic, past mostly neatly kept homes. There were, however, a few run-down places, and one home had the predictable collection of junk cars in the drive and what looked to be a mini-junkyard in the back.
Three dogs came running out from junk area toward me. I can still see them: a light-tan, medium-size dog and a slightly smaller brown dog led by what I thought at the time was a large German Shepherd but have since come to believe could have been a Belgian Malinois.
I don’t know whether you’ve ever had a trio of aggressive, off-leash dogs come running toward you barking and growling. It was a first for me. I’ve never had a fear of dogs, but I had no doubt I was in a bad situation. All those standard rules you hear growing up popped into my head. “Don’t show fear. Keep moving purposefully. Don’t run.”
In truth, I didn’t really have time to be scared. I was too busy tracking what the three dogs were doing as they circled around me barking and snarling. I do remember that I first tried using a friendly, cheerful voice to see whether I could move them from being aggressive to becoming playful, but they were having none of that. As I kept walking steadily up the hill, the two smaller dogs seemed to be losing interest, but the Belgian Malinois slipped behind me and lunged toward my left leg.
There is a difference between a dog nipping at you and a large dog bearing down with purpose. I knew dogs were strong and have teeth designed to tear things up, but you gain a whole new level of appreciation when the object being torn up is your left knee.
I realized that the dog had not gone after me with as much force as he could have, and while the bite itself definitely hurt, at first I figured I had gotten off with no real damage. According to Dr. Brady Barr of National Geographic, the average domestic dog has 320 pounds of bite pressure (humans have about 120 pounds). I concur with Brady’s findings.
Having been nailed once by the largest of the dogs, I had no interest in being targeted again. Since my “friendly” voice hadn’t worked so well, I decided to be “unfriendly” and channeled my father’s best “get in your house and shut up” tone, which I had heard countless times directed at Pal to stop his barking in the backyard.
No one ever said to me later whether it was a smart thing to do or not, but on this occasion, yelling at the dogs did the trick. They backed off and allowed me to walk briskly up the hill toward campus. Once I was sure I was safely away from the dogs my adrenalin rush began to fade, and I realized that my left knee was really starting to hurt. My jeans weren’t torn, so I had assumed I was OK, but once I rolled the pant leg up and saw my knee, I wasn’t so sure. It was swollen and the skin was broken on the left side.
A visit to the school nurse was followed by one to the doctor (just to be safe). I also reported the attack to the police, and they picked up the Belgian Malinois, which was friendly and playful for them. (I was able to positively identify the dog.) I asked about the dog the following week, and I’m sorry to report that the owner never bothered to claim him from the shelter. Yet another case in which the dog paid the ultimate price and the owner just paid a fine. The dogs should not have been running wild. Had they been fenced or on leashes, it would have been just another routine walk to work on an ordinary street.
As for me, I got a couple of shots (tetanus was one) but didn’t have to do the regimen for rabies. My knee was pretty sore for a couple of days but back to normal within a couple of weeks. I experienced no long-term trauma or fear of dogs, although I certainly am more respectful and cautious around dogs I do not know.
What about you? Have you been bitten by a dog? How did you deal with situation? Was being more aggressive and yelling at the dogs the right thing to do, or did I just get lucky? Since coming to work for Dogster and spending more time with people who really understand and love dogs, I wonder I could have done something differently.
I certainly wasn’t happy I got bitten, but it has always bothered me that the owner paid a fine and then abandoned his dog. I’ll always believe, under different circumstances, on that same street, that dog and I could have been great friends.