I got run over at the dog park and pretty seriously injured — broken nose, severely split lip, broken wrist. One minute, I was just chatting away, minding my own business. I was keeping an eye on my dogs, who were also minding their own business, picking up the pee-mail along the fence. But then out of nowhere, a pack of dogs zoomed right into me, cutting me off at the knees. All I remember is a blur of fur. I landed flat on my face and on top of my left wrist. The safety tips I offer here are the result of what I realized after the fact.
I lay there for a minute, thinking how disgusting it was to have dog-park gravel in my mouth. The woman I’d been chatting with, of course, helped me up. And then I saw the look on her face turn from one of concern to one of shock and alarm. Apparently, my lower lip was kinda torn in half. I remember the ER doc telling me I looked like something out of Alien vs. Predator. (Sorry, no pictures!) I was more concerned about my wrist, though, which I immediately realized was broken and hurt like hell.
The owner of the lead dog, who I remember was a German Shepherd, took no responsibility and split the scene. It was a hit-and-run. Another dog-park friend, who I knew mostly as Bonnie the Dalmatian Mix’s Dad, was kind enough to wrangle my pooches, put them in his SUV with his two dogs, and then drive me to the hospital where he stayed until I could contact another “real” friend to pick me up after my lip was stitched and my broken wrist was set.
And it’s not just amateurs like me ending up on the ground. DeAnn Hughes, a professional dog walker in Alexandria, Virginia, was on duty with two dogs, when a man failed to control the six-pack he was walking. “One of his dogs started growling and lunging,” she recalls. “Then the skittish/nervous one of mine got excited and started to take off. That’s when I fell and was knocked unconscious for a short while.” As in my case, some good Samaritans stopped to help and called 911. The EMTs even made sure DeAnn’s dogs got home safely.
Turns out DeAnn did have a concussion. She also suffered an injury to her left hand from holding onto the leash, along with some scratches and bruises, putting her out of commission for the next two weeks. Thankfully, both she and I recovered fully, and it was heartening to realize that you can indeed count on the kindness of strangers in those situations.
But while I was recovering, I had plenty of time to think about things I wish I’d done to better prepare myself for an incident like this, and I urge you to consider them the next time you go out with your fur kids.
1. I wish I’d kept a first-aid kit in my car.
It certainly would’ve come in handy, since the Red Cross recommends having supplies like compress dressings, antibiotic ointment packets, antiseptic wipes, aspirin, a space blanket, and an instant cold compress. I could’ve used most -– if not — all of those things.
2. I wish I’d carried my ID and insurance details.
I always stick my driver’s license and ATM card in my pocket when I go for a walk or to the dog park, but I should’ve carried my medical insurance card with me as well. That would’ve saved a lot of hassle once at the ER. DeAnn agrees, and now carries an ID with her at all times.
3. I wish I’d memorized a couple of phone numbers.
When I fell, I broke my cell phone. Well, who remembers anyone’s phone number by heart anymore? They’re right there in your phone, so you can just look them up. Um, right — until you’re in a situation like this. I recommend committing at least one family member’s and one friend’s phone number to memory.
4. I wish I’d paid more attention to my surroundings.
Even though I had an eye on my dogs, I obviously wasn’t paying enough attention to my general surroundings. You’ve got to be vigilant at all times when you’re around that many dogs, and not have your face buried in your smartphone. And since I’m not the most agile, now I either sit or stand with my back against a tree or fence when I’m in the park.
Oh, and my mother asked me to pass along this last tip: “Always wear clean underwear. You never know what can happen.”
Have you had an incident like this at the dog park? Were you prepared? How did you respond? Let us know in the comments!
About the author: Atlanta’s own Toni Perling writes mostly about dogs — hence her blogger name, Doggienista, and her two beautiful rescues, Daisy Jo and Bud Earl. She tweets for them at DaisyJoBudEarl and covers all the latest Hollywood dog scoop at her Celebrity Dog Blog. She’s also a longtime supporter of spay/neuter/rescue, and adopted her first dog, a sweet lovable mutt named Sophie, from an L.A. County shelter. Toni started out in Hollywood as a TV writer, with credits ranging from network drama to informational, including a boatload of episodes of a little Discovery Networks show named I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant, before transitioning to the web.