What if it were your dog?

I have had JD since he was an 8 week old puppy, and he just turned four in March. (Where does the time go?) Since his “infancy,” he has been exposed to nearly everything but a plane ride, rock concert and scuba diving. He has met people, other dogs, cats, horses, cows, pigs, parrots, squirrels (he really LOVES squirrels…) etc. To put it short, he is well-socialized. He is (mostly) well-trained, and despite his protests, he’ll usually roll over or play dead for a treat (unless he’s being very lazy). I feed him food that I would eat in an emergency, take him to the vet for his annual checkup, spend about 30 minutes an evening brushing his ridiculously thick coat, and spoil him rotten. I’d say, overall, I’m a decent pet-owner.

JD has a step above most dogs, because he has an owner who really cares about his physical, mental and emotional well-being. One of the ways I keep him stimulated, is by near-daily trips to the dog park. He has been to parks across the nation through our military-commanded travels. He’s met so many dogs and people I’m sure butt-smells are a blur to him.

Never in his four years has he had an incident with another dog. Until today.

I took JD and Jersey to a new dog park. We normally go to Bayview dog park in Pensacola, because there is a beach, a nice running trail and also a fenced in dog park. Due to errands I had to run today, I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone (I was getting brochures printed for our event at the Shiloh Airport in North Carolina, on April 14th!). They excitedly ran into the park, smelt the new dogs and explored their new surroundings, always keeping me in sight. Jersey brought me a disgusting germ-covered ball and I gladly threw it for her because she’s so cute and in her puppy-way she asked “Please!” We were having a grand old time. I thought, maybe I found a new dog park that is closer to home (and one without a beach, because every time we go to the park portion of Bayview, JD stares at me wondering why we’re not at the beach portion…).

The dogs were getting a little worn out but my brochures weren’t going to be done for another 30 minutes so we sat on the bench and JD jumped up beside me for a good scratch behind the ears. Jersey joined shortly after and gave me a kiss on the cheek. I laughed and told the girl next to me, “We could be doing this at home!” Indeed – that is what we’re doing right now, sitting together, all three of us on the couch.

A dog that JD had been somewhat getting a long with came up to sniff JD. The girl next to me sat down and put her backpack between us. The dog, which we will name “Precious,” (we will use this as an euphemism) came up to sniff the backpack, which JD was also sniffing, and suddenly, went into attack mode. (I found out after that there was some food in the backpack.)

Precious grabbed JD by the scruff and yanked him to the ground. Without screaming or making a sound, I leaped to my feet, grabbed Precious by her scruff and threw her a good four feet from JD. All I saw were tuffs of JD’s white fur floating peacefully through the air as Precious attacked again. JD, backing away and trying to avoid getting bit by his neck area, took protection behind me while I seized the dog one more time and then pushed JD even further away. This time, Precious lunged at ME! She grabbed me by the wrist before finally coming-to and let go.

Artist rendition of the owner of Precious

I had yelled for the owner, who stood idly beside us with his leash in hand, a bit dumbfounded. I told him frankly, “Get your dog out of this park.” He apologized several times, leashed his dog and left. Despite some missing fur, a bit of shock, a scratched cell phone (from falling out of my lap when I leaped to save my dog – whatever – a million and one cell phones wouldn’t amount to the worth of my dog [a million and one cell phones at the price iPhone charges – without a contract]) and a bruised wrist that temporarily doesn’t bend, all is fine.

I myself left immediately after gathering my things. JD, Jersey and I took a well-deserved trip to Petco (will they pay DoD royalties for this?) to buy entirely too many toys and a can of Wellness’ Lamb stew. At checkout, as I was awkwardly holding my keys, dogs, wallet and purchases due to my swelling wrist, the cashier asked me what was wrong, so I briefly explained what happened.

Her reply, “Was it a [breed of dog – I don’t want to cause any biases… but it was NOT a bully breed!!!] owned by an older man?” I said, why yes, yes it was! And she said she stopped going there because she had seen that same dog in attacks with others before!

Wow. And he still brings his dog back?

The dog bite

I am a strong proponent for “Blame the deed, not the breed.” I didn’t even want the man’s name or number after I found out JD was OK. First, JD is insured (I highly recommend pet insurance in case of injury or illness) but second, JD was in fact, OK. I have no idea what the background of this dog is. She looked healthy; good weight, bright eyes, friendly demeanor. Her owner obviously cared some about her since she was at the dog park. Was she a rescue? Did she have a bad past? But how can an owner stand idly by while his dog is attacking another? Why would you bring your dog back if it had been in incidents before? Do you ever blame the dog, and not the people?

I don’t know if I did the right thing by not reporting this man’s dog. I think I did. It wasn’t so serious that I felt it needed to be reported. But what if it had been? Or what if the next time this dog attacks, it is serious? I warned that man he should not bring his dog back to the park. But now we’re punishing the dog for a possible lack of responsibility on the owner’s behalf. Its a catch-22 scenario. There is no perfect solution.

What I can say is this, I won’t be returning to that park as long as that crowd is there. I can also guarantee all of you that my dogs will remain properly socialized and stimulated, and if one of my dogs ever becomes aggressive, I’ll be seeking professional help to put them back on track, because what if it were ever JD who was the perpetrator of a dog attack? I hope that it would be the same for my readers. If you’re reading this, you must give a hoot about the welfare of animals, as we all should.

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