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The Perils of the Street

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barking dog

On Saturday afternoon, with my iPod playing a bouncy Beatles tune, I bopped down the street, on my way to Trader Joe’s. On the corner stood a woman, a child of about eight, and two leashed dogs. As I walked past I smiled. One of the dogs jumped up–to, I thought fleetingly, say hello–and in a flash I felt his teeth dig into my forearm. Shocked, I raised my arm: it was bleeding, and it hurt–man, did it hurt!

I began to cry hysterically. “Your dog bit me!” I yelled, stunned. (Only later did I realize I’d been in a state of shock for hours.) Of course she immediately apologized, saying “He’s never done anything like that!”

The little girl began crying and said “I knew something like this would happen.”

“Why do you say that?” I asked accusingly. “He has bitten before, hasn’t he? Hey, I watch Animal Planet!” I blubber idiotically, “I know all about problem dogs.”

No, no, no, no, no. The woman denied it to the death. I wanted her phone number–I thought I should do something!–but neither of us had a pen, so she walked with me to my house to get one. The whole time I’m bleeding, crying and yelling, the kid’s crying, the woman’s apologizing–but she’s not offering to help me, even when I said I had no antibacterial stuff in the house to put on it.


I don’t know why, but after she left, I went ahead and resumed my journey, clutching a piece of gauze to the wound, which was still bleeding a little. I went shopping, came home, and sank into a chair. That’s when I realized I’d been in a state of shock.

Once upon a time I was terrified of dogs. As a teenager I used to have to dog packpass an empty lot on my way to the school bus stop; a pack of wild dogs lived there, and one or another of them would frequently bark at me. Once, when I went out to babysit, one of them began following me home. So freaked out was I that I knocked on someone’s door and used their phone to call my father, who came and got me.

I overcame my fear of dogs only after years of counseling. A male friend up in the country used to go out with me at night looking for unleashed dogs togolden retriever stare down as a form of therapy. To tell you the truth, though, it was the advent of Animal Planet, with all its dog shows, that finally did it for me: because of Animal Cops and Animal Miracles and K-9 to 5, I have come to love dogs, and regret that I can’t own one in my apartment building.

And now I find myself once again walking as far away from dogs on the street as I can possibly get.

I’ve decided to report the incident to the police. I don’t want to talk to the owner, but I do want the dog bite on record in case the creature does it again, or has done it before. The wound seems to be healing, though I didn’t go to the ER, as my sister and other people frantically insisted. I hope it doesn’t get infected and kill me.

Who needs this shit?


One response »

  1. When a dog bites someone, the owner almost always says, “My dog’s never done that before!” — which implies that the dog’s behavior was somehow the victim’s fault. Dogs do pick up on subtle signals of fear, worry, aggression, vulnerability, etc. They are instinctively pack animals and thus extremely attuned to the behaviors of other creatures around them. In the wild, their survival depended on this.

    Which is why all dogs require good training. A well-trained dog learns to overcome natural urges yet still remain true to its nature. A well-trained dog, especially one that’s a member of the friendly breeds (Labradors, golden retrievers, spaniels, etc.), is about the best kind of animal there is to have among people — but they only become so with training, which requires patience, time and attention. A dog’s owner has to be the unquestioned leader of the pack, and dogs don’t figure that out automatically.

    I say all this as the owner of a rambunctious 10-month old Plott hound-mix puppy. Tuckerman has an abundance of friendliness, which is really trying my patience to control. But I notice that whenever I really assert myself with him on walks and hikes, he responds almost always as I want him to. He wants me to be the leader, and when I’m not behaving like a leader he does whatever he wants. He needs about another two or three months of earnest training to become the dog and hiking partner I want him to be.

    Just as some people probably shouldn’t ever be parents, some people shouldn’t own dogs (or have dogs own them). Dogs are wonderful, living companions; they’re not toys or accessories.

    I’m sorry for the terrible experience you had, Marcy. I feel badly for both you and the dog — for your pain, of course, and for a dog that hasn’t been taught how to behave properly around people.

    Thanks for your caring, Steve. I want to emphasize that I was doing nothing out of the ordinary, not even singing, as I frequently do while walking, and giving off no vibes other than neutral-friendly. When I told the owner she made it seem it was my fault with her statement, she said, “Absolutely not, you did nothing wrong.”–MS

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