My four-year old daughter loves dogs; I mean, she LOVES dogs- every size, shape, color, breed. Their slobbery kisses make her laugh; she loves to snuggle with the big ones and attempt to carry around the little ones. When we take a walk on the bike path by our house, she instinctively makes a beeline for every dog along the way.
Of course, I have taught her to ask the owners for permission before approaching and petting their dogs. She has learned that not all dogs are social or interested in children.
My husband and I are not pet people. We tried dog ownership when our first-born was five months old. Shiloh was a smart and sprightly Irish Setter puppy, but it didn’t take long for us to realize that we had bit off more than we could chew. After five months and $500, we finally relented and placed him with a wonderful family through the Irish Setter Rescue. We knew then that Shiloh would be our one and only dog.
Skyler is the first child to challenge that notion. If anyone could talk us into getting another dog, it would be her (but she won’t; we know better.) 🙂 Every year, she asks us for a dog for her birthday, and I buy her a token stuffed animal, which just barely compensates.
So, it was with great terror and dismay that I watched my dog-loving daughter nearly attacked by a dog at a local business on Thursday.
When I enter a place of business that has a resident pet who is accessible to the public, I don’t think twice about stopping to pet it. Obviously, if a dog is unpredictable or not good with strangers, the owners would not jeopardize their business by allowing it into the public space.
The dog we encountered on this day appeared to have free reign of the place, as he trotted through the front and back rooms of the store. He had no leash, and no one paid him any attention, except for Skyler. She spent several minutes interacting with the dog, talking to it, petting it, and being “kissed” by it.
As I spoke with one of the employees, Skyler sat beside me on the floor and said in her sternest, cute four-year old voice, “Sit,” her arms outstretched to the dog. I started to tell her not to give commands to the dog, when in that same instant, the dog barked sharply twice then lunged at her face, with his teeth bared.
Somehow, she had the wherewithal to turn and hide her face before he made contact (he may have grazed her nose because she asked for a band-aid, but there was no mark), but there was no doubt that she would have been attacked. Afterward, she cried in anguish and fear, clinging to me in desperation. The dog disappeared; I don’t know what happened to him.
My heart broke for my daughter, knowing that her innocent love of dogs had been forever scarred by this one, completely unexpected moment of aggression. I mentioned to the employee I was working that I found it odd for a resident pet to behave in such a way. It was only then that I found out the dog didn’t belong to the store (or its owners). An employee must have stopped by and brought his/her dog along, giving it free reign to endanger my daughter’s life (well, at least her well-being).
I was so relieved that Skyler was okay physically that I didn’t think to express my anger and incredulity at such carelessness. I know the incident startled and scared the employees, too; they were very apologetic and surprised by what happened.
When we returned home, I spent some time encouraging Skyler that it was still okay to love dogs and that she didn’t need to be afraid of all of them. Most dogs are as lovable as she is, but we would have to always ask, no matter where we went from now on. My greatest fear was that she would be scared of every dog, anticipating their attack, but my fears were relieved when we went to our neighborhood rummage sale over the weekend.
The very first dog she encountered was a massive Pitbull/Bulldog/Mastiff mix, with fascinating tiger-like coloring and markings. He was intimidating with his large head and build, and he was a bit growl-y, but he turned out to be a sweet and gentle giant. Skyler began by asking, “Is your dog friendly?” and when we were assured he was, she proceeded to pet him and give him treats. It was a great first interaction after the incident. The rest of the dogs she met, except for one, were all just as wonderful, and she seemed quite at ease with them all, always making sure to first inquire if they were “friendly” (which I would translate as “safe”).
Has your child ever been attacked by dog- or nearly so? How did you handle it?