4/10/2008

Dog Attack

Yesterday there was a pit bull attack on a small child in my hometown of Mobile, AL. The dog badly mauled a 6 year old boy whose face was swollen and needed stitches to close the wounds. The dog was shot by a neighbor as it lunged at an Animal Control Officer who was there to take the dog away. The dog was severely wounded. The pit bull later had to be euthanized . This happens far too often with this breed of dog. I know there are many pit bull owners who continue to say the dog is misunderstood and has an unfair reputation. Be that as it may, this dog continues to come up time after time in brutal attacks on people, particularly children. Insurance companies must think there is something to the attacks also since one of the first things that is asked of you is do you own a pit bull or Rottweiler. I was surprised the first time I was asked this prior to acquiring homeowners insurance. It makes perfect sense to me now.

All this brought home to me my experience with a dog attack several years ago. My wife and I had decided to rent a cabin near the Tennessee River in north Alabama. We had told upon filling out paperwork for the cabin that the area was having a problem with rabid squirrels that had bitten some stray dogs in the area. I found this to be unbelievable on a number of levels. I just couldn't see a squirrel attacking a dog, rabid or not.

We settled into our cabin (this was on a late Saturday evening in August) and I decided to put a couple of steaks on the grill (which is one of my great joys in life) for my wife and I. After eating both well-done steaks, we settled back on the back porch of the cabin and enjoyed the rest of our wine. It was hot and humid as most Alabama summers are prone to be. But, we enjoyed the sight of the mighty Tennessee River as it flowed past our cabin. Ducks, fish jumping out of water, kids on Sea-Doos, people water skiing...it was a delightful day. It was starting to get late and we were both feeling the effects of too much wine. So, with that thought in mind, I decided to take the remnants of our steak and a few other items to the garbage can about 20 feet from the west side of the cabin.

As I walked to the garbage can, I had this unsettling feeling I was being watched. I thought it was nothing more than the effects of the wine and the fact it was rapidly getting dark. As I lifted the lid off the garbage can, I definitely heard a low, guttural growl that came from just behind me. It was a very large dog, perhaps as much as 70-75lbs and he was in a bad mood. I said, "Easy boy, you can have the scraps, no problem." He took two slow steps closer to me and I saw the unmistakable foam coming from his mouth. The first thing I thought of was the numerous shots that were directly ahead of me if this dog bit me. The idea he might seriously injure me or worse, had yet to cross my mind. The one thing I recall from all I've read and heard over the years is running from an animal is the worst thing you can do. It took all my will power not to just turn and run. But, this was no ordinary "when animals attack" situation. This dog had gone mad. It is simply amazing how quickly the human mind can process a situation and come up with a plan in a dire situation as was facing me. The dog was now about 10-15 feet in front of me and was walking slowly, ever so slowly toward me, growling with an intensity I had never heard from a dog or any other animal. I noticed the garbage can was big, maybe 55-60 gallon capacity. It was about one-third full and stunk to high heaven. That wasn't my concern at the present time. My plan was to jump into the garbage can and hold onto the lid to keep the dog out. I knew I was only going to get one shot at this and it would have to work the first time. There would not be a second chance. The dog seemed to have read my mind because now he came at me. I immediately did a high jump that would have made an Olympic high jump champion proud. Landing in the garbage can, I pulled the lid over me, inside facing out because I needed to hold onto the handle to fight off the dog. I didn't know what was in that garbage can at the time (later found out it was frozen meat left by a previous cabin renter). It was heavy, it was rotting, it was filled with maggots, and it stunk. I didn't care. I just know that it was, at least temporarily, a safety net for me.

The dog was going berserk trying to get into the garbage can. With the combined weight of the stinking, putrid rotting meat and my own body weight, he was unable to tip over the can. He was not able to jump in, although he tried valiantly. Each time he tried to jump in, I would push back at him with the lid as hard as I possibly could. The dog's growling was so loud, I was just positive everyone in the little cabin community could hear it. I could definitely hear my wife screaming my name. But, I wasn't about to stand up and holler back at her. I was in a tough enough situation as it was. To this day, I will never understand how this dog kept up the attack on the garbage can and myself. I mean, it was a constant, bitter battle which both sides refused to give in to the situation. Finally, I could hear other people yelling outside despite the barking and growling from this dog from hell. I heard someone yelling my name, but was unable to fully understand what was being said because of the dog. This attack seemed to have lasted an hour because of the absolute ferocity of the dog (although it was probably just 15 minutes), the steaming, stinking garbage I was nestled into for the rest of my life, apparently. I was getting tired quickly from fighting off the dog and each time the dog charged the can he came close to tipping it over. I didn't know what I would do if the dog tipped over the can. I was quickly losing my strength and was getting dizzy. Suddenly, just after the dog had made his most vicious attack on the can, a gunshot rang out. I heard a loud yelp from the dog and silence. Two men and my wife came over to help me out of the garbage can. I practically collapsed in their arms (and I'm sure they didn't want that because of the way I smelled). The dog was shot less than two feet from the can. I can understand the man making the shot. But, if he had told me he was going to do it, I would have been even more frightened than I already was at that point.

Luckily, I had not been bitten or had any scratches from the dog. I spent about three hours at a local hospital and was released to go home and take a long, hot shower. I thought about that event as I read in the paper this morning about that little six-year old boy being attacked by a pit bull. I can only imagine, only imagine the fear that must have swept through that child.

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