Sunday, 11 May 2014

Dog Bites Woman

I was not a happy bunny this afternoon.  Every weekend I go to visit my Mum and take her dog for a walk.  I think of it as my good deed, although really it is kind of my obligation.  My duty.  Because she's my Mum and she needs looking after.  And he's her dog and he needs walking.  She can't walk him herself because a) she has a lung condition and b) he is a monster. 

Tyke (appropriately named) is highly embarrassing to walk.  He is very aggressive towards other dogs, and goes crazy pulling at the lead and barking if he sees one.  His intent is quite clear - to duel to the death.  So I have to keep well clear of other dogs on walks.  He also goes bananas if he sees a motorbike (go figure).  So I have to keep a tight grip on his lead at all times.

But he has been much more manageable recently.  My Mum has a couple of regular dog walkers, who I found for her through a charity called the Cinammon Trust, and a couple of months ago one of these ladies bought him a harness.  The harness makes him much easier to control, which is puzzling as prior to that he used to be on a choke chain.  I don't like choke chains, but honestly, with this dog there was no choice.  Anyway, the harness was more humane and also stopped him pulling so much, which was great.

Was.  Today I went over to walk him as usual.  I got to the park safely.  There was another dog on the field there, a large puppy (maybe a boxer cross) which was also on a lead and harness.  So I thought that would be fine.  But then the young couple walking him suddenly took off their puppy's harness and the puppy bounded over to us.  He wanted to play.

I shouted at his owners to get him away, but they couldn't catch him.  Tyke was going mad, barking and twisting, trying to reach the puppy.  I was holding his lead tight, shouting at the puppy, trying to get it away from him.  But it kept coming in close.  Soon, the pair of them were tangled around my legs.  Which is when I got bitten, on my calf.

And then Tyke slipped his harness.  I was aghast.  The dogs were locked together by now, fighting and biting.  I couldn't get hold of them (to be honest, I was too freaked out by the bite I had just received to try).  Luckily, the male owner of the puppy managed to get hold of Tyke and the girl got their dog and took him a distance away.  And put his harness, rather belatedly, back on.

I was totally freaked out.  I couldn't believe the other owner was being so nice about the whole thing.  He helped me put Tyke's harness back on, and he was talking to him really nicely.  I was so angry with Tyke, but he wasn't at all.  I mean, my dog - my Mum's dog - must have really hurt theirs.  I saw his teeth in its neck.   And yet the guy was really kind, even a bit apologetic.  It was incredible. 

I took Tyke straight back home, terrified that he would slip the harness again en route.  I got to my Mum's safely, and to my shame I started to cry.  It was all just so awful - I felt so powerless, and I was horrified to think of what could have happened.  I was also upset because I thought I would have to go off and have a tetanus jab, and I had promised the kids that I would go home and watch a film with them and Paul (this is a weekend ritual, we watch a family film together on Saturday nights, or Sunday if it gets too late on Saturday).  I didn't fancy spending hours in A and E.

Anyway, it turned out okay.  I called 111 and the 'clinician' told me I would be okay for 48 hours, so just to call my GP in the morning to find out about a tetanus jab.  My Mum was really apologetic, but I reassured her that it was not her fault (but had to say that I doubted I would ever want to walk her dog again).  Then I went home, and we watched the film (Harry Hill the Movie) while eating pizza and coleslaw, with strawberries and marshmallows dipped in chocolate for pudding (how could that fail to cheer anybody up?)  

I think I was so upset because that exact scenario has happened to me before.  I was about twelve years old.  I was walking one of our two Alsatians when he attacked another dog - a small terrier - and killed it there and then on the street.  Its owner was shouting at me, so I ran and hid. I knew my dog would be destroyed for what he had done.  And he was - and not just him, his sister, who had not done anything wrong, but who my Dad decided with his twisted logic, would pine without her brother.  They were put down together.  I felt responsible, because I had been walking the dog when it happened.  And nobody ever told me it was not my fault.

Okay, not the exact scenario.  Luckily, the puppy survived Tyke's assault today, and the owners were incredibly kind.  They were foreign, and I did say to my Mum later that I couldn't imagine an English couple being so kind and understanding.  I think Tyke would have had a destruction order slapped on him in slightly different circumstances, and although I hate to say it, that might have been an appropriate course of action.

I love dogs.  I like Tyke, believe it or not (I wouldn't walk him otherwise).  But what if a child had become entangled between the two dogs, instead of just my legs?  What if it had been a smaller, weaker puppy, who had come up innocently, to play? 

It's a scary thought.  I am still shaken by the incident.  But I suppose, now that I have calmed down, I should accept that it's not my responsibility - just as the death of that other dog (of three dogs, in the end) was not my fault when I was twelve years old.  I would not send out a twelve year old girl to walk an Alsatian.  Would you?

Anyhow, my Mum has promised to warn the other dog walkers what happened today.  Hopefully, they will make sure the harness is tighter in future, and that they keep their distance from other dogs.  With any luck, it won't happen again.  And if it does - well, I certainly won't be there to see it.

Because that is the end of that particular good deed.  I will still go and visit my Mum every weekend, but I will not walk her dog again.  Poor dog.  It is a Jack Russell cross, and I am not sure that they make good pets for old people.  I think they need really long countryside walks.  Off the lead.  My sister looked after him for a while, when Mum was too ill to have him, and he seemed to be fine with her, because she does live out in the country and she did walk him a lot.  She can't have him permanently though.  So we will just have to muddle through as best we can, because he's Mum's pet and she loves him. 

That's life.  Ups and downs.  C'est la vie.

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