When my 4 year old daughter got bit

Earlier this month at the her sitter’s house, my 4 year old surprised the family dog by sneaking up on it and hugging it from behind. It bit her face on her cheek area, leaving punctured skin, bleeding, and an oval of redness.

Thankfully, my daughter is fine; she had stopped crying within two minutes of the bite. We’ve talked with her several times before the bite and many times since about how we should never surprise an animal. We knew both the family and the dog well, and point no fingers. When you surprise an animal, chances are it will defend itself with its jaws: its foremost weapon. We never want our daughter hurt, but we are so thankful that the bite she got was from a small dog.

This is why my daughter’s dog bite did not make the news:
1) the dog involved was a small dog: a dachshund,
2) the bite was not severe and did not require a hospital trip,
3) the dog was not a Pit bull, Shepard, Doberman, or Rottweiler.

Imagine the number of small dog bites that are never reported, like my daughter’s. If we had those numbers, would we then begin demonizing the Dachsund, the Chihuahua, the Terrier? And yet there are broadcasted news reports, like this one out of Seattle in August 2014, that claim that Pit bulls are 8 times more likely to bite a human than another breed. Can the current database of dog bite reports in any city truly support a statistical claim on which breeds bite most? Well, do you believe all dog bites are reported?

The news report bases its argument on the amount of pit bulls and lab retrievers that live in King County. Mind you, the article claims pits are 8x more likely to bite than another breed, though labs are the only other breed discussed. How were these numbers gathered? Was there a door to door census? Were only purebreds counted or mixed breeds, as well? What qualifies as a Pit, or a Lab, for that matter? Regardless of the stinking holes in the report, a large portion of the public readily nod their heads, convinced yet again that pits are “evil.”

For_the_Love_of_Dogs_Blue_PitbullsTo clarify, I am not disputing that pits have have injured or killed. Fact: the bigger the dog, the bigger the bite. I recognize that pits have been responsible for fatal attacks and cannot imagine the pain the victim and family of any dog attack experiences. However, to demonize a whole breed, to pursue BSL (Breed Specific Legislation), to maintain one’s prejudice without questioning otherwise, to be a pit owner and continue neglecting and exploiting a breed that needs consistent, firm, kind owners: these things I loathe. For every offending pit who appears in the news, there are countless others with good, loving dispositions who struggle under a media-fueled hate campaign against the breed itself.

My own pit prejudice was passed to me by my father who never attempted to question his own fears. He was bitten as a boy and carried a fear of pits ever after. Growing up, I heard him repeatedly speak ill of the entire breed, so that as a young adult, I would have never wanted to be in proximity to a pit bull. As an adult, my prejudice was challenged by friends who owned wonderful pit bulls, and by tv’s Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan, who clearly demonstrates that a dog’s issues often stem from poor or nonexistent leadership, not because any one breed is inherently [fill in the blank].

There will be another pit bull story in the news, possibly in your city. Responsible pit owners will cringe. Anti-pit-activists will take to forums to condemn the breed. The offending pit will be euthanized. Meanwhile, another ignorant backyard breeder will post a craigslist ad, hoping to capitalize on a new litter of puppies. Shelters will remain full of abandoned pit bulls, most of whom will not find the stable homes they need. A new batch of people will become owners of pit puppies. Some will not have the commitment, nor the skills, to responsibly raise a powerful breed dog. Others will keep their pits outside solely as deterrent to property: entirely insecure, unstable, volatile. The worst of the owners will encourage their pits’ aggression for malicious or illegal purposes.

In the batch of pit owners, some will lead firmly, consciously, and consistently. Thank God for you, who quietly support the breed by providing discipline, leadership, and love. I hope that you will bring your dogs responsibly into public spheres to help dispel stereotypes. I hope for swifter and harsher punishment for owners of all dogs who seriously injure or kill, including jail time and mandatory dog ownership courses or lifetime restriction on housing or owning another dog. Mandatory time working in an animal shelter would be excellent, though not likely. If a person chooses to own a powerful, guardian breed, that person must understand the large responsibility and time commitment necessary to train and work with that dog.

My daughter received her first dog bite. As we are dog people who will continue fostering dogs in our home, there is a chance it will not be her last bite. We will continue to help her to understand boundaries and to practice responsible dog ownership. If she develops a prejudice or fear, it will not be because of our unaddressed ignorance.

How do you work to address prejudice? Share your ideas.

Oikos of the Perfect Spots

Years ago, I spent about 13 months teaching English in Guadalajara, Mexico. I rented a room in a lively neighborhood with weekly markets. No one had front or backyards in Santa Terecita. Usually with open courtyards in the protected middle, buildings were flushed side by side with flat rooftops where families hung their laundry, grew their plants, and kept their dogs.

I remember coming home one day and tinkering in the kitchen when I looked up through the open air courtyard and saw a Dalmatian puppy walking around on the rooftop. My roommate, then a student at the University of Guadalajara, had rescued this pup who was going to be used for the school’s scientific experiments. She had already named him Oikos. My guess is he was about 5 to 6 months old when he came to live with us, and he looked purebred, just scruffy. A Dalmatian is a beautiful sight, and Oikos was no exception. He just lacked confidence to show himself off.

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    Oikos

When I went to the rooftop that first day, he shied away. I simply sat down and focused on the sky until he came to quietly sniff me. In a short time, he sat down beside me and allowed me to pet him. We were friends from that moment. He would bond to me and my roommate only, despite there being other people who lived in the house, as well as frequent visitors. Still timid and fearful, he had issues with men, and boy, he did NOT like water. He bared his teeth and growled menacingly through the length of his first bath. Neither of us knew how to address his issue at that point in time, and our discomfort with his snarling made us stop giving him future baths altogether.

Nearly every day, I’d return home from teaching English and take Oikos for a walk around the area. He was fantastic on leash and we galavanted up and down the streets. He was terrified of a particular veterinary clinic from about a block radius coming from any direction. Again, I had no idea how to address it at the time and allowed him to remain fearful. For the most part, we enjoyed many problem free walks together. When we came in proximity to children, they’d almost always yell and point, “MIRA! Dalmata! Dalmata!” Unlike kids in the states, they never came to pet him. There were too many strays running around that they’d been taught to avoid.

The worst moment happened at the start of one of our walks. I was locking the front door before leaving and Oikos had already started growling at a man approaching us on the sidewalk. The man saw Oikos growling and proceeded without hesitation. As he came within a couple feet of us, Oikos suddenly leapt up and bit his forearm. The man jumped away, I started saying sorry over and over in English, he looked at me in surprise, and continued walking away. Again, rookie dog person, neither anticipating nor correcting a dog’s behavior. However, I also feel that the dude should not have continued approaching a growling dog. At least give space and walk around. Ah well. Wasn’t the states so there was no lawsuit.

I’d often spend time on the rooftop writing in my journal or reading, with Oikos laying down nearby. When I decided to leave Mexico, Oikos stayed on the rooftop. My roommate eventually gave him to a home that owned another Dalmatian. I still think about him often. I wonder if he’s still alive, and if anyone ever helped him address and overcome his issues. For years, I had wild thoughts of returning to Mexico and finding a way to bring him back north. I researched Dalmatian breeders around me but never went that way. I wanted Oikos, specifically. Not his breed. Another dog story from my past where I realize how I could have done things differently to have given my friend the best care. He had his issues, but they weren’t anything that I wouldn’t have been able to work with today. This one is for my buddy with the perfect spots.

Our two-day foster: ADOPTED!

It’s past midnight, September 11, 2014. Today, we reflect and remember our loss, but it’s become a happy day as well because it is Cash’s adoption day.

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Frieda and Cash on a walk

I’m a little dazed at how quickly this all happened. We learned there was a dog who needed us. He arrived at 5:30 am a few mornings later – yesterday. Today we all went on a long walk as a pack. He again did great on leash. Afterwards, he played outside with the female furries and then inside, he plopped on the Kuranda bed. It was the first time we had three occupied Kuranda beds since we started fostering. My daughter gave all dogs tummy rubs and I snapped photo after photo.

Somewhere since yesterday I got attached. I didn’t mean to, and I hadn’t with our first foster, but Cash is a special little dude. Everyone who has helped him along the way has seen it, and I’m feeling a little lucky right now and a little sad that I was one of the humans that got to share a bit of his time. I wish my stepsons could’ve met him, but the schedule didn’t pan out that way.

How does an adoption happen this quickly? The trucker who transported Cash from Cali to Oregon decided that he and his wife wanted to make Cash a part of their family. They’d both spent about a day with him and saw what we’ve all seen–that Cash is all heart and soft paws. He loves the company of other dogs and is gentle with little children. He’s eager to please and has these spectacular bat ears.

Cash and the bat ears

Two days and I fell in love, too. But we are happy for Cash as he heads to his forever home. We might even be able to follow his story some, since the trucker has transported several dogs for Righteous Rottie Rescue and will hopefully continue with the group.

What a good boy you are, Cash.

Foster #3, you don’t know us yet, but we are ready for you.

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Relaxing after a good day

Finally off the I-5 from Cali to Oregon, meet Mr. Cash

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Cash – Foster dog #2

My blog has been quiet a long time mainly because we had no fosters for story fuel. That changed at 5:30 am yesterday morning with the arrival of Cash.

Cash was a stray who frequented a Toyota dealership in SoCal. He was taken in by a family who meant to foster him temporarily. They fell in love with him, but after five months, housing advised them that they were over the limit for animals and could not keep Cash. Afraid they’d have to bring him to a shelter, they appealed to the Facebook community, and got the attention of the Righteous Rottie Rescue – Eugene coordinator. The coordinator called us to see if we were able to foster. Cash met our two main requirements: good with kids and good with dogs. We were in. (You may have noticed that Cash is not Rottie. Yes, Righteous Rottie Rescue sometimes rescues non-Rotts.)

After a long drive up the interstate, Cash arrived at our house yesterday morning very afraid and uncertain. We quietly put him in the crate with a blanket in it and over it to let him decompress for most of the day. In the afternoon, another rescue coordinator came by to help us with dog introductions between Cash and our two furries, Lola and Frieda. We walked Chase with each of the girls separately, and then supervised all three in the backyard off leash. Cash was impressive this first time on leash. He needs more consistent walks to gain confidence, but he walks right alongside and doesn’t pull. We noted prey drive towards cats, which we will work to temper during future walks.

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Lola and Cash share a secret

The three dogs got along very well, with Cash enticing the older girls to participate in his puppy play. He can outrun both of them with his zoomies, and Lola is no slowpoke. We think Cash would probably be better suited as “Flash.”

Cash is about a year old lab pit mix. He doesn’t know any commands yet and is much more interested in people food than dog food. He is submissive and has an easier time trusting women than men. He’s been fine and curious around our toddler and this weekend we’ll get to see him in action with our older kids. Here’s to helping our second foster on his way to his forever family!

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Frieda and Cash relax after playing outside