Yesterday I took my daughter for a walk around the neighborhood. As I turned the corner to head down another street, someone's giant, purebred German Shepherd saw us and came toward us at a run. I immediately turned Madelyn's stroller away, placing myself between the dog and my daughter. I chose not to run, partly because I know how much dogs like to chase running things, and partly because I'm not sure if I could have gotten my feet to respond to my request to "go the heck away from here". I hung up on my husband who was on the phone with me, mostly because I couldn't think or talk or listen or be on the phone right now, and I looked down and waited for whatever would happen.
"HEY! GET BACK OVER HERE!!!" The dog owner noticed the dog's trajectory, and meandered toward us. "Don't worry", he informed me, probably after noticing my face's lack of any trace amounts of coloring, and the defensive posture I'd taken to protect my daughter from the beast, "he's friendly. I have two little boys, he definitely won't bite!"
As he meandered up, the dog finished his run and took to his inspection of me. I tried to keep myself from sending off too much "you freak the hell out of me" scent. (I've had another German Shepherd sit and growl at me because I was nervous and that made him nervous. In that occasion, the dog was sitting on the bed next to me, growling inches from my face, and it wasn't until I got so scared I actually got loopy and started laughing that he relaxed and took on a friendlier posture. That was the time I learned that being scared of things makes them want to kill you that much more.) He snuffled at my legs and feet until his owner arrived to pull the dog away. With a big disarming smile, the owner again assured me that this particular dog would NEVER hurt anyone, and I had nothing to be afraid of. Silly me. It was completely fine and responsible of them to have this beast of an animal running around untethered in the front lawn of their suburban home.
Yeah, see here's the thing, and pardon my language in advance: I call some serious bullshit here.
Yes, it's personal. Duh. For those who don't know, I was mauled by a dog just like my neighbor's when I was not quite 4 years old, and the picture of an animal baring its blood soaked teeth at you (more specifically, teeth stained with YOUR OWN blood) is a pretty tough one to erase from your brain. I received over two hundred stitches on my head alone. In fact, my skull had to be cut from ear to ear and my face, like, pulled down so they could do repairs below. (I watched a similar surgery on tv once before. The things we can do to the human body and still put it back together never cease to amaze me.) I have a frankenstein scar between my thumb and forefinger on my left hand, from the stitches that were put in after the dog nearly bit my hand in half when I tried to hold him off with me not yet 4 year old length arms. I've also got a couple of scars over my left eye, one of which makes it look like I over pluck the middle of my eyebrow. I got those the one time I did open my eyes to noticing the blood stained teeth and fur, just before the dog, Duke, noticed and went after the moving eyelid. How I still have an eyeball in that socket is beyond me.
Duke was my neighbors dog. Duke ran free between their farm to ours, and was a dog I was very familiar with, and who should have been very familiar to me. He attacked me that day because I patted him on the head.
I say all of this not to be graphic or disturbing, but to explain myself a bit. I know that most people cannot and will not understand my fear of this particular dog breed. Yes, it'll have been 25 years this coming summer. No, I haven't been bit by another Shepherd since then, and no, I'm not really afraid of most dog breeds.
But I have something that I think most other people don't: a stronger grasp of what can happen with a dog. Sure, we domesticate them and cuddle up and call them our best friends. But really, they have their own volition, unexpected things can set them off, and they have more than enough power to kill human. Cops don't use Shepherds because they're the best breed for sniffing out drugs. Hounds are better at it. Beagles are great. But no criminal is afraid that they're going to be eaten by a beagle.
I know that my fear is less than rational. I know that my sense that I have probably a 50/50 chance of getting attacked any time I'm approached by a German Shepherd is, let's say, a little on the high side. But it's like my job. I work with children and let every parent know that, no matter how timid your child, every, EVERY kid has the capacity for aggression, and may resort to it when pressed. Every dog has the capacity to do to someone what Duke did to me. As much as I try to convince myself that I and my children do NOT have a 50% chance of getting eaten by someone's dog, it's hard to convince myself that I have a less than 10% of getting mauled, and I still don't love those odds. See, I don't really know what set Duke off that day, and I'm sure I never will.
But take the PSA folks. There are kids and strangers in your neighborhood. As comfortable as you feel around him, it's honestly very stupid to say that your dog would never bite someone. He's a dog. He's a hunter and a carnivore and it's in his nature. Seriously folks, tie the damn things up.