This morning’s editorial is prompted by a comment left yesterday evening on my National Dog News Examiner Facebook page in response to the “Child loses eyelid in dog attack”.
The reader asked why that story was being shared with dog lovers. She went on to demand that the photo of the two year old child who had been injured be “taken down”.
That story was shared because first and foremost, it is dog news. That includes the good, the bad and the ugly.
It was also shared because it is a teaching moment for all dog owners.
We must, at all times, be our dog’s safety net. We must protect them from ever being in a situation such as the West Highland Terrier was in – the situation that instantly changed lives forever for two families.
If that owner had any inclination that their dog might bite a small child’s face, they would have prevented any interaction between the toddler and the dog.
Nobody purposefully allows a tragedy such as that to occur.
Absolutely, this two year old child did not intend to anger the small dog as she offered a biscuit to him.
Signals were obviously missed – by everyone involved.
Perhaps the Westie’s owner had never paid attention to the dog’s mannerisms around children. Perhaps the dog had never been in close proximity to children before.
No dog owner can predict, with absolute accuracy, what their dog will do in all situations.
It is our responsibility as dog owners to err on the side of caution – to be our dog’s safety net.
If you are walking your dog at the park and a stranger approaches to request that their child pet your dog – you do not have to say yes.
I will admit, I have made that mistake in the past.
I tend to be one of those people who likes to make other people happy, and I hate to offend – so, when park-goers wanted to pet my German shepherd, I usually said yes.
Now, after writing these stories for several years, I see that good dogs and good dog owners have fallen into tragic situations when they were caught off guard.
Unexpected behaviors can and do happen.
Even if you believe that your dog is perfect around strangers – you can never know that with absolute certainty.
My own Shepherd, after six years of living with me, surprised me by a strong reaction to someone that she had met before on more than one occasion – that person was unloading dog-food from the back of my SUV and he surprised her.
Suffice to say, her reaction scared him, and shocked the rest of us. Nobody was injured, but it was un-expected and unnerving.
She had never before acted in such a manner – and she has met hundreds of people – every time without any reaction whatsoever.
It is a moment such as that when you realize that you can never be absolutely positive how your dog will react.
These days, I am more selective about who can pet my dogs when I am out on a walk.
I don’t owe strangers anything, but I do owe my dog.
It is my responsibility to not put her in a position that could end poorly – it isn’t worth the risk.
We’ve seen it before – a dog bite frequently means death for the dog.
Remember some of these stories and apply the lessons that they offer to your own life.
Err on the side of caution when it comes to your dog – one tragic incident – an incident such as the one which disfigured that beautiful 2 yr-old child – can happen to anyone.
Nobody at that party intended for that to happen – obviously, they missed the warning signs.
One moment, one split-second reaction – can forever change lives.
Be aware, and exercise caution.
End of today’s lesson.
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