Yesterday kicked off National Dog Bite Prevention Week, which had me reading up on a ton of tips and statistics related to dog bites in the US each year. Did you know that 4.7 million people in this country are bitten by dogs every year, 800,000 of which need to receive medical attention? Did you know that in 2008 I was one of those people? It's true. After a lifetime of dog ownership, 8 years of working at a veterinary clinic, and a part-time job working at a doggie daycare in the city, I had never been bit by a dog until the night before Christmas Eve....becoming another statistic in US dog bites just before the close of that year. And almost four years later, it's still hard for me to talk about...but here goes.
As I said, it was the night before Christmas Eve of 2008 and I was heading out to my parents' house in the burbs to get ready for the next day's festivities (we're a Polish family, so Christmas Eve has always been the big party day at our house). It was snowing pretty hard and everything was blanketed by pure white; it was really quite beautiful and I couldn't help but enjoy the scenery as I got off the highway and started heading down the roads I had been down so many times before. As I was about to make the last few turns toward home I noticed that somebody's two dogs had gotten out and were quite enjoying themselves romping through the freshly fallen snow, a little too close to the road.
Being the animal lover that I am, I couldn't just move on knowing that these dogs might be in danger, so I pulled over in the lot on the corner and got out to find a couple other drivers who had done the same. We did our best to call the dogs over and away from the intersection, but they were having too good of a time to notice us or the oncoming traffic. A "whack" and a "thud" later, my heart started racing and the small group of us were making our way to the scene of the accident. The first dog got clipped and limped away to the side of the road, but the second dog wasn't so lucky. What was a bounding black ball of fur a moment ago was now lying flat on the snowy pavement with a terrified look in his eyes. I don't remember what must have been going through my head (nothing rational) but the next thing I knew there was a sharp pain in my left hand and my palm started pooling blood. I didn't know what to do or say. Another woman who had stopped saw what had happened and thoughtfully gave me a t-shirt from her back seat to stop the bleeding. I wrapped it around my hand as tight as I could and tied it in a knot, made my way back to my car, and drove the last mile through snow and tears where my family was awaiting my arrival.
I managed to get across what had happened between hysterical sobs and a box of Kleenex, then my dad and brother took me to the 24-hour emergency care clinic where I was the only patient of the night. I like to think I at least made work a little more interesting for the nurses and doctors who were stuck working that night, although they also had to try and decipher the order of events from my blubbering recollection of the night's activities. They cleaned out the wound (ouch!), gave me some antibiotics and a few extra-strength advil, wrapped my hand in an impressive amount of gauze, and called the police office to file a dog bite report. The dog didn't make it.
This was turning out to be the worst Christmas ever. The next day I left to sing at church before the rest of the family arrived. I told my sister to please tell everyone what had happened before I got back and instruct them not to bring it up for fear that I would spend the entire night looking like some kind of crazy person. I said a prayer for the family who lost their dog the night before Christmas Eve and, though they've faded over time, I'll always have the scars to remind me not to put my hands near an animal who is frightened or injured.
Learn from my mistakes!
Share your knowledge with others to help prevent dog bites!