I got the New York Times "dogs" article alert and sighed when I saw the title: "The Dog Bit Me". Oh boy. I read it anyway, of course. I wanted to know how bad it ended up for the parties involved. For those of you whose stomachs dropped with mine, the kid was bitten, but not "mauled" or disfigured. The dog was also fine; already, in fact, in residence with the grandparents, but this was a family visit.
I tried to be clear and calm in my comment on it, and I've gotten several "recommends" (the NY Times version of the Facebook "Like", I guess). Another commenter stated they agreed with me specifically, and in addition to the linking of Doggone Safe, also suggested Family Paws, which I had not heard of. The more pets and kids resources the better, really. Some people just think we're all meanie heads. Some people wonder why the dog is still alive.
It's almost a shame that they didn't have this article during Dog Bite Prevention Week (May 22-29), but perhaps good they didn't. The author in fact talks about how she in fact wishes the dog was dead, and how he had been left in the shelter she adopted him from and died there instead. Awesome. Instead of keeping your children's clutchy hands off of a dog clearly not comfortable with them (who you gave away to prevent such a thing from happening), you wish the dog was dead. I'm glad the little boy, at least, doesn't hate dogs now. But he doesn't seem to have been any more educated.
The article, in fact, does not touch upon canine warning signals in the slightest (well, she does mention the dog's "air snaps"). Or the education of children's behavior toward dogs and their deserved space in the slightest. I get it, there are word limits. And I'm preaching again. But come on here. There are ways to have dogs and kids without faces getting bitten, I'm sure of it. Lots of people do it.
But really, dogs are animals. We welcome into our homes, and our families, but dogs are not people too. No matter how hard they try to fool us. They can't tell us "stop" as people can, they can't get car keys and go somewhere else to cool off. No. They tell us as loud and clear as they know how, inching up the escalation. First might be the whale eye. Or the head turn. Or the licked lips, the panting, the pinned ears. A dog can get up and move, yes, but sometimes that isn't enough once a child has become mobile. There is the piloerection, the growl, and the "air snap" that the author of the New York Times article refers to. Then there's the bite; inhibited, one truly hopes. The last ditch effort, one hopes.
But as I said in my comment, kids DIE from things like this. Dog DIE from things like this. If the dog was stressed enough and air snapping such that he was rehomed with the author's parents, then shouldn't certain specific precautions have taken place during a visit? You know, the good old fashioned "Keep the kid away from the dog" one? "Let the dog have his safe space" one? They are our clowns, our companions, our champions, but they need us to cut them a break. It's a dog ownership responsibility, and it's a parenting responsibility. If you have a dog in the house, from the beginning of history, you should be teaching the child the dog is not a toy. You should be teaching the dog the child is to be loved, yes, but the child is escapable. This is one area where crating a dog is extremely useful, I'm told. A dog's crate should be sacrosanct; dog only, child never. Ever.
I don't know what measures this family tried, when the dogs and kids were under the same roof. Mistakes happen, truly. We are all human, we've all done things we regretted. We know this to be true. I'm able to be holier than thou as I wasn't there. I've also had the luxury of raising Elka from a puppy. We can grab her ears, lay on her, pick up paws, and she doesn't care. But Zeke, the dog in the article, was from a shelter. The owners knew, from Baby One (it was Baby Two who was bitten) that the dog did not like kids, and yet still related prying tails and ears from baby fists thinking these appendages deserving of a yank. I'm glad that it wasn't worse, and I do hope they work to educate both of their children on behavior around dogs. All dogs, family or friend or stranger. It's a scary thing, dogs biting kids. With enough education, one hopes it's ultimately preventable.