Last week I got bitten by a stray dog I was trying to rescue. My neighbor (JG) had knocked on my door to ask for my help with this stray he and his wife (L) had coaxed into our shared driveway. I’ve fostered three dogs in the time I’ve lived at Tortuga, so I am the “stray-dog-expert” insofar as we have one. I am not a professional and I made a mistake.
Not terrifying looking at all, right? And not a vicious dog.
We’d managed to coax him closer to us with the use of slices of ham and sitting calmly on the ground so we weren’t a threat. He came close enough that L was able to pet him. He seemed to be calming down. And this is when I made my mistake. I tried to pick him up.
First I grabbed hold of his collar (he did have one, though no tags) and then I scooped my other arm under him. He started freaking out and struggling. Which I should have expected. But I didn’t.
I should have put him back on the ground and possibly tried to hold onto his collar. Or I should have let him go. But instead, I instinctively pulled him closer. This works great with wriggly toddlers. Not so much terrified terriers.
He started snapping at everything in reach. My hand, my arms, and, unfortunately, my lip. He didn’t even leave a scratch on my hands and arms, which is one of the reasons I don’t think he’s an inherently violent dog. That’s a dog trying to get away. Not trying to hurt. Not trying to latch on. But he managed to catch my lip.
Lips are fragile, in comparison to regular skin. He got me good. Note–he didn’t try to hold on. He could have hurt me a great deal more than he did. He’s a terrier. They’re made to kill things (yes, really, terriers are intended to kill rats and other rodents). But he let go.
Meanwhile, blood is pouring down my face.
L saw the blood and shrieked (this seems a perfectly normal reaction to me). JG, who had gone indoors, came running. I sent her off to get me a paper towel, told him where the key to my storage unit was and how to find my small dog crate. And I calmed the little guy down.
He actually did calm down while I held him and cooed at him.
We got him into the crate and then JG drove me to Urgent Care. Which is actually only two blocks away, but I figured I might get light headed if I walked.
Let me tell you, when you walk into Urgent Care with blood pouring down your face and neck, they respond right quick. They took down information and got me to a doctor. Ultimately (after a brief phone consultation with my Dad) the doctor sent me up to plastic surgery.
Normally, he said, they don’t do much other than cleaning mouth wounds. However, one of the cuts crossed the Vermillion border (there’s a name for that boundary between lip and regular skin!). That, he said, can be tricky. The injury only barely crossed it, so he said it was a toss up as to which to do. I called my Dad, who then talked with the doctor. I let my Dad decide. Because, at that point, I wanted to just sit and do nothing.
JG stayed with me and walked me over to plastic surgery. I deliberately had not washed the blood off myself because, again, people respond quickly when you’re covered in blood.
The plastic surgeon cooed over me, cleaned me up, and set to stitching. That hurt more than the bite.
Fast forward to Animal Control arriving. Because bite reports go to them. I was worried (and rightly so, though hopefully I can still work this out) that they’d want to put him down. The woman I spoke to was actually very helpful, explaining to me what would happen and why. She said they don’t normally adopt out dogs that bite (which I read as code for: we put them down).
So, I asked if I could adopt him.
I told her it was my fault. I told her why I didn’t think he was a vicious dog. I told her about fostering.
She was concerned that I already had a big dog who didn’t get along well with other dogs (she also knew exactly which houses on our block had dogs and how long they’d had them…). I noted that he’d done okay with the fosters and she got this considering look on her face and murmured. “Maybe he just reacts when the other dog acts like prey…” (I have found this to be true.)
She told me there was a chance they’d adopt him out to me. After all, I already knew he bit. She told me to tell them in writing that I wanted to adopt him. To just email them saying I wanted him and giving his ID#. (Here’s his profile from the shelter)
She put up handwritten signs around the neighborhood describing the dog, since the original owner could reclaim him easily. If they knew. If they wanted to. If, if, if.
I also put up posters with a picture of the little guy. A couple of the neighborhood kids helped with that one.
And now… we wait.
He’s in isolation now, so they can be sure he doesn’t have rabies. The clock on isolation runs out on 2/21. And isolation will only make him more skittish. And less adoptable.
So I’ve applied to adopt him via their web contact form. And I’ve sent a follow up email asking about him. I haven’t heard anything back, but he’s still listed on their found dogs page.
I look at that first picture and I just want to cuddle him and reassure him. I hope his original owner claims him. Or that they let me adopt him. I really, really hope they let me adopt him. He doesn’t deserve to be put down for my mistake (and no, I’m not beating myself up, just wishing I’d been smarter about it).
In future… I’ll call a shelter first. I hadn’t wanted to, because I didn’t want him to be at risk of being put down. But now he is, more so than if I’d called them first.
I will say that I found out other people in our neighborhood had seen him and even had him in their yard and done nothing about it. They let their kids pet him. But they didn’t try to do any of the things they should have. Hell, don’t let your kids pet a strange dog. They should have called Animal Control, instead of ignoring the problem. And that upsets me, too.
Ugh. I’m thinking of a lot of “what-ifs,” even though I know it won’t help.
Cross your fingers they let me have him.