June 3rd, 2018

My Dog Louie Was Attacked by Another Dog — He’s Fine, I’m a Mess

Louie, by Ellie Deneroff

On a cool morning recently, I was taking my dog Louie for his morning walk.

We headed to a small local park, a place we’ve been hundreds of times in his 5-year life.

He loves it. Lots to sniff. A chance to trot around without his leash. Perhaps a soggy tennis ball to chase, after I’ve given it a quick toss. (They must taste great, yum.) Squirrels and birds in abundance — these make him quite vigilant.

It was early, so no one was around — at least for the first 5 minutes or so.

Then, another dog arrived, perhaps a bit bigger than Louie (maybe 25 pounds), very cute and energetic.

Then this exchange:

“How’s your dog’s disposition?” asked the owner.

“He’s fine with dogs his size,” I said.

Off came the other dog’s leash.

Here’s what happened in the next 5 seconds:  Once the leash was off, the other dog made a beeline for Louie, who tried to run away — but he’s not much of an athlete.

Then, Louie made a sound I’d never heard before. You can’t really describe how terrible this sound is unless you hear it firsthand. My friend Susan made an excellent analogy — it’s like what you hear during a car accident when you’re in the car versus when you just hear about someone else’s accident. Yikes.

I ran over to pick him up. He had a sizable gash on the left side of his snout; blood was dripping into his mouth.

We took him to the local animal hospital. They admitted him, put him under anesthesia so they could wash out the wound, closed it in two layers with four stitches. Many hours later they discharged him home to us, his very distressed owners.

I felt horrible. Why didn’t I realize that when the person asked me about Louie’s disposition, this was a red flag for rowdy behavior? What if Louie is permanently scarred, either physically or emotionally? What if he gets a life-threatening infection from Capnocytophaga canimorsus?

(Promised the NEJM Journal Watch editors I’d put a little ID in here. Done!)

In short, how could I have let this happen? 

Dogs are like toddlers — they rely on us to keep them safe, because they’re not good at this part of survival. Examples — Louie will occasionally bark loudly at dogs big enough to eat him for breakfast. I’m referring to really giant dogs, they’re practically bears. Our friend’s dog has never met a skunk he didn’t try to chase, much to everyone’s dismay. One of Louie’s brothers (Arlo, he lives on our block) sometimes chases cars. Not smart, dogs!

But, just like our two-year-old kids, dogs are very good at making us want to take care of them — which is why canines have survived all these thousands of years.

Because unlike the toddlers, dogs don’t advance past this dependent stage. The deal we’ve made with them over evolutionary time is that we provide food, shelter, and safety; in exchange they give us back unconditional love. I’d clearly let down my side of the deal, at least on this day — and it felt awful.

The good news is that Louie bounced back like a champ. Aside from 24-hours of post-anesthesia fogginess, and undoubtedly embarrassment over having to wear the Cone of Shame for a few days, he’s been fine. He’s been back to that park several times, no detectable PTSD, no wariness.

He doesn’t even seem to mind when we call him Scarsnout. That’s because he’s a good dog.

Now I’ve got to be a good owner.


9 Responses to “My Dog Louie Was Attacked by Another Dog — He’s Fine, I’m a Mess”

  1. Loretta S says:

    Aww, poor Louie. So sorry to hear this happened. Glad his injuries weren’t more extensive. Don’t beat yourself up too much, Paul. I think most of us pet owners have had a moment when we felt we let our pet safety guard down. (I could tell you stories….) Fortunately, our pets don’t hold it against us when we do. Wishing Louie a quick recovery and I hope his fur grows back fast!

  2. Silvia says:

    Poor Louie, hope he’s fine now! I’m sure he is not blaming you – pets are special because of this (among other things)…

  3. AS says:

    When the attacker’s owner asked you about Louie’s disposition — wasn’t that code for “My dog is friendly. How about yours?”
    It sounds like they owe you (and Louie) an apology and shouldn’t be allowed to go off-leash in a dog park anymore.

  4. Francesco S says:

    Wish both of you a full recovery! My dog was attacked by another dog and I still remember that day although it was more than 15 years ago. Thank you for sharing this!

  5. Jeanne Marrazzo says:

    So hard! Poor little guy. Thank goodness they are so much more resilient than we are. But I think the other dog and his owners need the message: no more off leash for him…

  6. Lynn Black says:

    Oh! I understand your horror and grief (and guilt) watching Louie suffer. So glad he has completely recovered…because you were there…now I hope you do, too!

  7. Sarah logan says:

    Reading with a wry smile. Another ID doc spending weekend worrying about a loved one and capnocytophaga. My daughter aged ten with severe learning difficulties got bitten by a neighbours dog at the weekend. She has no idea about boundaries as our puppy is super tolerant. I reckon I win on the guilt front!

  8. Rebecca says:

    Scarsnout is such a cute nickname! I’m glad he and you are okay.

  9. Health_Kenya says:

    Glad its ok.

HIV Information: Author Paul Sax, M.D.

Paul E. Sax, MD

Contributing Editor

NEJM Journal Watch
Infectious Diseases

Biography | Disclosures | Summaries

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