Some days start out better than others. This particular day started off great. It was a gorgeous day in November and I had just taken my dog Sherman for a jog. Yeah, she's got a dude name. It's okay, though, she doesn't mind. I was feeling good and tired and I was listening to some tunes as we walked home.
We were about two blocks from the house when it happened. One second it was a nice morning, the next second three rottweilers* were snarling and chomping on my dog like they were starving and she was filet mignon. My dog tried to fight back, tried to twist out of their jaws, but she weighs thirty-five pounds. She was screwed.
Now, when something like this happens, a big adrenaline bomb goes off in your bloodstream. For me, it meant everything went tunnel vision. There was no clever strategy. I had to do something and I had no options. I did the one thing I could and reached down and picked her up. I lifted my above my shoulders and held her as high as possible.
That's when I got the brunt of the attack. One dog, the leader it seemed, was especially ferocious in his attempts to get my dog. Chomp, he bit me, right on my left arm. I don't remember where he bit me the first time, or the second, or... I remember bite after bite as the dog tried to get me to let go of Sherman.
He jumped up on me, trying to get higher. One of his teeth punched right into the flesh of my upper bicep. The other two jumped on me, trying to reach Sherman. All of this lasted maybe thirty seconds or a minute. It felt like an hour. I had exactly three thoughts while three huge dogs pummeled me.
1. This doesn't hurt as much as I would have imagined a dog attack would hurt.
2. If I just keep walking, I'll eventually get home and we'll be safe.
3. It's really hard to hold onto a dog who's thrashing around trying to simultaneously get away and fight back.
The inevitable happened. Sherman slipped out of my hands. Immediately, the dogs were on her. One bit her neck, another grabbed her leg, and they had her. I shoved one. I kicked another. I might as well have kicked a wall for all the good it did. I yelled. I thought, “I am about to see my dog get killed. Any second now, there's going to be blood and guts and she'll be dead. That'll be it.” It was me against three rottweilers and I was absolutely, one hundred percent helpless to stop them.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, five or six guys ran up. “Help me, please help me,” I begged. They waved their arms, they yelled at the dogs, and the rottweilers scattered because now they were the ones who were outnumbered. My dog stood up. The guys put themselves between me and Sherman and the rottweilers. I looked at my dog, she seemed more or less okay, and she looked at me and we stumbled home. The adrenaline rush was already taking its toll. My hand was shaking as I opened the door. I closed it behind me, locked it, and collapsed to the floor. My legs were mush.
That's when I noticed the blood. My left hand was bleeding pretty bad. I had a puncture right in the webbing between my thumb and index finger. Another, deeper and bigger, on the back of my hand below my thumb. Blood trickled all down my arm. The shirt I was wearing was shredded.
I called the police to report the attack. I took deep breaths to keep myself under control. The dispatcher said an officer was on his way. I hung up. Then my parents got the worst call they had all year. Mom answered the phone, happy to hear from me. “Hey Al, what are you up to?” I lost it. “Me and Sherman just got attacked by dogs,” I said. It came out in chunks, interrupted by sobs. Mom didn't say much. She didn't ask many questions. She just said, “We're on our way.”
They lived about forty five minutes away. While they were driving, the police officer came and took my report. He asked me if I wanted to press charges. Oh yes, I wanted to press charges. That done, I had to get Sherman to the veterinarian. It was Sunday, so this was the emergency vet. He unlocked the door and I brought Sherman in and lifted her to the table. I told him what had happened.
“You are really lucky,” he said. “When dogs attack like that, one will grab one and of the dog and one will grab the other and they'll just pull it apart. And I mean pull the little dog to pieces.” Thanks, Mr. Vet, that's exactly what I needed to hear at that moment.
Mr. Vet examined her. Sherman had a torn patch of skin on her chest about the size of half a dollar bill. Remarkably, that seemed to be her only major injury. She was going to need stitches and a rabies booster, but she should be fine. “Frankly,” Mr. Vet said, looking at me and my bloody arm across the table, “I'm more worried about you.” He injected her with anesthetic and told me he'd take good care of her.
Mom and dad met me at the vet's parking lot. Dad got in my car and drove me home. Gratefully, I let my parents take over. They called the police officer back to talk to him. They cleaned me up.
By then, I had time to take stock, and take pictures, of my injuries. Fortunately, not many of the bites broke skin. Unfortunately, the one dog had bitten me all up and down the arm, paying special attention to my elbow. My whole arm hurt. It swelled up red and painful. In the next few days, my whole arm was covered in angry, violently colored bruises. Where the dogs jumped on me, I had a whole network of scratches along my sides, my back, and even my neck.
That night, I lay in bed trying to fall asleep. I had been attacked by dogs. In the blur of the attack, my brain was focused on what was immediate. Now, I had time to realize that it all could have gone so much worse. The dogs could have attacked me directly, instead of just trying to get through me. The bystanders might not have intervened in time. Those dogs, quite literally, could have mutilated or even killed me. These things don't happen. Not in real life. And yet, as my arm throbbed in the dark, I had compelling evidence to the contrary.
Over the next few weeks, both my dog and I swallowed loads of antibiotics and slowly healed. My left arm took forever. A week or so after the attack, someone accidentally squeezed my left hand. Agony shot through me and I almost burst into tears in front of fifty people at work. I held it together, barely, and pulled away. I didn't realize how much people actually touched me until it hurt so bad every time it happened.
The owner of the dogs pleaded not guilty to the charges. I went to court, bracing for a fight. When asked to present his side of the story, the guy stood up and blamed me for getting hurt, told the judge he can't be held responsible for controlling his dogs, and stated, “Of course they attacked, it's what dogs do.” In short, he was quite the charmer.
The judge, remarkably unswayed by this defense, found him guilty on three counts of owning vicious animals and three counts of failing to control them. The judge ordered him to pay roughly $1,000 in fines and approximately $300 in restitution to me for vet and medical bills. The guy was very unhappy about this and maintained the attitude that it had been my fault that his dogs jumped their fence and attacked.
Today, it's been about nine months since the attack. I have a couple of small scars that blend in with the moles on my arm. The nerve damage in my left hand is practically gone. I have received exactly zero dollars of the court-ordered restitution payment. There is nothing I can do about it.
I live in a different place now and I'm slowly taking my dog for walks again. I'm still afraid to take her out alone. When we go hiking with my boyfriend, every off-leash dog we pass makes me tense up. I brace for another attack. I have my boyfriend wait. I ask the other people to please hold on to their dog. The owners of those dogs sometimes look at me like, “What's your problem?” Maybe next time I get the stink eye, I'll just show them my scars.
*I'm a dog-lover through and through and the last thing I want is reinforce a stereotype about a bully breed. Rottweilers are not all vicious animals, no more than any other breed, by they are incredibly powerful. To own a powerful breed without taking responsibility for the animal(s) is dangerous. This is a prime example.