For the larger part of my childhood I was terrified of dogs. Hulking, slavering brutes with rows of razor sharp teeth. Basically land sharks. They were to be avoided (via fleeing in terror) at all costs. Thing is, I never had any particularly grizzly run ins with them. I’d seen films or TV shows with aggressive, violent dogs and wrapped that visage over any mutt that crossed my path. Even one bark, in my head, amounted to precrime. I’d scream or hide from even the smallest, cuddliest piles of fluff. Hey, I was a wimpy kid. It came with the territory. Over time I came to my senses and learned to love the ones who woof and continued in my life without incident.
Last night I got bitten by a dog.
Don’t worry, it wasn’t a vicious mauling. I’m not bereft of limbs, bleeding out on the sidewalk. It wasn’t fun, but I now find myself fascinated with the experience. Here’s how it went down: My girlfriend and I were on a late night stroll. It was part leisurely walk for the sake of it and very much ice cream would be delicious right now. From a distance we saw a big dog on a leash with a tiny human walking it. As we approached, we noticed it was our upstairs neighbour (the human, not the dog). She’d knocked on our door last week to ask if it was okay for her to dogsit for her mum this week and as dog lovers of course we fell over ourselves to say yes. It was a gorgeous rottweiler that looked like the quintessential example of its breed.
I was amazed at how quickly it happened. I put my hand out to the dog to sniff (as a quick Google search tells me isn’t actually the thing to do) and within a second or two it struck. Twice. The speed was insane, a rapid glancing blow to my right hand (that still resulted in three nicks and a sore thumbnail) and another to my left forearm. The forearm was what surprised me most. My arm was covered in a thick coatsleeve (which remained mercifully unharmed aside from some slobber. There’s no damage to the coat whatsoever) and still I ended up with a scratch and a fast swelling bruise on my arm. My upstairs neighbour was mortified and apologised profusely. The dog kept barking and leapt up a few times, only to be yanked back on her leash. My neighbour apologised again and headed off home.
My thumb and forearm in particular were throbbing (given I lead such a delicate life, this was a heightened situation), but I tried to downplay it. Admittedly I was in shock and my girlfriend was too. I didn’t blame the animal or my neighbour, if anything it seemed more like the dog was acting in a protective manner towards two strangers at night. Still, my internal programming that told me dogs were fluffy and playful was clashing with my long dormant fear. It’s been a while since I was in a situation that had me question my beliefs like that and it was jarring for sure. I spent the rest of the evening in a vague haze, clamping down on my arm with frozen peas (and of course gorging on some Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia).
The whole experience hasn’t made me question my love of dogs one iota. It’s hard to argue that while the scratches last I may be slightly hesitant to approach big dogs with the same vigour. The notion that really arises from this ordeal is that I need to educate myself further on how to properly greet them. We may have bred these creatures to sometimes sit in handbags and wear novelty clothing, but we can’t forget they used to be hunters that would kill for a feed. We may sit higher on the food chain than they do, but that doesn’t mean they can’t bite back.
Most importantly, my commitment to the Air Bud Pawdcast is still unwavering. Because I knew that’s what you all feared the most.