Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Hounds of Hell

Before I left my house, and mentally worked through the possible 7 mile routes available to me, I considered my favorite--the most hilly 7 miles possible. It's always a challenge, and hard to turn down when it's "Game On." But, I knew those two dogs would be out and I'd have to run by them not once, but twice. However, I'd been giving them the benefit of the doubt, and even though they growled and aggressively barked and chased every time I ran by, they'd never actually nipped or hurt me. I'd considered carrying mace, but I love animals. It seemed cruel. I silently grumbled about the negligent owner, and just wished people would obey leash laws--and common sense. I took off for that route anyway.

Sure enough, at mile two, here they came, two excited dogs making a beeline for me. Prominent black lab features, but yet not black labs. They chased me, angrily barking and I just ran on, ignoring them. Eventually, they got bored (or tired), and trotted back home. I know these dogs well now; this is our dance.

I mastered the tough hills, feeling unusually strong. I had more lift and spring in climbing than I've ever noticed before. Rest? Recovery? The new strength training? All three? I was feeling good--no, great! Approaching the 5 mile point of my 7 mile run, I was beaming, and picking up the pace for a strong finish. And here they came, ferociously barking and chasing, and they followed for a few hundred feet, and then suddenly, I am shocked and surprised--the bigger one sank its teeth in my upper thigh. I whirled and kicked it in the mouth and started chasing them. Where the first milliseconds were filled with utter shock and disbelief it had actually bitten me (after so many months), that quickly evolved into fearless rage.

It is said in the moment of crisis and adrenaline flow, you will experience a "fight" or "flight" response. Feeling little pain (already high on endorphins from my run), seeing the blood run freely, I hit "fight" head on. I chased those dogs, yelling at them all the way back to their owner's house. As I actually stepped onto the property for the first time ever, the dog lunged at me again. I stomped, growled and kicked towards it again, fearing absolutely nothing. It backed off. I marched up to the front door of the house, and saw the storm door only covering the entrance. I banged hard with my fist, urging the owner out. I repeated this several times, and the owner declined to come to the door. Just as well; I was furious and had nothing nice to say.

I proceeded to the driveway, blood still flowing, and called 911. Eventually, the Sheriff arrived, and as he stepped out, the dog raced for him barking and snarling. He was prepared, and immediately sprayed the dogs, who reacted quickly and backed off. He, too, went to the door and got no response. Eventually, he entered the residence and emerged with the owner. Another Sheriff arrived. Several times, they offered to call an ambulance, I declined. And yes, I filed a formal complaint. After about an hour, I jogged home (thirsty, as I didn't carry, and anxious to shower and get into see my doctor). This may have been a mistake, the pain was significant for the last half mile.

As I'd showered and was preparing to dash out to seek medical treatment, Animal Control arrived at my residence. He took pictures of the bite, interviewed me, filled out paperwork, etc. The injury was classified as "bad" on the report. The good news--the animals both had current rabies vaccinations. I would not be required to undergo that treatment.

The bite is a crushing wound. I have several puncture wounds from the teeth, and a lot of swelling and grapefruit-sized bruising. I received wound treatment, tetanus shot and antibiotics from my doctor. I am quite lucky that there is no tearing of the wound, and I did not require stitches. 24 hours later, it is actually feeling better, but looking worse.

Never again will I give a dog the benefit of the doubt. I will not run outdoors again until I have obtained appropriate defensive sprays. And any dog who runs at me or chases me will receive a spray in the face. Sorry dog owners--but you have a responsibility to secure your dogs. They may be "love puppies" on your living room floor, but when strangers run by, what you don't see: your dog turns into "Cujo."

Here's a bit of dog psychology I learned yesterday: strangers entering a dog's territory, the dog barks, the "intruder" leaves. Day after day the dog sees this action repeated. After a period of time, the dog appears to feel invincible against intruder. At that point, there's a good chance it will attack. I believe this is precisely what happened to me.

In closure, here are a few facts:
  • 4.7 million people in the US--mostly children and the elderly--who suffer injuries from dog attacks each year.
  • Recent statistics show the annual number of dog attacks exceeds the reported instances of measles, whooping cough, and mumps, combined.
  • Dog bite victims account for up to five percent of emergency room visits.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly two percent of Americans are bitten by a dog each year.
The following sites were used for this research:



RunColo said...

Wow, that's a crazy story, you're tough though! I'm impressed.

I do a lot of dog profiling when I run. If it's a lab or a Golden Retriever (which you see lot's of on Colorado Open Space and they are off leash) I have little fear. But when it's a mix, like what you encountered, you're not quite sure what the temperment is going to be.

crossn81 said...

Holy Cow that's a crazy story. Glad that you are ok.

Jesse said...

Wow. what a story. I've been approached by one dog while out running. Fortunately all he wanted to do was play. I ignored him and he left. I never considered buying defense spray 'cause I too love animals but may reconsider in the future. You just never know. Glad you're OK.