Buffy was attacked on a beautiful, crisp September morning when the possibility of a dog attack was the furthest thing from my mind. I had no mode of defense with me, I had no plan. I was walking in very familiar territory only a block from my home where I have lived for over 20 years. The attack was unprovoked, sudden and brutal. Luckily I did a few things right, although I also have some regrets (and feel a certain amount of guilt) about how I handled the attack. The guilt, of course, is that I couldn't defend Buffy. I was powerless against two extremely aggressive dogs, one of which weighed over 90 pounds. I want to share my thoughts about the attack in the hope that it will help others either avoid such a situation or help them deal with it if it happens to them.
My first regret is that I didn't have any type of defensive weapon with me. (I had also forgotten my cell phone, which I will never forget again.) In hindsight, any type of weapon - a club, pepper spray, etc. - would have helped. If nothing else it may have created a temporary diversion and allowed us precious seconds to escape the worst of the attack, in addition to giving the owners of the attacking dogs a better chance to regain control. I now carry a "mini" bat with me - a souvenir from the Louisville Slugger factory in a size similar to a billy club. I will probably also get some pepper spray. Having some type of defense makes you feel less vulnerable and reminds you to stay alert.
The first thing I did when the attack began was to scream my head off. I later realized this very natural reaction to the situation was also very smart. It made people up and down the street come to their windows and step outside their doors to see what was happening. Word of advice: Screaming "help" is easily ignored by many people these days. What came out of my mouth was extremely loud and extremely profane. I strongly suggest it if you want to get the maximum amount of attention. In my case the owners of the attacking dogs regained control before anyone else would have been able to reach me; if the owners hadn't been around, I know someone would have seen the attack and either helped or called the police. Another advantage: Everyone in the neighborhood remembered the attack.
Once the attack was over I had to quickly bring myself down from the overload of adrenaline. If this ever happens to you, use whatever you have in your mental arsenal to calm yourself down, focus and think clearly. In my case the first thing I did was make sure Buffy was OK. I knew she had to have wounds but I saw no blood. I assumed (correctly, as it turns out) that no major veins or arteries had been severed. The second thing I did was memorize the address. I walked home as quickly as possible and called the police.
Here's where I made a mistake: I called the non-emergency police number. Stupid, I know. Why? Because there are - almost daily - serious offenses being committed in our city. Buffy was alive and not in immediate danger and I wasn't sure if the situation qualified as an "emergency" when compared to shootings, beatings and home invasions. It took almost 30 minutes for the police officer to arrive. Had I called 9-1-1, the response probably would have been much quicker.
When the police officer arrived I described the attack as calmly and accurately as possible. He didn't seem to take it all that seriously but went to the offenders' house to speak with them. I should have been much more assertive, but I wasn't familiar enough with the dog ordinances in our city. When he returned to tell us what he had learned I didn't ask whether or not he had ticketed the offenders. Turns out he didn't write a ticket and we had to call the police department and speak to a detective to get this done. The ticket/citation will remain on the police database and later can be used to establish a pattern if more attacks occur. Lesson learned: Go online and read the section of your city's ordinances dealing with dogs/domestic animals. Your state web site will also have similar information. Knowledge is power.
A word about Animal Control departments: Rules/laws/ordinances vary among communities and municipalities. We have a city Animal Control department and shelter with which I have dealt on several occasions. The police officer who responded after Buffy's attack said he had contacted Animal Control but that they would not respond because the dog owners had "regained control of their dogs" - in other words, had put them back in the house. I called Animal Control later that morning and was informed that they cannot do anything unless the dogs are still running at large or if a ticket is issued. There was a lot of "passing the buck" on this issue. The bottom line is that the police department has to do their job before Animal Control can do theirs.
We were told a copy of the police report regarding the attack would be available the next day. Only the persons involved in an incident can pick up a copy of the report. Because my husband was not present at the attack, I had to pick up the report. The report was somewhat watered-down and we later discussed this with a police detective to make sure they understood the severity of the attack. This paid off later when additional attacks occurred and a pattern had been established. It helped moved them (slowly but surely) toward action. I also emailed my city councilman, which resulted in the initial contact with the police detective. Another lesson learned: Be a pain in the ass. Don't be rude, don't be accusatory; be assertive and respectful and get the message across that this is a BIG DEAL.
Next: Documentation, healing and surviving the legal process