No, Really, Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

17 May

In honor of National Dog Bite Awareness Week, I’m re-posting this blog from last year about my daughter getting bitten by one of our dogs.  More than 4.7 million Americans (most of them children), and 5,600 mail carriers were attacked by dogs last year.  Dogs are wonderful, but they are animals.  Teach your kids to respect them!

It happened just the other day.  One of every parent’s worst nightmares – or at least in the top five.  One of my dogs bit my 2-year-old daughter.

Before you panic or shed any tears, let me assure you that she’s fine – it didn’t even break the skin.  Apparently, she decided to pull our 70-pound dog, Ripley, by her tail, trying to drag her into another room.  Ripley did NOT like that one bit, so of course she reared back and snapped at my daughter’s head.  She really only bonked her, but my daughter was FREAKED.  Screaming, crying, and suddenly terrified of Ripley.

And do you know what my reaction was, once I found out she was OK?

“Good.  Maybe that’ll teach her a lesson.”

I know, it sounds so harsh to read that, but I don’t know what else will get it through my daughter’s head that dogs can hurt you if you are not nice to them!  My husband and I have told our kids a million times to leave the dogs alone – that they don’t want to be ridden, chased, pulled, screamed at, hit with drumsticks, etc.  And they probably don’t really want to be hugged every 5 minutes, either.  Oh yeah, and don’t sneak up on them.  And don’t try to run them over with the play lawnmower or jam stuffed animals in their collars.

OK, so maybe there are lots of rules about the dogs, but these dogs are OLD.  And my kids are…well…”boisterous” is putting it nicely.  And all of them being in the same house is only a recent experience.

My husband and I had our dogs long before we had kids.  We adopted our first dog, Indiana Jones, from a rescue shelter.  We lived in a one-bedroom apartment and had no business getting a dog, but something about Indy just melted our hearts and we took him home.  A few months later we saw our second dog, Lt. Ripley, and realized that Indy needed a sister.  Soon, our dogs became the center of our world.  We had pictures of our dogs all around our house and at our respective jobs.  Yes, we were dog parents years before we had “real” children.

And then, 5 years ago, we had our son, followed a couple of years later by our daughter, the aforementioned tail puller.  Suddenly, our dogs became just pets.  They were no longer the apple of our eye – instead, they were in the way and constantly making messes that we just didn’t have the energy to deal with anymore.  When our daughter was only 6 months old, we decided the dogs couldn’t live inside anymore.

For the next 2 years, our dogs slept outside in the backyard.  They had a shed with crates and blankets.  They never stepped foot in the house.

Then, a couple months ago, my husband went outside to brush Indy, and he was mortified at how dirty and matted his fur was.  I bathed the dogs periodically, but they insisted on sleeping under the bushes in the dirt, so keeping them clean was pretty much a lost cause.  But my husband felt so guilty about Indy looking like a stray mutt, we decided to move them back in.

To the dogs, it’s like they never left.  They came right back in and settled into all their old sleeping places.  They do have the kids to contend with, but for the most part, they’re doing amazingly well in the face of my two little hooligans.  And the kids LOVE it.  They think the dogs are two exotic circus animals that supply a constant source of entertainment.  But all children need to learn that dogs, even long-time beloved pets, are still animals that will defend themselves if they feel scared.  We’re going to keep working on that.

So what happened the next morning, after our little one had such fear instilled in her?  She pranced out of her bedroom when she woke up, ran straight to Ripley, gave her a big hug and sang a song right in her face.  Back to square one!

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2 Responses to “No, Really, Let Sleeping Dogs Lie”

  1. Lisa Martin September 9, 2010 at 2:02 pm #

    Would you believe it–our shiba inu, Sami, bit Chip (almost 5!) the other day. His feelings were hurt, but you couldn’t even see any teeth marks. And, frankly, since Chip weighs three times what poor, put-upon Sami does, I didn’t feel to bad. He’s lately been pulling her tail, chasing her, even crawling under his sister’s bed, Sami’s favorite hiding spot. So I’m with you, Jen: maybe a little nip can be a teaching tool!

  2. Valerie Prowell May 17, 2011 at 10:22 pm #

    I love your article! I am going through the same thing with my little girl right now. She is obsessed with our dog Daisy, so I’m constantly telling her to be gentle and trying to give Daisy as many breaks as possible from my little one. Daisy is so gentle with her, but I can’t let my guard down because at the end of the day Daisy is still a dog.

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