Exactly one week ago today I relearned a valuable lesson at work. No matter how friendly a dog is or seems to be, never EVER let your face be the closest thing to its mouth when you’re about to do something that might hurt. As a matter of fact, keep any and all body parts away from the mouth in such a case. You can have a barrier between you and the dog’s teeth, a wise choice being a muzzle.
There was a dog that came in last week that was self-mutilating its tail. We had seen it once before and he was coming back for a reassessment. The dog was very docile and friendly at his first visit, and was just as much when I saw him last week. He just laid on the floor as I talked to his owner about what was going on and how things were progressing. I then went to inspect his tail. The owner had it bandaged. I leaned over the dog (not a smart move in hindsight) and removed the bandage (my face was directly above his) to check out what was going on. As I peeled the bandage away from the wound, the dog jerked his head toward me and gave me a warning snap…right to my face because that is what was closest to his mouth.
As I was going through the motions in the room with the client, I was not even considering my safety. Not one bit. The dog was a gentle giant! However, I know better when it comes to an animal in pain. I know how they react to pain, and the way this dog responded was totally and completely normal. I just let my guard down, I was too complacent.
Thankfully the only physical injuries that I suffered were a few minor scrapes from the dog’s teeth on my upper lip and a small puncture under my chin. The most painful part of the experience was the damage to my pride.
I had only ever been truly bitten one time before and it was over 17 years ago, and that dog was vicious. That was a case of owner negligence. The owners knew the dog was dangerous and failed to inform any of our staff. That dog attacked my hand as I tried to take it out of its kennel. He latched on and kept on clenching his teeth into my hand, as I cringed and waited for him to take a break from clenching so I could get my hand back! That’s one of the primary differences between a bite from a dangerous animal versus a friendly animal that is reacting to something scary or painful. The latter will just do a quick bite and release. The former will keep attacking or latch on.
My incident last week was a great wake-up call for me. I don’t believe that I will suffer any PTSD from it. I know exactly what I did wrong and will train and educate other people in hopes that they will avoid a similar situation. I might have a small scar on the right side of my upper lip once it fully heals, and I kind of hope that I do so that I am reminded regularly to not be so careless.
People keep telling me how lucky I am that the injury was as minor as it is. They are right. BUT, I also know that if the dog showed any signs of aggression or potential aggression, or even anxiety, my face would have been nowhere near his. I would have either muzzled the dog before inspecting his wound, or, and most likely, I would have just waited until the doctor was ready to examine the pet and I would have gone in with the doctor to help them safely inspect the injury.
No matter, I am thankful and grateful that I had that experience and am able to share it with others so that they might avoid a similar incident.