Even the Experienced Ones Sometimes Fail – A Lesson in Humility

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.

 

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