National Dog Bite Prevention Week coming up

Published 6:30 am Wednesday, May 9, 2018

I consider myself lucky to have grown up with a menagerie of pets ranging from gerbils to horses. I have many memories and scars of those happy pet challenges of bites and kicks in fleeting moments when my life became one with nature. Anything with a mind of its own and mouth full of teeth has the potential to inflict a little pain and suffering.

As a young boy I found a neighbor’s cat with a death grip on a mouse. In a moment as fast as a blink I jumped to the aid of the helpless mouse and saved it from a certain death in the jaws of the cat. What I didn’t anticipate was the mouse biting me. I am not sure what happened next. All I can remember are screams of confusion as my mother sprung into action. With my eyes big as saucers, sounds of a broom cut through the air and whipped about my head. Within seconds my mother had beaten the little mouse to death and scooped its limp body into a brown paper bag with one hand while she yanked me away with the other as if I were a rag doll.

What I learned from this cat and mouse story was this: Never interfere with nature, and never, never under estimate the powers of a mother where her babies are concerned.

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The benefits of pet ownership are well documented, and I believe our health interrelates with the animal kingdom on many levels. As we begin the summer season and start spending more time outdoors, we increase our opportunities to come in contact with nature. Since most dog bites occur during the summer, and since May 19-25 is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, it’s a perfect time to review ways to protect ourselves and our children from injury and possible death.

Thirty-seven percent of households in America own at least one dog, and an estimated 70 million dogs living among us (2012 U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook). Obviously, the mere numbers increase the likelihood we will interact with dogs. Many of us would never reach down to pet a snake slithering across the lawn but wouldn’t hesitate to reach out and pet a cute, cuddly dog loping down the sidewalk. Yet snakebites fatalities average about five deaths per year in the United States compared to the 33 fatal dog attacks in 2010 (CDC). The number of dog bite injuries is much higher in children than in adults. When I worked as an Emergency Room nurse, I witnessed tragedy a quick snip from the family dog can bring to a child.

The Humane Society suggests several ways to avoid being bitten by a dog. 1) Never approach an unfamiliar dog-especially one tied or confined behind a fence or in a car. 2) Do not pet a dog-including your own-without letting him see and sniff you first. 3) Never turn your back to a dog and run away. A dog’s natural instinct will be to chase and catch you. 4) Don’t disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy, or caring for puppies. 5) Be cautions around strange dogs, and always assume that a dog who doesn’t know you may see you as an intruder or as a threat.

If you are approached by a dog you are concerned might attack you, follow these steps:

• Resist the impulse to run away or scream;

• Stand very still “like a tree;”

• Avoid making direct eye contact with the dog; and

• If you are knocked down or fall act “like a log” by putting your face down and placing your hands behind your neck.

Owner negligent is cited as one of the leading causes of dog bites. Take personal responsibility for your pets by getting them spayed or neutered, and keep your dogs immunizations up to date. If considering adding a dog to your family, take time to research dog breeds and talk with a veterinarian about which breeds are right for you. Use a little common sense, and NEVER leave an infant or small child alone with a dog. Take time to talk with your family about dog safety and ways to protect themselves so that dogs will truly be their best friend.

Life is better with a dog — woof!

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