I started the week on an upbeat note with a post about National New Friend Old Friend Week (thanks to all who reached out and said hello), but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that this week is also designated as National Dog Bite Prevention Week. I always find it a little depressing that in researching National Dog Week, a positive event, I always find more links to the former.
So many of us know of someone who has been bitten by a dog. According to the AVMA, on average, 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs in America each year, and most of these victims are children and seniors. And contrary to what you might think, most of these bites are delivered by a familiar dog, often occurring during everyday interactions between pet and human. I know people who, once bitten by a dog, are afraid of canines for years to come. I also know children, who despite a terrible encounter with a dog, remain steadfast lovers of them, going on to own several.
When a dog bites, it can bring terrible implications for the owner of the dog, too. What do they do now? Some ignore it, or pretend to, hoping for the best, but always worrying about the possibility of a repeat incident. Some, facing the problem head on, consult a veterinarian, often discovering that the dog is suffering from a medical condition that may require it to be euthanized for the safety of all concerned. Then there are legal consequences that differ from state to state, making some dog owners liable for the behavior of their dog.
So how do you prevent dog bites in the first place? Use some common sense. Never leave children alone with a dog, no matter how “nice” you think the dog is. If a dog is getting on in age it might be experiencing physical pain its owner is not even aware of. Some older dogs are hard of hearing, and are startled into biting as a defensive measure. Remind your children not to approach dogs that are tethered, or in cars. Don’t encourage rough play with dogs, like tug-of-war, or wrestling. If someone warns you that their dog is aggressive, stay away and don’t pretend to be the Dog Whisperer, and dog owners should always keep dogs on a leash, especially in public places, and don’t rely on retractable leashes, they are not foolproof.
Remember, dogs have those sharp teeth for a reason; in a far off time, and place, they relied on them to feed and protect themselves. The better we breed, socialize and train our dogs, the better we can coexist with them.
And on a lighter note, this week also brought us the birthdays of Blue Jeans, and the Speeding Ticket, as well as Fountain Pen Day, and U.S. Public School Day. As the year grinds down, I’ve stepped in for many tired teachers, subbing at a difficult time of year for all. It’s hot, the school day was longer this year, and with so many teachers retiring, or being laid off, it gets a little wearisome. I like to try to do something fun and different when I teach. For example, kids love to talk about dogs, even without any prompting. Last week I had them make postcards for the Pet Postcard Project launched by Nikki Moustaki (more to come about that). Discussing dogs can bring out the talk in even the quietest among the class. Usually it’s about fun things we can do with our dogs, but many times, kids share their feeling about the loss of a family pet, and often it is their very first experience with grief.
No matter how the day, or week goes, I always manage to get a good laugh from one of the kids, and end our time together on a high note. The other day, while completing an assignment that had students make a “to do” list, one second-grader wrote: 1. Chew gum, 2. Chew another flavor of gum. I never did find out what flavors were involved, but I liked the simplicity of this, and I think he’s got the right idea!