SURVIVING A DOG ATTACK: The Encounter (Part 1)

 This is one post in the four-part ‘SURVIVING A DOG ATTACK’ series, including:

I’ve been around a lot of dogs in my thirty-some years. I mean a lot.

My childhood involved everything from mutts and a Dalmatian to a brood of Alaskan Malamutes my siblings and I raised with our mother, hooking them to wheeled rigs that we rode around the park (yes, this happened). We’re all bleeding-heart dog lovers, as a result, who take in the strayed/abused/neglected canines of the world — and, today, I’m the only one without a dog.

Which is why it’s so puzzling that, the only time I’ve ever been attacked by a dog was when living abroad. Dogless. And in Italy, of all places.

In Cavareno, to be precise.

The day it happened, it was nearing dusk, and the winds had just descended with that crisp, bone-chilling kind of fall air. I’d been writing all day, so I decided to take a quick walk before dark, headed along the paved bicycle path near our house. A path I’d walked, fearless and alone, a thousand times. Before leaving, I layered myself in long underwear, a fleece jacket and the wind breaker.

Little did I know how vital those layers of clothing would be.

The 'ciclabile' (the paved walking/cycling trail) (Cavareno, Val di Non)
The ‘ciclabile’ – the paved walking/cycling trail that goes through Cavareno (Val di Non)

Headed back home on the main road, out of nowhere (and I’m not being clichéd), a German Shepherd came barreling towards me. My first reaction was, ‘Yay! It’s a dog!’ I reached for it to sniff my hand (dogs greet people by scents), then quickly realized: this dog is not friendly.

There was nowhere to run.

He was a beast. Exceptionally large, with a long snout, dark eyes, thick coat of dark brown and black. He came at me, nipping first at my thighs. I spun around and then he slammed into my back, cornering me against a railing, biting. I was screaming. I had gone numb.

Then, suddenly, the dog backed off.

But as I tried to walk away, he returned, lunging at me again. This time, getting me in the stomach, and I hit the ground, curled in the fetal position, covering my head with my hands, the dog snapping at my back.

I screamed for it to stop, for someone to help. But no one came. It was cold, dark. People weren’t out that night.

What I used to think of when someone said 'German Shepherd'.
What I used to think of when someone said ‘German Shepherd’.

I stood to try to escape, but the dog came at me a third time. Growling and snarling, entire life events flashing before my eyes. And that’s when it happened: I snapped. I realized that I wasn’t going to get out of there alive if I didn’t put up a fight, so I did what I’d learned to do with Mountain Lions out in Washington State (USA)…you scare them back.

I made myself BIG, lifting my arms over my head, stomping my feet and screaming at it to leave. I even stomped towards it, and this seemed to work momentarily—the dog stood at a distance, barking from across the roadway.

Both of us were terrified. Me for good reason. The dog…I’ll never know why.

What I now think of when someone says 'German Shepherd'
This is what I now think of when someone says ‘German Shepherd’. (Photo source: Military Dog Barking, licensed under CCO 1.0).

All of a sudden, a small SUV pulled up between us, and a man shouted through the passenger window, “Did he bite you?” I was red faced and shouting at the dog over the hood of his car, my voice weak, holding my stomach and shaking all over. The man motioned for me to jump into his car. I did.

He pulled into the adjacent driveway to make a phone call, the dog sitting just outside my window, and the most frightening part was that I could see a second German Shepherd trying to climb over the tall gate behind where the first dog sat. I turned my head slowly to look at the man, who had now been joined by a friend, asking me questions through the driver’s window.

Shaken, I was barely able to speak. I looked back to the dogs. The sky was dark.

And it dawned on me: the dog that attacked me had escaped from this very property, where we now sat in the driveway. He was guarding it, and just by walking past I had been a threat to him. But that second dog—if I’d come along only ten minutes later, perhaps it might have also escaped. And instead of ushering me into his car like the nice man had, he might have been calling an ambulance, instead.

I thought I might throw up.

Find out what happened next, including how the Doctor/Dentist treated my wounds among a group of onlookers, in the post SURVIVING A DOG ATTACK: The Aftermath (Part 2).

To arm yourself in the event of a dog attack, check out, SURVIVING A DOG ATTACK: What NOT To Do (Part 4).

[Feature Image Credit: Untitled, licensed under CC0 1.0.]

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