SURVIVING A DOG ATTACK: The Invisible Wounds (Part 3)

This is one post in the four-part ‘SURVIVING A DOG ATTACK’ series, including:
* The Encounter (Part 1)
* The Aftermath (Part 2)
* The Invisible Wounds (Part 3)

* What Not To Do (Part 4) 

dog attack was not on my list of things to plan for in life.

At first so grateful to have survived, to have incurred so little injury and to have just walked away, I didn’t stop to think: there could be psychological repercussions from this. I kept telling people, “It could’ve been a child, for God’s sakes. Or an elderly lady.” Instead, it was me: able-bodied, resilient adult.

Perhaps that’s why I didn’t see it coming. Hadn’t anticipated the shock that was in store in the days and weeks following the attack. A year and-a-half would pass before I put the pieces together, before I understood: being jumped by a German Shepherd had rattled me to the core.

Caged German Shepherd in Fondo (Val di Non)
Caged German Shepherd in Fondo (Val di Non)

The first sign was when I stopped sleeping. Soon, I stopped being able to go outdoors without experiencing intense and sudden panic—which I could not control.

I stopped running.

Stopped walking anywhere by myself.

Started carrying pepper spray in my pocket. In my purse. In my hand. Refusing to leave the house without it.

At the sound of even a distant dog bark, my stomach would launch itself into my throat. I became a chronic scannerlooking for anyplace a dog might be lying in wait.

Already a jumpy person to begin with, now a sneeze across the room or the jolt of a car engine would have me on high-alert. My eyes wide open, my breathing swift, sweat pouring down my sides. My GP put me on anti-anxiety meds to help with it, and although it provided immediate relief, over time, the medication only wound me tighter.

German Shepherd's are everywhere in Trentino
German Shepherd’s are everywhere in Trentino

Two years later, I’m still getting over it.

I’m feeling better, these days. No more meds, and now that we’re living in another part of Italy (in a place without the preponderance of German Shepherds found in Val di Non), I’m slowly overcoming the full-body anxiety I developed in the aftermath.

An anxiety that made simple things, like putting on shoes, a Herculean effort.

The silver lining? There really isn’t one. The attack has bequeathed me no time-honored lessons, and the only thing to be thankful for is that my injuries weren’t more severe. Instead, the memory of the event stays with me, lingering always at the edge of my consciousness, then slapping me in the face every time I look at my bare belly in the mirror.

A tooth-shaped scar starring back.

Again, check out these tips on what to do if you’re ever attacked by a dog—truthfully, I wish I’d known these things prior to my encounter. Most dogs may indeed be friendly and kind, but it only takes one angry one to do a lot of damage. Better safe than sorry.

[Feature Image Credit: blue tree, by geralt, licensed under CC0 1.0.]

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