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"He can't bite"

You may remember this clip from The Pink Panther:

I had a similar experience a few days ago, and in trying to decide what thing to talk about this morning (other contenders were Moana and Aslan's remark about only telling you your own story, both of which maybe I'll talk about later) this is what won out.

I was running in my neighborhood, and a little dog--very little--came running across its yard toward me. Its owner was calling it, but it charged on into the street and bit me on the calf.

"He bit me!" I said, shocked.

"He doesn't bite," the owner said. "He can't bite."

"I'm saying he just did," I said.

"No, no--he can't bite," the owner said.

"Well, he did something with his mouth on my leg," I said, and we were at an impasse. She scooped him up in her arms and apologized while continuing to say that he didn't bite. I was thinking, well, maybe the bite didn't break the skin; it didn't feel like much. I'll run home and check. So I did, and damn it all, it had broken the skin.

(Here, by the way, is what the bite looks like today, three days later.)

So I put on street clothes and went *back* to the woman's house, and knocked on the door.

"Look, I'm not here to cause trouble, but your dog did bite me," I said, and I showed her the bite. Her husband showed up behind her. "Did you see it happen?" he asked her. She had a deer-in-the-headlights look and said, "He did run over to her . . ."

"I just want to know that he's up-to-date on his rabies shots--that's all," I said.

"He has his own insurance!" the woman said. "It's at [can't remember] Veterinary Clinic."

"And he's had rabies shots?" I asked again.

Well, so, in the end, they were able to show me that yes, the dog had had his rabies shots.

"Thank you!" I said. "That's great. That sets my mind at ease. That's all I wanted--I just wanted to be sure I wouldn't get sick, you know?" And they nodded, looking a bit dazed, and I left, and everything was, I guess, more or less copacetic.

I've just finished a great book on restorative justice--that's where the harmed party and the person who's caused the harm meet up directly to make things right between them. Obviously this can't happen all the time. For one thing, it takes both parties being willing to engage in good faith, and a lot of times that's not possible. But if it CAN happen, it can be much more healing for both the victim and the perpetrator, and for the community as a whole, than our current justice system. For me, that's what the encounter I had felt like. I could have just gone home angry and stewed, or I could have called someone and made a complaint, but instead I talked to the people directly.

It's not a perfect outcome. I told this story on Twitter the day it happened, and one person noted to me privately that because I didn't contact authorities, the dog was likely to just do the thing again. And that's true, but I feel like there's a limit to how much responsibility I have to take for their dog situation. And who knows? Maybe they'll be more careful to have their dog on a leash before letting it out from now on.


( 44 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 14th, 2017 04:46 pm (UTC)
From what you describe, I bet they are terrified that it will happen again.All you can do in a situation like that is think lawsuit--they're going to take away my house and everything I own!

(Been there, done that, with a dog who had never bitten anyone, but got away from me, and raced at a man. His girlfriend began kicking violently at the dog to get him away, when he went into attack mode and bit the guy. The bite didn't break through his jeans, but he had a horrible bruise. I gave him our info and said we'd pay for the doctor visit. When he came to give us the bill, I saw him looking around at our stuff, and I could almost see him thinking: crap old furniture, ancient, sun-dyed carpet, nothing but books, these people aren't worth consulting a lawyer about.) Meanwhile, we had been repeatedly apologizing, as I had from the beginning. After that, I made sure to carry that dog's leash up my arm, so he couldn't rip it out of my hand.)
Jan. 14th, 2017 05:08 pm (UTC)
That's what someone else on Twitter said--our society fosters an evil feedback loop with regard to lawsuits: if you admit to any wrongdoing, then people can take you to the cleaners.

I've been in the position of the family, too, not with our dog, but in other cases--once when my daughter, very young at the time, lost control of a shopping cart that I'd let her push. It dented a fancy convertible. Fortunately the guy let us pay the damages a bit at a time, without going through insurance.

But you never know! People can be jerks.

And believe me, I totally understand about dogs--Molly wasn't likely to bite a person (though once or twice she did nip at someone who was petting somewhere she didn't want to be petted), but she would lunge at other dogs if they came too close. I know this was due to my not taking the time to train that behavior out of her, but I never managed it.

And I know that someone running by is an irresistible lure for many dogs. I wasn't badly hurt; I just wanted to be sure that they were responsible about shots (and that I wasn't at risk of anything), and I wish they'd acknowledged what had actually happened (but, of course, for the reasons you and I both understand, they were leery of that).
Jan. 14th, 2017 05:15 pm (UTC)
Ouch. I hope you're okay. Even when it's a very small dog, it's still a shock to be attacked.

I think these owners were very, very lucky in this case... Not many people would have responded in such a measured fashion. I hope the owners will realise this when they've had time to think about it, and will be far more careful from now on.
Jan. 14th, 2017 05:22 pm (UTC)
I felt cross in the moment, but not THAT cross, and I guess what I wish, in general, for society, was that we could have annoyance and not have the assumption be that it has to escalate to nuclear war. Nowadays in America, I have the impression that everyone feels as if they either have to be agreeable... or else a huge chasm of anger and retaliatory actions opens up. As a consequence, because disagreements seem to have such cataclysmic consequences, people shove down their resentments or irritations rather than trying to work things out--because you can never work things out (so people's thinking seems to go). So I wanted to break out of that.

I hope they're more careful from now on, for everyone's sake.
Jan. 14th, 2017 05:21 pm (UTC)
Long ago a neighbor was riding his bike when a dog ran into the street and bit him on a leg. I decided to run tiny laps at night in my back yard a few weeks later and ran into the same dog in the dark. I stood my ground for several minutes and slowly backed away without harm. Fortunately you were able to find the owner. My worst fear is to be bitten and not have a clue to who the owner is or the status of the dog.
Jan. 14th, 2017 05:22 pm (UTC)
I should have said my neighbor received 38 stitches.
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jan. 14th, 2017 05:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jan. 14th, 2017 05:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 14th, 2017 05:28 pm (UTC)
Ouch! That looks painful!

And what a poor reaction from the dog. It never should have happened in the first place, obviously, but since it did: They should have taken responsibility initiated contact, and gotten the insurance involved if necessary. It this were me, there'd also be a basket, a sincere apology, and a bouquet of flowers involved. Hopefully they'll have learned their lesson, so it doesn't happen again.
Jan. 14th, 2017 05:30 pm (UTC)
As others have said upthread, America is a hugely litigious society, and they were probably terrified of lawsuits.
(no subject) - frigg - Jan. 16th, 2017 09:17 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 14th, 2017 07:02 pm (UTC)
Ouch on the bite and wishes for a speedy recovery.

We have a situation in our neighborhood where a pit mix has attacked a number of leashed dogs being walked and rushed pedestrians. The owner is at a loss for what to do or how to control her dog, and what seems to be emerging is folks encouraging her to work with a trainer. That said, I fear it's too late. The dog has been reported to animal control at least once that I know about, and it's likely that it will be confiscated and euthanized before the owner gets her act together.
Jan. 14th, 2017 07:24 pm (UTC)
That's very sad for the dog ;_; And for the owners.

It's hard to change a pattern, and it takes a lot of work, but it's worth it if you're facing a terrible alternative like that :(
Jan. 14th, 2017 07:09 pm (UTC)
In my experience I haven't seen any evidence that "I'm sorry" makes things worse for one in court or that refusing to apologize immunizes one against a civil suit. I think they owed you much more graciousness. And I think you were AMAZINGLY gracious.

*hugs you healingly*
Jan. 14th, 2017 07:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you ^_^

When people are suspicious or defensive, I figure they've been victims of lots of negative experiences.
(no subject) - amaebi - Jan. 15th, 2017 01:04 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jan. 15th, 2017 01:37 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - amaebi - Jan. 15th, 2017 09:31 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jan. 15th, 2017 11:13 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - amaebi - Jan. 15th, 2017 11:23 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jan. 15th, 2017 11:23 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 14th, 2017 07:10 pm (UTC)

I can believe their shock. Beyond fear of a lawsuit, I am wondering if they wouldn't have been afraid of a report to animal control and losing their dog. That bite looks so painful.

Jan. 14th, 2017 07:26 pm (UTC)
Yeah, they might have been frightened about that too. I wouldn't have done that! But they couldn't have known that.

Thanks--it looks dramatic but it's not bad at all.
(no subject) - amaebi - Jan. 15th, 2017 01:05 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jan. 15th, 2017 01:36 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - amaebi - Jan. 15th, 2017 09:23 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jan. 15th, 2017 11:10 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 14th, 2017 07:34 pm (UTC)
I probably wouldn't have reported it either. The husband seems more on top of the situation than the wife, and hopefully they'll take this experience on board now. Dogs can behave unusually if they're in pain or whatever, so it may not have been typical behaviour, and if the authorities got involved the dog might well be destroyed. If it were a large dog, I'd be more worried.

I think you handled it really well, actually.
Jan. 14th, 2017 07:35 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Jan. 15th, 2017 01:13 am (UTC)
Restorative justice
(I am sorry to be such a blabbermouth.)

I worry about restorative justice in a society with the sort of inequality ours has.

I have seen well-meaning middle-class and middle-aged White women enthusiastic about restorative justice, as a way for them and people like them to forgive Wicked Criminals-- with no apparent-to-me feeling that our social institutions and economic structures have committed any injury, provided poor enough options that individual offenses look like Why Not or better.
Jan. 15th, 2017 01:35 am (UTC)
Re: Restorative justice
I *definitely* think restorative justice can be abused--after all, in places where it's the only justice system, it gets abused all the time. When two parties come together to settle their differences and one party has huge standing and respect in the society and the other doesn't, that's not a recipe for fairness.

This book I read Making It Right: Building Peace Settling Conflict, was pretty good at making that clear, and didn't try to sell restorative justice as a cure-all, just as something with particular strengths that's worked well in some instances.

Re: Restorative justice - amaebi - Jan. 15th, 2017 09:22 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Restorative justice - asakiyume - Jan. 15th, 2017 11:09 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Restorative justice - amaebi - Jan. 15th, 2017 11:17 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 15th, 2017 05:36 am (UTC)
Well, so, in the end, they were able to show me that yes, the dog had had his rabies shots.

Jan. 15th, 2017 11:24 am (UTC)
Yes! I absolutely did not want a 99.9 percent fatal disease involving paralysis and insanity!

... ETA... okay, the chances, here in America, with a dog owned as a pet, were small. But it's a childhood fear.

Edited at 2017-01-15 02:25 pm (UTC)
Jan. 15th, 2017 07:27 am (UTC)
I effing hate pet owners like that.
There was this slightly older lady walking(being dragged) by a pair of mouths on legs(small, lots of fur, and barking, barking, barking... )
Once, when the one of the dogs behaved exceptionally badly(tried to lunge at a kid, I think) she went down on a knee, patted the dog on the head and said is a sort of apologoetic tone 'no, no, don't do that'.
Yeah, like that would stop the dog from acting like that in the future...
Luckily, I'm a real bastard, so I yelled 'Get a dog handling course, you old biddy! Before those dogs of yours ends up being put down!'
Jan. 15th, 2017 11:22 am (UTC)
Training a dog takes a **lot** of time, and I think a lot of people just end up . . . not doing it. And yeah, it's too bad for everyone involved. Dogs can be such great friends! And this dog seems like a nice one, and is obviously loved... just has a bad habit.
(no subject) - anthony_lion - Jan. 15th, 2017 11:48 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - joycemocha - Jan. 15th, 2017 12:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - anthony_lion - Jan. 15th, 2017 01:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 15th, 2017 08:57 am (UTC)
This is so sad - that they defaulted to telling themselves (and you) that what had plainly happened, hadn't happened - which they did most probably, as has been said, from fear of getting into trouble, as children say. :(
I'm very sorry that you should have had such unhappy and painful experiences. You were terrific in staying human and adult (and loving - ie with that care and respect which was appropriate in the situation, not being deflected into accusation or anger) when they'd gone into that time-wasting defensive child-like mode. I'm glad they responded to your lead in the end. (and of course glad that there's no chance of rabies!
Jan. 15th, 2017 11:18 am (UTC)
I managed to find ways, in my heart of hearts, to self-recriminate, like, maybe I'd been too pushy, etc. etc. but then I kept coming back to, hey now. It's **okay** to want to not be bitten, and it's okay to want reassurances that the dog is up to date on his shots.

(no subject) - heliopausa - Jan. 16th, 2017 08:42 am (UTC) - Expand
( 44 comments — Leave a comment )



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