This is a cautionary tale about the risks of getting accidentally bitten when interfering in a fight between dogs. When dogs are fighting, it is best to keep all your favorite body parts far away from the flashing fangs.


What I Have in Common With Royalty

(a cautionary tale about dog fights)

by Pam Green (1995)

Well, I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later, and it's not that I didn't know any better, but after almost half a century of living with dogs, I got myself bitten, genuinely bitten, by a dog.

It was my own fault of course. I made the same bloody stupid mistake that Queen Elizabeth II did a few months ago : stuck my hands (and other vulnerable body parts) in between two fighting dogs and so got nailed accidentally by a good kind dog who would never have done it on purpose. I'm as sure that the Queen also knew better than to put her royal bod betwixt flashing fighting fangs, but did it anyway (having probably done so unscathed on a number of prior occasions), as I am sure that a Corgi bite, while painful, doesn't pack the puch of a Bouvier bite. (All bytes may be created equal, but all bites are not.)

A visiting (intact) male Bouv, whom together with his packmate (spayed) bitch I have been boarding temporarily during his owner's housing crisis, got into a battle with my own beloved Bones. They had had a prior battle , very one sided, on this dog's initial introduction to the house' but had adjusted to mutual tolorance with occasional sour looks and grumbles. Now, however, sparked by the visitor's desire to take possession of the toy basket in my bedroom (while I was deep in dog talk on the phone, of course), mutual tolorance erupted into mutually assured destruction. And the rest of the dogs in the house wanted to pitch in --- especially Sweetie, my bellicose bitch who loves to pile into battle on the winning side. After removing all others from the fray and from the room, and with pity for the visiting male's shrieks of anguish as Bones was remodeling the same ear that he had munched the month before, I took hold of Bones' collar and was beginning to shut off his air so he would let go. Well the visitor made a lunge at Bones and instead caught my left forearm with what the MD at the ER later said was "only a glancing blow."

The result was slight skin breaks from the upper incisors and a slash from one canine. "Twas not as deep as a well , nor so wide as a church door, but twas enough !!!" --- as surely the Bard would have said in similar circumstances had he been bitten during the reign of the first Elizabeth. Instant pain and tremendous emotional shock. After all, for a devout dog lover whose abiding faith is "in Dog I trust" to be bitten by a nice, normal, friendly dog whom she knows and trusts, has an impact of "betrayal" similar to that which would be experienced by a religiously devout person who suddenly is confronted by betrayal or wanton cruelty from his God.

Anyway, without pausing to contemplate the theological issues, I slapped an ice pack and pressure bandage on, then proceeded to examine and doctor the now ex-combattants. Shave the wounds and flush out with Betadine. Neither of the dogs was seriously injured , thank Anubis, Amorak, and Cerberus !!! Eventually I got to examine my own wound, and reluctantly recognized that it probably needed more than just flushing well with Betadine.

Now all this happened on New Year's Day. Let me tell you folks, this is not a good day to elect to be bitten. The only medical care that is available --- unless like Susan Connant's heroine Holly Winters, you are sleeping with your vet --- is the E.R., which stands for Emergency Room, not Elizabeth Regina, despite the her prominence in this story. Now in super-civilized Davis, we don't have too many gang wars, knife fights, or even very many drunken drivers and concomitant car crashes , no not even on New Years', so consequently I had only a 3 hour sit in the ER waiting room. Of course they were probably waiting for my check to clear the bank before treating me. (The ER is so expensive that only the totally indigent can really afford it. Don't ask. I'll only say that I have made out AKC Herding Trial entry checks for lesser sums.) Eventually the ER staff got tired of waiting to see if I would either die or go away, and so began. Flushed the wound with saline, then installed a drain tube and several stitches --- and horror of horrors (for me who am phobic of needles) a tetanus shot, since I haven't had one since before Chelsea was born. ("Blessed art Thou, O Chelsea Bouv, Queen of my Universe, who commandeth my heart and my soul.") Sent me home with a few tablets of Augmentin and a prescription for the more of it. By the way, Augmentin is the same as the Clavamox my vet occasionally prescribes, except it costs about 4 times as much. (Don't ask. I've made out AKC TDX entry checks for somewhat less.)

What's the moral ?

Well obviously number one is DON'T STICK YOUR HAND INTO A DOG FIGHT ! But you knew that didn't you ? Well , don't just know it, obey it. Especially on major holidays.

Second, if two individual dogs have previously had one serious fight, no matter how well they seem to get along afterwards, realize that they probably will do it again someday. (This is probably doubly true if one or both are unneutered males. Though I'm told that two bitches who really hate each other can fight with a fury which male dogs cannot even imagine, ie that fury unto which hell hath no equal.) I thought I knew this too , but sort of conveniently forgot. If one dog is a visitor, boarder, or rescue, and the other is your beloved own, don't hesitate to demote the stranger to a kennel run (if you've got one) or to some other part of the house and/or spending a lot of his visit in the crate. If it's a newly acquired dog, maybe he should be unacquired into a home lacking a target foe.

Third, take this as one more reason why every male who is not both of ultra high quality and owned by a committed & competent trainer/breeder ought to be neutered. Neutering of dogs ought to be as routein as it is for horses (who usually are not roving around your house ad libitem but rather are separated into individual stalls or paddocks). If you are a breeder, trainer, or in any other way a counselor of pet owners, add fight prevention and injury to bystanders to your list of reasons for neutering. (And in litigation happy America, even a minor fight bite like mine could result in financial devestation to the biter's owner.) The intact dog may not start the fight, but the smell of his testosterone may incite the other dog (even if neutered) to assault him. Preach neutering every chance you get.

For myself, fourthly, I will --- or hope I will --- change my willingness to take intact mature males into my home and give them freedom of the house. Rescues (usually) can be neutered nearly immediately and kenneled untill their brain has detoxed from testosterone. The hard part for me will be to refuse to let a mature male into the house as a charity boarder (ie boarding through an owner life crisis to enable the owner to keep the dog rather than trying to place it on an emergency basis). Can I harden myself to tell these people that the price they now must pay for their social irresponsibility in leaving their pet dog unneutered is that now they must choose between professional boarding kennel board (highly expensive) versus neutering the dog before it enters my home versus surrendering the dog for adoption so I can neuter it instantly (and no, the ex-owner would not be eligible to re-adopt it). If at least I could make myself throw the poor dog out into my one kennel run no matter how inhospitable the weather or how old or feeble the dog, that would do the trick. Likewise relegating the visitor to a separate part of the house, etc.

For all that this has not been a joyous experience, I'm perversely glad to have experienced a real bite. Anyone involved in rescue, training (especially of course any form of protection training), or breeding really OUGHT to know what a bite feels like , physically and emotionally. We all OUGHT to have this gut level knowledge of why we cannot tolorate the production (through poor breeding and/or poor socialization) of shaky temperamented dogs likely to bite out of fear nor the creation (through lack of alpha leadership and obedience training by the owner) of domineering alpha dogs likely to bite out of spoiled-rottenness.. As a rescuer, I will sometimes be asked to distinguish the salvageable dog from the one for whom it is too late. My natural sympathies are of course on the side of the dog. But now I'm a little more willing to accept that a dog too far gone to ever be made really safe should be euthanized before the next bite occurs.

I must emphasize that the dog who bit me is NOT a dangerous dog. He never intended to bite me or any other person. He would probably have spit out his own teeth sooner than bite a human. Nice normal well socialized and friendly dog. But he was in a hot dog fight and wasn't thinking about what he was doing. And neither was I.

It's my fault , not his : I am the one who is supposed to be "noble in Reason", which should mean being rational enough not to stick my hand into the proverbial buzzsaw, much less between the jaws of pissed off dogs. Since they are not thinking, I must think twice as well.


site author Pam Green copyright 2003
created 1995 revised 8/09/03
return to top of page return to Site Index