Yesterday, I took my Bengal cat Kaylee out for a leash walk. Much like a dog, she likes to have the freedom to roam, and now associates the leash with doing so. On our walk, we encountered a man who had two dogs on a leash, one was a smaller black Scottie, the other was a larger dog, maybe a smaller Great Dane or a Great Dane cross of some sort (something like the dog here on the right).
We were about 50 feet away when we saw them. The man said to stay back because his dogs would go for Kaylee. As I started to draw her away, the larger dog charged towards us, catching the older owner off guard and he lost control of both dogs, and they barrelled toward my cat at full speed.
I immediately lifted Kaylee by the harness to get her off the ground, but she very naturally was so freaked out by the charging, barking dogs that she tried to bolt out of my arms, scratching me in the process. But because she was still attached to the leash, she couldn’t escape as the larger of the two dogs lunged at her with his large jaws. It’s all a bit of a blur (I am still a little shaky from the adrenaline) but I started screaming at the two dogs and smashing at their noses with the plastic leash handle I had in my hands. As I did so, Kaylee managed to get free of her harness and bolt away.
I managed to find Kaylee and bring her inside. She seems to be fine with only one small, shallow wound that isn’t bleeding. We cleaned her up and called the vet who told us just to monitor the wound to make sure it doesn’t get infected. The dog owner came by afterwards to make sure Kaylee was okay. He was still out of breath and very apologetic about the incident. He’s an elderly man and was caught by surprise and lost control. It happens. I apologized for hitting his dogs and asked if they were okay. He assured me that his dogs were fine and that he would have done the same thing if he had been in my shoes.
The Takeaways from this Incident
I learned a lot from this incident about a variety of things, not all necessarily related to each other. Here are my takeaways:
1. Increase reactionary distance for animal threats. I thought at the distance I was at we would be able to get away safely, considering the dogs were on a leash. This was a mistake. The leash is only as good as the owner’s control with it and bigger dogs, when motivated, can be harder to control. From now on, if a dog is a possible threat, I’ll aim to be at a much greater distance than what I was at yesterday. If I even see a bigger dog within eye sight, I will pick up my cat immediately and bring her away.
2. Striking a dog’s nose is effective. I had heard this before, and used it to my advantage today. It disrupted the larger dog’s attack, allowing Kaylee to escape. Some other good targets (from what I’ve read), include the throat and the back of the head (not the top of the skull which is much more rigid). For more info, read Loren Christensen’s book Self-Defense against a Dog Attack (available in e-book formats on Amazon.com or on Amazon.ca). Or for a shorter reference, read How to Handle a Dog Attack.
3. A leash controller is a good weapon of opportunity. It was in my hand. It was hard plastic. I didn’t even think about using it; it was pure instinct at work. It was what I happened to have in my hand when the attack occurred. It also had the nice side benefit that if the dog had tried to snap back at me, it might have snapped at the device I was using rather than my hand.
4. I have a strong protective instinct. I’ve never been in a position where I’ve been defending someone or something else before, so this was my first time doing this. I got so angry and adrenalized, I let loose with a side of myself I’ve never seen before. I screamed bloody murder while I reigned multiple blows on the two dogs (particularly the larger one) until Kaylee was able to get free. Weirdly, I think I would have been a lot calmer and more collected if I had been defending myself against a human attacker. The few very minor incidences in which I have defended myself against a person, time seemed to slow down. But in this incident, time seemed to speed up and I felt very much like an animal, using bestial instincts. I was not in the slightest concerned about my safety. The only thing I had in my mind was to fight the dogs off Kaylee.
5. Bigger adrenaline dumps have greater mental side effects. As this was the most “combat stress” (or adrenalinization) I’ve ever experienced, I noticed more of the side effects that I often talk about to my students. I experienced tunnel vision, auditory exclusion and funnelled concentration, as I focused on the primary threat; the dogs. Once the dogs came at us, the owner stopped registering on my radar. I literally can’t remember where he was throughout the whole experience. I don’t remember him calling his dogs, what attempts he made to control them, etc. I also experienced time distortion. When I dealt with human aggressors in the past, I was able to keep my adrenaline more in check, so time seemed to go by slowly in those incidents. But this time, because the adrenaline went wild, likely because I felt like the threat was greater, and time seemed to go by quickly. I also experienced the memory gaps the police officers talk about when they have been under combat stress. I don’t remember seeing the dogs running toward us, nor what I yelled as I fought back. The whole experience is a bit of a blur.
Have you ever dealt with a dog attack before? What did you do? Please share your thoughts/experiences in the comments.
P.S. Kaylee seems to have gotten over the attack. Here she is resting peacefully, only 2 hours after her ordeal.