Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Attack That Changed My Life

In 2012 we were looking to adopt a dog. We went to a local shelter to see a mastiff puppy and when we got there we soon realized the puppy wasn't for us. She was very aggressive and my eldest son felt uncomfortable with her. Instead of just leaving we decided to look at some of the other dogs.

That's when we found Mr B. He was beautiful, and sad, he barely even looked up at us when we stood in front of his cage. You could see he'd had his heart broken and I felt for the big guy. I told him not to give up --that things would get better-- then we left.

On the way home my husband and I looked at each other and I asked if we could go see Mr B the next day. He agreed. There was another couple that applied to adopt the Saint Bernard and we decided that visiting him daily could only help sway the decision our way. Not to mention the more we visited the happier the dog seemed to be.

On the sixth day of our visiting they told us we could take him home the following day. We were so excited. We'd brought our Golden Retriever with us and the meeting between the two could not have gone better. They were so quick to be friends. Even better is when we ran with Bigs (one of my nicknames for Mr B) in the yard outside he was very careful of the boys and making sure he didn't scare them or run them over.

In fact, that 160lb giant was more gentle with our children than our other dog had ever been. The next day we took him home and we were all so happy. He was quite the cuddler and he and I often ran and played outside. He was my best buddy and he was the best dog I'd ever had.

For two years he was with our family and he never showed an ounce of aggression towards anyone. On Christmas he was acting as though his ear were bothering him and I assumed he had an ear infection. When my husband grabbed his collar, to move him away from a table he was about to knock over, Bigs bit him on the arm. We just assumed that Chris had touched the ear with the infection and that he had bit out of instinct. After a couple hour time out Bigs was allowed to return to the family and all was as it had been before. We took him into the vet the following day and started him on antibiotics for the ear infection. In two weeks, on a follow up visit, we were told his ears were clear.

The week before the attack he had a vet appointment to give him one of his necessary shots and he was completely healthy. He was snuggly as always and was my buddy. He actually alerted us to my seizures before I had them, physically herding me to a couch a time or two right before they struck. Then he would sit with me until they were over and would cuddle with me as I came out of them.

He helped our cat get over his fear of dogs and he was a big part of me feeling truly safe for the first time in my life. He was not a bad dog at all. He was, however, two years old when we got him. I don't know what happened to him in those two years but I can tell you it had to be horrific.

A half an hour before the attack I sent my two boys upstairs to play. They'd been arguing and hollering for the better part of the day and I needed a sanity break. Ten minutes later I cuddled with Bigs and was cleaning the living room and dining room when I heard our Golden yelp.

She's fourteen years old so I ran out to see what had happened. Bigs had knocked her down and stole her bone. As I came near he growled. I felt uncomfortable, for the first time ever with him, and walked to the front door and opened it. I told him if he was going to play that game he could eat his stolen bone outside as family doesn't steal from each other.

I reached for his collar and he bit my arm. While I stood there shocked he walked away. He'd made it into the next room. I hadn't even made a sound, because I was still so shocked, when he dropped the bone, turned around, and hauled ass towards me growling and barking. He grabbed my left breast in his mouth and luckily my dozen plus years of training as a zookeeper kicked in and I locked my emotions away. I knew if he got a chunk of me off there would be no bringing him back. I knew if he killed me he would absolutely go after my kids next. There was no doubt in my mind he was having a psychotic break. He tried to pull me to the ground and I moved with him. As his teeth slipped through my flesh he let go and got a better bite again trying to throw me to the ground where he could get at my neck.

 This slip and rebite happened a total of seven times. The last time I realized he wasn't going to stop. I pried his jaws off me with my hands, tearing my own hands on his teeth as I did so, and punched him in the nose as hard as I could.

I know that the most sensitive place on a dog is in his nose. Not to mention if this was a PTSD snap, as I thought it was, I figured hitting him there would interrupt his thinking enough to bring him back. I was right. He shook his head and I could see him as he came to and looking confused he sniffed the air. He laid down and gave me his belly and I carefully went around him and opened the screen door. He loped off outside as if nothing happened and I sat down for a moment to gather myself. I cleaned the breast tissue off the floor as I held my poor slightly shredded breast together.

My kids screamed down for me and I told them to give me a second. That I needed a moment before they came down. I did my best to clean up the blood and breast tissue and I called their dad. See, he'd texted me five minutes before the attack to say his car broke down. No answer so I texted what happened and, on looking at the severity of the injury, dialed 911.

They sent an ambulance and my mother in law raced from where she worked (not far from me) to my house to watch the kids. My husband had a coworker drive him to his mom's house where he borrowed her car and met me at the hospital.

Six hours after I arrived I was cleaned, bandaged, and ice packed up and we were on our way home when the car my husband borrowed died. It was not a good day for us and it was a bad day for Bigs as well.

Animal control picked him up that night and took him for an eight day observation and medical exam. He had no parasites, viruses, or fungal infections that could have caused the behavior and when the eight days were up they were of the opinion that I was. Bigs had a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder rage snap and it would likely happen again. He was put down.

I know some may disagree with that decision but he was not an aggressive dog. There was no real warning leading into the main attack. With that information not even shelters that specialize in dealing with aggressive animals would have taken him. The specialists I contacted told me he would have to live a life where he was completely hands off. This meant no contact with any other people or animals and, to Bigs, that would have been hell. We had him put down and I miss him every day. This is the last picture I took of Bigs and it was taken right before we cuddled. This is my pup twenty minutes before he tried to kill me.

I loved him, and still do. The dog that attacked me was one who was locked in a terrifying memory of something that had happened to him before we got him. My guess is they held onto his collar and beat him. I can't say for sure as we had grabbed his collar hundreds of times without any reaction from him at all. He was well fed and well loved. He had a crib mattress that was his to sleep on and all the toys a dog could want.

This attack changed me in so many ways but the worst is that I realized I could never again adopt an adult animal without fear. When we adopt these pets from shelters we have no idea what has happened to them before we get them. With small children in my house I just can't take that risk. If Mr B had turned on my kids, they'd be dead. When selecting a pet you don't think about how this could happen. After two years of living with this pet you certainly don't believe that something like this could happen.

But it can, and it did. Be careful, folks. This attack was nobody's fault. Remember, he had walked away and was already in the next room when he snapped. He didn't know who he was, where he was, or even what he had done when he came to.

I am not saying all adult rescues will snap and try to kill, it's highly unlikely that any more than 10% of them will, what I am saying is that you never know. I spent fourteen years as a zookeeper. I have a degree in zoology and I minored in psychology. I spent twenty years studying animal behavior and I did not see this coming. Nobody could; that's the horrifying part of PTSD rage snaps, anything could set them off.

Until this point I had adopted all sorts of adult animals without any problems. I had dogs, cats, parrots, turtles, and even fish that I'd adopted without issue. It sucks and I hate saying this but I will never feel safe adopting an adult dog again. That, for me, was the worst part of this attack.


  1. I'm so sorry you went through this, Jamie, but I'm glad you're physically okay. I know the emotional scars will take time to heal. Thank God that Bigs had a happy, healthy family for as long as he did. Love you.

  2. Omg... You are so strong. I could have never owned a pet again.

  3. Agreed... you are amazing, Jaime. And, your story has had an affect on my perspective of getting another dog after our Gypsy passed last November. I have decided to get a puppy instead of taking a chance on an older dog. Right now, we don't want another dog, since we are still healing from the loss of our 13 years old 'little girl'. Plus, admittedly, we are enjoying the freedom of being able to travel without worrying about who would watch our baby.

    As bad as your situation was, my friend, I dare say that very few people could've handled it as well as you did. You are truly an incredible human being. :-)


  4. I can't thank you all enough for your kind comments. Aiden, I'm so sorry for your loss and I hope get the perfect pup for you guys when you're ready.

  5. You are braver more than you'll ever KNOW.... NO OTHER WORDS ARE NECESSARY....

  6. Jaime, this is the most terrifying thing of yours that I've read (and that's really saying something). So glad you and your family are safe. So very sorry for your loss as well.


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