I got some very distressful news this weekend. Sue emailed me that Millie was attacked by another dog.
A dog being injured by another is never good news, but in this case it was especially upsetting because Millie and I have always had a special bond.
From the first time I laid eyes on her as a puppy in one of my classes, I was impressed with this sensitive little tricolor Basset who was so eager to learn and please her owner.
And she was the perfect match for Sue, who is so soft-spoken and gentle in her handling.
Millie and I immediately made a connection, and Sue and I often laugh about how she will go out of her way to make direct eye contact with me during a training session as if seeking my approval.
On the night of the attack Sue was walking Millie and Sam, her other Basset, on leash down her street when a neighbor's large-breed dog left his property and charged toward them, Sue told me. Upon reaching the threesome he froze for a moment then seized Millie (who weighs less than 40 pounds) by the throat in a death grip. The neighbor, hearing the commotion, ran out to get his dog off of her and in the process the dog broke loose and grabbed Millie again, this time by the hind leg, Sue related.
After a harrowing trip to the emergency room, the damage toll consisted of half a dozen deep punctures to the throat, a long tear in the left hind leg and punctures to the right hind leg. When I called Sue she said Millie was not putting weight on one of her legs and couldn't lower her head to eat or drink.
Because Millie received immediate veterinary care, Sue hopes the wounds don't become infected and that no permanent damage was done to her leg. But she is also worried about how Millie will be around strange dogs after the attack since it is not unusual for dogs to become defensively aggressive after such an incident.
Since Sue trains and competes in Rally obedience, and has been prepping Millie for a competition coming up in October, her concern is that even if Millie's wounds heal properly she may have suffered physiological damage or become too fearful around other dogs to compete confidently.
And because Sue was unable to protect Millie from the attack or free her from the dog's jaws, she feels a lot of guilt; she is constantly replaying the horrible moments in her mind trying to determine if she could have done anything differently.
I assured Sue that the worst thing she can do for Millie is to anticipate the worst when they run into dogs on their walks. Dogs have an amazing capacity to be in the moment, and Millie is well-socialized and has always gotten along well with other dogs. But if Sue acts apprehensive Millie will pick up on it. Sue must show confidence in training class and around strange dogs, and tightening up on the leash or anxiously reassuring Millie when she sees another dog is the surest way to communicate that something bad is going to happen.
I know, easier said than done.
I wish that the Bakersfield and Kern County animal control departments would get over their bickering, and spend more energy doing what their name implies: controlling the animals. I get emails every week from people who say they can't get a response when they call.
And with no fear of reprisal for their actions, lawbreakers in every part of town are allowing their dogs to run loose.
And these "neighborhood bullies" are intimidating responsible owners into abandoning the walking and exercising of their leashed dogs for fear that they will be attacked or killed.
I'm sure I speak for Millie when I say, "I'm sick of it."
-- Sherry Davis is a dog trainer/owner of CSI 4 K9s. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @csi4K9s. These are her opinions, not necessarily The Californian's.