Sunday, June 13, 2010

Attacked by a Pit Bull

On Thursday, my dogs and I were attacked by a pit bull. I was walking Victoria and Rafferty, and wham!, out of nowhere came this snarling, brindle, fur-covered, teeth-bared Ninja.

The pit bull knocked over Victoria first. This was a huge shock to her. She rolled over on her back, showed him her belly and said (in dog), "Oh, please, kind sir! Let me go!"

Then Rafferty, who is our three-legged rescue pup, decided, "You're not picking on my little sister!" And he came to Victoria's rescue by jumping onto the pit bull's back and biting at him.

Okay, all dog owners know the rules for an attack. You grab a garden hose or a bucket of water and throw it on the dogs. You never reach between them. You never put yourself in a position where the dogs can bite you, because when dogs are defending themselves they will bite at anything...including you!

But I didn't have access to water. All I had was my fury. So I did something I'd never, ever do under normal circumstances--I kicked the pit bull. I managed to send him flying a couple of feet away.

Then the pit bull got up, circled around, and attacked Rafferty again. Rafferty was at a distinct disadvantage because he and Victoria were both on leashes. (And I was at the other end of the tangle.) The pit bull was free to attack at will. Next thing I knew, the pit bull had Rafferty on the ground and was going for his neck.

I screamed, "No! No! Bad dog!" This caused the pit bull to hesitate. When he did, I kicked him again. He grabbed my pants leg and held on, shaking his head in a kill hold.

Then his owner called to him from across the street, and the dog responded by running away.

(Victoria is telling Rafferty, "Don't look now!" That's Victoria in the pink harness, and Rafferty in the masculine blue tones.)

I have no animosity against any breed of dog, but honest to pete, people should be smart consumers. Each breed has certain characteristics, because each type of dog used to have a job to do. A sheltie was bred to herd animals. A beagle was bred to follow that scent. A terrier was bred to find that rat and kill it. A pit bull was bred to fight. So people who own pit bulls or pit bull mixes need to realize that the dog's nature includes a certain amount of aggression. (In fact, I think most of them DO know that, and many take a perverse pride in it.)

Rafferty, Victoria and I are all right. I hope I didn't hurt the pit bull. But if it happened again, I'd kick the dog again, especially if it meant saving my own two pups.

And yeah, I'm definitely using this in a book! Kiki Lowenstein would have done exactly what I did! I just know it!


You could win a FREE copy of Photo, Snap, Shot, the latest book in the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery series. Just send an email with your name and postal address to On June 28, we'll choose one lucky winner at random from everyone who entered.


Book Bird Dog said...

Hope th owner of the dog got cited for having a dangerous dog running loose!

Mason Canyon said...

Glad to know all are okay. It is a shame people don't keep a closer watch on their dogs.

Thoughts in Progress

Dru said...

I'm so glad you, Victoria and Rafferty are okay.

Here's my question: where was the owner when that dog was attacking you? Shouldn't that dog have been on a leash?

caryn said...

Joanna, how terrifying for you!
Our dog park bans pits and their mixes because in U.City they have to be on a leash and muzzled when out of their own home or yard. But your experience is a little unusual I think for them because I believe the rap on Pits is that "they don't start fights, they finish them." In other words, they don't usually make the first move, but once involved they fight til death. Obviously this one also starts the fight!
I have been in a similar situation with my dogs as well and it is an awful feeling when you are standing there with two dogs on leashes while a loose dog circles in for the kill. I wouldn't have kicked but I do scream "HELP!" and both times someone came. Once it was the owner of the dog attacking who for some reason thought his dog was well enough behaved to walk off leash (but the dog was at least a block ahead of him when it attacked us) and the other time it was a woman from the house we were in front of who ran out with a broom. She then called animal control.
Caryn in St.Louis

Chris V. said...

so what happened with the owner? Terrifying. I had a similar experience - walking German Shepherd! back from the vet, this pit bull charges out of nowhere and goes for him. (funny then a poodle ran across the street. It wasn't his day!) Luckily the stupid owner got him before he attacked. Some can be agressive but it's up to the owners to watch them!

BeadKnitter said...

Good Heavens! I hope you reported that dog to the police! I would have done the same thing you did. Kick the pit bull. You're very lucky you and your fur kids didn't get hurt.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Oh, Joanna, how awful for you and your pups. I'm glad you're all okay. Everyone knows how much I love dogs, but responsible ownership is important. I've heard that pit bulls are a maligned breed and that some are sweet, but owners should recognize that there's always a possibility of aggressive behavior. It's in their genes--like chasing birds is in my tiny spaniel's genes!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

The "owner" was a 12-year-old boy who ran up and said, "He got out!" Then the kid's mother (I presume) finally corralled the dog. She was carrying it away, and she didn't have a leash, so I couldn't approach her without fear that the dog would squirm loose and attack my dogs again.

I thought about following them home (the woman, her son and their dog), but frankly, my legs had turned to Jell-O. She didn't offer any assistance to me. She didn't call over to see if my dogs were okay.

I suspect she's a working mom. She was wearing scrubs. I suspect she had told her son to be careful. But...this gets back to my point. That was the wrong breed of dog for that family and for our neighborhood which is fairly "teaming" with dogs. And no kid can usually control a dog like that. You have to train the kid to put a leash on the dog BEFORE opening the door.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Caryn, my vet's assistant told me that around here, a pit bull is considered a lethal weapon. So, yes, there are laws.

Frankly, I just couldn't follow them home. The chance of that dog getting loose and attacking us again was greater than the chance of me getting any satisfaction! I wanted to lecture all involved. In fact, after the woman grabbed the dog, two teenage girls approached me. They were obviously part of the same family. They didn't ask if my dogs were okay, but they knelt down to pat Victoria. I said, rather sharply, "Please just leave her alone. She was just attacked. I don't know if she's okay."

Now that tells me that we were dealing with a high level of STUPID. I mean, the girls must have seen the attack, and yet one of them without my permission immediately reaches down to pat my dog. What if Victoria had snapped because she was hurt?

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Also, my vet's assistant owns a pit bull. She told me that they are not people aggressive, just dog aggressive.

Whatever. I think people enjoy hip-hop and vicarious "ghetto" style, but as one hip-hop guy said recently, people who live in mansions don't want to lose it all by shooting someone. In other words, yes, they've popularized a certain lifestyle, but those people were happy to leave that lifestyle BEHIND as fast as possible. And pit bulls were part of that street thug lifestyle, just like Dalmations were big back when 101 Dalmations hit the screen--and yes, Dalmations are another breed that can be very, very challenging to pet owners. So when the movie was big, the shelters were flooded with Dalmations that owners couldn't care for, couldn't handle, and didn't want. Breeders bred dogs that shouldn't have been bred, temperment wise. Now, pit bulls are in the same position. Sad, really, sad.

Betty Hechtman said...

OMG Joanna! How horrible. I am so glad you and your dogs are okay. I carry a walking stick when I walk my dog. So far the only time I used it was to wave it around when a coyote started following us, but its nice to have.

Good you didn't stick your hand in the middle. I did stick my hand in a dog fight and ended up in the ER.

I love dogs, but a few breds scare me and Pitt bulls are one of them. Part of the problem is the owners. Think about who chooses a fighting dog with a killer reputation?

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Betty, since all of us authors are good at making up stories, I figure that a single mom who works a lot of hours was talked into the dog by her pre-teen son who wanted to be cool. She thought, "Well, it'll be nice to have the protection."

But who knows? A stick is a good idea.

Sandie Herron said...

Oh my goodness, I would have been scared out of my wits! I'm a cat person. I'm very much afraid of big dogs, especially pit bulls. I'm not so sure I could have stayed as calm as you sound. We tried to adopt a feral cat who had obviously been owned by someone for a time because he was extremely affectionate, to people. Every time I tried to introduce him to my four cats, he started a big fight, attacking one of my cats. More than once I put my hand in the middle of that but also used my loud voice and then once a broom. Since my cats are "my kids", I just couldn't stand it and we finally took the feral cat to the Humane Society an hour away because they are a no-kill shelter. The guy was truly loving with people so we told them to place him in a home with no other animals. We heard later he'd been adopted by a family with two boys, so he could rough-house with them and cuddle with them both. They loved him. So who knows who is going to get along with whom and who might start a fight. I'm SO glad to read that you and your dogs are OK and hopefully not too traumatized by the ordeal. When I walk around my neighborhood, I carry a device which emits a sound humans can't hear but that annoys dogs and cats. I have used it, at a distance, and the dog in question did not get any closer to me. I think the walking stick sounds like a good idea!

bitbypit said...

I am so glad that yourself and your two dogs are okay. This is unusual when a pit bull attacks a dog and the victimized dog owner reacts by intervening. See some examples here:

It is important to point out that using your legs -- the act of kicking -- is the most forceful action a woman can take in this position (minus weaponry). Your legs have far more power than your arms. You reacted in the best way possible.

Typical pit bull owner: "She didn't offer any assistance to me. She didn't call over to see if my dogs were okay." I hope that you reported this incident to help build a paper trail for the next dog or human who may be attacked by this dog.

Please do not buy into the baloney that pit bulls are "only" dog aggressive and not people aggressive. Why do you think pit bulls have led U.S. fatal and serious dog attack injury on human beings since the early 1980s?

Moreover, should "pit bull dog aggression" be acceptable at all? Was your experience "acceptable" to you? Your vet "assistant" told you that it was! Pit bulls attack and kill far more domesticate pets and livestock than they do humans.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Wow, Bit by Pit. That's fascinating information. I thought I saw a man walking the dog yesterday, but because I had my own pups on leashes, I sure didn't want to approach him. And oddly enough, I'm not sure it's the same dog. It all happened so fast!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Wow, I followed the Bit by Pit link. This is fascinating stuff: