Dog Training and Dinner Disasters

Orange QUARANTINED ANIMAL sign in window

I was just cooking dinner the night my newly adopted retired racing greyhound delivered a level 3 bite to the meaty part of my right hand. Pots were on the stove, the TV was on, and a nice meal was the only thing on the agenda at the end of a relaxing rainy Sunday. I wasn’t dog training. Preoccupied by the timing and ingredients of the recipe, I marched over to the new black dog sitting on a dog bed in the corner to take a rawhide chewy away from him, like I’d done dozens of times before. It plays like slow motion in my head to describe it now. I reached in, and without a sound he nailed my hand, hard. OMG. I could NOT believe it. After letting out a primal guttural shriek, I rushed to the sink and knew it was bad.

Immediately a million thoughts swirled around me and my mind was racing. “He’s a resource guarder, I did not know that! No warning growl. He must have had that beaten out of him. Great. Did he freeze? I didn’t see a freeze. I guess I wasn’t looking for a freeze. Can they legally take him away from me? How bad is this?” and on and on. Clearly, it was my fault, and I should have done a lot of things differently. The overwhelming embarrassment I felt by this incident cannot be overstated. I’m still embarrassed. My thought was, as a Certified Professional Dog Trainer with 20-plus years of experience, I should be able to avoid being bitten, particularly by my own dog. WOW.

Unfortunately the severity of the bite necessitated a trip to the Emergency Room and all of the “fun” that entails. I must say I have a new-found appreciation for the physiological changes that happen to reactive dogs in the heat of the moment. I was that dog. Natural yet unfamiliar and freshly delivered stress hormones rushed into my bloodstream. Adrenaline, cortisole, and all of their friends were on duty. I was shaking, scared, anxious and humiliated. Calming signals were nowhere to be found during the admitting process, but would have been embraced wholeheartedly. Instead, the admitting staff sent me over threshold with endless innocent but annoying questions in front of an audience of waiting room onlookers.

Emergency Room Clerk (ERC): “What happened?!”

Me: “Dog Bite.”

ERC: “Oh my Gosh how awful! Was it clamped on to you?”

Silent Me: “What a bizarre first question, she must be picturing that rabbit from Monty Python.”

Me: “No.”

ERC: “How did you get it off?!”

Me: “Here’s my insurance card.”

ERC: “Where did this happen, were you at a park?”

Me: “No.”

ERC: “What do you do for a living?”

Me: “I’m a dog trainer.”

ERC: “Was this a client’s aggressive dog?”

Me: “No, it was my dog.”

Just about the time I began secretly plotting to bleed on her to shut her up, I was called back to the surgery area to get cleaned up, vaccinated, stitched and bandaged. I got to tell my tale of shame all over again to the nurse, and then the doctor, and then the cleaning crew, too. Cranky much? You bet! I blame the hormonal party crashers, is that wrong? My amazing husband used his version of calming signals to help me become more socially acceptable until it was time to go home.

Adding insult to injury, (literally), when you get a dog bite the “offending” dog is required to be quarantined for 10 days, and Animal Regulation comes to your house for an interview. Oh, joy! Another chance to talk about my profession and my transgression! Then our house bore the figurative “Scarlet Letter” or in this case a big orange “QUARANTINED ANIMAL” sign in the front window for all the world to see. Worse, it was only a few days before a holiday, when we were hosting family from out of town. Yep.

Message received loud and clear. All interactions are important. We are ALWAYS dog training, and dog training is more important than dinner. Screening a new canine addition to the family for resource guarding issues and doing object trading exercises are all really good things to do early on. I love you hindsight! Grrrrrrrrrr!

Turns out I did cook something up that night—a steaming batch of humble pie. Our semi-new black dog has turned out to be an amazing member of the family who we adore. The scar on my hand is a constant reminder that I’m human, dog trainers can make mistakes, and that the important thing is to keep going, learn, evolve. Dinner can wait.