a really bad but could have been worse event

I have often considered writing a post considering whether or not my anxieties as a mother are irrational or justified. I have lots of drafts on just that topic. I also have a lot of unwritten or unpublished post ideas about whether I am disproportionately focused upon Samuel, and whether that’s because of what happened with Natan or whether it’s because Samuel’s life is basically that of an only child.

A really really bad thing happened Monday afternoon. Our downstairs neighbors have a big dog of whom I am rather afraid. I do not, have never wanted, Samuel in the apartment. It’s a big dog that barks constantly in the presence of anyone not in their family. They were always really insistent that they have the dog under control, that it is always caged when other people are around, and that its barking isn’t aggression. Anyway, Samuel and their son are (were?) friends. Samuel really likes their little boy a lot. Monday afternoon while I was working at home, the little boy came and knocked on our door looking for him, but I hadn’t picked him up yet from daycare. I promised he could come over after I got Samuel.

Samuel was so excited that his neighbor wanted to come play. He had a new stuffed toy that my mother-in-law bought him last weekend and he was so excited to show it off. So when we got home, Samuel grabbed his stuffed animal and we went and knocked on the door, hoping that our neighbor would come play at our house. Samuel said to me before we got to the door, “You go away, I want to knock on the door by myself.” I told him no. I initially never wanted to go down there in the first place, but I’ve relaxed my guard as we’ve lived here more than a year and nothing has happened. I really regret that.

Anyway, Samuel knocked on the door. I stood right behind him. The little boy yelled “Who is it?” Samuel got so excited and yelled, “It’s me, Samuel!” It breaks my heart to remember the enthusiasm in his voice. So, the door opens and in a flash, the dog flies out, lunging at Samuel but thankfully only getting the toy. I don’t remember. Next thing I know, I’m between the dog and Samuel and I have the most incredible pain in my hip/butt area. The dog released, bit again, biting me three times that broke the skin and a few more times that didn’t. I really can’t even begin to describe the fear–this dog is big and outweighs me for sure. Once it was over (and I don’t remember how that happened), I held myself together in kind of a daze to get back up to our apartment. Samuel was most concerned with whether or not he was going to play with his friend.

I went to an urgent care clinic, because I was afraid of the cost. Our insurance is ridiculously bad. Fortunately, they were able to clean me up fine. Emotionally, I’m really shaken up, but the physical damage shouldn’t be permanent.

Now, there are issues with the dog. The doctor was required by law to call the police. In a perfect world, the state would take over this situation and I’d be left alone to heal. In the real world, the officer who came to the clinic was dismissive and rude. I tried to tell him what happened–while I’m lying there shaken up, in pain, and bleeding–in very calm language, without trying to incite anything. It happened right outside the apartment. We had not entered it. When he heard that, he said, “Well the dog was protecting their house. That’s all I need to know.” He left without taking anymore information. I wasn’t demanding anything; I wasn’t angry; I didn’t even call the police. I hadn’t had a minute to process what had happened and here this officer was treating me like a waste of his time, as if I were trying to cause trouble.

Anyway. I went home and went to bed. Taught Tuesday, but felt incredibly horrible by Wednesday morning. Just so physically and emotionally drained. Wednesday morning, after dropping off Samuel, I ran into our maintenance man outside our house, who asked about my limp. I started to obfuscate because my mind is just so cloudy, but then we heard the dog barking, and he mentioned being afraid of the dog. So then, well, the truth just came out. He went to our complex manager, who called me to warn me she was going to give our neighbors 24 hours to get the dog off the property. Our neighbor does not want to, and is planning to get a lawyer. Their attitude is that it was an accident–their son is not supposed to open the door until they get the dog in its cage but he was so excited to hear Samuel’s voice that he forgot.

Had I realized the extent of the risk, I would not have gone down there.

Honestly, I cannot deal with this. I want to be a good neighborly person. I don’t want the dog killed. But I don’t want it near me or my family. It happened three days ago and I’m only increasingly shocked and anxious. I honestly felt in that moment, with a horrifying certainty, that this dog was going to kill either Samuel or me. The apartment manager kept saying to me when she called, “I am so sick about this–I keep thinking what if you had decided to let Samuel do down there by himself. I just can’t fathom the ‘what if’s’ here. The dog has got to go.” Those thoughts have been on my mind constantly; and I can’t breathe hearing them from someone else. Because a part of me wants to think, “Oh stop being hysterical.” Stop thinking about “what if’s” because they didn’t happen. But though they didn’t happen this time, they could in the future. For sure we’ll never be knocking on that door again while the dog is around, but what about when the dog is outside? What about some other person who might knock on the door? Their child is a child. Can he really be relied upon to not get excited and open the door again? I’ve had pets most of my life. I know they’re family. But I just don’t understand this, in so many ways.

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9 responses to “a really bad but could have been worse event

  1. So sorry to hear about your accident (not sure what to call it)! I like to believe I am an animal lover, but if I were to choose between being a good neighbour, or protecting a dog, and protecting my child (or myself or somebody else) from future injury I wouldn’t hesitate a second. So, don’t feel bad about whatever happens.

  2. that dog has got to go. simple.
    (except not, obviously, because they’re not taking ownership. which sucks for you, because i understand wanting to be a good neighbourly person. i do. but THEY are the ones not being neighbourly.)
    they don’t seem to get that their kid is a kid, a little kid, who has little kid friends to whom that dog is a danger. and that they’re going to end up with further blood on their hands. the apartment manager clearly gets it. let him/her push it on your behalf, but lend your voice. let it be known how traumatized you are. did they even APOLOGIZE?
    it may not be your kid next time, but with their attitude, it’ll be somebody’s. and you don’t particularly want to live with that, either.
    i am glad it wasn’t worse. i am sorry it was as bad as it was.
    i hope the resolution is not as traumatic as the experience.

  3. Oh God, Sara; how awful. I cannot believe that you got bitten. As a dog owner (and of a big dog), Having a dog that bites children or neighbors (or anyone who is not an intruder) is not okay under any circumstances. I am also shocked and appalled at the police officers response. I am so sorry that you got hurt and had to suffer such a scare. The dog must go. If they want a vicious dog, they need to go live on a 50-acre farm. Miss you, Amy

  4. Just reading this makes me terrified. I am so glad that the physical damage is not worse, but please take care of yourself! And I absolutely agree: the dog needs to go, for your sanity and for the sake of your other neighbors/the building safety/the little boy’s friends. A dog who attacks entirely unprovoked is simply not safe to live in an apartment building. Even though you had an awful experience with the first cop, it might make sense to call and follow-up with the police if the building manager does not take care of the situation on his own. I really don’t think that your neighbors will have any grounds to appeal (surely the building has a clause prohibiting dangerous pets???) but just in case you might want to consider taking photos of your wounds now.

    My sister is a huge animal lover (and vet) and she is always trying to encourage my 2 year old not to be scared of dogs. I understand that she is wonderful with animals and fully comfortable petting random dogs on the streets of NYC (and has certainly been trained with how to deal with aggressive animals) but I am still deeply thankful that my daughter has a healthy fear of animals.

  5. I agree with Rachel. Take pictures. Make sure you get the record from the hospital. What happened is not acceptable. What could happen is even less so. May your own healing be as quick as possible.
    – Kelly

  6. This is just horrible. You and Samuel shouldn’t be subject to such an unsafe situation. If the dog isn’t gone immediately, I would strongly consider moving as soon as possible.

  7. How frightening, your anxiety is completely understandable. As someone above said, I’m also an animal lover, but I even give the evil eye to people who are out walking their dogs and who don’t immediately put them on a leash when they see I am walking with small kids. Aren’t those people even worried about what might happen to their own kid one day? Did they have a chain / latch high on the door so their kid physically can’t open the door before they get to it? Dreadful. Thankfully Samuel is okay. Hugs.

  8. I am sorry i missed this when you wrote it. What a horrible experience! I am so thankful Samuel is OK. I’m glad the apartment manager gets it too, she is clearly thinking in the right way. Do you have an update? Is the dog still there? I honestly don’t understand people with small children having vicious animals. Our next door neighbors do have a vicious dog, true, but they don’t have any children and are always very vigilant around mine — the dog is never even let close. So it’s certainly true that responsible pet owners can keep aggressive animals. But once there’s a little kid in the picture, that adds so much room for error. A 4-year old can’t be a responsible pet owner, duh.

  9. ugh, that was me above, kate.

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