Monday, June 16, 2008

Bulldog Attacks, Injures Dog in Central Park

A June 7 online post we just picked up:

On Saturday afternoon, April 5th, Leela and I were taking an afternoon stroll through Central Park and I decided that it would be nice to walk up along the Hudson River back home to 103rd Street. We were crossing west along 72nd Street when a man and his adolescent son, each with an English bulldog on a leash, came walking towards us. When they were approximately 20 yards away, one bulldog pulled, the son let go of the leash, and the dog ran straight towards Leela and viciously began attacking her. I tried to keep the dog away from her, but the bulldog got hold of her right flank and started ripping. It was so disturbing to see a dog intent on killing another dog who was entirely innocent, serenely walking alongside my leg. There was no provocation whatsoever on Leela’s side. The dog locked its jaws and the owner tried to pry them open whilst Leela just screamed and screamed in agony.

When the owner finally managed to get the dog to let go Leela had a few large puncture wounds in her abdomen. A crowd had gathered on the sidewalk and some said afterwards they were horrified at the bulldog’s unprovoked aggression. I told the owner that he was entirely responsible for his dog’s attack on Leela as well as the expenses this entailed. He agreed. I did not have any money on me so a kind woman gave me $20 for a taxi to take Leela to the emergency vet, but no taxi would stop for us so the man whose dog bit Leela agreed to drive us to the vet after he had taken his dogs back home. Leela was shivering and in shock and I was extremely concerned in case her intestines had been punctured. We couldn't lift her into a car because of her injuries so she managed to jump into the front and sit on my lap still shaking and panting.

At the emergency vet everyone scurried around getting the estimate of what the treatment would cost and we had to sign in a hurry believing they needed to get on with stitching her up. Once the papers were signed we sat around for another 3 hours and then went home leaving Leela in the hospital. Nothing happened for 12 hours except for an x-ray. My husband (who is a physician) called every two hours during the night to find out what was happening and they said they would get to her soon. He told the vet that he was extremely concerned about sepsis setting in. According to the vet at NYC Veterinary Specialists, the emergency facility, her injuries were more extensive than initially thought. Leela required surgery that night and was discharged the following day with sutures and staples and drains coming out of her, as well as a cone around her head.

She required daily check-ups at our regular vet, Symphony Vet, who are a pleasure to deal with. Leela had acquired a severe and deep-seated infection from the bulldog’s mouth and needed a second surgery a few days later involving the extensive resection of a large amount of muscle, fat and skin tissue, together with a prolonged course of antibiotic therapy. The vet commented that it was the worst infection she had ever seen following a dog bite. Leela was unable, and also not allowed, to walk because of the tension on the sutures and we had to use a specialized pet transport service for her numerous veterinary visits. A special van was required that had a ramp for getting in and out and in which she could stand upright as she was unable to lie down (even at home she could not lie down to sleep because of pain and discomfort). The high fever as a result of the infection caused her to drink excessive amounts of water and she was urinating all over the apartment so we were constantly cleaning up. In addition to the urine, she had had more drains inserted into her abdomen and rotten fluid was draining out until two days before her sutures were removed, over three weeks in all.

I consulted our homeopathic vet, Dr Don Hamilton, frequently by phone to help out with the severity of her condition due to the injuries sustained and the resultant infection. He prescribed certain homeopathic remedies as well as two supplements to support the regeneration of skin tissue so that her wounds could heal. Luckily she was already on an organic raw food diet and in good health so that helped too.

Given that Leela needed 24 hour care and supervision for three weeks there was no way I could leave our apartment to even go to the store downstairs, let alone teach my scheduled yoga classes. Leela had to wear an e-collar/cone at all times so that she could not lick or interfere with the affected area and she needed supervision at home with this as she would get stuck in awkward positions against furniture.

We have all been through a nightmare, but Leela is healing well and the disruption to our lives is finally subsiding. I now never leave home without a dog repellant spray (Spray Shield) as well as a mace/pepper spray so at least I have something to help deter the aggressive dogs here in NYC should one try and attack Leela again.

It is imperative to be vigilant and aware of dog aggression, educating oneself in order to recognize the signs, signals and posturing that accompanies the various forms of dog aggression, and rather avoid any form of confrontation by, for example, crossing the street if necessary. Best to be prepared, but at the same time not to be anxious as our dogs pick up on our emotions and act on them!

As much as dogs need, and like, to socialize with other dogs it takes good judgement as to when it is appropriate (or not) to get close to another dog. For example, I never take Leela into our local dog run if there are Pitbulls around, and, if one arrives, I leave. Pitbulls are notorious for being unpredictable around other dogs and I prefer not to take a chance. I have also seen them attack other dogs in the dog run for no reason so I feel justified in avoiding them.

1 comment:

Trudy said...

I am sorry you went through that. My 21-pound, 11-year old female dog just recovered from a horrible incident with two neighborhood pitbulls. Ours isn't as clearcut a case as yours, where you were 100% innocent: my bichon did pull off the leash when she saw these dogs to go bark at them. (She and they have always seemed to have issues with each other, and their walker and mine never would have let this happen had there not been a blind spot they walked right into.) Those dogs to pulled off their leash, and like you, I will never forget the yelps of my dog being thrashed around by her front leg, which likewise required extensive suturing, drains; some lung compaction issues. I can really relate to how you described your life during that period, and how hard it is initially to get used to going back out on the street.

These incidents are so traumatic and expensive, and can happen in a second. I now won't even have a cup of coffee in my hand when walking my dog, wanting to be ready to pick her up if I smell trouble. I see people walking their dog while distracted on a cellphone and think, please, be attentive! But it's a two-way street - I wish owners of dogs known to have bitten before would muzzle them on walks - end of problem. And while I'm concerned how mine will now be with other dogs, I do wish well-intentioned, exuberant new dog owners wouldn't bring theirs up to mine saying "Mine's friendly!" while all I want to do is avoid interfaces and get through the rest of her life with no more such events. The owners of the ones who picked mine up to their credit now walk them separately, learning that one person no matter how fit cannot restrain two such dogs. But this ties into what you said about it being a child. My vet tells me he had one awful case where a small child was walking a dog and couldn't restrain it from an attack. I'm not a parent so I should withhold opinions, but I do believe that small children shouldn't be walking powerful dogs in the city. Maybe off on a private yard somewhere, goodness knows I grew up with dogs and we learned walking them on leashes on our 1.5 acres, but not on city streets! There's just too much that can happen; you really have to think through the worst possible scenario.

Good luck!