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Dog Attacks on Strangers are Rare

Original post made by Paulette Kenyon, Val Vista, on Oct 21, 2007

This is more or less in response to letters I see on occasion by people who insist that all dogs should be on leash wherever they may be when not in their own small, tiny miniscule backyards. I recently read somewhere (and, now I wish I remember where), that you're more apt to be struck by lightening than to be bitten by a strange dog and that most dog attacks happen to people who already know the dog (within the family, usually).
I admit that there are people who are attracted to having dangerous dogs, who glory in it. Dogs often take the cue from their owners in how they are to present themselves. And, so, you have mean people with mean dogs. I've also read that dogs who live in neighborhoods without fences rarely bark. The myth of territory is something artificially buttressed by our own needs to fence ourselves off from one another. Dogs once again are taking the cue.
What I'm getting at is that yes, owners should have dogs leashed in heavily populated areas; (I totally agree on this point) but, those of you who state the rules and the laws about being leashed in public outdoor areas and parks, must realize that dog owners have very few places to take dogs anymore where the dogs can just run and play and be dogs. How would you feel if there was a law that said all children must be on a leash? If a child could not run and play and burn off steam, that child would be impossible. It is the same with dogs.
When I take my dog out, I let her offleash on trails when I see no one close by; but, when I see people, I call her to me and place the leash on before they get close. In some places, dog people secretly meet and we all have a beautiful time, where the dogs play and romp together. Some dogs growl and give warnings to each other, but, there are rare occasions of real fights. Dogs are generally just play games with each other. These meetings with other dog people in Pleasanton have become as furtive as Larry Craig meeting in the restrooms. People have gotten so uptight about dogs. And, we are made to feel that letting our dogs play and romp together is something filthy and dirty, that society scorns. And, I think the dog whisperer has validated this outlook, unfortunately.
I've seen the dog whisperer; and, although, some of what he says is true, I totally think he's out to lunch in regards to the leash thing. I can't believe his dogs are happy if they must be on a leash constantly. I've seen him on his property; and, he does seem to own land where they can run. Would he feel the same about leashes had he only a postage size backyard for his animal? Maybe he's just a control freak. That seems to be going around these days.
I'm just wondering why people have become so reactionary to all people with dogs, regardless of what they are doing or how they behave. Why are dog people and their animals not innocent until proven guilty? If people act responsibly and have their pets trained, I think it's wonderful if they can let the dog off the leash here and there where there are few people. Dogs are a sheer joy to watch romping and running. It's a delight to the spirit. And, in this world that we live in, there are a shrinking number of places where this can happen.
I fear for a civilization that is afraid of everything - a world that demonizes a running, happy, smiling dog. And, this is the world that I am beginning to see. People like me, who don't want to have an RFID implant, who have dogs who are let off the leash from time to time, who is willing to take personal responsibility for our animals behavior, we, are becoming a dying breed.
I see no children anymore in the natural areas of Pleasanton. They are locked in the houses playing horrific, vicious and mean video games. They are training to love war and to hate the natural world we live in. They have no opportunities to acquire any sensitivity to nature or it's creatures. They are told that the minute they see a dog, they need to roll into a ball and protect themselves from these terrible creatures. Gone are the days when children trooped off to create their own magical adventures. I remember playing Sheena, Queen of the Jungle and Tarzan and cowboys and Indians, etc.
I'm glad I'm getting old and will probably kick off soon. I had a magical childhood, where I got to hike into the hills with other children, by ourselves. And, when we saw the scary adults, we ran and laughed later on when we "got away." We knew which streets had the stray dogs that weren't friendly. But, we also knew where the dogs were who became our best friends.
At the age of 5, I use to go next door early in the morning, unbeknownst to my mother, and crawl into the big old wooden dog house of Rover, the dog who lived next door. There were lots of black widow spiders under the house there where Rover lived. I could've been bitten and died. But, I didn't. And, I'll always treasure my good old friend, Rover. My mother would let Rover guard me when I was a tot. She set me down in front of the house and Rover would stand beside me. An old Indian use to ride down the street on a horse every now and then, dressed in his traditional regalia. And, the junk man came by in a horse drawn wagon. This was in the Parkside/Oceanview district of San Francisco. Later, we moved to South San Francisco, near the cow farms that use to be Christianson's Dairy. We usually never jumped the fence, though, because of the sign that warned of a bull. We'd all read "Ferdinand the Bull," but, we weren't willing to find out whether these bulls were Ferdinand.
In the summer, I would spend a few weeks with my cousin in Boulder Creek. She use to delight in taking me into the woods and seeing me get lost. Somehow, I'd find my way back to her house. We also found resourceful pastimes, one of those involved collecting stray golf balls and sweeping the pee wee golf course for free games. Life was sweet. We'd go over to the stables and the stable hands had fun messing with us. They'd give us chores to do so we could ride the horses. Sometimes, they'd chase us and toss us in the manure pile and then, toss us in the water trough. It was terrible, but, we squealed with delight.
We heard of kids and some kids I knew had bad things happen. Some kid cut his leg falling down a hill, another kid got suffocated while building a cave, another caught his pants on fire playing with matches, and some kids we heard of got molested and some kids we didn't need to be told about. We could tell.
But, today, parents want to protect children from living life at all.
Making dogs into another boogie man doesn't guarantee that your child will be happy. If I could choose between avoiding scary dogs and letting my kid play horrific video games and be physically safe in my living room, I'd pick avoiding child molesters, dogs, and everything else to embrace life in all it's fullness. Yes, there are risks; but, life is nothing without them.
Most children today are on Paxil. It's no wonder. The adults have given them these horrible computer games as nannies and taken the experience of magic and wonder away from them. They walk outside and are like blind men without a cane.
If Rover had to be on a leash, I probably never would've known Rover. I would've never known the magic of waking up with my head buried in his soft fur. I'm glad my parents let me run out of the house and be gone for hours on end, doing who knows what. I'm glad I climbed trees and fell down cliffs, and scraped my knees, and ran away from creepy adults. And, it seems I'm still running. Hey, dog people, some of these folks are scared. So, if you have a scary dog, please leash it when you see them, so that they don't come unglued and get the lynch party out to get us. And, non-dog people. Can you somehow try and look at our side of things a little? If we leash our animals when you get close, isn't that good enough? Even though the dog is more interested in smelling the ground than bothering with you, we put them onto a leash and inconvenience their revery for you. Can't you make some kind of compromise? There is so little open space. All these joggers and bikers and everything. It is hard on us dog people too.

Comments (14)

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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 21, 2007 at 4:15 pm

Paulette,
You wrote such a long letter that it is almost impossible to address everything you wrote. Just a few things...

- You are right that dogs reflect their owners and there are a lot of mean dogs out there because the owners make them that way. Mean people actively seek breeds with reputations too, like pitbulls.
- Even though some folks put their kids on leashes, human beings are not dogs. Little children (the kind that need to run around) are not loaded weapons with sharp fangs.
- Too bad you don't remember where you read about being struck by lightning versus being bit by a dog. The truth is that dog attacks are quite frequent, especially among mail carriers and other service industry people who visit homes as part of their jobs. They carry things like mace to protect themselves. (ie Web Link ) I like dogs actually, even though I was bitten when young by a neighborhood dog running loose (it also bit a pregnant woman's leg and drew blood). I can't claim to have been struck by lightning yet.
- I agree with you that a single dog park in Pleasanton is somewhat limiting for owners. There should be an area at the Sport's Park for example, and several other larger park areas. Why should a dog owner have to drive across town to Muirwood Park just to let their dog legally run loose? Perhaps if folks like you who let their dogs secretly run loose together illegally could work with the City's Park & Rec. department to get more dog parks open.
-You wonder why dog owners are guilty until proven innocent. I think it is quite simple. The stranger you encounter doesn't know you or your dog (you could be one of those mean owners). All we can do is hope for the best and expect the worst. Don't disdain the feelings others may have towards you because of that basic survival instinct. Moreover, chances are that those strangers you encounter aren't dog or animal people and don't know how to act around dogs.
-To those owners who think its ok to have a dog off the leash illegally, why even take the chance? If your dog ends up attacking a little child you'll be in for a world of hurt which could have easily been avoided. The law is there for a reason. Use it.


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Posted by Jane
a resident of Dublin
on Oct 21, 2007 at 6:53 pm

Paulette...you really seem to have a lot of issues and use all means of media in and around the Tri-valley area to air your opinions...

I think deep breathing techniques would really help you deal with your frustrations about the demise of society...


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Posted by Paulette
a resident of Val Vista
on Oct 21, 2007 at 8:01 pm

Gee... I haven't written anything in a long time, Jane. Yes. I do have issues; and, I'll probably have to wait until Spring when people stop making me ill with their woodsmoke (oops! another issue)before I can take an actual deep breath. I haven't written anything in months, yet, still you complain that I write too much.
It just seems to me that people have become so reactive these days to everything. When the city council wanted to do a forum on Iraq, 30 citizens all showed up to shut that down. All of them chiming together that we all must support the president and blau blau blau. When I speak up, there is always someone who wants to shut me up. Like you. A few would lynch me in the park, if it wasn't against the law. And, it is working. I haven't written in months. Make no mistake, I am intimidated. The dog issue seemed rather benign compared to the clear and present dangers that everyone pretends doesn't exist. But, there is no escaping my past, I guess. You got me.
It's just that the dog thing is so odd to me. I'm wondering where all the real human beings went. There are so many other dangers in the world to children that are much more real, from my perspective, which I admit is not everyone's. Everytime I take a walk in an open space or on a trail, as a woman, I'm acutely aware that every man who walks down the trail is a potential rapist. Being a woman is itself an issue even now in today's world; and, I believe it is getting even worse for women, if you want to know the truth (in basic ways, like healthcare, wages, etc.). The only bright spot is that there are women with big mouths who are young. And, I cherish them. My cousin, Susan B. Anthony, and others, over time, at least made it okay for women to open their mouths and scream in between deep breaths. Even if it is to blow out another's flame.


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Posted by Paulette
a resident of Val Vista
on Oct 21, 2007 at 8:21 pm

Gee... I haven't written anything in a long time, Jane. Yes. I do have issues; and, I'll probably have to wait until Spring when people stop making me ill with their woodsmoke (oops! another issue) before I can take an actual deep breath. I haven't written anything in months, yet, still you complain that I write too much. I've left the political writing to others and simply ask that the lynch party take a minute to reconsider what they are doing in regards to people's loving pets.

People are so reactive these days to everything. Certainly, there is a viciousness in society that has instilled itself in the expanding ownership of dangerous, fighting dogs. But, not all dogs or dog owners are into that. I'm wondering where all the reasonable human beings went. There are so many other dangers in the world to children that are much more evident, from my perspective, which I admit is not everyone's. Everytime I take a walk in an open space or on a trail, as a woman, I'm acutely aware that every man who walks down the trail is a potential rapist. Yet, men are allowed to walk trails unleashed. Being a woman is itself an issue that never ceases to challenge women. The only bright spot is that there are women with big mouths who are young. And, I cherish them. My cousin, Susan B. Anthony, and others, over time, at least made it okay for women to open their mouths and scream in between deep breaths. Even if it is to blow out another's flame. You join many others in the quest to blow out mine. Maybe your breath will do it. One can hope.


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Posted by Paulette
a resident of Val Vista
on Oct 21, 2007 at 8:43 pm

Oops! I accidentally sent two responses to deep breathing Jane. Sorry about that. One is edited and one isn't.


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Posted by Jennifer
a resident of Remen Tract
on Oct 21, 2007 at 10:42 pm

Paulette,

When you make unsubstantiated and outlandish statements like "most children are on Paxil" and "you're more apt to be struck by lightening than to be bitten by a strange dog" it undercuts any of your arguments that might be persuasive and coherent.


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Posted by sacdogtrainer
a resident of another community
on Oct 22, 2007 at 8:34 am

Paulette,

You made some good points and I share your frustration. Statistically, bite victims are those who the dog is familiar with than strangers. In fact, one of the problems with bite statistics is that the vast majority of dog bites go unreported. As a professional trainer, I work with dogs that have multiple bite histories that have never been reported.

Two excellent resources which readers can look into are:

Dogs Bite, Janis Bradley
The Pitbull Placebo and Fatal Dog Attacks, by Karen Delise

Both books research the statistics and facts of severe and fatal attacks for the last century. In the vast majority of these cases, human responsibility, neglect or abuse was a direct factor in the attack.

And for those who claim that "dogs are not children", keep in mind that humans kill more humans every year than dogs and that children are more likely to die at the hands of their fathers, stepfathers or mother's boyfriends than a dog.

The dog "problem" is a human problem. And until people choose to educate themselves rather than make knee-jerk accusations and pass impotent laws, bites and attacks will continue to happen.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 22, 2007 at 1:12 pm

Sacdogtrainer,

I'm not sure what you're saying regarding impotent laws. Are you implying that the leash law is impotent?


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Posted by Who asked you... ...to go on and on and on???
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 27, 2007 at 11:21 am

Hey Paulette,

We have a law. Put your dog on a leash. Or face the consequences.


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Posted by Dog owner and lover
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Nov 1, 2007 at 6:07 pm

I have a dog and she's a member of the family. For her protection, I keep her on a leash. Why? Because when I walk through the Pleasanton Meadows area, I run across many people like Paulette who choose to disobey the leash law. Now maybe Paulette really does get her dog on a leash the moment she sees others approaching and maybe she does have a dog who will immediately come when called That's what the couple said to me about their two unleashed dogs who came charging at my dog. "Our dogs always come when called." Not that time. Fortunately, since my dog was on her leash, I wss able to pick her up and hold her above the two jumping snarling dogs, before they could do any serious damage. Another time, a dog owner who also believed her dog's right to enjoy the park superseded every other dog's right to be safe had her dog off his leash and he came lunging at my dog and me. While her dog had his paws on my chest and was growling at my dog (which I held overhead), the owner said "don't worry, my dog's friendly." I could do with a little less of that kind of friendliness. I made a point of following that owner to her home and then calling Animal Control and reporting her.

"Who asked you" is on target. Pleasanton has a law that requires dogs to be on leashes. We also have laws regarding stopping at stop signs, not shoplifting, not drinking and driving. We don't get to pick and choose which laws we obey...if we're caught breaking them, there are consequences.

Paulette, if you continue to choose to break the law, well, minimally you're not practicing good citizenship and some might even call you a criminal.

I'd say you were not providing a good role model, but I suspect you don't have any children (it's always the people who don't have children who have plenty to say about how other people are raising theirs!)

To all those who live in the Val Vista neighborhood...when you're out walking with your kids or your dog, and you see Paulette and her "born free" dog, make a note of the time and place and report her to Animal Control. Better yet, carry a digital camera and take a photo of her disboeying the law and send it to Animal Control. And join me in sending Paulette's comments to Animal Control so they can be on the lookout for her.

Paulette, there are plenty of places outside of Pleasanton where you can buy several acres of land and let your dog roam to his heart's content. You can wallow in nostalgia (ironic since you're using electronic communication), but ultimately nothing you say carries any weight because you are an admitted lawbreaker.


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Posted by Don't like dogs who aren't on leashes
a resident of Civic Square
on Nov 14, 2007 at 8:30 am

I just have one question for you.... would you really want to take a chance of having your dog attack a child because you don't feel all dogs should be on leashes?


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Birdland
on Jan 6, 2008 at 2:12 pm

Paulette;

I leash my dogs more for their protection than the protection of others. The leash can be used to ward off other aggressive dogs and is a very good way of discouraging stupid humans from petting your dog even when you've asked that they not do so.

As Officer Fickens has been noted as saying, "In my 35 years of doing this, it's never the dogs that are the problem and always the humans." Bravo Roy!


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Posted by Mike
a resident of Jensen Tract
on Feb 22, 2008 at 6:27 pm

Dogs are hideous creatures. They bark all the time at all hours of the night. They run loose through the town chasing cyclists and motorbikes, shitting where they please and urinating on the streets. They are filthy and dig thru trash and carry it all over. They should all be destroyed. I am serious.


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Posted by DobeMom
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2008 at 5:36 am

Posted by Mike - Dogs are hideous creatures. They bark all the time at all hours of the night. They run loose through the town chasing cyclists and motorbikes, shitting where they please and urinating on the streets. They are filthy and dig thru trash and carry it all over. They should all be destroyed. I am serious.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mike -- Please show me where anything you've pointed out is not a human problem -- as stated by several posters in this thread. Never mind, I'll do it for you.

* Barking all the time at all hours of the night -- why is their "human" not bringing them inside, or simply put -- why are they not a more integrated part of the family?
* They run loose through town -- Again, why is their "human" not ensuring the dog is kept safe? Running loose implies someone "human" likely let them do so.
* Shitting where they please -- Gee -- someone clearly isn't doing a good job at 1) training and 2) bag walking. With a great deal of effort, my dogs are trained to only do "their business" in a particular area of our 8,000 sq. foot backyard. When we walk them publicly (which is rare here in Pleasanton due to "attitudes"), we are never without a pocket full of Safeway bags.
* They are filthy -- Likely a result of all the things I've all ready stated -- all of which are human based.
* They dig through trash -- Trash human beings create in volumes!! And I can tell you that far more humans throw trash in gutters and on sidewalks than canines. I'll even bet that last piece of chewed gum stuck on your shoe while walking downtown did not come from the mouth of a canine creature.
* They should all be destroyed -- If certain groups have their way, certain breeds will be. And when they are all gone, man can then turn against man as there will be nothing left to blame, kick, or shoot but themselves.

I TOO AM SERIOUS.


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