A warning.

Of the infinite number of bad things that could happen to the kids every day, one I’ve given little thought to is a dog attack.  It’s kind of fatalistic to dwell on bad things, so why would I really have thought about it?

Now, I can’t stop thinking about it.

My heart is thumping, I have a thousand tears waiting to splash down, things are tenuous in the calm thoughts department.

Yesterday Zadie was attacked by our next-door neighbour’s dog, Bobby.  I love Bob and have written about him before in terms of now ironic admiration.  The kids love him and he appeared to love the kids.  I think he still does; he just snapped momentarily.

I don’t want people to accuse me of sensationalising this or using it for any means other than what I am using it for: as a placeholder for a really important event in our lives.  One day in two or five or 10 years’ time, no-one’s going to give a shit about my blog except me and my family.  This is where I record stuff that matters to us.  This is one of those things.  Nevertheless to avoid any such insinuations, I’m just going to give a brief account.

Sunday mornings I get up really early with the kids.  It’s MaryJane’s day off, and Joel’s day to sleep in.  So at 6.15 am, the kids and I were walking our own big dog, Basil, to a building site in the next village over.  Nice sunrise right!

The kids like to run around the half-built house and Basil likes to whizz on everything.  Yesterday morning Bobby came with us on our walk.  He was unleashed and ran along next to Basil.  This is a common occurrence.  Bob and Baz are mates; in fact Bob waits outside our gate every night at precisely 10.15 for Basil to come outside so they can sniff each other’s arseholes before bed or whatev.

After our early morning walk yesterday, we went to Sharp Island, a nearby beach, with dad.  It was warm and bright.  The kids paddled and collected shells; we all got sunburnt.

When we got home, Rufus began his anticipated-all-week Sunday afternoon computer session.  I headed upstairs for my anticipated-all-week Sunday afternoon nap.  Joel was trimming our front hedge  (not anticipated ever, but necessary), and Zadie was trailing behind collecting the falling leaves in her little bucket.  After they finished doing our side of the fence, they went around to do the other side – Bobby’s side.  We spend a bit of time in Bobby’s owner’s front yard because there is a giant fishtank in there that the kids like to check out.  The kids are sometimes in there by themselves.  It’s also a thoroughfare to houses further into the village.

I had just sat down on the edge of the bed when the worst screaming I’ve ever heard began.  I could hear that ripping deep gurgling noise that dogs make when they fight, and I could hear Joel shouting “BOBBY” in his most commanding man voice.  We only have 17 stairs but while I was in the stairwell running down them, I couldn’t hear anything.  And it obviously took seconds, but in my mind it took five minutes, and when I got to the bottom and I could still hear the screaming, I thought that she would die.

Joel came in the front gate and handed Zadie to me.  He was very calm and I am inexpressibly grateful that he was right there.  He thinks Bobby was only attacking her for less than five seconds but he had her pinned to the ground in a jawlock and was shaking her like a ragdoll.  She was screaming that Bobby had bitten her, shaking, and she’d wet herself – not like a nervous wee, but a full letting-go drenching.  I suppose SHE had thought she would die too.

And that’s the thing.  If Joel wasn’t right there, she probably would have.

We rushed her to the hospital where her wounds were assessed, cleaned, stitched up and bandaged.  What we all went through in the hospital – but especially her – as she was stitched up is too traumatic to recount.  The bite wound on her back especially was so deep, the jumbo ear-cleaner the doctor used to clean it out disappeared inside her back.  I never want to think about – let alone go through – anything like this ever again.

In a dazed shock, waiting for the doctor.

She has a bite on the back of her head.  They suggested shaving her head to allow the bandage to adhere properly but we thought she’d been through enough trauma!  So she has the bandage just kind of stuck to her head, and will have raggedy hair for the next seven days where showers and brushing are forbidden.  But hopefully we can stave off the half-mo yet.  And in the grand scheme of life (life!) it really doesn’t matter.

You can see in the photo above how lucky she was not to lose her eye.  She has a gouge right on the very lowest edge of her eyebrow.  Her cheek has a cresent-shaped tooth mark that the doctor has said will scar, but “inappreciably” – even in the tension of the Emergency room, I had to give him props; there’s not many locals here, even fluent ones, who would attempt “inappreciably”.  Because of this hopeful inappreciability, he decided not to stitch that particular wound for fear of creating unnecessary scar tissue.  It just has a butterfly bandage.

Her shoulder is where the really deep wound is, and it got stitched up in a Herculean effort of medical wrangling by the young male nurse, physical restraint of Zadie by Joel, emotional restraint by me, and heroic bravery by Zadie.

She has a number of smaller lacerations and some bruising on her upper arm.

Rufus has been the most amazing big brother.  When we got home from the hospital and I asked him if he’d been worried about Zadie, he said “No mama, not even one little bit!” which I thought was a little heartless until Joel told me that he went straight to him and said that he was very worried but didn’t want to worry ME.  I just…love that guy so much!

He keeps offering Zadie all his best toys, and last night he said “Mama and dadda, don’t get up if you hear Zadie crying in the night, I’ll be the one to look after her.”

So we slept right through, whoo!

(Obviously not.)

Today she’s been reasonably chipper but crying on and off.  She has mentioned a few times that Bobby bit her.  She also made both Joel and I lay on the couch so she could pretend to stitch us up with the plastic doctor’s kit.  Tonight it took her three hours to go to sleep – incessant requests for water, various teddies, different blanket.  Reassurance.

Bobby is being put down or relocated, I’m not sure which, and I’m sad about that too.  I really love Bob.  He’s a companion for his elderly widowed owner too.  But there are other kids in this village, he’s not in a secured area, and while I wouldn’t have thought he had the capability for this sort of attack, now that he’s done it, we could never trust him again.  We had to think twice about whether we would report him but the thing is, if his teeth had been millimetres lower, she would have lost an eye; centimetres further round to the front, he would have punctured her throat; had it gone on for just one or two seconds more, we might not have our Zadie Mae at all anymore.  It wouldn’t be a question of reporting it in that situation, so it can’t be a question now just because we had a lucky (so, SO lucky) escape this time.  He’s gone.

Incidentally we love dogs, have taught our kids to be safe around them, and have a big collie.  And now we also have a dilemma.  Basil Leaf is a placid dog with none of the explosive energy or slightly crazed dingo tendencies Bobby had.  Nonetheless he is big and powerful, essentially a domesticated wolf.  This is what happened to Zadie when a dog “turned” and Joel was RIGHT NEXT TO HER.  Imagine she fell off the couch on to Basil one day, or stepped on his tail while he was in a deep sleep, and we were in the next room?  There is now an unavoidable question of trust.  Is it safe to have a dog with the physical capability of overpowering a child, while you have small children in the house?  I’m sure some people are thinking “My dog is safe, he’s calm and well-trained.  No need to overreact.” Or “Well, she must have done something to provoke him.”  That’s possibly true (Joel didn’t see what, if anything, precipitated the attack).

That’s what I would have said too, before yesterday.

But…does it matter?  That fact is that we have a dog that COULD do this; and there’s no room after a worst-case-scenario outcome for justificatory explanations.  Mate, it’s biology and instinct.  We don’t get a say.

In the aftermath of our relatively lucky outcome, I can almost hear that fatal phonecall, feel what unluckier parents have gone through, picture it all too graphically.

As heartbreaking as it will be for the kids, I think Basil Leaf will be getting re-homed.

I know we’re all wary of strange dogs around our kids but please, be so vigilant with dogs you know and trust.

Now: it’s over, I feel better, and I’m not going to focus on it anymore.  I don’t think I could even if I wanted to.  I could sleep for a year!  All trauma and drama aside, I missed my three-hour Sunday afternoon nap, fuck it!


53 Comments Add yours

  1. oh my god. I had no idea. I’m so sorry. I had a friend get bit by a strange dog once and it was AWFUL. I was in a panic. I can’t believe it got her on the face and back. My poor little Pip!

    1. jadeluxe says:

      Pip 😦 😦 You would have died mate. Absolute panic stations.
      She’s good today 🙂

  2. Oh god, that’s horrible. Poor Zadie. Poor EVERYONE.
    A necessary and heartfelt warning indeed.
    I can’t imagine the “what ifs” running through your head. She was so so SO lucky.
    You guys need to get a rabbit.
    Get better soon Zadie xxx

    1. jadeluxe says:

      We do need a rabbit. Except a stupid village dog would probably eat it (like one of our cats soon after we moved here…never told the kids that…). Thanks Rhi x

  3. Bree says:

    arhhh crying badly … sooooo scary considering we have Cosmo who Lale torments and I have seen him get jealous a few times now I think ill be super dupa causious, lale locks cos in her room with her sometimes.. no more that. love you zadie.. xxoo

    1. jadeluxe says:

      Yeah please be careful Bree! Cos is lovely but he’s old and that makes them cranky and intolerant of kids…

  4. Carrie says:

    Jade, I couldn’t imagine the horror you experienced. Zadie is such a lucky girl to not have been hurt more. Bigs hugs for her and the family. And a big hug for you.

    1. jadeluxe says:

      Thanks a lot, Carrie. Yep, scary times indeed but we’re all doing much better now. Appreciate the comment x

  5. Oh my goodness. I’m glad to see that despite the bandages and stitches Zadie still has a few smiles. Such a scary experience.

    1. jadeluxe says:

      It really was terrifying. But as they say, kids are resilient – lots of smiles the last few days!

  6. Belinda says:

    Jade, that’s really horrific. I’m glad that everyone is fine now but that must have been terrible! Thinking of you guys xx

    1. jadeluxe says:

      The worst. This is why cats are best, yes?

  7. Dude, I was lying awake worrying about dog bites at 3am this morning. I cannot begin to imagine how scary that was (and still is) for you all. You must be trying so hard not to go crazy about it. Doing my head in.
    Hope Zadie is doing OK.

    1. jadeluxe says:

      It’s weird, Zadie has been getting (mentally) better day by day. She’s basically normal and happy again by today (three days later), except she won’t let Joel leave her without a long explanation and lots of reassurance. But as for Joel and I, especially me, we’re wrecks! I get worse by the day and can’t stop reliving it! In a way it’s been good, I’ve been so much more vigilant – probably a little overbearing but it will balance out as we’ve probably slacked off a bit in the last year or so as the kids have got more independent. Have to remember we live in a village with roaming dogs, a creek running through it, a carpark etc. Now to find a way for them to have independent experiences while still remaining inside the cottonwool-padded bubble I intend to construct for them 😉

  8. I am so relieved that your daughter is okay. It sounds like she’s been a real trooper.

    1. jadeluxe says:

      Thanks very much. She’s been absolutely stoic 🙂

  9. gfunkified says:

    This is horrifying. I can’t imagine going through that…even reading about it made me sick to my stomach.

    My cousin’s daughter was attacked by a neighbor dog when she was only one or two. You can’t tell it now (8 or so years later), but when it happened, I was sure her face would be scarred for life, if she even survived. It was so bad, she was on a national talk show. So, so scary.

    1. jadeluxe says:

      That is terrifying. My goodness. I bet your cousin can still relive it like it was yesterday! It’s just one of those things that you do kind of have in your periphery (“A dog could attack my kids”) but you never actually really think through how traumatic it is!!
      Appreciate your comment.

  10. This is so scary – and I’m so glad she’s okay. We have dogs we love, and our kids play with them with no problems, but every once in awhile my husband can see that the dogs are just not in that playful mood, and we keep the baby away from them. My fear is that something like what you described could happen. Thank you for sharing this story and reminding all of us to be careful.

    1. jadeluxe says:

      I’m glad people with kids are reading it. Like I said, it’s one of those (hundreds!) of warnings that sit in your head but you never really think about it. I guess that’s why I can’t stop dwelling on it now! Time to move on 🙂 But, thanks for the comment.

  11. I was literally holding my breath reading that. Nightmare is an understatement. I can’t imagine such things and am so impressed with your ability to write it out so fresh, although perhaps that’s the best way. Blessings to you and your family.

    1. jadeluxe says:

      Hi Jamie. It was just the worst! I thought I’d feel better if I wrote about it. I don’t, really 😉 But I’m glad people with kids are reading it! Thanks for your blessings.

  12. Mayor Gia says:

    Aw that is so so so scary! I’m glad she seems to be okay. What an upsetting situation.

    1. jadeluxe says:

      The.Worst. Anyway, she’s fine and I need to move on! 🙂 Thanks Gia.

  13. That is so scary and yes, she is so lucky. As bad as it is, it could have been so much worse. (I worked as an ER nurse for 15 years so I know)

    With my girls (as opposed to my boys) I am constantly freaked out when they get scratched or cut on their faces. I can just imagine how into the pit of your stomach your heart must have been when you saw her.

    After the stitches are out and the cuts healed, make sure you get good creme for scars from a plastic surgeon-it will minimize whatever scars there may be.

    Lots of hugs and thanks for sharing.

    1. jadeluxe says:

      You’re absolutely right. My mum is a paramedic and I’ve of course heard of much worse stories than this. Feel so grateful in a way! Still, there but for the grace of whoever go us!!
      Good advice re the cream, thanks. Hadn’t really thought that far ahead. Had the wounds redressed today, the face ones seem to be healing up quite nicely but the deeper back one obviously has a way to go.
      Thanks for your kind comment 🙂

      1. You are welcome.

        BTW-have you had her around any dogs at all since the incident? Wondering if it’s like getting back on a bicycle?

  14. sisterhoodofthesensiblemoms says:

    I am wiping the tears from my eyes. Your precious baby! I am so sorry this happened to you. I’m sorry for the further trauma of you having to re-locate your dog, but I have no doubt you are doing the right thing. It is scary to be that close to the brink of life’s fragility. Ellen

    1. jadeluxe says:

      Ellen, thanks for the lovely comment. Still in two minds about relocating our own dog but it feels quite urgent to make the decision. Now that I know these things really can happen in the blink of an eye (something I always knew theoretically, but hadn’t anticipated the full horror).
      A definite reminder of life’s preciousness and fragility. The days are definitely sunnier!

  15. jadeluxe says:

    @Susie, she’s been absolutely fine and normal around our dog. Hasn’t really seen any others.
    Weirdest of all was when we got home from the hospital after she’d been stitched up, she kept rejecting all the pyjamas we chose for her, eventually making us hunt around in her cupboard for a pair she’d been handed down from an older friend, that she’s never worn before – and which are covered in dogs?? Little mentalist 😉

    1. lol at your daughter. glad to hear she still likes dogs

  16. I’m so sorry that you had to experience such a thing! I have a small dog (miniature dachsund – 12 pounds). Just last night, a medium sized dog on a leash broke out of his collar and ran straight for my dog, rolled him, pinned him, and at least nipped at him before I got to them and scooped my dog up. Just those few seconds, I was terrified thinking that I was going to have to watch my dog get mauled to death in our own front yard. Therefore, I can’t imagine how you felt with this attack happening to your CHILD. So glad that she’s going to be okay.

    1. jadeluxe says:

      That is so scary! Luckily you were there! Thanks for your thoughts x

  17. mamamzungu says:

    Jade, I am seriously near tears reading this. The poor little darling. It’s absolutely horrifying but I”m glad you got good care and after an incident like this I would err on the side of the caution too – dog loving aside.
    BTW- I think posts like this are a big part of why people blog. We need to not feel alone when something unthinkable happens. I know it’s helped me in the past. So, I don’t think anyone would accuse you of somehow capitalizing on this tragedy. I just hope she heals quickly and you and Joel find some calm. Sending you lots of hugs!

    1. jadeluxe says:

      Thanks for saying that, I always feel a little bit like I’m capitalising when I post more personal stuff. But then again, people don’t have to read it 🙂 Thanks for your thoughts. It was totally distressing and I think I’m only just starting to feel better now – but luckily Zadie has seemed pretty fine for the past few days!

  18. I spent many years as an ER nurse and unfortunately your story is not uncommon. The first thing people say to us is that they had NEVER done that before, that they had been such a great people/kid dog. But the truth of the matter can be summed up in your one statement. It is biology and instinct. Nothing can be done about that.
    I’m so sorry you had to go through this, the kids (and moms) I’ve had to take care of…well I just throw my arms around them.

    1. jadeluxe says:

      That is such a beautiful comment. Thanks for your thoughts and thanks for the caring work you do. Yep, spot on…there’s no point saying “Oh, he was usually such a great dog!” if JUST ONCE he snaps and the worst happens, can you.

  19. christina says:

    oh my word. 😦 this made my stomach drop and do all kinds of things it shouldn’t do. i can not even imagine … 😦 i’m sooo sorry you all had to endure this and am so glad Zadie is OK.
    i’ve never been much of a dog person, truthfully and i always become a hellicopter mom whenever Lovie is around one. i mean, there’s no way to 100% avoid something like this from happening, but i do my best. ugh. again, so sorry.

    1. jadeluxe says:

      It makes me feel paranoid now. I haven’t been that much of a helicopter parent and now I’m worried I’m going to be the ultimate one! Thanks for the comment x

  20. I am so glad she is ok! We have a dog too and we were worried when our son was younger about what could happen with a young boy and an older dog. They stay out of each other’s way, but since our dog is almost 14 and big (a Lab), there’s always that what if in the back of my mind. I’m so sorry this happened to your family.

    1. jadeluxe says:

      Thanks Michelle. I appreciate the thought.

  21. suzy016 says:

    so glad that your brave zadie made it through this, although i know it will take a lot of healing for all of you. we have always had big dogs and just as a random chance didn’t have one when dane was born, and it’s been a battle trying to decide if we should get one or not… which brings me to the point that i’m so glad you shared this, because it’s such an important thing to remember that dogs (even ones that are parts of our family, like ours have been) are still animals. wishing you the best in all this -s

    1. jadeluxe says:

      Exactly right. And obviously I haven’t considered it too much before (apart from token thoughts) because we got our big collie when the kids were 1 and 3. I love big dogs (any dogs!) but now I don’t trust them like I did before. I never want to go through anything like this again.

  22. Oh my, that was so scary. I’m so glad Zadie is safe and healing, and what a wonderful brother she has.

    I’m sorry to hear that Basil will have to be re-homed, but the children’s safety comes first.

    Thanks for sharing this!

    1. jadeluxe says:

      Thanks for reading! I always try to go concise but it never happens (obviously!).
      The kids’ safety does indeed come first. Way way way more first now that we’re still feeling so paranoid 😉

  23. Wow. Glad she is OK. I can’t imagine the terror for all of you, especially her. I was thinking that it must feel good to get it all out here in your space. What a blessing. I hope all of you continue to heal-very traumatic and I’m sorry you had to go through this.

    1. jadeluxe says:

      Thanks, er, Sperk 😉 She’s going really well this week. Will have her stitches in for another week but we’re all feeling better 🙂 And yes, writing this post felt very good actually!

  24. tara pohlkotte says:

    oh my. so, so, so glad she’s alright. all the best for the healing process!!

    1. jadeluxe says:

      Thanks Tara 🙂

  25. When I read this the first time (during YeahWrite50), I was so terrified for your daughter. Now that I’m reading it again, I have such an appreciation for *your* restraint and ability to write about this calmly.

    It’s a good lesson to remember for others, so thank you for sharing it. We often let our kids just play around with dogs we know, but (just as it can be with humans) you never know what might set off a tantrum/attack. And dogs have strength and teeth on their side. Thank you for the reminder to be vigilant and quick like Joel!

  26. jadeluxe says:

    I’m really glad to provide the reminder! I needed it myself. Super important. I’m so grateful Joel was right there instead of me, I’m sure I would have been much less composed (more screaming, less authoritative in stopping the attack etc).

  27. Poor baby! Good job keeping such a good head about the whole thing

  28. Rachel says:

    Poor baby! You had a pretty level head about it! I hope she doesn’t become afraid of dogs because of it, though it would be totally understandable

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