Monday, February 13, 2012

A Perfect Storm Follow-Up

In the aftermath of what happened last week, I wanted to write a bit of a follow-up to A Perfect Storm. Had I known the blog would be Twittered, shared, posted by Whole Dog Journal and Victoria Stilwell, I would have spent a little more time on it. As it was written, it was only my early morning reaction with a complete lack of sleep and not enough coffee.  But, I think (I hope) I got my point across that we must learn from this incident, and I think people will. 

I have been playing phone/email tag with Victoria this weekend as she is in NYC reporting from Westminster.  I asked her to join forces with me to figure out a way to make good come of this, and help the people of Colorado understand their dogs better.  She is on board, so stay tuned for what we come up with.  I am extremely lucky to have her support!

Late last night,  I learned that Kyle’s injury is much more severe than was reported. She lost half her upper lip, had a 4-hour surgery, has 70 stitches, and has to have her mouth sewn shut to graft the skin of her lips and get the blood circulating again. Learning this made me gasp, and I shuttered at the thought of Kyle going through all this pain. I really feel for her. Her recovery will be long and painful, but I’m sure her smile will radiate as much as it did before,

Max is still in quarantine, and not much has been reported about him. 9News interviewed the head of Animal Control, and he said Max will likely be released back to his owner once his 10-day quarantine is over. The quarantine is standard procedure for any serious dog bite, as they need to make sure Max doesn’t have rabies. As I said in my previous post, I highly doubt Max will be euthanized, and I know a lot of people are concerned about that. However, given the severity and level of his bite, I imagine the judge will order strict rules for him, and Max’s life will never be the same.

I know my anger towards Mr. Robinson really came through in the blog. Those who know me, know I don’t mince words or beat around the bush, especially when a dog's welfare is at stake. While some may think I rushed to judgment, I know that the anger is because of my experience and knowledge of how dog bites happen, and that they are highly preventable. Humans put dogs in situations that set them up to fail, and that is what happened to Max from the start. I have worked with thousands of dog owners who don’t know any better and consistently have much higher expectations for their dog than their dog can attain.   I struggle with this daily in my private practice, and am constantly explaining to people how their actions allowed the dog to bite...  yet many of them blame the dog.

My frustration is out of sadness for the dogs who have to suffer from humans’ mistakes. Mistakes that can be prevented if dog owners make better choices regarding their dogs and stop anthropomorphizing. Dogs will be dogs, and it is up to us to protect and advocate for them.

For the foreseeable future, my blogs will begin focusing on different dog body language characteristics and how to interpret them. You can also start watching your dogs when they are in your living room… What do their faces tell you? What are their bodies doing that could let you know what is going on in their mind?
  • When you go to pet her over the head, does she shy away and yawn?
  • When you hug your dog, does he lick his lips?
  • When you go to put the leash on, does she slink over to you like she’s in trouble and lift her paw?
  • When he has a bone, and you walk by, does he turn his eyes but not his head?
Stay tuned for explanations of these behaviors, and more.   To begin, Click Here for Turid Rugaas' descriptions of several calming signals.  Familiarize yourself and practice interpreting them with your dogs whenever you can. 

Kari Bastyr, MS, VSPDT
Denver, Co.


Kris said...

"For the foreseeable future, my blogs will begin focusing on different dog body language characteristics and how to interpret them."

This is a fantastic subject! Can't wait to read them.

Leslie U. said...

So glad that you and Victoria are working to find a way to make something good come of this awful event. I was horrified when I heard what had happened and my first reaction was "why are people so clueless". Hopefully, we in the dog training community can find a way to change that so a stressed out dog doesn't get put under TV lights and cameras and then have a stranger in his face.

Jenn said...