Dog’s Eye View: Shaken
September 16, 2017
It was the day of the total eclipse of the sun. The day was unforgettable for many reasons. We planned to drive north from Craig for the full experience. My husband and I secured our little adopted terrier mix, Lawrence, in the car in his crate and set off toward Riverton, Wyoming. The plan was to top off the gas tank in Wyoming.
When we pulled up to the large rest stop, I noticed a woman with two medium- to large-sized dogs, one brown and one white, walking them in a pet area away from the gas pumps. They were on leash and seemed under her control. She was cleaning up after her dogs. I thought, "This is a good and responsible dog owner." I waited until she was back behind her car and thought it would be okay to walk Lawrence to the pet area. He began to investigate the trees and relieve himself.
Then it happened. I looked up and saw the brown dog charging at Lawrence. He came with incredible speed. His head and body were low and focused. His ears were forward and he was growling the whole time he ran. He resembled a brown missile heading towards us. I had Lawrence on leash with my left hand and tried to pick him up. I attempted to block the dog with my outstretched right hand. He evaded my attempts very skillfully, repeatedly ducking around my hand to get at Lawrence who was now spinning and screaming, trying to find a way to escape.
That was when I saw the white dog. He ran up behind us dragging his leash. The two dogs worked as a team, one in front and the other now in the back. At that moment I felt through Lawrence's leash, then saw the hard, intense grab and shake from the white dog. It happened in a split second. He had picked Lawrence up by the back right flank and shook him.
The woman ran over and pulled her dog off by his leash. I grabbed Lawrence and wrapped him in my arms. I kept turning my body away from the brown dog. Her husband stood there watching. Ultimately, I have no recollection of where the brown dog went or how the owners got him away from us. I was just focused on getting Lawrence out of harms way. Even when I had him safely in my arms, he kept screaming.
Somehow the woman secured both of her dogs in her car and came back to me. I was sifting through Lawrence's fur looking for puncture wounds or tears. She helped me, all the while apologizing profusely. I did not find any physical wounds on him and concluded her dog must have gotten a mouth full of his longer fur instead of his skin. And so far, Lawrence hasn't shown other effects from being shaken. We were lucky this time.
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The woman said she and her husband were babysitting the brown dog for their daughter and that it had slipped out of his collar when he saw Lawrence. Many pet dogs wear collars that are too loose. They carry identification, but provide little else in the way of safety. Many learn to skillfully slip out of them when they want to get away. She said that her white dog was known to be reactive to other dogs and that she was working with a dog trainer in California.
It is unfortunate that Lawrence had to suffer this attack. My husband and I have been working on building our life together with him and, as an adopted dog, to trust us and learn what to do when he sees other dogs. This incident probably set him back a bit but we can begin again on our lifelong journey together.
Epilogue: A week later in a public park in Steamboat Springs, Lawrence was again faced with an off-leash dog charging him. The owner could not call her dog back, but managed to chase him down and grab his collar. Fortunately I was still standing by my car and could put Lawrence inside and block the charging dog with my body. There was no apology this time.
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training LLC with more than thirty years of experience.