It was December 23, 2010. Nola was about 5 months old. I had the day off from work and thought it would be a nice treat to take little muffin to the dog park. Being new dog owners and all, we had been going to this dog park we thought was great. It was all fenced in. It was in the woods. There were places to walk where there weren’t a lot of people around. But, since we were told it’s good to socialize your puppy I brought Nola up to the part where the dogs play together off leash. As I was talking to another owner I noticed a dog on a leash was brought into the area. I saw him and it raised a bit of a red flag in my brain so I scanned the park for Nola. Like the curious puppy she was, Nola followed the pack she was playing with as they went over to the leashed dog to check him out. And that’s when it happened. The most blood curdling scream I have ever heard. That sound is still cemented into my memory. She was so scared that she had run quite a distance away. I ran over to my little baby to find blood all over her face. The dog had bit her and punctured a hole in her nose. As she breathed blood came out like water out the spout of a whale.
Needless to say I freaked out. My maternal/emergency/there’s-a-crap-load-of-blood instinct kicked in and I knew I needed to get her to the vet. Thankfully a Good Samaritan offered to drive us, because I had to put pressure on her nose to stop the bleeding and I really couldn’t drive one handed. In between sobs I gave him directions to the vet. It was the longest 15-20 minutes ever. I don’t know what had more blood on it, me, Nola or the guy’s front seat. I never did get his name, but I am thankful for that Good Samaritan that day. Dr. Mike, our vet, had to go in an repair the bone with wire mesh and stitch her all back up. He said he would stay open late for us (by the time we arrived it was 4pm on the day before Christmas Eve) to make sure she recovered. By this point Jim had come to the vets office to get me. He took me home and I just cried and cried. My poor baby. We only had her one month, how could I have let this happen?
In the end, she was fine. It was a long recovery; we had to keep her indoors because the cold air made it tough for her to breathe through her nose.
She had to wear the cone of shame for what seemed like a month. We had to watch to make sure she didn’t scratch at her stitches. She was still seeping in her crate at the time and every time I heard her move I woke up to make sure she was ok.
On a side note- many people asked what happened to the dog that bit her and its owner. Of course, to continue the stereotype, it was a pit bull-like dog that attacked her. However, Jim and I being the educated people we are did not blame the dog. It shouldn’t have ever been taken to a dog park if it had aggression issues. Especially on leash in an off leash area. We did not press charges or report it. The owner found me as I was getting into Good Samaritan’s truck and gave me her card. I made Jim call her when we got home from the vet and she apologized and paid for the whole vet bill.
On another side note- we did go back to that dog park after Nola recovered and was a bit older. However, we encountered too many incidents of bad owners- bringing screaming kids, letting their dogs charge us, dogs pining down Nola, and us having to rip other dogs off Nola- that we decided it was not the place for us. It seems timely that one of my favorite blogs, A Heartbeat at My Feet, just posted their views on the Do’s and Don’ts of dog parks. I wish I had had this when Nola was a puppy (or had given it to the lady who’s dog bit her). We have learned a lot about dog interactions, behavior and what to look out for since our dog park visit that day. Southern Maine has a wealth of places that dogs can go off leash and we decided that for us, dog parks are not a place we want to risk bringing Nola. We have found, especially in the city of Portland, that dog parks attract too many owners that are just looking for a quick way to exercise their dog. They are not educated on what to look for, nor are their dogs well-behaved. For us, it’s just not worth the stress.