Everyone always wants to blame the dog when injury results from contact. They never consider that it might be their fault, or that circumstances might be extenuating, such as illness, or just a need to be left alone.

Some time ago I came across an anecdote in Dean Koontz’s book, A BIG LITTLE LIFE, in which a game of catch resulted in an injury. Truly, it was an accident. The dog did not intentionally bite her master, but try as he might, the owner could not convince hospital authorities that his lacerated hand was anything other than a “dog bite.” Having encountered a similar situation in which the tip of a finger was lost, I can empathize with Mr. Koontz. My experience resulted from a very sick dog suffering, we later learned, from volvulus, better known as “bloat.” No doubt the dog was in extreme pain and when I came from behind and attempted to wipe slobber from his mouth my hand did not recoil quickly enough to avoid the vice-like snap that severed the fingertip. Numerous acquaintances suggested that the dog should have been “put down” until learning that he died later that night from his illness. In truth, getting rid of him was the last thing I would have envisioned because my injury was not his fault.

Unprovoked attacks that result in human injury can, when studied, often be blamed on the person rather than the animal. Some inadvertent movement, overzealous play, or inappropriate behavior can have dire consequences. A quick movement can startle an animal, causing a protective response in the only way it has, i.e., to bite. Approaching a tied creature makes it feel cornered and fear can result in aggression. A child, attempting to pet a strange animal, might put his or her hand near the creature’s face or mouth, resulting in injury. Again, the animal can be blamed for being vicious when, in fact, it may only be trying to protect itself.

True animal lovers recognize that situations can get out of hand resulting in accidents or injuries. However, by carefully weighing all circumstances surrounding the event, they can determine when an injury is deliberate or purely accidental. Judging the animal without taking into account the actions of the human can result in vastly different perceptions by an onlooker. Words to the wise: be wary.

Pat Jauch is secretary of Caledonia Animal Rescue Inc., P.O. Box 4054, St. Johnsbury, VT 05819; www.caledoniaanimalrescue.com.

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