In April 2014, two Alsatian dogs attacked me. If my boyfriend, Kenneth, hadn’t been there, I don’t know what could’ve happened. Either way, he is my hero in many respects.
Kenneth and I are very much out-doorsy types. We love going for long walks, even when it’s raining. I’m from Denmark, but we live in Scotland; his home country (which is notorious for rainy days).
On that fateful day in April, we had decided to walk from his mother’s house to his grandmother’s house to meet there with some of his family. It was a 17 km walk (a little over 10 miles) so a 3-hour journey. It was a lovely day with clear blue sky and a nice warm temperature. However, we had brought a large umbrella with us, just in case. Kenneth took me to a local pub in the village near his grandmother’s where we had some lemonade.
After our short visit to the pub, we set out to finish the journey. From the pub, it only went uphill, though it got a bit easier at the edge of the village. We came upon a country road, so there were no sidewalks. It was quite uncomfortable having cars drive past us so fast, but it was not much farther until we reached the first rows of houses within the suburban area where his grandmother lived. Thankfully, there was a narrow sidewalk on the left hand side of the road, which we decided to use. Kenneth walked in front, with me behind him.
Kenneth and I were exhausted, so we didn’t talk to each other then. We’d only walked for a little under 2 minutes, when the sound of growling dogs broke the silence. That’s when it all happened very quickly.
I looked to my right, where the sound was coming from. On the opposite side of the road, there was a large double gate, which stood wide open. Two large Alsatian dogs, one a stark white and the other a traditional black and brown, were running out of it, coming straight for us. At first, I thought they were coming to greet us, because they weren’t running that quickly. It was more of a ‘trot’ (or a jog) if you’re familiar with horse riding. But then, they started barking very aggressively, though they didn’t stop in their stride. I felt like a deer in the headlights. I did not know what to do. I was standing with my left side slightly behind Kenneth, but they seemed completely oblivious of him. Their eyes were fixed on me. The white one was the quickest. As it jumped forward, I raised my right arm up instinctively to protect my face. It bit down on my forearm, pulling it downwards. It was extremely painful. I can only describe it as getting your finger caught under a heavy object, only the pressure is not going away because the dog is not letting go. I wanted to scream, but there was barely any air in my lungs, so the only thing that came out of me was a whimper.
That is when I went into shock. Not the physical kind where your blood vessels dilate, no. This was more of a psychological state of shock. Though I was still faintly aware of my surroundings, it felt as if my conscious mind had gone into a panic room of its own making. I could still see and hear, but I couldn’t do anything. It was like I was in a trance. I don’t remember much after that, but Kenneth helped me fill out the blanks.
In the second it took the white Alsatian to find my arm, the black and brown one ran around the left side of my boyfriend, completely ignoring him. It jumped up, putting its paws on my hip. However, it barely had time to do anything because that’s when Kenneth realised what was happening. He gave the dog a proper push with his boot, forcing it away from me. As he did so, the white one let go of me and joined its companion in the middle of the road. They barked viciously at us, trying to get at me again. Kenneth swung the umbrella out in front of him, shielding me from the dogs. A car had to stop because the dogs were blocking the road. After what seemed an eternity, there came a loud whistle, and they went back inside the gate.
According to my boyfriend, I was simply standing there with my shoulders hunched up as I held my injured arm close to me. He tried to comfort me, hugging me very gently, but I was completely gone. Drowning in tears.
The neighbour of the dogs’ owner came out onto the road, asking us if we were okay. She told us that she’d heard the commotion. My boyfriend explained that dogs had attacked me, so she led us into her house. There was no sign of the dogs’ owner. The house was very messy, and there was a different dog barking somewhere in one of the rooms. The woman led us into the kitchen and my boyfriend helped me sit down on a chair. I was wearing a thick fleece jacket, so we weren’t sure about the extent of the damage. I was only just coming to my senses, when he gently pulled the jacket off me. He took my wrist in his hand and held my arm up as he examined it. Both he and the woman exclaimed. Apparently, I was bleeding quite profusely. The woman grabbed some paper towels and gave it to me. I pressed it against the wound. One of the canines must have pierced my skin, as there was a deep hole in my forearm, just behind my elbow. On the top of my forearm, I could see five red marks, one them very wide. They too were bleeding, but they hadn’t been punctured. My arm was swelling up so much, I could barely move my fingers. It almost felt like I’d broken a bone. My boyfriend knelt down, and looked me in the eyes, asking me if I was okay. I just couldn’t stop crying. He told me that he would go get help from the family; his grandmother’s house was only a few hundred metres up the road. He wanted me to stay, to avoid the risk of meeting the dogs again. I agreed. Though it was very much uphill, he ran all the way there.
A few minutes later, he came back with his mother in her car. She was furious about what had happened, insisting that we go to the police after a trip to the A&E. When we pulled out onto the road, the double gate was closed, and there was no sign of the dogs, nor the owner who had seemingly ‘whistled’ them away.
I got through A&E quickly. A doctor cleaned the wounds and applied a big plaster onto the puncture. It was still bleeding days after the attack. Thankfully, I didn’t need a tetanus shot, as I had already had one when I was younger.
It was dark when we finally found a police station that was open. They were quite busy, so we waited a while. It was very difficult for me to give my statement, but I managed. I was told I might have to attend court, but I never heard back from them.
I’ve always loved dogs, and I never imagined that something like this would happen to me. I could only dread to think if it was an elderly or a child who had been in my place, or even if I was alone. Though I hated myself for it, I felt afraid whenever I came close to a dog of the same breed.
I had experience with anxiety though, and I knew that the only way to get rid of my fear was to face it head on. My mother knew someone who owned Alsatians, and she had a puppy she would let me meet. That first time was the toughest. When I saw it, all I could think about was the attack. I just wanted to get away. However, after a few more visits, I could finally go close to the puppy. I even petted it.
Today, I don’t discriminate against any dog breeds, because I know it’s not the dog that is inherently bad. It’s the owner. When I go for walks, I’m always cautious when I come across someone who has a dog off their lead. I do suffer from minor panic attacks when dogs come running up to me, even if they’re just excited puppies. It’s not so much the dog itself that I’m scared of. It’s the uncertainty of what it’s going to do.
It’s a good thing I’ve got Kenneth.