A bad situation all around
You may have seen on this morning’s newscast a story coming out of Denver, wherein a KUSA news anchor was bitten in the face yesterday as she did a segment on “Argentine Mastiff” Max, who was rescued by firefighters after falling through the ice on a local pond. Because the broadcast was live, the bite was captured on film and is, inevitably, viewable all over the internet.
This incident just makes me profoundly sad on so many levels. Sad for the folks watching the news when what should have been a feel-good story took a dramatic turn for the worse, sad for the newscaster who will now carry physical and emotional scars for life, sad for the dog who is now in quarantine and whose future is uncertain, all because of something that should never have happened in the first place.
Someone for whom I don’t feel particularly sad? Max’s owner, who let him down multiple times and in multiple ways. He let him down by letting him off-leash — in violation of local leash laws — to run out on the frozen pond to “go do his business.” He let him down by failing to vaccinate Max in accordance with local rabies vaccination laws. He let him down by agreeing to appear on television with the dog, placing him a strange and stressful situation. And he let him down by failing to protect him from that situation, forcing Max to protect himself.
I watched the video. If you know anything at all about dogs and about their body language, you could see that bite coming from a mile away. The news anchor, a stranger to Max, was all over him. Touching him all over, leaning into his personal space, holding his head between both of her hands, and ultimately leaning her face into his, presumably to give him a kiss. This dog was licking his lips, panting, yawning, trying to pull his head away, and finally giving her the side eye and showing his teeth seconds before the bite occurred. He was plainly telling her in no uncertain terms to back the hell off.
The news anchor, who was apparently not dog savvy, didn’t see those warning signs. Max’s owner, who was holding his collar at the time, DAMN WELL SHOULD HAVE. Live and on-air or not, he had a duty to both Max and to the newscaster to assure that the situation would be safe. He failed. Epicly. As a result, the dog bit. I think it’s important to note that Max didn’t continue to try and go after her, didn’t latch onto and maul her. He bit her to get her out of his face.
As anchors on KUSA sister station WZZM pointed out, there has been plenty of criticism of the news anchor for the role she played in the bite. One of them, a gentleman who had suffered a dog attack as a child (like, way to be unbiased, WZZM), said, “Don’t blame the human for this. None of us are given classes in how to treat dogs.”
He has a point. We’re NOT given classes in how to deal with dogs, or cats, or any other kind of domesticated animal, nor are those classes likely to land on a public school curriculum any time soon, much as we may wish otherwise. Common sense (which is so clearly NOT AT ALL “common”) would seem to dictate that someone planning on getting close to an animal to do a news segment on it would try and educate herself, but that didn’t happen. The dog’s owner — the person who had a duty to educate both himself and anyone else coming into contact with his dog — dropped the ball. HE’S the human to blame.
So instead of a feel-good story about a dog rescue that went well, what we can take away from this incident is a valuable object lesson: As dog owners, we have a duty to our dogs to assure that this kind of situation doesn’t happen to them. What kind of a dog can/will bite? Any dog with teeth. Some are more easily tipped over the edge, but any dog is capable of biting given a bad enough set of circumstances. They depend on us to keep those circumstances from occurring.
Let’s not let them down.