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March 30, 2009

Claire Eaten by a Pit Bull

I first saw my little Claire on on August 23, 2006, my birthday. My puppy at home was only about ten months old. I'd been thinking about getting him a friend to keep him company when I was away, but not wanting the obligation of training two dogs at once. I finally decided he was of an age to start looking, figuring the search would take some time. I saw Claire at once.

She was at a shelter in Carson, about an hour through traffic from my home. When I called, she had two holds placed on her already, so the shelter told me to call back in two and a half weeks, naming a seemingly arbitrary date--my parents' anniversary.

Neither of the two "holds" had come to retrieve her, so I went down on Sept. 12, 2006, and there she was--in the very first kennel. Her adoption fee: thirty-seven bucks.

She is meant to be mine, meant to be Chance's companion; perfectly sized, physically equal to him. All the shelter knew was that Claire had come in as an "owner arrest." Her nails were painted bright pink, the nail polish wearing off after three weeks at the shelter. She rubs against you like a cat, begging for attention, so I took to calling Claire "kitty-cat." I speculate that her former owner may have been a drug addict, alternatively showering her with attention but then ignoring her for days at a time, forcing her to beg for love.

We drove immediately to our vet, who extended her hours for us that day. She came home with fleas and kennel cough. Because of the other dog in the house, I had to quarantine Claire in my only available space, my bathroom, for the first few weeks. The shelter requires all dogs to be spayed or neutered before being released--that much I knew. What I wasn't told was that Claire was fixed less than twenty four hours before she was given to me. Out of eyesight in quarantine, Claire licked open her stitches; I had to have her re-sewn twice.After spending weeks in a shelter, Claire is no friend to other dogs, besides her brother. But she takes a disinterest in them, never biting or growling. Last spring, I got her Delta certified as a therapy dog, through a stringent exam much like the AKC's Canine Good Citizen test, so that she can go visit people in nursing homes or hospitals. Anyway, all the above is backstory, the first opportunity I've had to tell my pet's story on this blog. The reason for writing is this: yesterday, Claire was attacked by a pit bull.

My girl is tiny at just six to eight pounds, depending on how stringent I've been with her diet of late. We were at our puppy school, a group class at a local park given by a trainer I've gone to since I first got Chance. I bring both dogs often to refresh our obedience skills, but now am bringing Claire alone, as she's a great candidate for off-leash training, the next skill level for us as a team.

Yesterday morning we approached a group session in progress; just two other dogs were there before us, one of them familiar to me. Claire bounded just ahead of me at the sound of the trainer Jackie's voice, calling her name. I had her in a cute spring dress, lucky padding, as the unfamiliar pit bull suddenly lunged forward and grabbed her. He placed my entire dog in his mouth, and here's the scary part: I froze. Claire was shreiking, I was trying to absorb the situation, everything happening at warp speed. Jackie pulled Claire into the air by the leash around her throat, out of the pit's reach. Claire swung back and forth like a pendulum about twice before I reached out to grab her, afraid of a broken neck, let alone puncture wounds. The owner finally restrained the pit.

Chance, my other chihuahua, has "little dog" complex. Though he's never bitten, he does lunge at certain dogs, barking horrifically and making a big stink whenever he feels endangered, especially when surrounded. I can't rightfully ask any less of myself than I do of the dog owners Chance has offended: as long as the dog isn't hurt, it's no more than an annoyance, really. Looking at it this way, yesterday's attacking dog doesn't bother me at all.

What scared me then, and still, is that I didn't know how to help. I should have put myself into the mix, bullying the other dog into submission and protecting my pack. But there was no part of my tiny dog that I could grab onto to pull her away--she was fully engulfed by the pit's powerful jaws. Having owned small dogs for three years, I'm lucky that no attack has happened sooner, and while I'm alone on a walk. Jackie's quick thinking saved my dog's life, and taught me one way to respond in an emergency situation, if not the best way.

Writing this, I still feel raw and emotional. How would you have responded in this situation? Let me know your thoughts in a comment.


  1. I'm not sure I would have known what to do, either-- it sounds like, for at least a few critical seconds, you didn't really have a way to help her. I sometimes scare myself with scenarios like this regarding my daughter and wonder if fear and adrenaline would somehow give me superpowers and cunning, but I don't honestly know.

    Very glad that Claire is all right, and I hope that's the only time she ever spends between the teeth of another dog...

  2. Wow that is horrible- I am so glad that Claire is ok. Don't beat yourself up too much over this. I'm sure your trainer can teach you how to cope with this situation if god forbid it ever happens again.

  3. Girl, anyone will tell you that you NEVER get in the middle of a dog fight..ever. SO you did the right thing. I know someone who put "themselves in the mix" and had their lip almost torn off and face chewed and had to have reconstructive took MONTHS to heal. Another put his hand in the mix and had his fingers mauled and had to have reconstructive surgery. Maybe carry a really loud horn or something like that, but you did the right thing, maybe not as active as you would of liked, but the SAFE thing for your body. YOU cant afford to have personal injury!
    Glad Claire is ok!
    Love, Anthea

  4. Aw, I'm so sorry. I agree with the above- find out what the trainer advises in this situation. I have always heard it's very dangerous to get involved, and to instead throw things or hit one over the head- but don't get in the middle! But I'm not an expert.
    Hope your little Claire isn't too traumatized.


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