26 March 2010

In Nov 2008, I got bitten by a dog named Scratch. I usually joke that it's ironic, or maybe moronic! Here's the notes from my journal about that day.

Scratch-When I brought Ginny back in I noticed a little blood coming from her nose. Cindy was feeding the dogs on the row with the cart a couple of kennels down from Scratch. I tell her about Ginny ramming her nose into the gate and the blood and ask if she will have Karen look at it. She says OK and I go back to Scratch's kennel. He is very excited. I give him a sit command and hand signal but he ignores it. I wait for a minute to see if he will comply but he does not. I decide to go in and as soon as I open the door he rushes out in an attempt to get around me. Instinctively I reach down to prevent him from escaping. For some reason I do not cuff him as I probably should to maintain control of his head. I don't know if it's because I fear his strength and dominance or if I'm trying not to let this escalate. He has maneuvered now so that his head is facing towards the kennel. I am positioned over him and I use my left arm to cradle his butt to prevent him from moving. Something about being restrained in this position makes him very tense and he lets out a terrible sound like I've just stepped on his tail. I look to ensure that in fact I am not on stepping on him at all. He has now warned me that he is extremely agitated. Focused on the single minded goal of not letting him get out of my control I persist in attempting to restrain him using minimal force and get him back inside of the kennel. 

I watch in the sort of detached way that only someone pumped on adrenaline can as he takes  my forearm into his mouth and clamps down exactly like you'd imagine a dog that was bred over centuries to bite and hold things. I remember watching him shake his head back and forth while I vainly attempted to retrieve my arm and thinking, “Wow, that's really going to hurt later!” At some point he released the grip on my forearm leaving four major punctures and one minor one in my fore arm. You would think that any person with sense would ensure that they protected their limbs at this point, but the adrenaline and the single minded focus of not letting him escape made me stupid. He got a second bite with his teeth around my thumb causing a major puncture on my hand above my wrist, and a smaller puncture through the web of skin between the thumb and index finger. His finally bite causes three punctures on my hand with two to the base of the index finger and a third between the index and middle finger. As this scenario played out, Cindy observed intently from behind her cart but made no move to intervene. I was not disappointed by this as I saw no reason for someone else to get hurt. Even after watching my forearm and hand being chomped on I remained incredibly calm. When Scratch finally relinquished my hand, I backed into his kennel holding my bleeding arm high in the air. He turned to flee down the row but Cindy was quick with the cart and blocked his path. He looked back at me in confusion. Blood oozing out from several deep wounds I sat down low in the kennel and called Scratch back to me. He walked into the kennel and I stood up, exited and closed the gate behind me. Cindy looked at me and asked how bad it was. I held my arm up and showed her, blood dripping onto the floor. We made our way towards Karin's office and she said, “I'm sorry for not helping out back there, but...” She held up her forearms to show the scars from what looked like a devastating mauling she had received in the past. I replied, “No problem! You did exactly what needed to be done by blocking his escape! You saw how he came back to me, I should have just let him out and then called him back in!”

I look at the blood oozing from my hand and for a brief instance I feel woozy like I'm going to faint. The feeling passed and as we approached Kathy's kennel, she somehow managed to open her door and came barreling down the row. Fortuitously, for some reason, I still had the 6' black nylon lead in left hand. I thrust the lead out in front of me and Kathy, true to form, takes it into her mouth. I use her grip to force her back into her kennel, abandon the lead, and shut the door. Are the prisoners revolting?

In Karin's office I mix up some betadine and water. Cindy gets me some towels and I proceed to clean up. Still in shock and disbelief, I think to myself it's not that bad. Karin comes in and I let her know what happened claiming it to be my fault and not Scratch's. I think maybe I can get by with not going to the ER. Most of the wounds don't look too bad, but the one near my wrist is quite deep. It looks like it should get a closure. I show it to Karin and say I think I am going to the Quickcare. She says that if that is the case, I need to speak with Julie and a report with animal control must be filed and Scratch must go into quarantine. I hate for all of this to happen but I need to get medical attention.

Julie says she must look up what hospital I need to go to be covered by the shelter's insurance. I tell her that I have insurance and I could go to the Quickcare. She agrees that this would be helpful. We fill out an incident report and they take Scratch out of adoptions and put him in quarantine. On my way out I see Adam and Kay and show them my arm and relate the story. I reiterate how I think it is my fault and how it escalated out of control and how I should have backed off sooner. I show them my wound of concern and say I'd rather not go but I think it needs a stitch.

In the car I snap a couple of photos and shoot a short bit of video to commemorate the moment. On the way to the Quickcare, an officer from Animal Control calls and asks where I am going to be treated, and I tell her which UMC office I am going to. She tells me to have them contact Animal Control once I get seen. She asks if I have a pen but I say I have the number on my cell. At the Quickcare office I sign in using my left hand. Not noticing that the first line is for last names, I have scribbled my first. I write my last name on the next line and pass the sign in sheet back to the secretary.

Sorry,” I quip, “It's kind of illegible. I had to write it with left hand because my right hand is like this!” I thrust my arm out and showed her my hand. Though I had cleaned it at the shelter, fresh blood had oozed from all of the wounds and covered my lower arm and my pants. “Oh God,” she said, “What happened to you.” She processed me pretty quickly but we had to wait a little while for the nurse to come and get me. Vitals were good (BP 119/78). She filled out the report for animal control. I told her about their request that they be contacted. She said she would not call, but would fax the report. A second nurse came who cleaned my wounds with a betadine solution and then had me soak my arm while I waited for the doctor. I voiced my opinion that I would need a stitch. She said dog bites were considered “dirty wounds” so they did not use sutures. She asked me about the level of pain and I said three. I had to wait for quite a while (30 minutes maybe?) but it was good cause I soaked in the betadine for all of this time. The doctor came in, we went over what happened and she explained that they did not cover or dress dog bites at all. I showed her my wrist and she said that they might put a steri-strip on it to close it. She asked me about pain and I again said three. She said I have a high tolerance to pain. She prescribed some pain pills (Lortab?) and Augmentin (amoxicillin antibiotic). I waited a little while and she returned with a male doctor. He looked at my hand and said yes to the steri strip. The nurse returned, closed the wound on my wrist with the strip and discharged me. I explained to her about the Animal Control officer wanting to speak to someone. She offered to if I could get them on the line. I called the number but it started me into voice menu hell. I waited on hold for a moment and then decided that they would get the faxed report.

I made my way to the pharmacy, my uncovered wounds oozing blood. I went home, called the shelter and left a message for Julie at the main number. I called Julie/Connie's number and Karin answered. I updated her about my condition. The next two days my hand was very sore and swollen. While post adrenaline pain scale was three, on the next day it was closer to six or seven! My forearm and hand felt like someone had taken a bat and struck it several times while it rested on a block of concrete. On Wed I mostly rested. Julie called me on Wed but I missed her call. I called Connie and updated her on my condition. She asked whether I would be able to take Bea to her last class. She offered to get someone else to do it, but I told her I would be OK by then. I did not want to miss that day for anything! She tells me Scratch is still in quarantine, but that the visit from AC was perfunctory and that no further action would be taken against Scratch! Good deal!

Typing or walking dogs is out of the question as my hand is swollen and oozing and I can barely use it for anything. Thursday it is a little better, but still too painful to type. Up early I buy into a $24 + 2 Knockout NLH tournament with 542 players at 6:00 AM using my left hand with the mouse. Hopped up on Lortabs, I show the requisite amount of aggressiveness to scoop up blinds when necessary to stay ahead of the curve. Unusually, I never end up having to make decisions that jeopardize my stack. At one point a couple of hours in I make a bad call, but it's not enough to cripple me. I manage to come back and after three hours I am solidly in the money and looking better all of the time. It gets down to the final 9 players and I have a pretty average chip stack. I am writing an email to Jayme to tell her what is going on since she is on the phone when two other players go all-in. I call and knock them both out. It is now 7-handed and I am the chip leader. I use my big stack to bash the other players into submission one by one. Heads up the lead slips away with one bad call, but I manage to come back and win. $2700 for first place plus 12 knockouts at $4 a pop. Yea! My first tournament win over three figures! Thanks Scratch!

Scratch POSTMORTEM – With a couple of weeks of reflection, I think I have now pieced together the many mistakes that have led to minor tragedy. The Saturday before this event occurred, I had been working with Scratch in the courtyard with sit-stays off leash. This was the first time I had ever used treats with Scratch and the transformation was incredible. The strongest and nearly most stubborn dog that I know who won't walk right, sit look when his name is called suddenly becomes the most obedient dog in the world. I would put him into a sit, (oftentimes right in front of the glass doors so he could see people coming and going through the lobby) drop the lead and walk away from him. He would hold his stay even with distraction, and when I released him (usually from a distance) he would bound excitedly towards me receive his tiny bit of chicken. We spent a good amount of time practicing this and he never seemed to tire of performing this act.

Fast forward to Tue. I go to his kennel and try to get him to sit. He ignores me. He's thinking, “Hey, here's the chicken guy! I loved that game we were playing! Run at the chicken guy and get the treat! Yeah! I love the chicken guy! OK, kennel door is open, run at the chicken guy!“ So here he is, running at me expecting to get treated, He was happy and excited ,but now he's being restrained in a way he does not like and the chicken man is showing anxiety and maybe a little fear. He lets out a whelp to show his dismay at being trapped. The chicken man momentarily relents, but then goes back to forcing him back into his kennel. The more the chicken man pushes, the more he resists. Finally, he has had enough. The other dogs are extremely upset and barking. The chicken man is also agitated. The woman with the food cart is also agitated. Cornered and frightened, he decides that if the chicken man will not release him, he will grab the chicken man. Instincts take over he bites down on the chicken man's forearm. The chicken man attempts to free his arm but his pathetic attempts at pulling are little match for the gripping power selected and bred for by generation after generation. He shakes the forearm violently and for a moment, the man is able to free his arm, but a quick bite secures the hand by the thumb. Less secure this grip is momentary but he is able to snap the man yet again on the index finger, before the man retreats back into his kennel holding his bleeding hand above his head. Standing on the row no longer gripping the man's arm, Scratch realizes that he is free. He starts down the row but the food woman shoves her cart rudely in his face. He backs away and hearing his name called he looks back at the kennel and sees the chicken man kneeling holding his left down to the ground invitingly and calling him. He races into the kennel and the man walks out. What the hell was all of that about? All I wanted was chicken treat. A few minutes later the vet tech comes and gets him using one of the nylon leads. He is moved from his kennel to a different one where no prospective adopters can see him. There is tension now whenever any of the staff comes around.

  1. Should have never let him barrel out of kennel. (claiming territory).

  2. Should have scruffed him to control head and body.

  3. Should have backed off when he whelped.

  4. Should have protected extremities to prevent bite.

When Scratch got released from quarantine, I felt terrible. The staff now feared him and his profile was updated to indicate that he had bitten someone. I told the dog manager Dwayne that I understood the mistakes I had made and that I wanted to continue working with Scratch. He told me as long as I wasn't afraid, he had no problem with me walking Scratch. He is still at the NSPCA, and he is still one of my favorite doggies! I would so much like to get him a forever home!


Matthew Name said...

What a great boy! thanks Michael for doing what you do!

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