DearAbbyphoto

 Abby recently had a letter written by someone who had been bitten by a dog (8/22/16) and the column was entitled “Fear lingers after lunchtime walker is attacked by dog.” I have 4 dogs, my dad was a veterinarian, and I have had animals for the last half century. I have also experienced a dog bite near the groin. A very funny story and I will share it over a taco plate, if you are buying. In another incident, I also was less than 10 feet away when a large dog attacked my six-year old grandson and he ended up with 64 stitches in the face. It was traumatic, with a large “T”.

In the column, Abby heard from a woman who used to walk at lunch (“Shell-shocked in Michigan”) until an unleashed dog attacked her and bit her in the arm. I don’t know how many stitches but she is “now terrified to walk outside for fear of being attacked again.” Actually, in a very dog friendly society, this is a common story. She states that the bite was nothing compared to the trauma and she fears that the trauma will last a lifetime. Abby’s answer was to consult a lawyer, go to www.nodogbites.org and start walking again. The website is fine, but it doesn’t address the trauma. It is more about prevention, and on one level, Abby could be blaming the victim here. Sometimes, you don’t see the signs and the website can also make you anxious.  Be vigilant around all dogs, looking for the pre-biting behaviors.

One of the things that bugs me is that Abby answers, but she doesn’t do research, or she just grabs what is politically correct off the shelf. I am concerned that in our society, we are becoming a little too dog friendly, and we are having a knee jerk reaction to pet protection, and well, not as concerned about victims. 

I was traumatized when I saw my grandson getting bit in the face. So was my wife. I am a counselor and when I shared with another counselor, she used a 20-minute trauma technique to help me let go of the bad experience.

Walking is very important to our mental and physical well-being and this poor women lost out if she took Abby’s advice, but hopefully she got help from a trained professional. I suggested my wife get a little help and she chose not to, and today still suffers from “strange dog anxiety.” Dogs don’t bother me, but I will admit a little more caution when there is a pit bull in the hood. A pit is a little more dangerous than a poodle. Much stronger jaws and sometimes more questionable owners!

My grandson has no dog anxiety and he received no therapy, but a lot of therapeutic support from grandpa and others. It is also helpful that he is around dogs 24/7 and they are all loving, fun and protective pooches. 

Dog attacks, like those from people, can be traumatic. We have made great progress in helping all types of victims. If this has happened to you, you may want to give the county behavioral health program a call. The victim witness program may also help with costs to a private therapist. Also, like with physical health, early intervention is the key. Help by a trained professional, can prevent additional trauma and it doesn’t have to require many sessions. But the longer you wait, the longer it takes to get better. And feeling emotionally bad or fearful about a normal lifestyle, well that just bites!! 

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Jim Shinn has lived in the valley for 57 years and was home-schooled in the 1950’s. He was been a counselor at schools, health clinics, drug treatment center and is the director of the Son-Shine Counseling Center. He has written for the Alpine Sun and the Desert Voice and has published 2 books Bedtime Storeezzz and Faith and Loving on the Way to Heaven. He has taught at IVC, SDSU and the University of Redlands and writes to keep sane in a very strange world. He loves Jesus and serves Christ at Valley Baptist Church in Brawley.

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