A walk in the park turns ugly


Charlotte romping on the grounds of the former Washington High School.

Thirty seconds is all it took.

I arrived a little after 2 pm Tuesday at the Southeast Portland dog park where Charlotte and I have become regular visitors. The skies were overcast and the grassy field next to a former high school appeared to be ours alone. As we drew closer, we could see two large dogs probably 50 to 60 yards away, chasing a ball and each other while a woman, their presumed owner, stood nearby.

I let Charlotte off her leash and she began trotting towards the pair. The dogs looked up and Charlotte sensed something wasn’t right. She did a quick 180 and began sprinting back toward me. I scooped her up and she let out a yelp just as the two dogs arrived simultaneously.

Just that quick, things turned ugly.

The dogs leaped at Charlotte but got me instead. I yelled. I turned in circles, facing one then the other. I felt a tug on the sleeve of my windbreaker. And another tug. And another one.

The dogs kept leaping.

I kicked at one dog and got it in the head. .

I yelled at the woman to get her dogs away.

I kept turning, shielding my little terrier from this sudden attack.

Eventually, they stopped. I felt something warm and wet near my mouth. I put my fingers to my lip and bright red blood appeared. I realized it was me — not Charlotte — who was bleeding.

All I could figure was that in clutching her tight to my chest, her teeth had pierced my lip.

The dogs were gone.  A woman who saw the ruckus asked if I was OK. I said I was and headed into the former high school building to find a washroom.

When I looked in the mirror, I saw the dogs had ripped open tears in both jacket sleeves. When I got home and peeled off my shirt, I discovered a gash above my right elbow and puncture wounds nearby. I also had small cuts to two fingers on my left hand.

(Click on images to view captions.)

In that half minute of hell, I realized just how easily a dog can flip the switch from playful to aggressive. I have no doubt those two — pit bull mixes, I’m sad to say — would have hurt Charlotte badly if they’d gotten to her. In the moment, I feared they wouldn’t stop and would latch their powerful jaws onto me.

During those 30 seconds, I heard the woman yelling at the dogs and saying something about one of them belonging to her sister. Whatever. All I know is they were completely out of her control. I couldn’t identify her if she were sitting next to me. All I know is she was white and maybe in her 40s or possibly her 50s.


I drove Charlotte to another part of town where they have three separate fenced-off areas for large, medium and small dogs. Charlotte was the only bantamweight, so she and I had alone time in the play area at Normandale Park. It was raining lightly but the thick tree cover kept us mostly dry as we walked among the leaves, twigs and bark.

I felt badly for Charlotte, but thankful that she wasn’t traumatized. Every other visit to the Washington High School dog park had been safe and fun. Not a single dog had been remotely aggressive toward her. We had come to view the open field as our own little refuge in the city.

I won’t stop taking her there because of the attack, but I will be much more cognizant of big or potentially aggressive dogs. And I hope that woman has the sense to keep her beasts away from public places. It wasn’t hard to imagine the damage they could inflict on a child or even an adult, let alone a small animal.



11 thoughts on “A walk in the park turns ugly

  1. I am so sorry this happened! Something similar happened to me, George. You should be checked out…you may need antibiotics. People who mistreat their dogs…and encourage their dogs to become violent…are negligent in other ways, like keeping up with annual vet visits and vaccinations.

    You saved Charlotte’s life. Well-done!


    • As a dog trainer, I can assure you that some dogs are just hard wired to be dog reactive/aggressive. Unfortunately, pitties and pittie mixes are especially susceptible to this fact. Many a dog owner has done all the right things and when fluffy hits 2 or 3(adulthood) she suddenly becomes reactive/aggressive toward other dogs. The problem with this is people often aren’t responsible with these dogs and we have these awful encounters. These kinds of dogs should never be off lead .

  2. I am so sorry, George. This has always been one of my biggest fears. Glad you protected Charlotte and got her out out of there. And glad you are not too badly hurt.

  3. What a terrifying moment George, You saved little Charlottes life, and she knows you did. Good of you to then take her to another spot much safer. It made her feel safe again and helped her to get over that scare. Thank God you weren’t hurt any worse. Yes no doubt she wouldn’t be alive if you had not saved her. ❤ new email address is ❤ deblo_pim@aol.com a little Neosporin and peroxide should take care of the elbow. Good idea to carry Mace with you, but doesn't sound like you would of had time to get it out. 😦

  4. I’m so glad you and Charlotte are okay! I’m a nervous dog person. I like dogs, but have become increasingly distrustful of them since moving to the Willamette Valley where I’ve been exposed to more aggressive and unpredictable dogs and owners. We’ve made training Remmy in dog safety a priority (she always stands back and asks the owner if it’s okay to pet the dog) but it only takes once for something to go really wrong very quickly. If only training owners was as easy.

  5. So sorry, George. Living across the street from a large school field, I’ve seen negligent owners let aggressive, out-of-control dogs run loose with sometimes bloody consequences. (I firmly believe it’s the owners, not the dogs, who are at fault in this.) It’s why I won’t take my dogs into a park if I don’t know the owner and the dog well, and if I’m in the park and someone with a dog I don’t know starts to enter, I leave immediately. It’s not worth a trip to the emergency room for any of us.

  6. On a couple of bike rides I have been pursued by dogs nipping at my feet. It’s an unnerving experience which has led me to google ways to deter the dog. A frequent suggestion is to carry spray bottle of a lemon juice and water to ward off the pursuing dog. I haven’t used this method yet so I cannot testify as to the efficacy of it. Generally, I avoid the place where the dog was or I very rapidly ride thru the area. Good luck and pack heat or lemon juice.

  7. George… at least the owner didn’t pull out that unwelcome chestnut “…little Godzilla just NEVER did that before!”
    I’m very glad you’ll be alright because you could have been hurt much worse.

  8. Compa – echo the suggestions that you thoroughly get those bites checked out and cleaned. Had the woman any decency, she would have given you her contact info.

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