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.