August 24, 2012 is the first anniversary of a vicious dog attack on Maia, a Cattle dog, in Midtown Tucson. I wrote about this incident last year. I caught up with Melanie Emerson to find out what has transpired one year later.
Q: What has changed for the better?
A: Maia seems to have a new lease on life! I think, somehow, she realizes how close to not making it she was. She is warmer with other dogs and, most notably, has become much more trusting with people. When I adopted her from HSSA in 2005, she was fairly reactive to people–never violent or aggressive, but always barked and retreated. She has become much more altruistic with her love nudges and kisses!
Generally Maia has been good and while she and my other dog Loretta took awhile to get reacquainted they are now loving and sweet to one another. (Loretta was staying with friends during Maia’s recovery and was the first dog I introduced her to since the attack.)
Q: What has changed for the worse?
A: In terms of Maia’s health, the recovery took a long time.
The biggest negative impact has been on my mental health–I am still fairly traumatized by the brutal attack and have only felt comfortable walking Maia with another person and in well-traveled areas (like around Reid Park). I have not walked her once, alone in my own neighborhood since this occurred. Of course, paying off the remaining vet bill has also been a significant challenge, but one I am happy to do.
Q: What was the total vet bill?
A: The total vet bill was around $12,000.
Q: What amount were you able to raise from asking for online donations and your fundraising event?
A: I was able to raise just about $6,500 from online and personal donations, and two small fundraising events. I had to finance the remaining vet bills in order to pay them off over time. I have about $3,000 left to pay off.
Q: How long was the full recovery?
A: Maia was fully recovered by mid-November of last year.
Q: Do you still walk Maia? If yes, do you take any precautions such as a golf club or pepper spray?
A: I do walk her occasionally (I now only take her when I have a second person with me) – I have a big yard and she has lots of space to run around. I would LOVE to walk her more though. She loves to get out. The hangup is certainly mine. I have not landed on a precaution that I think would make me confident and actually function as needed in the moment.
After the attack, I spoke to the responding police officers, who had the adult male attacking dog in ‘custody’ in their cruiser. I asked them if they thought that pepper spray would have worked. They told me that given the particular dog in question, they doubted if pepper spray or even mace would have worked. They also noted that I would have had to be fairly close to the attacking dog to administer it. I decided that it was not a good option.
I am considering purchasing bear spray, which is more expensive but can be sprayed from a greater distance (like 15-20′). I’d love to know if any of your readers have suggestions. This has been the hardest piece to figure out moving ahead: What will make me feel safe and confident on the walks again?
Q: Do you have any suggestions for dog walkers?
A: Walk with a friend, walk on a peopled route, know that while we do read about incidents regularly in the paper, considering the number of people walking their dogs all the time, all over the City, this is a very small occurrence.
Q: Has Maia changed psychologically or emotionally?
A: She seems fine! And, I think because of spending all that time in vet clinic, around strangers who were helping her, and other unknown dogs, she has developed a greater sense of ease with both.
Q: Has anyone ever been prosecuted or were you able to sue?
A: The owners of the attacking adult dog and puppies were never identified. The dogs were not chipped and did not have tags and despite police and PACC officer involvement, no leads were ever identified. My sense is that this type of thing is not really prioritized by either entity unless a person is injured. I was not physically injured, so I think they focused their resources elsewhere. I absolutely would have sued the pants off the perpetrators if I had ever found them. Clearly the attacking dog was also in bad shape and the PACC officer, police officer, and I all suspected there was more going on (with breeding or fighting) wherever this dog had come from.
Q: Anything thing else you want to say?
A: Despite all we’ve been through, I still absolutely do not believe in breed-specific legislation. BUT, I hope that bully rescue organizations would work closely with people like me who have had seriously traumatic experiences that are absolutely real, to understand why some people have legitimate perceptions about these breeds. I would also hope that all rescue groups and animal welfare folks work diligently to combat dog fighting and the associated breeding and that the County prioritize the budget of PACC to provide better and more humane services to the animals in Pima County.
Update: In a comment below, Carolyn asked where people could donate money to help pay the remaining $3,000. Just in case people don’t read the comments, I’ll post it here too. Check out ChipIn for Maia.