Dealing with Trauma – A New Phase

A little over two weeks ago my eldest daughter was attacked by a dog. Not bitten, attacked. She is ok. Physically she’ll make a full recovery, but emotionally we are all still adrift.

Without getting in to the specifics of the trauma, since then I have noticed a marked change in her behavior and how she responds to dogs. While the self-preservation instinct that has been triggered is completely justifiable, it breaks my heart to watch her react to dogs this way. She’s matured in a way that trauma often forces and it causes a breathtaking ache in my chest to watch. She woke up last night twice with nightmares. This has become one of those moments I knew was coming when I can’t kiss her and make everything better and it is much worse than I imagined it would be.

I have had dogs most of my life, worked as an obedience trainer, groomer, and in a doggy daycare, and I’m still trying to come to grips with how this happened.  Wrong place, wrong time I tell myself. But I still agonize over what I should have done and if/how I could have been omnipotent and prevented a threat I wasn’t even aware of.

I’m still surprised when she jumps or stiffens when a dog is around. While given what she’s been though, that’s her body’s natural response, I find myself trying to reassure her that the Chihuahua she just saw on the street won’t hurt her. Intellectually, she knows that, we’ve even joked a bit about it, but it has become an instinct for her to flee or hide when a dog is around.

We’ve been talking about how most well-trained dogs are not aggressive, in fact the opposite, the aggressive genes have been bred out of most breeds. We’ve also been discussing, and had been before this incident, what proper dog protocol is when meeting a new dog. Many need to sniff you first, and asking the owners BEFORE petting is curtail. While I’m not sure what exactly this animals pedigree or background was, ultimately the animal that attacked my daughter should never have been around children, and was possibly even a danger to adults.

While I don’t condemn one breed or another, there are some that are just more prone to aggressive behavior and certain breeds that  I never knowingly would have brought my children near as I don’t trust them. Combine that with an owner who either is neglectful or truly doesn’t understand their pets makes for a terrible accident that could have easily been prevented.

As a mother, I would give anything to have avoided this incident, but sadly now we are faced with this challenge , and like anything else must strive to more forward.


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