As soon as the story broke that 22 year-old Bethany Stephens was killed and mauled by her two beloved pit bulls, conspiracy theories started flying. A “Save the Dogs” campaign was launched. One news station even found a veterinarian to go on camera and say “there has to be another explanation for her death.”
But when the Sheriff’s office got permission from the family to release details they dispelled all doubt. It turns out that the dogs were gnawing on her rib cage when they arrived on scene. And yet, some people persist in saying that “there has to be more to the story.”
The story is that two pit bulls killed and ate their owner. As tragic as that is, it’s still a fact. Dogs kill about 40 people a year in the United States.
I’m an early morning runner, walker and hiker who likes to go the park and do calisthenics. So I’ve had five dog related incidents. The breeds were: German Shepherd, Mutt, Golden Retriever, Chow and Black Lab. I escaped bites in three cases. The Chow got me on the thigh, the Retriever on the hand — and these were the only two that were leashed.
No, I’m not just super unlucky. Here are some statistics from DOGSBITE.ORG:
- Approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur each year in the United States.
- 65% of the 392 dog bite deaths from 2005 – 2016 were attributed to Pit bulls.
- In 2015, more than 28,000 people underwent reconstructive surgery as a result of being bitten by dogs.
- Dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claim dollars paid out in 2016, costing more than $600 million.
With all of this in mind, here are my self-defense recommendations with regard to dogs.
Prevent and Prepare
- Carry a weapon and practice using it. I walk/run/hike with either a tactical pen or a walking stick. I train regularly with both, hitting actual objects to maintain command and mastery of my weapons.
- Pocket your cell phone and don’t wear ear buds. Use your full attention and all senses to monitor your surroundings.
- Treat all dogs over 30 lbs like loaded guns.
- Don’t trust dogs on leashes. Owners often cannot control their own dogs. The Chow that bit me easily yanked the leash from his owner’s hand to get his teeth into me.
- Maintain distance. Skirt all unfamiliar dogs by at least 30 feet. If a dog enters your space, ready your weapon and be prepared to take action at first contact. Assume all dogs are going to bite you.
- Disregard social conventions. If an unleashed dog over 30 lbs approaches you and you feel threatened, move away, present your weapon and loudly inform the owner that if the animal comes any closer you will kill it. Owners usually grab their dogs and put them on leashes when you do that.
- Assume that any dog coming toward you is a threat. If shelter is nearby — a car, house, shed, high fence, etc. — get there. But walk, don’t run. And don’t turn your back.
If you are attacked
- If caught in the open, ready your weapon. Raise your free arm and shield your face and throat by grabbing the cloth of the opposite shoulder.
- Turn your body at right angles to protect your groin. Do not run. Stand your ground and very slowly advance toward the animal. Imagine and visualize you are going to kill it — that you are going to rip it limb from limb like a stuffed animal — even if you are unarmed. Your body language will reflect your mindset. Note that this advancing and visualization piece is at odds with expert advice. But I deterred a large German Shepherd using this method, and I think it works. You need to make your own choices.
- If the dog attacks you, do not pull away. That will only injure you more and, even if you get free, you’ll just get another bite. Let it stay latched on while you strike at it repeatedly, yelling with each blow, until it lets go and runs.
- A strong dog can easily drag you off your feet. If that happens, assume safety position. Get on your hands and knees with your forehead on the ground, interlace fingers behind your head, pull your elbows in, and tuck into the tightest ball you can until the dog leaves or help arrives.
And now for the workout of the week.
Cabal Fang Workout of the Week #87
* 40 x 20 HIIT — see video below. Set timer for rounds of :20/:10 or just set a timer to 30-second intervals and rest for a 10 count whenever it beeps. For the first 20 rounds, cycle through Leopard Walks, Shrimps, Tiger Push-ups, Scorpions and Bear Walks (4 cycles through those 5 exercises = 20 rounds). For the next 20 rounds, go at your heavy bag with full power — as if your life depends on it!
* Tarot Meditation. Set a timer for 5 to 10 minutes, stand up The Moon card from your Tarot deck at eye level and spend the time stepping into the card. As you regulate your breathing and stare at the card, allow the image transition in your imagination from artwork to photograph and from photograph into a movie. Allow your experience to unfold in your mind’s eye. If you don’t have a tarot deck buy one here. Or just print out the photo above and use that.