Attacked by a Dog

[tweetmeme only_single=false source=”artofgroupride”] On my way home from a Group Ride a while back, I was soft pedaling through Huntington Beach  just north of the pier, enjoying a cool down and soaking in the early morning sun. There’s about a mile of parallel, metered roadside  parking along this stretch (with no bike lane) and cyclists routinely get tagged by car doors. At least once a week, I would roll past this area to see an ambulance and a bike or two (and riders) sprawled out on the road. Tragically, people actually get killed this way. Just a reminder, be sure to check your mirrors before you swing open a door into a city street after parallel parking (Sometimes, I forget to do this). There’s barely a bike width between fast-moving traffic on one side and parked cars on the other. There’s a good draft off cars moving that close, but not too smart. At some point, an HB city official should probably do something there. Anyway, knowing the danger, I rolled up on the boardwalk/bike path and rode slowly, dodging joggers and beach cruisers. It was worth the slow-down knowing that there might be a car door out there with my name on it.

Just south of “Dog Beach,” I was focused on the path in front of me when I heard a roar and looked over just long enough to see a 130 pound German Shepherd lunging for me. Twenty-five more lbs and it’s the canine version of me. So I did what you would do. I freaked. It had missile-lock and was coming in hot. There wasn’t enough time to jump out of the way so I leaned into the dog and roared back as loudly as I could, hoping to somehow surprise it right back. It must have worked a little because a dog that size, if he wanted to, could’ve taken my leg off. Instead, he bit deep into my leg with those two long front teeth and then just as quickly as it started, it was over. He must’ve known that he over-reacted because he walked back to his owner sheepishly with his tail between his legs. It was like in the middle of biting me, he realized he didn’t need to freak out and defend territory. It was actually kind of sad. Except for all the blood and dozens of freaked out on-lookers.

Oh yeah, there was an owner. This wasn’t a rabid, feral wolf roaming Huntington Beach. Turns out his owner was some kind of dog saint and regularly rescued German Shepherds from abusive situations. But this owner was 62 years old and couldn’t have weighed much more than her age. When the dog lunged, she said that she saw it coming but just couldn’t hold him back. On top of that, she explained, “I rescued him from an abusive home and he has a terrible fear of roller bladers and bikes, anything moving faster than a walk.” Great. Good call lady. This is the capital of roller bladers and bikes. What if he went after a 6 year old on a scooter? She went on, “He’s been in therapy for a year since I rescued him, training to get over his fears. This is his first day back out in the real world and I brought him to the beach because he loves the water and he’s great with other dogs.” Great again.

Well, my bike was fine. As long as I’m conscious and can stand, I always check that first. I was mostly bummed because I had just ordered and received the new pair of bib shorts I was wearing from my alma mater’s cycling team. Sounds strange but that’s what went through my head. “Crap lady, you’re gonna buy me a new pair of bibs.” Also, I had a race the next day at El Dorado park so I was thinking of that. She was more than apologetic, she was disconsolate. She kept saying, “Don’t let them put him to sleep! Don’t let them take him away! He’s a good boy!” Wadya do?

I rolled over to her car and got her personal information. Assuming I didn’t get some strange disease, I had no plans of suing. Some friends thought I was crazy for not taking legal action. I just made the lady promise to not take Cujo out to places where people roll around on wheels, for his sake, hers, and any potential target. The poor animal was reacting out of some sort of trauma and I happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Anyway, I was still bleeding out my leg but plenty able to stand and pedal. I called my wife. “Bring a change of clothes to the emergency room. I’ll meet you at Hoag Hospital.” So I rode the 5 miles to the ER with a hand pressed against my leg, sat in line, got a shot of something, and went home. Turns out, they don’t stitch animal bites because of germs and infection. Any animal bite has to be reported to Animal Services who then quarantines the animal for 10 days and runs a battery of tests for diseases like rabies, etc. Cujo was clean.

The lady was super nice and rightfully agreed to pay my medical expenses and cost of new bib shorts. No harm, no foul. Could’ve been worse but it wasn’t. I found a way to wrap my leg in an ace bandage and raced the next day.

Group Rides aren’t as dangerous as we think but look out for dogs and car doors.

Ride on…

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3 responses

  1. Andy Wilson

    Matt, Crazy! That’s one mean bite! And to race the next day…you’re an animal! I was out riding with a buddy last year and we were coming up behind a guy walking his very large Rottweiler. I saw what was going to happen in my mind and sure enough it did. The guy did not know we were coming up behind him and was not holding the leash tight enough for the fierce pull of a 130+ pound dog. The dog sprang out at me as I jumped on the pedals. He clips my back wheel but my buddy, who is riding behind me, hits the dog, flips over the handle bars and is down. He broke 2 ribs, and a bone on the top of his hand that required 2 surgeries. I sure keep a close eye out for dogs and even folks walking their dog.

    December 5, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    • Andy Wilson

      The dog owner said they would take care of things but never did. My friend only had a $50 copay for everything, so he did not pursue legal action. He’s fine now, but his hand was an issue for quite some time. Man, you got to be real careful out there!

      December 6, 2010 at 12:52 am

    • The Art of the Group Ride

      That’s a way better story! Some serious damage there. Did the owner pick up the tab & was your buddy ok?

      December 21, 2010 at 8:01 pm

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