A Day at the Dog Park That Went Horribly Wrong

Today started out a lot like any other.

Ivan and I took the dogs for a walk, then tucked Babe in her crate with a peanut butter-filled Kong and a pig ear while we took Banjo to the dog park. (For those who aren’t aware, Babe is less energetic and less interested in running laps with enthusiastic puppies than Banjo, so we only take her with us to the dog park rarely.)

The park was full of Banjo’s favorites, including her BFF, Piper the yellow lab. Nessie the cattle dog mix was there and Jacomo the Wheaten terrier pup. The two old and spry Shih Tzu siblings were in the mix as well as a new 4-month-old Elkhound puppy named Champ.

Our games of fetch and fun ended abruptly when a familiar white bulldog mix appeared out of nowhere, apparently playing roughly with one of the Shih Tzus. But the play changed when the bulldog bore down and the Shih Tzu began screaming.

I didn’t think of Banjo. Thank goodness she didn’t run away from the scene like the Elkhound puppy. She stayed with us, frightened on the sidelines, as Ivan and I both jumped on the bulldog.

We screamed at him and grabbed at his collar, but he had a tight hold on the shrieking lapdog. We grabbed at his neck, his sides, screaming NO! but he was oblivious to us. We couldn’t move him — he was massive and impossible to hold. He clamped onto the Shih Tzu’s leg, held the tiny dog down with his front paws and began shaking violently, like the Shih Tzu was a little toy.

Everything happened so quickly and slowly. We didn’t have time to think or rationalize. But we were all certain that the fight had lasted long enough that the wailing dog was bleeding and dying and being torn apart.

I looked up, scanned the park. Garbage cans. Mown grass. Morning sunlight filtering through the trees’ changing leaves. And Banjo’s friends, their owners, standing aside, watching everything with looks of horror while they held their own dogs and watched another die.

But nowhere. Nowhere was this bulldog’s owner.

And beneath me he was shaking the dog again.

Ivan and I were alone in our desperation. We started hitting the bulldog, punching and kicking him, knowing we could never injure him as badly as he was injuring the Shih Tzu. And miraculously the dog responded to a new pair of hands and everything ended.

The bulldog’s owner arrived finally. He was holding his dog back.

That’s when I went to Banjo and tried to assess what happened during those few moments that seemed to span forever.

The Elkhound puppy ran away, terrified. His owner had charged after him, into traffic. We didn’t see either of them again.

Jacomo’s owner had gone.

A couple new dogs had been drawn to the commotion and were pacing nervously nearby.

The Shih Tzu’s owner was cradling her dog and Piper’s owner was holding Piper.

Piper (Banjo's BFF)
Piper (Banjo’s BFF)

As I looked over the shaken Shih Tzu (some blood, puncture wounds, but nothing as severe as we were afraid of), I suddenly became aware of another fight.

The bulldog’s owner was screaming at Ivan for manhandling his dog. Meanwhile the bulldog was still lunging toward the Shih Tzu.

I leashed Banjo, exchanged a few heated words with the bulldog’s owner and we left.

The situation was terrifying in the heat of the moment. As we walked away with Piper’s owner and discussed the whole scenario, we agreed that everyone was certain the Shih Tzu was dead. But for a few bite marks that might need cleaning or a stitch, he was OK. Still, the aggression and the desperation in the screams left us trembling as we put miles between us and the bulldog.

Banjo was shaking and upset, so we decided a little treat was in order. We took a side route to stop for some coffee and got her a lovely cup of whipped cream to take her sweet mind off of the morning’s events.

With the hot drinks in our hands and the warm sun on our backs, things were starting to look up.

IMG_4986 IMG_4984

Back home Banjo was a jumping bean, happy and excited to see her sister. And Babe was naturally happy to see us. I opened her crate and almost immediately noticed the little puddles of diarrhea and streaks along her kennel floor (meaning she’d done a little “finger painting” in the mess).

Oh wonderful, now she’s sick, I thought. And I turned to grab Babe before she got too far so I could wipe any mess from her paws. Thank goodness we have linoleum floors because she’d already tracked a little out of the crate and left pawprints behind her.

Except the prints weren’t brown. They were red. And her front left paw was openly bleeding.

She had a laceration on the top of her paw, the skin gaping open and a little pink flap of flesh hanging from the wound. A second look in her crate confirmed what I first suspected to be diarrhea was actually a few little pools of blood.

***You can see a photo of her foot HERE, but it is graphic.***

The vet bandaged Babe’s paw tightly and sent us away with antibiotics. We’re letting it heal by second intention, so she may have a scar, but at least it wasn’t worse.


The real conundrum is how it happened. She’s been closed in her crate hundreds of times (literally) and we’ve never had an issue. I looked all over the crate and the locations of the blood, but it’s not clear how the injury occurred.

Terrible things happened today, but both of our dogs are safe, warm and happy with us. And that’s where this day ends.


3 responses to “A Day at the Dog Park That Went Horribly Wrong”

  1. Dog parks scare me for this very reason. I mean they knew they had an aggressive dog why did they take it to the dog park at all? There is always someone that spoils the fun for everyone else. I am glad everyone is going to be okay.

    • Thank you!
      I always sort of assume that there is a chance for little spats at dog parks. I don’t get along with all people, so I can’t expect all dogs to get along. But that fight went further than a little spat. And, you’re absolutely right, that owner had no business being there!
      I’m happy to have the dog park so we can socialize our pup, but how scary!

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