Attack on my Guide Dog

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This is the hardest post I’ve ever written.  I’ve heard the horror stories, and always told myself- that it would never happen to us; we live in a nice area with well trained dogs and responsible owners.  Statistically, I told myself that the likelihood of it happening was so minute that I should just put it out of my mind.  Having owned horses my whole life, I am a practical person when it comes to animal ownership and know the risks and benefits associated with each.  You still never think it will happen to you.  Until it does…

Elvis and I have been a team for 4 years this March.  We just celebrated our anniversary.  We’ve been through Eleven eye surgeries at Yale, horrific rain and snow storms, parades, major mountain climbing, a painful nerve injury to his tail, and dangerous faulty train doors that have trapped him by the neck.  I really thought our ‘tough stuff’ was behind us.   Never would I have thought that a routine walk home to the train in downtown Darien would leave us permanently scarred.  The sun was shining, and I had just finished a terrific meeting for my new project, The Wine Lab, my restaurant to be opening this fall.

Walking along the adorable shops, I heard a scuffle take place amongst some dogs again.  I noted that I would take the long way around the buildings to avoid interacting with these dogs as I’m always wary of any poorly behaved or aggressive dog.  Would you throw your Ferrari in the commuter lot with a bunch of Hondas to get scratched and dinged?  I don’t think so.

We continued on our way, as I saw the dog scuffle breaking up.  The typical Fairfield County scene- some woman not paying attention to her dog, while her cell phone is glued to her ear, and the other walking two dogs that did not know how to behave on leash, growling and barking at the cell phone lady’s tiny pup.  In the horse world we call this being “over-mounted” or having too much horse for you to handle.

I turned the corner to discover that about 20 yards ahead was this woman again with the two dogs, A yellow Labrador who clearly wanted to greet Elvis, and a little black Cattle Dog or some sort of Heeler that began trotting towards us.  Uh-oh.

I’ve come across loose dogs dozens of times.  It always disorients me and causes me to bump into something as I’m trying to refocus my dog and get back in the direction I was headed.  Sometimes they even snap at Elvis, who ducks away or scoots to put some distance between us and the dog.  I usually give the command, “Hup-up”, equivalent to clucking to a horse to make it move faster.  Typically in these situations I can pretend to ignore the offending dog, who realizes Elvis isn’t a threat, and they drop back or give us a few warning barks and we are on our way.  Every now and then they get his ear or grab his neck.  This was just such a dog.  It was like lightening.

I screamed as Elvis was yanked down to the sidewalk by this fierce and determined creature.  The woman was being dragged towards me by her Labrador who wanted to investigate.  My blood pressure shot through the roof as my heartrate skyrocketed, causing my vision to completely wash away.  I was now completely blinded. I heard the muffled growls coming from the dog’s mouth which was buried in Elvis’ neck scruff. I grabbed the back of this dog’s neck and flung him with every ounce of strength I had.  I began screaming for help.  I caught glimpses between the flashing lights that make up my vision when my heart rate jumps.  It’s like being in a bad pyschedelic disco without the music.  Disoriented, I felt for Elvis’ body, which was laying still on the ground.  I laid on top of him to cover as much of his body to protect him as I possibly could.  Since I could no longer see anything, it was the only thing left to do, as I didn’t know where or when the next attack would come from.

The dog came again, grabbing Elvis’ leg that was sticking out.  My foot made purchase on his side and I shoved him hard away from us.  Sensing an opportunity, I tried to stand up to make myself as big and frightening as possible to the dog to keep him from grabbing Elvis yet again.  I screamed and made myself as tall as I could.  Being totally disoriented  from the attack, I fell.  Off the sidewalk, I landed in dirt on a bush.  When I tried to stand, I realized my ankle was injured.  I needed to get back to my boy.  I could hear the dog pulling on Elvis’ body like a canine body tug of war.  Crawling,  I found Elvis again, still on the ground, and covered him as I was able to remove the dog from his neck yet again.

I was screaming for help, and could see as I lay there that the woman stood off to one side, about 10 feet away, silent.  She didn’t call the dog, or try to retrieve her dog.  I screamed, “Help me! Call the police! Hurry!”  To which she replied, “No.  No police.”  I dug for my phone in my pocket, attempting to dial 911.  My hands shook violently and I kept mis-dialing.  I tried using Siri on my IPhone, but she couldn’t understand me in my panicked state.  I begged, “Please, help!” She walked towards me, and I backed up, afraid for the next attack.  My hands were on Elvis, who was covered in either blood or saliva.  I had no way of telling which one it was.

Once I was standing, she said, “I need to get my dogs home before they bite someone else.” She turned to walk away.  “No, don’t!  Please stay!  You can’t leave me here!”  My phone finally dialed, and I was trying to make sense to the officer on the phone.  I screamed to the fleeing woman, “Where am I? I Don’t know where I am?  I don’t know the street!  Oh my God, help me please?  Please stay?  Who are you?  Where do you live?”

She shouted her name and street address to me and said, “I really have to be going.”  Defeated, I sat down on the curb.  I decided that I needed to follow her and stood up.  Elvis still laid on the ground, shaking violently.  I helped him up, and gave him the command, “Follow”.  I took two steps before I doubled over in pain. “Dammit!” I yelled as I remembered the ankle.  And with that she was gone.

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50 thoughts on “Attack on my Guide Dog

      • I am truly saddened by your experience. I had a yellow labby boy and know how very special they are. You are a courageous woman to have done so much to protect your boy in such a horrific situation. I am ashamed for the woman with the offensive dogs who abandoned you and your dog after standing there and doing nothing. Two of my dogs can be obnoxious (not to that extent, I am happy to say). They are rescues with a low, prey threshold and did kill someones elderly cat. I am proud to say that I did step-up and do the hard thing. I owned up that it was my dog’s, even though no one would ever have known. I just want you to be assured that not everyone with less-than-perfect dogs is so cowardly.

  1. Kim

    Amy, I’m a raiser for GEB. I’m literally in floods of tears reading this. I hope they catch that lady and punish her. I can’t believe she didn’t watch out for her dogs misbehaving and didnt help you. I hope you and Elvis recover soon. Give him a pat from me.

  2. KimKim

    Amy,
    I’m a raiser for GEB, and I’m so sad to read that this happened to you. I’m quite literally in tears reading it. I hope that lady is caught and punished. I can’t believe she not only didn’t watch her dogs, but then when they did the damage didn’t stop them or help you. Disgusting. I hope you and Elvis recover soon. Give him a pat from me.

    • Thank you so much. I am just heartbroken. And absolutely terrified to work my boy. I would never forgive myself if he got hurt while working. He does so much for me every day that the least I can do is keep him safe.

  3. Jean

    Amy, I’m another GEB raiser. I was in tears reading about what happened to you and Elvis. I hope you are both feeling better today and that the police will find the woman whose dogs attacked Elvis.

    • A Good Samaritan came by and helped us track down the woman. Waiting for the police to formally press charges. I’m just so grateful that Elvis survived the attack and could work today. Thank God for the support of Guiding Eyes

  4. Dan

    Poorly managed dogs are a danger to people and dogs alike, and the owners are the ones responsible. Amy’s case is extreme, and the bad behavior of the attacking dog was only ecliped by the coldness of the owner. Many of us who train or foster these gentle GEB dogs have faced aggressive dogs more than once, and today I had to put myself between a snarling dog and our pregnant GEB brood to protect her. I am sighted and it took everything in my power to manage that, so I applaud Amy for doing all that she possibly could to protect Elvis. She should never have to deal with such a situation in the first place, if fellow dog owners would just be responsible.

    • Incredible Dan. Why are so many dogs off leash? I’m so glad your brood is ok! Thank you for your generosity in helping the future guides of GEB. Perhaps one will be my next dog someday! I would do anything for Elvis. He would do the same for me and does each and every day.

    • Dan

      I expect that this woman’s explanation will be, “I didn’t know what to do”. To that I can say one thing for damn sure- standing by and doing nothing while your unleashed pet repeatedly attacks a service dog and owner is beyond unconconscionable. While Connecticut appears to have an applicable statute (Title 22 Ag Law, Chapter 435, Section 22-364b) and there may also be some local laws, the penalties tend to be weak. Now if there were only a penalty against humans for a lack of compassion, you’d have a great case here!

  5. Christopher martin

    I read your post on Facebook this morning and your blog this evening. I must say that I am just awestruck by the attack and the lack of assistance from the dog owner. I hope the best for Elvis, that he recovers from this attack fully and for you who showed such great courage from your recount of the event. I just cannot imagine someone just standing by in this situation. Again, I am just dumbfounded by the lack of compassion or integrity. I have been unable to let your story out of my thoughts today and felt that if it is so difficult for me, how hard it must be for you and Elvis. Like many who responded, my family are GEB raisers as well and very proud of the response that GEB provided to you so quickly by the posts I have read. I know this was a lot to write, but I wanted you to know that, even though we have never met, you and Elvis have supporters (clearly many through the GEB Family).

    “From caring comes courage” – Lao Tzu

  6. Carrie B.

    Amy, you and Elvis have been in my thoughts and prayer since I saw others lost about it on Facebook the other day. I’m a Puppy Program Regional Manager and also worked 4 years with the kennel/training staff at GEB before this position. I not only work for GEB but am also a raiser (and started out as a raiser before working for GEB). I have had to deal with many loose dogs in my neighborhood but, luckily, have not had to deal with an aggressive one. I can’t imagine how scary this must have been for you knowing how nervous I get when I see a loose dog coming down the street. I hope you and Elvis have a speedy recovery, both physically and emotionally. I also hope there is some sort of justice with this woman and her dog. Good luck!

  7. Elizabeth Moon

    Not for nothing, but can’t you use pepper spray or something on a attacking dog?
    I am very sorry for what you and your beautiful Elvis had to go through.

      • I live in a safe suburban neighborhood – but there are people out here that constantly allow their dogs to be off-leash, while they are working in the yard, talking to a friend, or on the phone – not paying attention, of course. I walk my sweet black lab mix two miles twice a day, and we’ve been charged by dogs five times in the past two years. I’ve pepper sprayed one of them – a pit bull, of course (those owners never seem to understand the potential for violence with those dogs). The dog was fine; he just walked away, rubbing his face. If you accidentally spray Elvis, he’ll be uncomfortable for a couple hours, but it won’t cause permanent damage. If you spray low, the risk of hitting a human’s eyes is minimal.
        Pepper spray was designed to temporarily incapacitate an attacker – and an attacking dog would lose interest in you mighty quickly if you hit it on the nose and/or eyes. That dog could have easily bitten you, too – you might think differently, but I believe that in this case, the benefits of pepper spray outweigh the risks.
        I hope Elvis is doing better – it takes a while to get over the fear and emotional wounds from a dog attack, let alone the physical ones. (((HUGS)))

  8. Marianne Robbins

    Amy I am so sorry this happened to you and Elvis. The actions you took to protect your Dog were truly heroic. You are an awesome woman.

    I am a guide dog user too. My previous guide Cisco was attacked on the street in San Francisco Both our lives were forever changed from that time forward. It took time for us both to heal.

    With a lot of support in the aftermath from counselors and trainers at Guide Dogs for the Blind, Cisco and I were able to continue to work together until his death in 2011.

    I am glad to know you & Elvis were able to work today. It takes a lot of guts to do what you and Elvis do every day – I have great love and respect for you both, even though we’ve never met.

  9. holly

    Amy – I am also a puppy raiser for GEB and my heart goes out to you. I can’t imagine anyone leaving someone injured on the ground and walking away. Prayers to you and Elvis.

  10. Ellen Higgins

    Amy, I am also a GEB puppy raiser and echo the outrage and sadness that others have expressed and can’t stop thinking about this. Although we have never met, we are part of the same, loving GEB family. Please keep us posted on how you are doing and how beautiful Elvis is doing. I hope you know how much you are both loved and admired.

  11. Mary

    I am so very, very sorry that this happened to you and Elvis! Prayers for both of you and I hope that they find her. That was so totally heartless of her!! God Bless you both!

    • Thank you for asking. My foot hurts like heck but hopefully the physical therapy will speed the healing process. Elvis is awesome with just one bite wound behind his ear. Thank goodness

  12. chattanoogadawn

    I have never read something so horrible and shocking. i hope they find that person and do something. Loving your dog is ione thing, but when you also depend on him for your freedom, they are priceless to you. It was very brave of you to cover your dog, I could only hope I would also be that brave. I am so sorry this happened to you both and I pray that you both heal and have peace.

  13. Ollie Kirby

    Wow, I hope you and Elvis are OK. This is so moving. We have a golden Lab as a pet and while walking him, he was attached by a dog off lead. I have good vision and could stop it before Alfie got too hurt. Even so I was scared and shaken up for Alfie. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I could not see.
    You are so brave, my heart goes out to you and Elvis.
    If you and Elvis are ever in Brisbane, Australia you have a place to stay here.

  14. Lis Lamonte

    I hope you both recover speedily from the physical traumas, can you GE chums provide a help session for you both to restore confidence as you work. I have a ICE number system on my phone (In Case of Emergency) which if you ask Siri eg Find ICE1 or ICE 2 she will find, you then have to call it ..but perhaps others can offer advice a to how Siri can help quicker if you are in any difficulty. It happened to me once a dog attacked my old lab when he was on leash and unthreatening.. Err sitting quietly, and owner did nothing, as ever dog had previous and owner not muzzling or restraining as ordered, previously. Hugs to both of you and wags from my girls.

    • THanks Lis! Yeah, I got some help with Siri finally and Guiding Eyes was awesome and came out to help right away, and has checked in frequently over the past two weeks. I feel very lucky!

  15. ElvinaGB

    I’m glad you and Elvis are both getting better physically, it’s the emotional hurt I worry about. I am fostering a beautiful little black lab puppy for a Dog Guide program here in Canada (The Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides) and we meet off leash dogs all the time, even in areas where it is mandatory to have your dog leashed. I wish their owners were more responsible. We were almost attacked by an off leash dog once but the owner raced across the park and quickly restrained his dog. I was so frightened and left so quickly I didn’t have the time to respond to his apologies. Take care and I hope you and Elvis have a great many more wonderful sunny day walks.

  16. Doug

    Amy, I hope you and Elvis are on the mend. So sorry to hear of your recent attack. Know that there are many of us “out there” that care about you both. You are a team and an attack on Elvis is an attack on you as well. Hopefully, the police will bring this episode to a satisfactory closure. Big hug to Elvis…..

  17. Alice

    I am so very sorry that you and your precious Elvis had to endure this horrible experience. I hope the both of you or alright. I once opened my door to the sounds of dogs tearing through my back fence behind my garage apartment, and breaking down the little barrier I had to keep my lab out of the back of the structure. I opened my door and saw 3 pitbulls running past my door towards the dachhound, her puppies and the Chow that lived in the front house. I immediately pushed my Sophie aside (she was in doors with me), and I ran up front and jumped on the 3 put bulls on top of the chow. Two of them ran off, but the 3rd was very determined to tear out the chows throat. This was at 1:00 AM, and I began screaming at the top fo my lungs until the landlord finally came out and grabbed a baseball bat and began swinging at the dog. Unfortunately he would not let go and was dragging the poor chow across the yard. I tried eveything also, and felt totally helpless. This chow grew up with my sophie and I loved him very much. I looked down at my feet frantically looking for something to grab, and low and behold there was as steel pipe. Well I grabbed it and swung at the pit bulls head, until I heard a crack, and she released the chow. She shook her head and ran underneath the van parked in the driveway. Eventually the owner from next door came over. I dont know what happned to the pit bull, and I’m really sorry I had to hurt her, but I loved the chow, and he survived that attack. I would do the same for any beloved four-legged family member. You are a brave woman, God Bless you and Elvis. Love you Alice.

  18. Michelle Michalek

    Amy, my heart breaks for you and your amazing Elvis. I can relate to the horror of your situation. I have my heart Tritan Bear who is also a Yellow Labrador Retriever. He is my life. Like you, I have been around horses my whole life and have always been a responsible owner of both horses and dogs. I am very involved in rescue so I often have new dogs in and out of my home so all my dogs are very well socialized. However, over the years seeing many loose dogs at parks and hearing of friends dogs attacked, and having minor attacks on Tritan I started to become very frightened of going out in public.

    I can not imagine what it has to be like for you. I wish people would just stop and THINK!! NOT ALL DOGS ARE GOING TO GET ALONG!! They are animals. A leashed dog will react very differently to an unleashed dog approaching it with his/her owner present. There are LEASH LAWS FOR REASONS!!

    But one trip to a park my Tritan was attacked by a smaller dog. The owner stood by. My dog with ease could have killed the little dog but he did not, he was injured, and the owner walked way. I remember thinking if my 100 Lbs leashed Lab killed that 10 lbs little aggressive unleashed Poodle I still would have had a hard time with the owner, with the officials etc. We stopped going to the parks. We started walking the 200 acres of pastures and woods around my house. The next problem became NEIGHBORS that can NOT keep their dogs leashed. After a few minor run ins, I started to ALWAYS carry DOG STOP, its All Natural Spray that just has to make their nose/mouth. Will not harm dogs, it is just an irritant. It WORKS!! I found that out after the neighbors 2 dogs attacked my Tritan. The one got loose a day prior, no problems. Maybe two together created the pack mentality. For me it was pure fear, panic, nightmare, sick to my stomach. When you said you lost you sight completely, i started crying, I can not even imagine that much fear, that helplessness, that no one would come help you and Elvis. I can put myself there in emotion and the pain is unbearable. I had the Dog Stop Spray which was a God Sent Blessing. It made both attackers stop and start coughing and I went after them. They just took off. I was shaking, scared and so ANGRY at their owners. I am angry at the owner of Elvis’s Attacker!! What type of person stands there while their dog attacks an innocent dog and owner while the owner cries out for help? I love my Tritan Bear like people love their kids. I would give my life to protect his, because he has put his life on the line protecting me in the past. As you gave all you had to protect Elvis. I pray Elvis makes a full recovery as well as you. I know it took me emotionally a great deal longer to heal than anything else. Best Wishes to You and Elvis. My heart goes out to you both!!

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