This should be a blog about Belle Cardigan's triumphant return to the show ring--about how although she's not even on fully normal activities around the house just yet, she nonetheless went out to a dog show this past weekend, competed in rally and obedience, and earned Qs in all four classes--with two red ribbons on Saturday and two blues on Sunday. She came home with two new titles--Rally Excellent and Companion Dog in obedience--and she was so very, very happy!
This should be a blog about those things. Instead, I'm going to share most of a letter I wrote to the show chair upon returning home from the show. And then I'm going to go call the AKC again, as I attempt to resolve what happened there. ================================
I wanted to follow up on the Sunday incident at the dog show, wherein the Giant Schnauzer bit my Beagle. The owner kept calling it a dominance ploy instead of a bite, and no repercussions were forthcoming for this dog. The show vet checked my dog's neck carefully, but what none of us realized was that the bite was down lower, on his shoulder/upper arm. We departed the show right after the incident and when I pulled him from his crate in Flagstaff, he was limping and his shoulder/upper arm are swollen. At this point it's uncertain whether we'll be able to make our agility trial next weekend. As it happens, I also realized--upon handling the van door upon departure--that my wrist had also been sprained during the incident. I'm typing this email with a brace strapped into place.
I'd like to reiterate that this is a dog who overcame a large-dog fear issue after a previous attack at an AKC show; this process took 18 months. He is currently training for Open Obedience and running for his MACH; he consistently places in the top ten AKC Beagles nationally in agility, and when he earned his novice through excellent rally titles, he was the #3 rally Beagle. If this incident reawakens his fear issues, his performance career is obviously in jeopardy; as I know the hard way, he cannot run agility if he is busy spooking at large dogs outside the ring, or free-heel if he's watching the utility dog in the next ring in fear of being attacked. At the least, I have some serious desensitization work ahead of me.
I was told that because his skin had not been broken, there would be no repercussions to the attacking dog. At the time I didn't understand that decision, and in retrospect I still don't. The dog broke away and charged 15' to reach us, without provocation; my dog didn't even look at her. (He avoids eye contact with other dogs and was merely trotting cheerfully along.) The Giant Schnauzer gave no warning--she drove toward us to attack and that's exactly what she did, with enough violence so I knew there'd be emotional and physical damage--we simply didn't find the correct bite site at the show because we were looking on the side of his neck and not down over his upper arm.
As my companion explained at the show, this isn't the first time my dog has been attacked in conjunction with an AKC event; twice before, in fact. At this point I'm thinking twice about my safety and my dog's safety at AKC shows--because in my experience, when incidents like this happen, nothing is done about them. There are warnings and stern words, and the dogs' handlers walk away otherwise without consequence (while I'm left to clean up the mess). How many other dogs such as [this] are allowed to return unhindered to future showgrounds in my area, as though the incident was insignificant?
Let me assure you, these moments have not been insignificant to me ... What lasts a few moments for the other dogs and handlers has affected me for months and has literally changed the way I look at certain breeds of dogs and how I interact with their owners.
For the past year, I've been pondering the future of my dogs' agility activities; just last week I was researching USDAA as a potential second venue. But I now have to say USDAA is suddenly looking like our future primary home. Only at breed shows have my dog and I been attacked--agility is remarkably civil in comparison--but I'm not sure I can stomach supporting an organization that does not act to protect its participants...especially when that unprotected person repeatedly turns out to be me. ============
As a PS, I should add that the AKC national office seems to be taking this more seriously than the local show chair, although we're looking at potential months to resolution, and no guarantee that anything more will come of it than already has. But we can hope for the right thing, can't we? And as a second PS, that the local show club has suddenly realized it might have missed a step, but still believes that the attack is only significant if it results in major spurting blood, no matter how violently and deliberately the attacking dog behaves along the way.
It's a grand adventure, and though right now it's happening fast and furious, enough it'll be wait-and-see--otherwise known as human exercises in the "endless sit-stay." (Just ask Belle about that. There she is, at the very end, next to a second cousin...) So stay tuned. I guess we're about to see what the AKC is all about after all...