Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Case File: Expect the Unexpected

"Mommy, I have to go pee!"... the battle cry of the toddler that is reserved for the most inconvenient of times and is delivered in the loudest of voices. "Maybe there is a bathroom in the house...let's go see", Angela steers the child toward the house, certain that the proprietors of the garden centre wouldn't mind an emergency trip to the bathroom. The door is open and Angela opens it and ushers Susie inside, only to come face to face with the family's two large dogs. Susie starts to scream and the dogs rush towards her, growling and barking and fighting with each other. They push the frantic toddler and her shocked mother out of the way as they rush outside in a frenzy. The dogs have no idea what the screaming is all about and luckily they go outside in their confusion.

Margaret, the lady of the house was baking in the kitchen with the dogs at her feet, when someone came in and the dogs got up to look for the cookies that they customarily receive from visitors. Startled by the screaming they became alarmed and then aggressive with each other. Fortunately they took it outside and no-one was hurt. Margaret was shaken and disturbed by the incident and the thought of what might have happened. She was right there behind the dogs but the whole thing was over before she could even react. Angela was similarly shocked and could not have got her child out of the way of the dogs.

The lesson here is expect the unexpected. Never assume anything where dogs and children (or even customers) are concerned. Margaret has since taken steps to ensure that the dogs have no access to the front door, even when she is with them in the house. Angela, one expects would knock the next time and enter a strange place ahead of, rather than behind her child. Susie is likely even more terrified of dogs than she was previously and this makes her more likely to run away screaming from a dog thus precipitating an attack. We hope that our programs and materials help children like Susie get over their fear as they become empowered with the knowledge of how to tell what a dog is thinking and how to control a situation with a dog by standing still and being a tree.

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