About 4.5 million Americans report being bitten by dogs each year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
I know about dog bites. When our first son was 17 months old, he got bit in the face by a dog. We lived on the grounds of a rural school as did other teachers and the janitor. The janitor had an old cocker spaniel and when our little boy tried to pet the dog while it was eating, the dog bit him.
We rushed our child to the doctor, 30 miles away, and it took nine stitches to close the three wounds around his eye and rabies shots in his stomach were started. While we were gone, the remorseful and shaken janitor hauled his dog way out in the country and left him there.
Fortunately, five days later, the dog found his way home, grouchy but not rabid, and we were able to discontinue the rabies shots.
Although my husband and I were pretty well traumatized by the incident, it had no lasting effect on our son. The scars eventually disappeared and he’s always loved dogs. He went through the usual assortment of partly dogs that small boys latch onto: partly this, partly that. His first heartbreak was when his partly Dalmatian dog Maverick got run over as they were on their way to the neighborhood grocery store.
When our sons were in their early teens, my sister raised Scotty dogs and she gave us a puppy shaped like a toy locomotive which we all adored. We registered her as Molly Malolly Barf McDarf.
But Molly was to blame for our second dogbite incident. An old friend came to town and came by to introduce his new wife to us. She saw Molly through the patio door and asked for her to be let in. Then she coaxed Molly onto her lap and was gently petting her when Molly, without warning, suddenly bit the woman through her upper lip.
Molly was our last dog. When she died at age 14, we never wanted another, although our oldest son, the one who had scars, has always had dogs. Our middle son once had two cocker spaniels. Our youngest son is a cat person but likes dogs too.
I always had a dog when I was a child. There is a photo of me, about 5, with a shaggy dog bigger than I am and I remember a much-loved brown rat terrier imaginatively named Brownie.
A child needs a dog for a loyal, uncritical friend who never bosses, scolds or demands, waits patiently while tears are shed on its neck and then plays happily on request.
But at some point, I stopped liking dogs. This is not a good thing to admit because people who don’t like dogs are not trusted by people who do.
I don’t like dogs to jump on me with their scratchy paws, pant in my face, stick their cold nose against me or lick any portion of my body with their revolting emery board tongues. It bothers me when dogs bark at me and it scares me when they bolt at me, even if they’re no bigger than a dust mop.
When I confess I don’t like dogs, people look at me the same way they look at someone they just learned has a criminal record or beats their spouse.
Would it help if I mentioned that I love babies and flowers?
Would it make any difference if I reminded them of the 4.5 million Americans bitten each year?
Mary McClure is a former newspaper editor who lives in Lawton.