The Day My Dog Attacked Me

Photo by Patrick Danforth |

Photo by Patrick Danforth |

My dog has seizures. He is on medication but occasionally he has a “break through” seizure. They are violent. He starts with some vague disorientation. Most people would not recognize this phase. However, anyone who has a dog with epilepsy will recognize it. Then he convulses on the ground, mouth frothing, “paddling”, pupils dilated and muscles twitching and seizing uncontrollably. It is scary and painful to watch. I feel helpless. Then for the next 20 or so minutes he wanders, pacing and disoriented. I had been with him through his seizures before without incidence until the day the demon came.

He had been fine for a while. My guard was down. I had been out doing errands. It was a very cold day and I had borrowed my friend’s expedition down coat that did not smell like me. I came home. Usually this pup is the first one to greet me at the door but I could not find him. I called for him. No answer. Then I found him in the basement. He looked strange and afraid and ran away from me. If I had my dog trainer’s brain turned on, I would have recognized this as a signal that he wanted to be left alone. Instead, I had my “dog mom’s” brain turned on. I followed him. He ran upstairs away from me. I still followed.

He was my companion, my friend. He had never hurt me or any one else. That very morning we had cuddled in bed together. But now he ran away from me, and I followed him. I caught up to him and he froze. This is a huge warning. I ignored it. I was in “dog mom” brain and I completely trusted him. I noticed his throat was wet and I was worried. I got close to him. He froze again and growled. I did not pay attention and reached for his throat. Then he attacked me.

I have worked with thousands of dogs as a trainer. I have never been attacked by a dog… let alone with such violence… and by my own dog. Time went in slow motion. I could not believe what was happening. He bit me repeatedly on my face. I exclaimed, “What are you doing?” Then he stopped. I did not see where he went. I was in shock. I could not believe what just happened. I knew I was hurt but I was afraid to look at my face. I thought I was ok, but still, I called my daughter. A few minutes later my dog came back into the room acting normally, as if nothing had happened.

My daughter talked me into going to the local urgent care clinic. I received 40 stitches in my face.

Over the next few days, weeks and months I felt many emotions: shame, stupidity, profound grief, doubt. I wondered if I should even be a dog trainer at all. My dog had given me every warning possible and I ignored all of them! I mentally and emotionally flogged myself on a daily basis.

The bond I had with my pup had changed as well. I know disease caused my dog to act the way he did. I had found him post-seizure and he was disoriented and in an altered state of mind. I shudder to put myself in my dog’s brain at that moment. How scary and painful the world must have been to him! But the bond between us still needed to be rebuilt. Trust needed to be forged again.

I am more careful with him now. I am much more attentive to his body language. I am amazed that even in the horrible, disoriented post seizure state of mind he was in, he still gave clear body language to leave him alone. Now I will listen to him. Now I will listen even more to other dogs as well. I see more clearly.

“I am with you I am right here”, I tell him. I am with him all the way to help him with his disease; to find medication to keep him healthy; and to pay attention when the demon comes again. I will keep us both safe, and I will care for him forever. We are in this journey together.

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Positively Expert: Louisa Morrissey

Louisa is a member of Victoria Stilwell’s Positively Dog Training Team, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA), a member of the Pet Professional Guild of Non-Force Trainers and a professional member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. She is the founder of High Country Dogs in Colorado.


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