By Elizabeth Bottiaux
One of our family members is a furry, four-legged, rescued friend. My kids love dogs. I grew up with dogs. We are dog people. But, our dog does not go with us everywhere. Dog owner entitlement seems to be on the rise.
As my two little boys and I recently pulled into the parking lot of a local restaurant I noticed the older couple on the patio with their medium-sized dog lying next to them. I didn’t think much about it. It’s become quite common to see dogs of all sizes and breeds with their owners inside stores, on restaurant patios and in most public areas.
We ordered and found a table outside, on the patio. I quickly dashed inside to retrieve condiments, drinks and napkins. I was inside for less than one minute, when my older son came running in to tell me his brother was crying. I returned to find the dog owner holding my five-year-old’s hand and apologizing. Confused, I immediately assumed that he’d gotten scared while I was away and had started crying. Just as the mom guilt washed over me, the woman explained that her dog had bitten my son.
I did my best to remain calm. All eyes were on me. I could feel the weight of an entire restaurant watching me. Waiting. I hugged my scared little guy. I pulled up his shorts to check the chomp. There was a definite bite mark. Skin was broken in a couple of areas and hints of blood threatened to surface. The area was already bruising. There would be no trip to the ER, thankfully.
The dog owners apologized and recounted their version of what had occurred. My unassuming son had headed to the nearby trash can. He’d started out walking, then had run the last few steps to the trash. The startled dog lashed out at him.
The owners said their dog was known to have certain fears and would randomly lunge at people. This aggressive animal with a checkered past was brought to an enclosed area with many people nearby. My son, who had in no way interacted with or provoked this animal, and was minding his own business, was attacked.
An onlooker stopped by the patio as she was leaving the restaurant. To my surprise she was not concerned by the fact that my young son had been bitten. No. She was there to console… the dog! She cooed over the dog, while petting it’s head. Really? My child was attacked and this woman wanted to soothe the attacker! Unreal. When did furry friends become more important than humans?
Before leaving the restaurant, I obtained the dog owner’s contact information and reported the incident to the manager. Although, obviously unenforced, the manager confirmed that dogs are prohibited on the patio. It was negligent of these owners to bring their aggressive dog to an enclosed restaurant. I suspect they’ll continue doing so. The next day, I reported the bite to Animal Control. Contrary to popular belief, nothing much happens when a bite occurs and is reported.
Children should be taught to always ask the owner’s permission before petting a dog. If an owner says they’d rather not let my child pet their dog, I respect—even commend—the owner for setting that boundary. For safety and sanitary reasons, dogs simply shouldn’t be allowed everywhere with humans. Authentic, card-carrying service dogs are a different matter.
Dog ownership isn’t just a privilege. It’s a responsibility. I’m grateful the bite didn’t deter my son’s love of dogs. It could’ve been worse. But, it wasn’t.
Elizabeth Bottiaux is mom to four small humans, ages 5, 7, 9 and 11. She’s a San Clemente resident and has lived in Orange County for the past 16 years. She publishes a blog, www.fourkidsandadog.com, about family life in our tri-city area.