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This is not by me, it's by a dear Friend who said what I wanted to before I could about the Girl Mauled by her Dogs! She nailed it. Please read, share and understand, that fur baby you are cuddling it's Great x 10 generations ago killed to live, it's mouth is #1 communication



A young woman named Bethany Lynn Stephens, a woman who I'm sure was full of promise and dreams, was mauled to death by her two dogs Tonka and Pac-Man just days before I began writing this.

Death is painful. The knowledge that we will never again be joined in this lifetime with someone we love is devastating. Gruesome deaths can be harder to cope with, and we can be plagued with wondering if there was anything we could have done to prevent another person's untimely passing.

Nothing in this post is intended to minimize the tragic loss of a young woman.

Nothing is meant to justify the dogs' actions. Nothing here is meant to politicize this horrific event. But the truth is that this isn't isolated. Whether they truly are occurring more frequently or the popularity of viral news-sharing means we just read about them more, fatal mauling of children and adults seem to be growing in horrific proportion.

What prompted me to write this post was not actually the fact that maulings are becoming more common. It's the flurry of misguided comments about why they happen. While seeking out the reasons a single dog or multiple dogs might kill someone, the majority of people seem to focus on whether or not the dogs were abused, whether or not patterns in their lives changed, whether or not they had training or respect for the person they mauled, whether or not they had bitten people before. People easily overlook the actual reason, which is simple: they are animals.

Here's the thing: every single dog on the planet has an instinctive understanding of how to use their teeth to tear flesh.

I need to say that again, and I'm not going to change the way that I say it. Every single dog on the planet has an instinctive understanding of how to use their teeth to tear flesh. And almost all of the reasons they do it are rooted in survival. What varies most is what amount of stress, excitement, arousal, frustration, or pressure pushes them to act on that instinct. When you add multiple dogs to the picture, the required amount of stress, excitement, arousal, frustration or pressure that pushes them to act on that instinct can shift drastically.

Take a dog that has a high threshold, for example, meaning that it takes an awful lot to get them to lose their shit and bite. Pair them with a dog that has a low threshold; a dog that it can take next to nothing to get them to lose their shit. Observe a scenario where the low threshold dog loses their shit and watch how quickly the dog with the high threshold loses theirs. (Please don't actually do this intentionally)

An example that I observed about a month ago at an open space dog park is a good one. I take my dogs out a lot and prefer hiking trails, but we were traveling and this was a huge open space so I decided to go for it. I brought my dogs out of the car and kept them calm. Though I could have easily just opened my doors and let the dogs blast out, I leashed them, walked them in calmly, and let them off leash calmly.

Throughout the walk, as I do with all walks, I practiced recall here and there, I asked my dogs for obedience here and there. I make sure they are tuned in with me and not caught up in the environment or the excitement of the other dogs.

As we walked, I kept to the perimeter, staying away from congregating or even allowing my dogs to interact with unfamiliar dogs more than short greetings. Why? Because my dogs will tolerate higher arousal with each other because they are familiar. That tolerance decreases quickly with unfamiliar dogs. I'm also a firm believer that my dogs don't exist for other dogs' entertainment.

I watch as more people and dogs arrive. Dogs are barking in cars excited to be at the park, their owners let them blast out of their cars and easily run 100 feet ahead of them. The dogs are disengaged from their owners, recall is non-existent in almost all cases, most owners have nothing with them to engage or reward their dogs, and from the eye of a casual observer, it appeared that with a couple of exceptions none of the owners gave a shit if they did anything directly with their own dogs.

Still on the perimeter, I could see the center of the space. I'd call it the eye of the storm, but in this case it was anything but calm. Two owners brought balls for their dogs but there were easily a dozen dogs crammed into this space. I could see from at least a few hundred feet away that one of the dogs was disturbed by having so many dogs in his space, chasing his ball, chasing him, and being generally disrespectful. I knew that dog's tolerance was almost up.

We went further along the perimeter where I hoped I'd avoid seeing the inevitable, but alas. Just as we were coming around the last bend and the center of the open space was back in sight, the fight began. It started with two dogs, including the one I'd identified as being really uncomfortable, then another jumped into the fight, then another, then another. Within a matter of seconds, there were five dogs in a brawl with more trying to jump in, plus another fight erupting between two dogs whose owners were keeping them from joining pile. I downed my dogs until the fight was over, we got water and left.

Years ago when I was primarily walking pet dogs for a living, the occasional fight would occur. They were infrequent and never became serious, but I learned very quickly that the first thing I needed to do was stop any other dogs from getting involved. Then I could deal with the two dogs fighting if they were still at it after my series of expletives.

Because I don't often see—well, work really fucking hard to prevent—fights, it's hard to identify exactly what it is that occurs in the minds of dogs when they observe other dogs fighting. But many experience a sort frenzy that's deeply rooted in survival, arousal, and on some level something so primal that you could swear they were enjoying it. My natural ability to stay calm and collected in the midst of chaos made me very successful as a paramedic. And my ability to simultaneously see both a large picture and tiny detail is part of why I've been successful in working with dogs and in lead planning large scale events, some with 15,000 people. Thanks to mom and dad for those gifts.

I have been able to observe and act, and look at both the micro and macro when a fight occurs, and you can see something truly primordial, and it does often look like the dogs that want to jump into the chaos are unafraid, full of themselves, and gaining some level of enjoyment in the events. In that moment, they aren't thinking about the fact that they live with the dog that they're about to pounce on, or the fact that they've played literally 100 times with the dog who they now want to grab by the neck. And mind you, these are typically happy-go-lucky pet dogs with damn high thresholds. They are not dogs who have been abused or neglected, some had gone through training programs and some hadn't, none were dogs you'd consider aggressive in everyday life.

Quite the contrary. If they were going out on group walks, they were some of the most social and stable dogs you'd likely meet.

Today, I worry that our relationships with dogs are in jeopardy. They're in jeopardy because we refuse to believe that they are animals. Yes, they have stolen our hearts. They keep us warm at night and make us feel protected. They seem to know us better than most people in our lives, and they seem to want to do things to make us happy. But we have to face the fact that they are animals, and no matter how much we pretend that we can "domesticate" them, let's look at what that means by definition. To domesticate means to tame. To tame means: not dangerous or frightened by people, not exciting/adventurous/controversial, willing to cooperate, made less powerful and easier to control.

I observe dog and human interaction as a discipline, career, and hobby. I most commonly observe that dogs with their owners are the opposite of tame. Now this is, of course, not every dog and owner, but this is easy to see on a daily basis. And under the right circumstances (or wrong, I guess we should say), every single dog has the potential to be dangerous. The dog bursts out of the front door (excited), doesn't do the obedience that you've asked them to do (often not fully trained, but could be seen as unwilling to cooperate—which is difficult to discuss relating to dogs anyway), lunging or barking on leash (powerful), pulling on leash or generally unresponsive to our voices (difficult to control).

The difficult truth is that we've all but tamed dogs. Perhaps they are less likely to act on instinct because we have done some training, we feed them, or their genetic influence through intentional breeding has been to make them calmer and more docile by nature. But pair even a docile dog with someone who provides no direction for them and you will soon have a dog that exemplifies just how little we have actually done to domesticate them.

The more we bring them into our homes, the less we seem to want to believe that they are animals and not humans. I am deeply saddened to hear the stories of people being mauled by dogs. Unfortunately, I am not surprised. Because they are dogs. They are animals. And truthfully, no matter how someone tells me they live in their home with their dog, many dogs that I see out in the world look like semi-wild animals. Mine do at times as well. But as much as I love my dogs (if you heard how my friends talk about me and my dogs, it'd be evident how much I do) I force myself to maintain awareness of what they are at every moment.

My perpetual vigilance is the best way to minimize the chances of my dogs injuring anyone or anything.

When we are honest with ourselves, our approaches to raising dogs will be more appropriate. We will realize that those approaches should not be derived from the approaches we have developed for raising children. We will strive to understand how dogs communicate and show interest in learning their language.

Training will become a first step and a joy rather than a last resort that we would rather just leave in the hands of a trainer and take no part in. A shift will happen in which we enjoy being engaged in our dogs' lives rather than our most active time with them being letting them loose in a chaotic environment and relying on other dogs to wear them out for us.

We will stop treating them like infants, asking every Dick and Jane if we can hug their dogs that we've never even met before. We will realize that a significant portion of our lives with them must be managing their motivations, giving them outlets for their drives, and building control over their impulses. And we will not neglect common sense strategies when it comes to raising them, training them, or managing them when we're out in the world.

I truly hope that human-dog relationships don't come to catastrophic ends the way they have for so many this year. If you dare, Google it. My guess is you'd be shocked at how many results turn up for people killed by dogs just this year alone - I was.

The tragedy isn't that we'll forget those whose lives were lost. They will never be forgotten by those who love them or those who learned about their lives. The true tragedy is that we'll forget what dogs are beneath the puppy dog eyes, the soft coats, the kisses and cuddles. We'll forget that we're dealing with instinct, with the untamed, with animals.

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