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2006-06-28 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets...

Pets of the Week
by Joanne Anderson

Kids, dogs, and summer: a Norman Rockwell image of Americana. Most of the time, that is. Dog bites happen. The CDC says that each year over 800,000 Americans seek medical attention for dog bites, and half the cases are children (with the incidence highest for boys 5 to 9 year olds). The number of bites increases slightly April through September with a peak in July. The majority (61%) of canine confrontations takes place at home or at a familiar place, and the vast majority (77%) of biting dogs belongs to the victim's family or a friend.

I am the last person to blame man's best friend, or specific breeds. As the AKC says: "It's the deed, not the breed." Even with that, certain deeds could be avoided, if people had better dog sense. All dogs (like most of us) can be provoked to growl and/or bite if pushed enough. Public education is the key to preventing bites. That's why I'll outline some practical tips here for adults; and why my Afghan, (the "Beauty Queen") and I have taken our safety spiel to first graders and kindergarteners.

The first layer of protection is responsible ownership. We need to socialize, train, and establish leadership over our dogs. Early on our pups need to learn that there are acceptable rules, and that we are the boss. Don't encourage fear or aggression. If Fifiis snarling and won't let the husband get into his own bed, that's unacceptable; not cute. Spay or neuter your dog, and keep him healthy and vaccinated. A chained up dog, besides being inhumane, is a bite accident waiting to happen. Stay away from rough play.

Cher Cher Parents must become the "watch dogs". After spending 30-plus years in the classroom and almost as long in the animal shelter, I'm more apt to defend the dog, than the child. Never leave a baby or young child alone with a dog, even for a few minutes. Teach children to respect dogs' feelings and

strength. They cannot poke, grab, pull tails or crawl into tight spots with dogs. The sitewww.doggone-safe.comhas dog safety suggestions,.

Kids have to learn to be careful, especially around dogs sleeping or eating. Youngsters shouldn't be

reaching over or through fences to pet, or running into yards (the dog's territory) to retrieve a ball or Frisbee. They should ask permission and wait for an answer before they pet a dog. When permission is granted, the petter should slowly extend the back of the hand for the dog to sniff first. Then just a few gentle strokes under the dog's chin should suffice.

Patriotic Puppies Patriotic Puppies Since kids aren't going to read this, I'll leave out the protection strategies. During our elementary seminar, students roleplayed what to do if a strange dog approaches or attacks. We focused on canine cues, standing still, and putting barriers between them and the dogs.

Meanwhile the "Beauty Queen" (the pretend attack dog in the skit) was far from a threat. She just posed like Cindy Crawford in her purple sequin snood and a sparkly blouse. She was so happy for another opportunity to model, and would be glad to visit local schools, come September, so she can spread the word about being safe around her canine cousins. Just drop me a line at the Record, and I'll check the "Beauty Queen's" calendar.

Speaking of kidsJunior Girl Scout Troop 153 from Service Unit 10 performed a mitzvah for Babylon Town Animal Shelter, and earned a Bronze Award, the highest honor a Junior Girl Scout can achieve, by doing so. The girls, who are from Dix Hills, organized a community service projecta collection at their middle school of much needed towels, blankets, sheets,

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