Bringing Home Allie Was Too Much for Momo

Editor’s note: This week is American Veterinary Medical Association’s National Dog Bite Prevention Week. Children’s is also focusing this month on injury prevention. To highlight both efforts, Melanie Medina weighs in with her family’s experience with dog bites, and shares tips from the veterinary behavioral therapist she worked with to treat her dog’s aggression.

The instant it happened, I knew we had to get rid of him. I loved this dog more than life itself. He was like my child — until I had a child and he tried to bite her. That’s when it hit me: Momo is a dog. He is going to do what his DNA tells him to do, no matter how much I loved him and how much I tried to change him.

Growing aggression

It happened more than three years ago, but it still hurts to think about the day we surrendered Momo, our pug. My daughter was only about 10 days old. I had laid my daughter on the couch and was standing over her, about to swaddle her into a little burrito. Momo was standing there, right under my feet, with his eyes on Allie.

Momo lunged under my arm, up onto the couch and tried to bite Allie. He had the toe seam of her pajama pants in his mouth.
I screamed for my husband. We unsnapped my daughter’s pajamas and realized she was OK. If he had reached just a millimeter or two further, I’m confident he would have taken off her toe, or maybe her foot. Within 30 minutes, we were on the phone with DFW Pug Rescue, talking to the manager about surrendering Momo. My husband had the horrible task of driving Momo up to a vet’s office, where he left him for a Pug Rescue representative to pick him up.

Behavior therapy for dogs

But we had to do it. We’d had Momo for seven years, and his aggression slowly built up until it was out of control. A year before our daughter was born, we hired a behavioral therapist who specializes in aggression in dogs. Her opinion was that in most cases, a family’s new baby and old baby (the dog) can develop a loving relationship right from the start — unless the dog has serious pre-existing issues.
We hired her to help us sort out Momo’s issues, and his aggression definitely improved. But bringing a new baby into the home was too much for him. (The therapist we hired, Lecreca Taliaferro, DVM, has guidance on how your family can get your human baby and canine baby to bond.)

Pug wins graham cracker

Fast forward three years later. With Momo living happily ever after (I hope) in a new family’s home, I thought we were past worrying about dog bites.

But just a few weeks ago, Allie, who, thankfully, has both of her feet, was munching on a graham cracker. Our other pug, Spanky Mae, swiped it out of Allie’s hand. Allie swiped it back, but Spanky Mae wasn’t having it. Spanky jumped toward Allie to get it back, and in the process, bit Allie’s face. Spanky’s teeth barely grazed Allie’s skin, but it scared us, especially Allie.

My husband and I considered calling DFW Pug Rescue again but decided to keep Spanky Mae. After all, she didn’t have a history of biting or being the least bit aggressive. She just wanted that darn graham cracker.

Instead, we used the experience as a teaching moment for Allie. We told her, “When you’re fighting with a dog over food, the dog always wins. Mommy and Daddy can always get you another graham cracker.”

Nationally and locally dog bites on the rise

If my personal story hasn’t left an impression, maybe some statistics will. Here at Children’s, our Trauma department has seen a rise in patients being treated for dog bites. In 2001, we saw 15 kids for dog bites. By December 2010, that number rose to 36.

Our statistics mirror national ones. Since 2008, the number of Americans hospitalized for dog bites increased from 5,100 in 1993 to 9,500 in 2008, according to a government study. Children younger than 5 and adults older than 65 are most likely to be hospitalized for dog bites, to the tune of $18,200 on average for treatment.
Thankfully, my family didn’t fall into those statistics.

Shopping for cats?

DFW Pug Rescue later told us that Momo was adopted by a family who also owned a boxer. Momo tried to be aggressive in his new family’s home, but the boxer, who probably had a good 30 pounds on Momo, asserted his dominance. I think that’s what Momo needed.
And today, Allie insists that she wants a kitty cat, not a puppy dog. We’ll see about that.

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One Response to Bringing Home Allie Was Too Much for Momo

  1. Rob May 18, 2011 at 4:24 pm #

    >Was the boxer Manny Pacquiao? That dude knows how to assert some dominance and he's probably not much more than 30 pounds heavier than a pug.

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