When I taught writing at Vanderbilt, I had a secret method for teaching narrative. I asked students if they had ever been bitten by a dog. It’s a great question for drawing out stories. There’s always a story when someone has been dogbit. And those people who have never been dogbit usually start their response as follows: “I’ve never been bitten by a dog, but…” And those are some of the best stories. “I’ve never been bitten by a dog, but I once got chased by kangaroos…” or “I’ve never been bitten by a dog, but this possum got in our trash can and…”
Just today a lawyer friend said, “I’m interviewing law students today. Do you have any good questions to ask?” I answered, “Why, yes, I do. Ask them if they’ve ever been bitten by a dog. A lawyer needs to be able to tell a story.”

And so should blog readers. So I ask you, dear reader: Have you ever been bitten by a dog?

  • Aaron Roughton
    1:32 PM, 10 September 2010

    I’ve never been bitten by a dog, but one time my dad was on an 8th grade choir trip…

    • Jonathan Rogers
      3:44 PM, 10 September 2010

      OK, this is exactly what Audience Participation Friday is about. Thanks, Patrick, for sharing your sufferings and for adding a new one to my vocabulary: Spheksophobia. And your observations about the moral character of wasps relative to bees–dead-on.
      Aaron, on the other hand, is trying to rest on his laurels. Aaron, there’s a saying in the blogosphere: What have you done for me lately?

  • Patrick
    3:32 PM, 10 September 2010

    I’ve never been bitten by a dog, but I once was stung several times by a single wasp. I was just a kid, 10 years old on a typical summertime morning, headed out to ride my bike. When I arrived I discovered a wasp zipping around it. Now, I knew what a wasp was, I knew it could sting, but I had not yet learned the difference between wasps and bees. I’d stepped on plenty-a-bee running through grass in bare feet. I had no fear of bees. In my little 10 year old brain I knew it couldn’t really want to hurt me. It’s sure to strike with a fiery jolt but it’s a onetime deal and the pain subsides quickly. Bees are noble. A bee sacrifices its life, giving incentive that maybe next time I’ll pay attention, and another bee life might be saved. With those sorts of thoughts in my heard I watched this pest buzzing round and round my bike. My plan was this: If I act like I’m not afraid and ignore it (it works with dogs doesn’t it?), I should be able to get my bike away without upsetting it. Moving slowly and cautiously I ease next to the bike… so far so good. I’m on the seat, the buzzard circling around me. Just as I smack the kickstand– OUCH, OUCH, OUCH! That beast went all machine-gun fire on my right ear! Frantically, I flailed my arms smacking myself in the head, trying to make it Stop! As I realized my efforts to combat this terrorist were useless, I dropped the bike and dashed for refuge! It perused, hitting my ear like a bulls-eye in rapid succession. I bolted into the house slamming the door behind! I made it! My ear swollen huge and bright purply-red, burned with the searing pain of a thousand bee stings! My first and only phobia was born: Spheksophobia. The difference between wasps and bees? Bees have morals. Wasps do not.

  • Kristen
    4:56 PM, 10 September 2010

    I’ve never been bitten by a dog, but one snowy April night I was rear ended in a hit-and-run. That same week, my aunt was on a walk in her neighborhood. She was always a little apprehensive about walking by a certain neighbor’s house because they owned two intimidating Dobermans, and didn’t see a need to tie them up. On this particular April day, she didn’t see the dogs and proceeded to walk confidently past the house. Suddenly, without warning, she felt knife-like canines sink into the tender flesh of her posterior! The Doberman had snuck up behind her, and, unprovoked, attacked. When she related the story to me a few days later, I told her that we had both been rear ended that week.

  • Aaron Roughton
    7:37 PM, 10 September 2010

    Ok, ok, Janet Jackson. I’ve never been bitten by a dog, but a bull tried to gore my grandfather. My dad’s dad got volunteered to be the college butcher at his small Methodist college in Wilmore, KY. Every Monday he would butcher two hogs and one steer in a portable trailer that was about 10 feet long and 8 feet wide. In the rear of the trailer was a basin with a water hose that he would use to rinse things down. In the center of the trailer’s concrete floor was a metal ring. The farm hands would lead a steer up the ramp into the trailer with a rope around its neck and my grandfather would string the rope through the ring in the floor. He would pull the steer’s head to the floor and knock it unconscious with a hammer before killing it and butchering it. He tried to do everything as quickly as possible to avoid causing any undue pain to the animals.
    One day those Kentucky farmers led a Texas longhorn up the ramp. They were a little uneasy because of the size of the beast, and the steer knew he had them on their toes. As my grandfather pulled his head down to the ground, the longhorn gave a good jerk of his neck and yanked the metal ring right out of the concrete floor. The farmers didn’t know what to do, so they shut the doors to the trailer, leaving my grandfather trapped. The steer began snorting and huffing and turning circles in the trailer. My grandfather stepped over the low wall of the basin and pressed his back against the rear wall of the trailer. Every time the steer would circle it dipped its horn at my grandfather, who would flatten himself against the wall to avoid being gored. He carefully used the water hose to wet down the concrete floor of the trailer. Then he clenched the hammer in his teeth and waited for the steer to make a pass. At just the right moment he leaped upon the beast and grabbed a hold of its horns. He gave a powerful twist to its neck and its feet came right out from underneath it on the slick floor. He used the hammer to knock it unconscious, and once he had gathered his wits, he finished the job of butchering the longhorn. The end.

    • Jonathan Rogers
      8:45 PM, 10 September 2010

      That’s more like it, Aaron. Thank you. I’m picturing the farmers standing outside the trailer cutting their eyes at one another, each wrestling in his inner man about whether he should (or even could) open the trailer door and give the young butcher some help. A new dent appears in the side of the trailer every time the steer makes a lap. A little cartoony, I admit, but that’s my mental image of the thing. And nice thinking on your grandfather’s part. My own grandfather was a butcher and a sausage maker…and a deep well of amusing anecdotes.
      Kristen, even though you have never been bitten by a dog yourself, you do enjoy the distinction of being the first commenter on Dogbite Friday to actually tell a story about a dogbite. Thanks for that. My son, like your aunt, once got some canines in his posterior–four of them, in a nice, even pattern. When he told the dog’s owner what had happened, she didn’t believe him. “Show me the bite marks,” she said. He opted not to pull down his britches right there in front of God and everybody, so the woman never believed her dog had bitten him.

  • Gigi
    9:16 PM, 10 September 2010

    I’ve never been bitten by a dog but I have peddled like hell to get away from the meanest German Shepherd east of the Mississippi. Butch lived less than a quarter of a mile from my house with the Parkers, John Sydney and Billy Dove. They trained Butch to be a guard dog and in Sunflower, MS, that was a full-time job. Butch tore out of the driveway after any small children who were brave enough to enter his territory. Since I lived on the other side of the Sunflower River and any destination in town took me right by Butch’s, I was often the chased.
    One abysmal and unforgettable day, I peddled by as fast as I could. I didn’t know it but Waddles my fluffy white Pick-a-poo followed closely behind me. Butch streaked out of his driveway and grabbed up Waddles. He punctured his tiny lungs and poor Waddles didn’t make it. Dr. Ross, the local vet, tried valiantly to save him. Dr. Ross’ office smelled like the inside of a pill bottle. I sat there breathing through my mouth muffling sobs. The family gathered in the thick-aired waiting room and hugged me whispering the things people say to bring comfort. Today my small white and black fluffy dog, Skip, sits at my feet licking my toes. Comfort.

  • sally apokedak
    10:10 PM, 10 September 2010

    When I was a little girl, living in Taiwan, my mother took me to visit friends. By the time we got to their house my hands were all sticky, from the ice-cream bar I’d been eating. So my mother insisted that I should wash at the outside spigot before I went in. Mrs. Craven said I was welcome to use the kitchen faucet, and maybe I should, because Gretchen was on the side of the house and she’d just had puppies. My mom would have none of that. Better to put my life in danger than take a chance that I might get the inside of Mrs. Craven’s house sticky. So Mrs. Craven warned me not to try to pick up the puppies, and she sent me, at age five, along with her son, Markey, who was four (and who always ate dirt when his evil sister told him it was brown sugar–you can see what good hands I was in), to walk past the big German Shepherd with the bad case of postpartum depression.
    We got by her with no trouble and I washed. On the way back I stopped and looked Gretchen right in the eye–she was about as tall as I was–and I shook my finger in her face and said, in a very sweet voice, “Don’t you worry, Gretchen, I won’t hurt your puppies.”

    The next thing I knew my face was in Gretchen’s mouth. Her upper teeth got my forehead and her lower teeth went through my chin and lip. I let out a howl and the women came running and freaking out at the blood that was all over the place. I was numb and felt no pain until Markey started shouting over the din, “She shook her finger in Gretchen’s face. It wasn’t Gretchen’s fault.” (I didn’t know the expression then, but if I had, I’m sure I would have thought, “Eat dirt and die, Markey.) For the next hour I had to lie on the couch packed in ice and listening as they talked about whether I needed stitches and rabbis shots and while they wondered why on earth I would shake my finger in Gretchen’s face.

    My feelings were so hurt. I was just trying to be friendly with the dog. I had no idea she didn’t understand English. Nobody had warned me. I told my brother later, “If I had known, I would have spoken Chinese to her.”

    My brother, who was older and wiser, said, “Pfft, that wouldn’t have done you any good. She’s not Chinese. She’s German.”

  • Amy
    1:56 AM, 11 September 2010

    Since German Shepherds seem to be a popular topic, I will chime in here. Sunshine never bit me, I would have just been eaten whole. Growing up, life came to a standstill in our part of the neighborhood when this dog was let out. Literally, time, wind, the sun, your breath, the earth’s orbit…it all stopped while this dog did her business. This albino german shepherd was named Sunshine. Seriously. Trained to kill. She was a sleek white streak of fanged madness with red eyes and pink ears. We are still not sure why this family, with one sweet daughter named Nanette, felt like they needed to own such a beast.
    Typical of a Dallas neighborhood, all the neighbor’s yards were fenced in an unfeechie-like manner. My sister and I loved to play outside, but balls, frisbees, boomerangs…anything that was airborne was sucked into the vast swirling vortex of Sunshine’s back yard. Never risking life and limb to recover what was lost, we imagined she had a secret nest of found objects.

    When you knocked on the door of Sunshine’s house (what was that family’s name?) you heard barking and “put Sunshine in her room!” You could hear the shuffling, to “put her up”; Sunshine’s door close, and then you were welcomed in. I always imagined what the inside of Sunshine’s room looked like: all the drywall scraped smooth, showing a stud here and there, marks on the floor where she had tried to dig out (to devour a nice neighborhood kid), baseboards scraped of paint, electrical wiring ripped from the wall…..

    • Jonathan Rogers
      3:21 AM, 11 September 2010

      All right, I’m declaring Audience Participation Friday a roaring success. Great stories. Gigi, sorry to hear about Waddles. A few minutes after posting the audience participation challenge, it occurred to me that there would be people for whom a dogbite story wouldn’t be an amusing anecdote. Thanks for sharing your sad story. I’m glad you have Skip.
      Sally…finally, somebody has told a story of actually getting bitten by a dog. Nicely done. And a cautionary tale about the importance of learning foreign languages. I was at a picnic area once and saw some people talking to a raccoon in Spanish. What makes those people think a raccoon can speak Spanish? I asked myself.

      And Amy, you have given a beautifully rendered portrait of a neighborhood menace. Very talented people read this blog. I’m honored.

  • Jonathan Rogers
    3:56 AM, 12 September 2010

    P.S. … Sally, I love the fact that in your story the pain of the dogbite was overshadowed by the pain of being misunderstood. A great insight into what it’s like to be a child…

  • Aaron Roughton
    3:14 PM, 13 September 2010

    My wife and I laughed for many minutes at the thought of you being confused about people speaking Spanish to a raccoon. That is genuinely hilarious.

  • sally apokedak
    7:50 PM, 13 September 2010

    heh heh I went back to read my post after you commented and…had to laugh over the idea that I might have needed shots to protect me from evil rabbis.

  • Melanie
    11:46 PM, 13 September 2010

    A time comes to my mind when a dog bite caused not a flesh wound but a heart wound. I was in the 6th grade. Sandra was an acquaintance who invited me and several other boys and girls over for a birthday party. Sandra was a sweet, quiet girl who kept to herself. I thought she was very courageous to have a party which included boys. When we got to her house her mother was noticeably absent. I realized later that her mother was blind and that Sandra was hosting the party on her own. We gathered together in the living room awaiting the main event: pizza (at a time when pizza was a novelty) cake and coke. Up the street a short distance was a park where Sandra had set up a picnic table with the refreshments. We walked together to the park to find to our horror a dog had eaten the pizza! My mouth watered for the pizza but my heart ached for the girl whose carefully planned party was ruined.

    • Jonathan Rogers
      5:06 PM, 14 September 2010

      Oh, Melanie. That is a sad story. That’s a loneliness–the poor girl trying so hard but not having anyone to warn her against leaving the pizza unattended.

  • koey
    10:31 PM, 13 October 2010

    I have never been bitten by a dog. In fact, nothing has ever happened to me that has been that drastic. Well, there was that one time when I was bucked off a horse and almost trampled and that other time when I was attacked by a peacock but I think that’s all. Wait, I was almost eaten alive by a huge, blood thirsty fish at a pond, but other than that. . .nothing.

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