Medical Minute — By Dr. Kirk Munsayac

I pride myself in being a “man.” Thusly, I never imagined being an owner of a dog species that ended in the word “doodle.” Yet here I sit, owner of a doodle dog. My “Hazel” is a high energy doodle dog (and a gorgeous pretty lady) that knows no stranger and because of that personality I sometimes get the question “does she bite?”
To which I usually answer “Only Eskimos. She HATES them.” A joke, of course, to defuse a tense situation as my dog tackle hugs someone. But this brings me to a lesson I teach patients and every year at my high school guest lecture spot.
During residency, I attended lectures from a Wilderness Medicine Doctor (yes, it’s as you’d imagine – a bearded, grizzled man who lives in a national park and treats snake bites, bear attacks and “fresh” stream-drinking diarrhea). He taught us a mind-blowingly simple lesson on how to avoid dog bites, which I will share with you today.
First, know that in the US there are approximately 4.7 million dog bites every year! And the overwhelming majority of these are children. *Now, I will not get into the whole “this or that species is dangerous” etc. etc. Y’all can fight that one out yourselves.
But, why kids? Sure, a kid may not know the simple “don’t mess with a dog eating” or “don’t mess with a momma dog around new puppies” or other instinctual animal lessons. But, it’s actually much simpler. Here’s the mind-blower he told us: Never smile at a dog you don’t know. ??? Huh? Think about this, he continued, human beings are the ONLY species on the planet that showing your teeth means something good! What does it mean to ALL other animals? Aggression. Anger. So, why do kids usually get bit? Because kids usually approach the sweet doggy with a big grin, reaching out to pet them. The dog, confused, says wait, why is this kid attacking me!?! BOOM. BITE! (how many of you just had an A-Ha moment?) So the lesson is simple, tell your kids NEVER smile at a dog you don’t know. YOUR dog, over time, will of course learn your smile means positive and doesn’t bite you, but strangers beware.
A pretty cool lesson from a grizzled, old, bearded Wilderness Doctor, right? …Hazel would probably still bite him thinking he’s an Eskimo.
Yours in Health and Christ,
Dr. Kirk

Leave a Comment