A shocking report out of Ontario, Canada, where pit bulls have been banned since 2005:

DOGS STILL BITE PEOPLE

According to the story reported ten days ago by the Toronto City News,

It’s usually the perfect combination – a loving youngster and a gentle dog.

But something went horribly wrong at an Oshawa home Tuesday and now a three-year-old girl is facing the possibility of having plastic surgery.

Police say the youngster was being cared for by neighbours at 506 Lanlark Drive just after 1pm, and was petting a normally friendly Golden Retriever.

[Read: The dog never sent anyone to the hospital before, at least as far as we know, and it’s a freaking golden retriever, so we just assumed it was bomb-proof.]

Cops aren’t sure what provoked the animal, but it suddenly turned on the child, mauling the tot from her eye to her cheek.

The same people looking after the child were also looking after the dog for the day.

[Read: Not our kid. Not our dog. What were you expecting?!]

“They were petting the dog,” relates Richard Ovila, the babysitter’s husband. “I don’t know if they were patting together or what, when all of a sudden the dog turned around and took her on the left cheek.”

[Read: No one was watching the kids when it happened, except the “normally friendly” golden retriever, that is.]

The dog has been seized by animal control and those who know the creature are baffled. Golden Retrievers are generally among the most gentle of dogs and are usually excellent with children.

[Read: Those that know the dog never paid very close attention to it up to now. Maybe it isn’t a golden retriever after all, but a long-coated, golden-colored pit mix!]

It’s not clear what will become of the canine, but the owner is the neighbour’s son and he has no idea about what’s happened to his beloved pet. He’s currently away on vacation down south for March Break.

[Read: Owner of dog is a college student. I was a college student once. Enough said.]

Authorities hope this tragic event will provide a lesson for others.

“The best thing to do is keep your children away from unknown dogs or strange dogs that you don’t know their personality or behaviour,” suggests Tre Smith of the Toronto Humane Society.

[Read: Duh.]

I have personally seen more kids bitten by golden retrievers than by pit bulls, and I work with a lot more pit bulls than golden retrievers. I am not saying goldens are more dangerous than pits, or that they bite more kids. But the fact that plenty of kids do get bitten by golden retrievers, is at least worth acknowledging.

I tend to chalk such incidents up to the errant assumption that golden retrievers (like a number of other breeds) are guaranteed gentle and reliable right out of the box. Just add water and some crappy food from the supermarket. No training or adult supervision required.

It should go without saying that no brand (sorry, I meant breed) of dog is fool proof. Doesn’t matter if it’s a golden retriever or a pit bull or a chihuahua: if it has teeth, it can bite. But that’s not headline material. In fact, it’s no news to anyone, or at least it shouldn’t be.

In the end, what I find most vexing about the above story, indeed about most media accounts of dog bites and fatalities, is that the wrong questions are raised. The mystery is ultimately not,

What went wrong with this dog?

but rather,

What went wrong with these people?

Riddle me that, Batman.

© Ruth Crisler and Spot Check, 2010.

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