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Drop that dog!

Owner: Zachary McCormack (12), from Shankill, Co Dublin

Animal: Odie, his three-year-old terrier

Background: Odie was attacked by another dog

Shanganagh Park is an important amenity. To the east, it stretches down to the coast, and to the west, the foothills of the Dublin mountains are in sight. The park has been planned to enable dogs to enjoy the facility as much as humans. Dogs are allowed into the park, but they are meant to be kept on the leash, to avoid incidents between dogs and humans, and to prevent fights between dogs and other dogs. There is one large field that has been designated as the only area where dogs are allowed to run off the leash. This allows dogs to get much-needed vigorous exercise, and they can socialise with each other too.

In general, the system works well: humans can walk in Shanganagh in the knowledge that they will not be bothered by uncontrolled dogs, and dog owners can let their dogs off the leash in a safe, confined area.

Last week, Odie was being taken for a walk with the family in the park. As is often the case, each of the children, Zachary, his seven-year-old brother Oscar and his five-year-old sister Tilly wanted to have a turn at holding his leash. When it was Tilly's turn, his mum kept a close eye on her: she isn't old enough to be completely trustworthy yet. When the dog attack happened, it almost seemed to be in slow motion. Odie saw something that he wanted to chase, and he darted away. Little Tilly was taken by surprise, and she let go of the leash.

A large Doberman-type dog was on a leash with its owner, just 10 yards away, and Odie ran right under his nose. The big dog reacted instinctively: he jumped forward, forcing his owner to let go of his leash, then grabbed Odie in his mouth, shaking him in the same way that a rat might be grabbed and killed.

It happened so quickly that everyone seemed to be paralysed, watching in horror. This is when Zachary leapt into action: he rushed up to the big dog shouting "Get off Odie". He was fearless, grabbing the big dog from behind, and yelling at him to drop the little dog.

The big dog did as Zachary wanted, dropping Odie to the ground, and backing off. At this stage, the situation came back under control: Odie was gathered up by Zachary's mum, and rushed off to our clinic.

The big dog's owner was full of apologies, and she generously offered to pay Odie's vet bills because she felt so bad about the situation.

Odie was badly injured: he had a wide laceration on each side of his rear end where the large dog's teeth had torn his skin. We were concerned that he might have serious internal damage and, for the first 12 hours, his life was in the balance.

Luckily, he responded well to treatment. He's even started back on his daily walk in Shanganagh Park.


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