This blog was going to be a World Cup free zone. An oasis away from the fervour surrounding another glorious sporting summer. But now it isn’t… but don’t worry, we’re not going to be talking about the offside trap or the early trip home and disappointing performances of premier sportsmen…
Really, this blog entry has been forced on us thanks to a certain Uruguayan player called Luis Suarez. You’ll have heard on the news no doubt (as it’s impossible to avoid) that he’s bitten an opposing player for the third time in his career…
You will find thousands upon thousands of words written about his toothy shenanigans elsewhere; from people attempting to defend his actions, to those actually demanding that someone should “lock him up and throw away the key”. You’ll see people wringing their hands and others screaming “won’t someone think of the children!” He’s a genius, he’s a saint, he’s a monster, he’s responsible for the breakdown of all that’s good in society… everywhere you look there’s a different opinion.
In case you haven’t seen the footage, the ‘bite’ happens in a split second.
But we’re not going to talk about Luis Suarez and his brain fades, that’s certainly not a subject for this blog. What is a subject for this blog is the reaction to his chomping – more specifically the reaction in those comments sections below news stories on all the big websites. A few of these responses piqued my interest.
“If that had been my Jack Russell, he’d be put down!”
Let’s say you have a Jack Russell, who, during the course of playing a game of ball in the extreme heat had a little nibble on someone’s leg which didn’t break the skin or even leave a mark (it’s been admitted that the widely circulated photo evidence of Suarez’ vampirism was ‘enhanced’ in Photoshop by a tabloid newspaper)
What worries us the most is the desire to punish immediately without any interest in getting to the root cause of the issue.
In this situation, the Jack Russell (and let’s call him Pickles after the famous dog that found the World Cup in a hedge after it was stolen back in 1966) might have had a nibble when his prey drive overtook everything else in his mind when playing. It happens.
Equally, Pickles might have accidentally bitten when trying to get to the tennis ball – a human ankle being collateral damage. Accidental clashes between doggy teeth and human flesh is a common occurrence when both are trying to get to the ball first!
And then there’s another option. As discussed here us humans love to take our little canine pals out for summer fun. And we usually do it on the hottest day of the year. And little Pickles runs around playing ball, frisbee or just for the fun of it. Dogs can dehydrate very quickly, and in some cases, dehydration can bring on a seizure.
Most people think that they’d notice if their dog has a seizure, but it really isn’t as simple as spotting your dog flop onto it’s side and have an episode we’d all recognise as a fit.
Absence seizures (or petit mal as they are also known) is where a person (or animal) can be disoriented from a split second up to twenty seconds. In some cases, a short seizure like that can a accompanied by a violent act. Some seizures can be brought on by something as simple as dehydration, but other causes such as artificial additives (certain e-numbers in food), and in some very sensitive dogs, gluten and carbohydrates. (Cutting out gluten and carbs from a dog’s diet can have a huge effect on the frequency and severity of seizures – as we discuss in our three part section on Food and Feeding.)
This is actually something we’ve investigated in some depth; as sometimes dogs who have been labelled as aggressive or unpredictable are actually suffering from these petit mal seizures or other neurological short circuits which cause moments of aggression which the dog doesn’t actually remember. Indeed, some people insist that the dog “knows they’ve done wrong”, but in actual fact lying down and looking depressed isn’t guilt, but the side-effect of their blood sugar levels dropping dramatically after a neurological episode.
However, there’s a difference between a quick ‘nip’ and a sustained attack. Even so, a normally rational dog does not just ‘turn’… there is always a reason behind it. And if the reason for the attack is one that cannot be solved safely and responsibly, sometimes the right decision is to have to say goodbye. However, there should always be an attempt to understand what has happened, otherwise we’re relegating dogs to just being disposable.
The reaction to Suarez’ actions in the comments sections gives me cause for concern. As some observers have noted, there’s a desire in the aftermath of a bite to “punish, punish, punish”… there’s a complete lack of anyone trying to understand what’s actually happened – or the underlying causes.
The knee-jerk reaction to put little Pickles down negates the need to actually look closely at the situation and try and solve what may have led to the bite happening.
Of course, we don’t have the expertise to look at what was going through the mind of a human footballer in a situation like that – but we do have experience in what goes through the mind of our little furry friends.