BootsnAll Travel Network

I Get Bit By A Dog-Again!

I was walking home last night, when a skinny dog came up to me and bit me on my left leg.

This is the second time I´ve been bitten by a dog since the start of this trip-the first occassion was in Guatemala. That time, I was standing in my kitchen, when a dog ran into the house, saw me, and immediately panicked and bit me on my right leg. If you recall, Simon, the wonder-dog, came to my rescue-somehow sensing a strange dog was in my house, he ran down the hill from his sentry post and chased the dog away.

This time, however, there was no Simon to come to my rescue.

I had been walking down a dirt road alone when the dog came out of nowhere. I did not have time to defend myself-or get away-before he bit me.

After the first bite-he bit me twice-I tried to run away. The road was bordered by two fences of barbed wire, and I tried to squirm between the barbed wire of one of the fences. As I was squirming, I picked up a rock, and as soon as the dog saw me pick up the rock, it ran away . Unfortunately, I was tangled up in the barbed wire.

I don´t know what looks worse-the dog bites or the cuts from the barbed wire. One cut from the barbed wire was bleeding profusely, and so I decided to walk to the clinic. I had nothing to stop the bleeding but a dirty bandana, so I used that.

By the time I got to the hospital, it was bleeding quite alot. One of the dog bites looked gruesome-I will spare you the details-and I was worried about having to get stitches.

One thing I wasn´t worried about was getting vaccines for Tetanus or Rabies. Rabies doesn´t exist here in the Comarca, thank God. I had gotten Tetanus shots when I was preparing for my trip 8 months ago in the States. This was one of those moments when I was glad that I had gotten the Tetanus shot-getting bitten by dogs and tangled up in rusty barbed wire is not the right time to realize you forgot to get your Tetanus shot!

At the clinic, they were very nice to me, giving me some antibiotics-which were free, by the way, as all healthcare in Panama at the Government run health centers is free to all people. However, they had no antibiotic cream of any kind-and gave me pennecillin tablets instead. (Unfortunately, I am allergic to pennecillin. Fortunately, I did not take them until I got home-and read my handy travel health booklet I brought along for such emergencies. They had only told me they were antibiotics-I had to read what was printed on the capsules with my flashlight and then look it up in my booklet.)

While at the clinic, I considered getting stitches there. But-I don´t know-I didn´t have a good feeling about it. They were nice enough, but I have heard stories. I had had positive experiences thee in the past, like when I got my Hepetitis booster shots there(but I had brought my own needles). It seemed like I might not need  stitches and that maybe the wounds weren´t as bad as they looked. So I walked home from the clinic, and hoped for the best.

By the time I got home, I knew I had to clean the wound and apply a topical antibiotic as well. Luckily, I had loaned my antibiotic ointment to someone in my family, and she still had some left, so I used that. I also had bought some hydrogen pyroxide, the last time I was in David, and cleaned the wounds with that.

Two of the   wounds needed stitches-not many, but a few. I took some cat gut out of the tiny surgical kit I had bought in David, sterilized a needle,  and stitched myself up. I had no ice to dull the pain or anything. But it went pretty quickly, and I was surprised how much better I felt when it was done. I dressed the wound and actually admired my handiwork-pretty good for someone just following instructions from a little booklet!

If you had told me that I was going to give myself stitches six months ago, I would have thought you were joking. I am surprised myself that I was able to do it-but it only needed a few, and then it was over with.

Why do dogs bite here? Well, they are starving, most of them. Those that aren´t starving are generally eating because they are more agressive. Due the fact that the dogs aren´t usually fed-they are scavengers-they compete for food with people. Since people don´t have much food(or, alternatively, when they do have food, they do not want to feed animals), dogs are often aggressive with people. And in turn, people are aggressive with dogs. People here throw rocks and sticks at dogs. I have seen starving dogs be kicked by children.

So when aggressive dogs , or fearful dogs, see a person who isn´t chasing them away-or throwing objects at them-they react. Sometimes when I see a fearful or aggressive dog coming towards me, I quickly act like I´m going to pick up something in the street. Just this action alone scares the dog away.

There is a dog who lives near me, and her name is Violet. Violet is going to have puppies very soon, so I make a point of feeding her when I can. But my family doesn´t like it when I feed her. They say she is ¨brava¨-another word for aggressive, biting behavior. It is true that Violet has bitten the children in my family more than once-but I have also seen them mistreat her terribly. But slowly, I think they are realizing Violet is actually a very sweet dog. I have explained to them that if they are nice to Violet, Violet will be nice to them-and also to stay away from Violet when she is eating, as she will bite them to guard her food. They don´t always chase her away now, or throw things at her, or yell at her when she comes around. Sometimes when I go out to the patio with my half finished plate of rice and beans and start calling for Violet, they actually help me find her so she can be fed. Not a big accomplishment-but still, a change for the better.

At this point, I think getting the dreaded Rabies vaccine is probably for the best. Who knows if I will get bitten again-and next time, perhaps the circumstances will be worse.

And..I think I´m going to have alot of battle scars by the time I´m done with this trip!



19 responses to “I Get Bit By A Dog-Again!”

  1. Girl Scout in Alabama says:

    I loved this one! Man…you should be awared the Scout First Aid Award! Keep writing, we love hearing about your tales.

  2. It takes a lot of courage to stitch yourself up – fortunately I’ve never had to do it so I haven’t had to test myself. Getting rabies shots for the rest of the world is a wise idea (especially since you appear to attract dogs!) – you won’t find many other places as rabies-free as Panama.

    Well done!

  3. Hey Leyla-

    I don´t think I attract dogs!–But, I do think dogs pick up on the fact that I´m not going to kick them or throw things at them. It´s more biting out of fear than anything else.
    You know, my friend Moira(who I traveled with extensively in Guatemala) was badly bitten by a dog in Guatemala-and this was a dog that lived on her street next door to her homestay.
    As a matter of fact, so many people get bit by dogs in Guatemala, that Rabies shots are free to anyone who gets bitten by a dog!
    Dog biting is a big problem in India-which is on the itnerary-so yes, I will be making sure I am protected with a Rabies shot…..

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