A little over 300 miles southeast of La Crosse, a college student is reaching out to people young and old, trying to help them avoid the pain and psychological trauma she endured as a dog bite victim.
The Valparaiso University student is today 20 years old, but was just seven years old when she was attacked by a neighbor's dog. The physical wound required 100 stitches to close, but as many dog-bite victims know all too well, the psychological wounds can be much more difficult to heal.
She remembers she saw the neighbor's Siberian husky standing in a driveway. She had petted the dog before, so she thought it would be OK to do so again. She walked up to it and the animal attacked her face and throat.
A year after the attack, she remembers she "was still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression."
She and her mother decided to hit back at the depression and fear that plagued the little girl. They began doing presentations on dog-bite prevention. They also created a website dedicated to teaching people how to help prevent attacks (preventthebite.org).
"As I got over my fears, we realized I could help other people," the student told a media source recently.
The mother and daughter presentations focused on a message that can be condensed into an acronym: WAIT.
WAIT stands for Wait, Ask, Invite, Touch. Wait to see if the dog appears friendly and is accompanying its owner. Ask the owner if it's OK to pet the dog. Invite the dog to sniff and smell you; keep your hands curled at your sides as you do this. Touch the dog; pet its back in the direction the dog's fur grows.
If a dog appears unfriendly, experts say that you should stand still and be quiet. Don't run and don't yell.
Source: nwitimes.com, "VU student works to prevent dog bites as insurance claims rise," June 24, 2012