One day in August, I opened my front door and was nearly bowled over by my dog, which had spotted a fawn at the edge of the yard.
Within no more than five seconds, the 80-pound dog had brought the fawn down. As I ran toward them, the little fellow bleated in terror.
Maggie, perhaps the gentlest dog I've ever seen, had her teeth sunk into a fold of skin above the fawn's ribs. I could not pry the dog's jaws apart. She ignored every command I yelled at her. Only when I began hitting her did she release the deer, which ran away (I've seen it since, apparently recovered from the attack).
We've had Maggie for several years and been astounded at her intelligence and, again, her gentleness. She allows my tiny granddaughter to crawl all over her. Just the other night, the tot grabbed Maggie's side in what, to judge by the dog's face, was a very painful grip. Many dogs would have bitten my precious granddaughter, if only lightly. But Maggie did not. After a few seconds of torture, she found a way to use her muzzle to move her tormenter painlessly away.
If ever there was a dog who could be trusted with small children, Maggie is it.
But there is no such thing.
Just the other day, a child in Moundsville was injured severely by a dog that apparently was a household pet. Every year we carry reports of children bitten by dogs that previously had exhibited no worrisome behavior.
Folks, if you have small children and dogs, too, you need to remind yourself that even the kindest, smartest canine sometimes is guided solely by instinct. On occasion, the basic drives for food, self-protection and dominance within a pack take over - and it doesn't matter at all to the dog if following instinct means harming another creature.
Both of my daughters remember a pet collie that I feel certain would have died defending them from harm. And Maggie puts up with far more from my granddaughter than she would from any other animal. So believe me, I understand what a wonderful relationship there can be between a child and a dog.
But I also know what would have happened to that fawn if I hadn't intervened.
If your household includes children and a dog or dogs, please remember this: You can never, ever, take it for granted there is not some situation in which "man's best friend" may turn suddenly into a child's worst nightmare.
Myer can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.