Beware the F...

Beware the Family Pet

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by Lianne Castelino

It's a story that is just so hard to get out of the mind.  When I first read about it earlier this week, I was frozen.  I still am.

A 3-week old baby girl mauled by one and possibly two dogs, in the family home.  The newborn was said to be fastened in a car seat in the kitchen while her 17-year-old mother went out onto the balcony, less than 3 metres away, for a cigarette.

The mother is now being charged with manslaughter. 

It just leaves me with chills.  For many reasons.  One, that poor little girl did not have a chance – what a way to die.  Two, animals and young children together have always left me uneasy.

I admit to having a ludicrous fear of cats since birth.  They slither and are silent and for the most part fairly anti-social.  Their unpredictably is likely the source of this irrational fear.

While I like dogs, they are animals and you JUST NEVER KNOW, especially when it comes to children.

That's why whenever I go to a park with my children and dog owners let their animals run free near the park, I gasp quietly because you JUST NEVER KNOW.  I usually tell my children to keep a safe distance away.  An huge, extra helping of caution never hurts – for both parent/caregiver, child and animal owner.

When I see young children leap in excitement at the sight of a dog walking down the sidewalk, I cringe.  Who knows how animals will react in any situation?  Why take that chance?  Assess the situation, ensure everyone's safety, then proceed with caution.

I admire people who have newborns and dogs in their home.  There are definitely brave souls.  Hopefully they are vigilant too, because you JUST NEVER KNOW.

And while there are breeds of dogs that are baby and child-friendly, there are NO guarantees.  This baby girl was mauled to death by a husky – a breed deemed to be safe with children.

Parents and children need to be aware.  It's not a question of instilling fear, but more being proactively cautious.  When you see a dog in the park or on the street – observe, think, then act.

This story of a family destroyed in Quebec is absolutely chilling.  A 21-day-old life snuffed out in less than 3 minutes.  A parent charged.  One and possibly two dogs, neither of them belonging to the family, likely to be euthanized.

It is horrifying all around.

And the only question we can all ask as we shriek at the thought of these parents and this child is WHY?

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