First of all, I'm going to go on record and say that I've never actually seen a child significantly bitten by a dog. I think the warning signs are usually so readily apparent that paying attention can prevent them most of the time.
But on Saturday, I almost did.
On Saturday, the wife and I went to one of our favorite restaurants for lunch. This place has a very large outside area and people usually are out there with their dogs, children, families, etc. It's a fun place to spend a beautiful weekend day.
There were several dogs there on Saturday (per usual) including one that we had seen there many times -- a large, German Shepherd. The dog is very social and regularly goes from table to table meeting people and playing with other dogs that are there. In spite of the dog's friendly demeanor, I do want to note that this is a very large, athletic German Shepherd -- and if he wanted to do some damage, I'm pretty sure he'd be more than capable.
Shortly after we sat down, there was an incident in which a young girl (I'm going to say around 20 months old, maybe 2 years) who's parents (I assume) were sitting talking to the dog's owner. They appeared to all be friends. The young girl went up to the dog and grabbed the dog's tail with both hands and pulled -- and I mean PULLED. The dog whirled around and pushed the child with it's nose -- hard enough that the girl's grip was loosed and the dog got away.
The parents told the child that maybe she should leave the dog alone. The toddler agreed.
About 10 minutes later, things were relaxed. The dog had settled under the table with a toy of some sort, and the girl had climbed off of her mother's lap and then began to crawl up to the dog under the table. So this child, already having had a close call with the dog (and the dog clearly being no fan) comes up to the dog, with a toy.
I missed this part, but the wife was watching and apparently the dog's demeanor changed dramatically quickly. She stood up and then saw the snarl -- and the girl continued on to the dog. She then said "hey" across the courtyard - enough to break the gaze, for the parents and dog owner to notice and disaster was avoided.
All I could think about as this played out was "this is how these stories I read about happen." A solid dog, but a child, completely unable to read the dog's signals continues to want to play with the dog in spite of the dog's warnings. It was a disaster waiting to happen.
Fortunately it didn't. It usually doesn't. But you can sure see how it does happen sometimes.