Tragedy has struck one Oklahoma family twice.
On Sunday, a 5 year old boy was attacked by the dog owned by a family friend.
The boy, and his two year old sister, were staying with some friends in Jessieville, AR as their family worked to repair their home in Moore, OK -- which was destroyed in the May 20th tornado that struck that area.
Then, the boy suffered another, this time fatal, tragedy.
Piecing the story together from the media reports (of which there have been more than 300) is quite a challenge as most are lacking a lot of critical information. However, it appears as if the boy was putting on some shoes and began throwing a tantrum, and even "acted out" at 50 year old Lynn Geiling who was watching the boy at the time.
Authorities say they suspect that the dog, described as a 150 lbs Bull Mastiff, then came in from another room and attacked the boy in an effort to protect Geiling. The boy was taken to the hospital but died of head and neck injuries at the hospital.
The dog then was at large for several hours before a neighbor and friend of the Geilings shot and killed the dog.
The story has been pretty strange and the information in the media has been spotty -- but this does seem to be how the story has come together (so far) and does make some sense.
It's important to note that there are a lot of factors in play here -- including a child misbehaving and "acting out" toward an adult, and a dog that was not well-socialized with the child (he had only been there a couple of weeks). While I would never say that a dog attacking a child is a normal, acceptable behavior, I think many dogs would show guarding tendencies if they felt their owners were in danger. Unfortunately, this was a gross, over-reaction to a situation by the dog.
I also want to make a note on how the media portrays attacks.
Take this report by NBC News as an example.
While the story is about a 5 year old being attacked by a Bull Mastiff, the photo caption of a Bull Mastiff notes: "The Bullmastiff isn't bred to attack, unlike the pit bull, but is considered an assertive guarding breed that shouldn't be left alone with children."
First of all, pit bulls have no involvement in this story.
Second, they're not bred to attack.
And third, what exactly would you assume the function of an "assertive guarding breed" is?
And this is not to imply that Bull Mastiffs are bad dogs. They're not. I've met a great many of them and they've nearly all been great dogs. But I just think it's interesting that some in the media have gone out of their way to excuse the dog's behavior while at the same time implicating a breed of dog that wasn't involved.
The story then includes a quote from the American Bullmastiff Association which notes that the dogs don't need special training to "react appropriately if his family is threatened.".
Ok. So let me say this. While protecting your family is an appropriate, and common reaction for a large number of dogs to have, attacking a child is not in any way "appropriate". However, this is one reason why I think teaching dogs to be "guard dogs" (there is no evidence that that is the case here) is setting your dog up for failure because they just are not cognitively able to truly identify threats vs strangers.
Anyway, dog behavior is generally pretty predictable. In this case, if you were familiar with the dog, you probably would have known it was protective in these types of situations. I will note that the behavior of a 5 year old is hardly predictable.
This really is a tragic situation, that really does seem like a tragic accident. My heart goes out to both families in this case, especially as they were already going through a difficult time.
I'll update this story with any new news that comes out...