Late Monday afternoon, my four year old son Luan, asked if he could visit his Grandparents who live next door. He had only been gone about 15 minutes when I heard a sudden commotion and then Luan crying. I could tell by his cry that something serious had happened. As I came out of our front door, I could see Luan being carried by his Grandmother (no easy task for her as she walks with a stick), she was calling for me in a most distressed way. When I reached her she was so agitated, I couldn’t understand her rapid Portuguese, what she was trying to tell me? Then I heard her say their dogs name and I knew Luan had been bitten but I couldn’t see where. Poor little Luan was whimpering, covered in his own pooh and obviously going into shock. As I took him from her, I was asking her where he had been bitten but she was becoming more and more hysterical and just kept saying “Oh my God” over and over and how her husband was going to kill the dog.
I got Luan into the bathroom as fast as I could and removed his pants to clean off the pooh, I couldn’t see any bite marks on his legs or arms and had to ask his Grandmother to stop babbling and tell me where he had been bitten, she said “On his side I can see his bones, Oh my god Claire the dog has eaten a piece of him”, Luan was shaking from head to toe, he really didn’t need to hear that! I carefully lifted up his T shirt to reveal a whole on his side under his arm, about 2 inches in diameter, the surrounding area was covered in lacerations and grazing, I had not expected to see anything as bad as that and had to work hard not to cry out, his Grandmother began screaming, at this Luan, not surprisingly, began to scream. I was telling him everything was going to be fine, his Grandmother was screaming “Oh my God the dogs eaten him. Oh my God, Claire look at him”, I had to tell her to “PLEASE SHUT UP” as she wasn’t helping Luan, I told her Luan needed her to be calm, could she please calm down etc, I wanted to say will you *?*” off! but didn’t. My 15 year old daughter had just arrived home, thankfully she is of a calmer disposition than my mother in law and therefore more able to help. I needed to find Neu, we only have one working mobile at the moment and it wasn’t with him. I asked my daughter to phone Jorge (he is a friend but also the man who usually takes people to the hospital). I asked her to explain to Jorge that Luan had been bitten by his Grandfathers dog, he has a deep wound but it wasn’t bleeding a lot IE not immediately life threatening. Could he please go down to the beach to find Neu and tell him, then come up to the school to meet us and take us to the hospital (you can’t get a car closer to our house than the school as we are surrounded by sand). As my daughter was phoning Jorge my mother in law took her self off, much to my relief.
I knew I should wash out the wound but our water here isn’t that clean, we have to purify it before drinking it and the only water I had was in the fridge, pouring ice cold water over him would probably be so painful I decided against it. I had some antiseptic spray that is also analgesic, I thought this was probably a better bet, I used as much as he would allow me to spray onto the wound, I figured it had to be of some use. I know I should have washed it out but I was just trying to do the best thing and not sure what that was. My doctor friend later said “In future just think which is the dirtier, the dog’s mouth or the water”. Our waters not that dirty.
I realised that the wound was not a hole as I had first thought, but a deep tear, when Luan lifted his arm it opened but as he put his arm down the edges came together more. I placed a gauze over, gave Luan some Arnica and other homeopathic remedies, then gathered some things together for the hospital. my daughter had spoken to Jorge and was now trying to comfort Luan.
Neu arrived, looking horror struck. Jorge, despite my daughter being very clear, had only told Neu he had to meet me so we could take Luan to town as he’d been bitten by the dog, he didn’t know which dog had bitten Luan (we have three), nor if he had been badly bitten. When I told Neu it was his fathers dog, he went pale. When we got to the school, Jorge asked which dog had done the dead, Neu just said it was his dad’s dog but no more. Luan fell asleep in the mini bus and had to be woken when we arrived at the hospital, at least it made the journey a quick one for him.
I don’t think Jorge realised how serious it was until we reached the hospital and he saw that the gauze bandage was now soaked in blood. I guess my daughter and I are just too calm under fire, we must have given the impression it was just a minor thing, generally women (and a lot of the men too) here get completely hysterical AKA my mother in law, or drop away in a dead faint.
The doctor said Luan would have to be stitched I said that I had some steri strips with me that my doctor friend in London had given me. He looked at them a little dubiously and I had to further explain what they are for, I asked if he would use them rather than put in stitches but he said he would feel happier stitching Luan and that he would only use two little stitches. Neu later said he didn’t think the doctor had ever seen steri strips before. (my friend later said she would have used stitches too). The doctor had to clean out the wound with an antiseptic solution, this was in a syringe with a fine needle that had to be inserted into various points around the inside of the wound, poor little Luan was so distressed, It must have been so painful, I was hoping there was anaesthetic in the solution but now I’m not so sure. I was doing my best to calm him but feeling so helpless. When the doctor was ready to put the stitches in, we were told we had to hold Luan securely, it was awful, the look in his eyes I will never forget.
When that was all thankfully over and Luan had been bandaged, the doctor said I would have to get some antibiotics, he wrote out a prescription and then went through it with me to be sure I understood. I was able to tell him I had the antibiotic in the house (my friend had said it was a good one so I had some just in case, as we are a long way from the town), I had the antiseptic spray (bought on vets recommendation, for post op on a cat.), I had the gauze pads in the first aid box, I had children’s pain killer and yes I knew the solution I had to buy to wash his wounds with. Friends here laughed when I told them this bit, they said the doctor probably thought I was a doctor.
We have to take Luan to the health post next week to have his stitches removed and the dog has to be observed for the next 10 days to be sure he doesn’t show signs of rabies, thankfully I know the dog has been vaccinated and the staff at the hospital were at pains to reassure me that we are not in a risk area. If the dog did show any symptoms Luan would need anti rabies shots, if the dog was killed before the 10 day period we would have to arrange for his brains to be examined. I was very worried that Neu’s dad would have already killed the dog but Neu said that his dad would know not to do that.
When we got back here I discovered more bite marks on the back of Luan’s head, he was so unlucky to have been attacked but by god it could have been so much worse. Amazingly Luan’s T shirt seems to have saved him a bit. He was wearing an old Lycra top of my older son’s, sort of surf gear. This was the first time Luan had worn it, the Lycra is strong, stretchy and tight fitting. He was bitten through it, there is only one tiny hole and that corresponds with the wound. I think the fabric blunted the effect of the dogs teeth and the rest of Luan’s wounds are only superficial because of it. I bought that top in Woolworths for our first trip out here, to protect my son from the sun while swimming, never thought about dog bites. New use for Lycra perhaps.
Luan has to have his bandage changed everyday, very distressing for him as its painful and me as I hate giving him more pain, but as long as we can keep him free from infection he should heal quickly. My doctor friend, rang when she heard and gave me so much useful advice and my homeopathic friend has sent advice too, I’m grateful to them and lucky to know such people.
As for the dog?
This isn’t the first time it has attacked a child, about 2 years ago, the dog suddenly launched an unprovoked attack on Luan’s cousin who was about 11 years old, he had a chunk taken out of the back of his knee and ended up having to be treated in Fortaleza, in that respect Luan got off lightly. I had said at the time that as the attack was unprovoked, the dog should be put down, I’ve always considered him a bit unstable. My parents in law said they would keep the dog on a chain, they felt they needed it to prevent them being robbed (bit daft as they have nothing worth stealing). Now I don’t want to be hypocritical, we also have a dog who has to be kept on a chain as our fence is not secure and he is aggressive with strangers (or anyone who shows fear for that matter) but I bought a muzzle back from England for him, so we can safely take him out for walks and he has a run that allows him to go up and down the length of our garden. I realised that my parents in law’s dog was never going to be allowed out again, so I got him a muzzle too, they used it a handful of times and then said he didn’t like to have it put on, so that was it, he never went out again, enough to drive any dog mad.
I have told Luan that he was not to go anywhere near the dog, I couldn’t (though believe me I’ve tried) stop Luan from going over to their house. I didn’t know until now that the dog had taken a dislike to Luan, his Grandparents knew this, yet didn’t think to move the dog away when Luan was over there.
I was later told that Luan was outside with his Grandmother, he was playing with the new little puppy they have (?) it toddled over to the other dog, Luan went over and bent to pick it up, at that moment the dog, who’s a mixed breed and looks like a dark coated dingo, attacked him. Luan’s Grandmother shouted for the dog to let Luan go but he ignored her, he had taken a bite at Luan’s side and now had him by the back of the neck and was shaking him like a doll. Luan’s Grandfather ran out and beat the dog off.
I feel sorry for the dog as it hasn’t had much of a life, leading to it being the way it is but, had it got Luan a little higher up, in his arm pit or on the side of his neck, if Luan’s Grandfather hadn’t been there to get the dog off, well it doesn’t bear thinking off. It would be irresponsible not to have it destroyed.
In himself Luan appears fine, milking the situation for all its worth. On the way back from the hospital I bought him an ice cream, quite a treat as we don’t often get it. He woke the following morning and said “Please I have ice cream?” in a tiny voice, thereby trying to appeal in two ways at the same time, his broken English and his pitiful state, didn’t work as I didn’t have any but 10 marks for effort. He’s got his older brother to hand over his Playstation portable (never been allowed to touch it before) and has the rest of us running about all over. He must have remembered what his Grandmother said about the dog, he whispered to Neu that he doesn’t want the dog to be killed, bless him.
Luan has made a fantastic recovery, the first week was a bit of a nightmare as the bandage kept getting stuck in the stitches and to his grazed skin, changing it took forever as I had to soak them off every time. He screamed the place down when we went to have his stitches removed, the poor nurse was doing her best to get them out without causing him any further distress but in the end it needed three people to hold him down. The stitches came out in a jiffy and he even said thankyou to the nurse afterwards, which made everyone smile.
He has a scar of which he is quite proud, will show it off to anyone who asks and amazingly he doesn’t have any fear of dogs, just as well as we have three. Oh and the dog was killed, much as I felt sorry for it, I am also relieved it’s not going to bite anyone else.