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Street Dogs

Have you ever heard the sound a dog makes when its attacking?

Barking. Growling. Snarling.

Has the sound of it made your hair stand on end and your blood curdle?

What if the sound was accompanied by the scream of a child?

What if it was your child?

Sunday night, we were at a friends’ house, having hot Cocoa Samoa and enjoying a refreshing cool breeze. The kids had been playing nicely for hours, giving the adults time to talk and laugh. Just as we were getting ready to go, we heard that combination of sounds. We all dropped what we were doing and ran out the front door to find one of the many stray dogs standing over Holden, who had fallen to the ground, curled up in a ball, screaming and crying.

As soon as we started running toward Holden, the dog ran away. Nate picked up Holden and helped him inside. He was dirty and had gotten a few scratches from where he had fallen. We found four distinct tooth-marks on the back of his head. Thankfully, they were shallow and not bleeding heavily, I think his skull stopped the teeth from going in very far.  I shutter to think what would have happened if Holden had not hidden his face by curling up into a ball, those teeth could have torn right into the soft skin of his sweet face.

Once home, we cleaned his wounds and covered them in Neosporin.

BotD Bite
How they looked the next morning.

Holden needed a bit more care for his emotional wounds. He kept saying that he never wanted to see another dog. We tried to calm him and reassure him that he was safe now. We explained that dogs are animals and follow natural instincts, they can’t think with reason. Sometimes, they might be able to smell food or they might have babies nearby that they are feeling protective of. We explained that even pet dogs can become aggressive. We reminded him that he needed to be cautious of all dogs and how he could try to get them to go away.

Beware of the Dogs

I have heard stories from people who have been bitten, there are many places on the island that you can’t run or bike without fear of being chased by a dog who’s bite is worse than its bark. Nate has gotten a few nips at his legs while on his scooter, but before Sunday, I hadn’t personally had any experience with the dogs being truly aggressive.  Most of the dogs just sound scary, but we still choose to keep our distance.

Through our experience and advice from others, we have learned a few tricks to help with the dog problem:

  1. When you see a dog coming toward you, lean down and act like you are picking up a rock, the dog will get scared, thinking the rock will soon be thrown at it.
  2. Call “halu”, we were told its an almost magical word, when said, any dog will run away. To be honest, I have not noticed any difference between yelling this or anything else at the dogs.
  3. Carry a stick to swat at dogs that comes too close.
  4. When driving to an unfamiliar location, wait in the car for a few minutes after arriving, giving any local dogs a chance to come running, so you know what you are up against.
  5. When you go to a new house that has dogs, don’t assume they are nice, family dogs, stay in the car and honk if you feel at all threatened.

Just an Annoyance

Most of the dogs I’ve encountered have just been a nuisance.

Nate and I are not naturally dog people, but our kids have begged for years to have one as a pet. There are dogs that run around our complex that our kids have claimed as their own, inspite of our cynical attitude toward the mangy beasts. They are friendly, but have horrible infections on their ears that look disgusting, raw, and painful. Recently, some of the local veterinary clinics worked on rounding up the strays and putting medicine on their ears, but the dogs ended up rubbing it off before it could help.

BotD ears.JPG

The dogs look bony and underfed. Even though they are a nuisance, we always set our scraps outside for them. We can’t bear the idea of them suffering, just starving to death.

BotD dogs.JPG

Since Sunday though, I have been a little more vigilant, a little more cautious. Just like we explained to Holden, sometimes even good dogs go bad. They are still animals, and if threatened for whatever reason, they will act instinctually. They have teeth and claws for a reason and I do not ever want one of my kids to be on the wrong side of their primal instincts again.

Three days later, Holden’s cuts and scrapes are healing beautifully. He has been going outside to play around the dogs and even been setting water out for them to drink. He is a sweet and brave boy and I thank God that he seems to be unscarred physically and emotionally.

Just as we told Holden, you do not need to be scared of the dogs here, but you should be cautious and ready to take action to protect yourself.

Samoan Language Study

Dog- taifau

11 thoughts on “Street Dogs”

  1. Oh my gosh. This made me cry! How scary. You guys are amazing parents. So, so happy he is really well physically and emotionally. Are they worried about rabies there?

    1. Thank you! Being a parent can be stressful and hard, good thing it’s so rewarding also. American Samoa is on the CDC’s list of rabies-free countries. I guess that’s one good part of living on a very isolated island ?

  2. So scary! So glad your little guy is okay. What a kindhearted and brave little guy to still want to continue to care for the dogs by setting out water for them!

  3. Oh how scary! Poor boy! My oldest was bit by a dog when he was young and got stitches on his upper lip. The saddest part was that it happened while he was being babysat by a friend and my husband and I were celebrating a day away on a little island off of CA and couldn’t even be with him for his stitches! Thankfully he has no fear of dogs now (as a 14 year old) even though he had a good solid healthy concern for quite some time after the incident toward dogs he didn’t know.

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