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One of the interesting aspects of my life is that I have learned several spiritual lessons via animals. Here’s one of them, based upon the two times I’ve been attacked by dogs.

Attack #1

Aerial View of Port Orford Oregon

Aerial View of Port Orford, Oregon. Battle Rock is at lower left. My aunt Ruth’s house was on a hill off-picture to the lower right.

Back when I was 7 years old, my parents and I took a road trip in a 1960 Chevy Corvair sedan from my hometown of El Paso, Texas to Northern California and Oregon. First, we visited my half-sister and her family in Oakland, California and then, after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, drove up historic US Highway 101 through the redwoods to visit my aunt, Ruth Wahl née Willis, in Port Orford, Oregon, a small town just north of the mouth of the Rogue River.

Battle Rock City Park in Port Orford

Port Orford, the town for which the Port Orford Cedar tree species is named, was officially founded in 1856 and for decades served as a receiving port for mercantile and fishing and as a shipping port for the timber industry. The local historical landmark, Battle Rock, is the site of a battle between the first Caucasian settlers and the local Native American tribes in 1851.

Aunt Ruth’s house was on a hillside with a huge picture window through which you could see this gorgeous scenic vista of Battle Rock and the ocean. We first arrived in Port Orford at the bank she worked at just before close of business and then convoyed with her to the house.

After exiting her car, she headed around to the back of the house, intending to come to the front door from inside, unlock it, and allow us to enter. In my enthusiasm to be there, I chased after her to the rear door, and opened it. Without any warning, her collie watchdog leapt at me out of the darkness and bit me in the face!

I ran around front with blood streaming down my face, screaming in terror and tears. After my parents and aunt Ruth quickly sorted out what happened, they hauled me off to nearby Gold Beach, Oregon to see a doctor. The dog’s upper teeth had come within an inch of my right eye and the lower ones hit right at the corner of my mouth. I was treated and released, and like most children, healed quickly — at least my body did.

From that moment onward for the next 11 years, I was absolutely terrified of all dogs from the largest Great Dane to the tiniest, yappiest Chihuahua. And since we had a cat at home, I had no alternative experience with dogs to mitigate my fear through familiarity with my own pet.

Steve, the Attack-Dog Handler

After I graduated from high school in San Leandro, California (we moved there from El Paso during 7th grade), one of my first jobs was as a uniformed rent-a-cop for a security company in Oakland. And guess what every guard they hired had to be able to do proficiently? Handle an attack-trained German Shepherd police dog!

Talk about being tossed into the deep end of the pool for my first swimming lesson! Not only was I dealing with dogs in general, but specifically ones who were trained to bite people on command! But as I learned what the folks at the company who supplied the dogs taught me, we discovered to our mutual surprise that I had a knack for it as I quickly overcame my terror. In fact, I got to be so good at it that the dog company hired me away from the security company.

How to be Victorious Over a Dog Attack

During this crash-course in attack-dog handling, I learned an extremely valuable bit of information: how to deal with a dog attack and win. The whole process is really rather simple. Here’s how:

1. Don’t run!

Dogs are pack animals whose ancestors and modern-day wild relatives prey upon various other species by chasing them down. Running stimulates this instinct, making the dog bolder and more determined in its attack. It sees you running and says to itself in doggie-language, “Aha! I knew it was a meal!” Another aspect is that, unless your pursuer is a 3-toed sloth, just about anything with 4 legs that is large enough to damage you can also outrun you. Running also keeps you from coping with the attack because you cannot defend yourself while running.

2. Accept that you are going to be bitten.

Unless you have a gun, Mace, or pepper-spray already in your hand when a dog attacks, there is nothing you can do to prevent it, so just accept that fact and flow with it.

3. Remain standing & balanced, facing the dog.

Dogs instinctively go for the throat, but that target is typically out of its reach on an adult, so it will go for whatever else is handy. The problem is that if it attacks your legs — the only target option you give it if you’re running, by the way — you can easily lose your balance and fall, which then puts your throat within range of its teeth.

Attack dog hitting a training sleeve. Note the braced and balanced stance of the “victim.”

That would be bad, so your first goal is to remain on your feet.

Face the dog and stand with your feet braced to absorb the attack’s impact. Especially if it’s a large dog or if you’re not very large, you’ll want to be able to step one foot backward and rotate your body as the dog hits to redirect its combat energy around you instead of you trying to absorb it full-on by opposing the attack directly.

4. Feed the dog your arm.

Since you’ve already accepted the idea of being bitten and embraced the need to stay on your feet, feeding the dog your arm gives it the least valuable target that it can least damage (as opposed to your hand, for example) and with the least possibility of you losing your footing. If you are right-handed, feed it your left arm and step backward with your right foot, rotating to your right. If you are left-handed, do the reverse. From there you can exercise a certain amount of control over the dog because it’s completely focussed on biting your arm rather than looking for a better target.

5. Counter-attack — Preferably With a Weapon!

The “Knock”

  • If you are unarmed, you might be tempted to kick a male dog in the genitals just like you can a male human attacker. The problem with this is that you are taking a foot off the ground and you can easily to lose your balance (and who has time to determine the dog’s gender in the heat of the moment? :-) )

    A much better option when unarmed is to make a fist with your free hand and “knock” (just like you would knock on a door with your knuckles) on the top of the dog’s snout as hard as you can. All of a dog’s facial nerve endings end in its snout and a blow there will stun it — the dog cannot help but release its grip and turn its head to one side. If you have something hard in your hand, such as a stick (police batons or jo sticks rock for this application), a hammer, wrench or other tool, a full water bottle, or even your cell phone, using that is even better.

  • If you are carrying Mace or pepper-spray in your pocket or on your belt, now’s the time to grab that and spray it into the dog’s nose and eyes.
  • If you have your car keys in your hand, attack the dog’s eyes with your keys, just like you can do with a human attacker.
  • If you have a sheath knife or a folding knife that can be drawn and opened with one hand, acquire your blade and repeatedly stab the dog’s throat until it gives up or dies, whichever comes first.
  • In the unlikely event that you have an axe or sword at hand, commence to chopping on the dog with it.
  • If you have a stun-gun, shock the dog in the neck or anywhere else you can reach.
  • If you have a pistol, draw it and shoot the dog in the head. If there are bystanders present, try to position yourself and the dog and/or aim so you will not fire into them if you miss or the bullet over-penetrates.

Immediately Call 911 &
Seek Professional Medical Attention

Besides the obvious danger of you possibly bleeding to death if your ulnar and/or radial arteries are punctured, there are other factors to consider, such as nerve and tendon damage which could cripple your arm.

If the dog and its owner are known to you, the authorities can determine if the dog has had its rabies vaccinations in determining your course of treatment. If the dog is unknown to you and cannot be retrieved for rabies testing, you will have to undergo rabies treatments, which though painful, is MUCH preferable to rabies itself, an incurably lethal disease once it takes hold in your body.

You will also most likely need a tetanus shot to prevent yet another disease, that though non-fatal, makes you so miserable you wish it was. And of course, you will need some antibiotics to prevent infection.

Attack #2

The same kind of Buck® folding hunting knife I carried that night and still own to this day. It was a gift from my father when I was in high school.

Fast forward 7 years to the fall of 1979. I was back living in El Paso after my honorable discharge from the US Army 4 years prior. I was out taking a walk along Rio Grande Avenue near Lee Street in central El Paso one evening, in the area because my girlfriend-soon-to-be-wife lived nearby. I was wearing a navy-blue quilted-nylon polyfill jacket with my hands in its pockets. Because this wasn’t — and still isn’t — a particularly safe neighborhood, I also had a razor-sharp Buck® folding hunting knife in my right hand in the jacket pocket.

As I was walking along the sidewalk, praying and minding my own business, a good-sized German Shepherd dog took umbrage at my presence on his turf and launched himself at me out of the darkness from his master’s front porch. This dog was not barking to warn me off, but was growling while in a flat-out run with his belly to the ground — he was determined to have a piece of me!

Without conscious thought, I immediately drew my knife, opened it, crouched in a balanced stance, and yelled, “HAH!!!” at the dog. Even though I knew he was going to bite me, I was determined that he was going to die for his efforts.

To my complete astonishment, the dog did a complete U-turn and ran back to the porch! This whole incident took place within 20 feet and a couple of seconds!

As you can see, an entirely different outcome from the first attack. In the first, I was blindsided and unable to defend myself. In the second case, I not only defended myself successfully, I didn’t even get bitten (Thank You, Jesus!).

The Spiritual Application

Some of you are wondering by now, asking yourselves, “Well, what’s the spiritual significance of all this?” A couple of Scripture verses come to mind here:

‘Therefore my people have gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge…’ — Isaiah 5:13a

‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…’ — Hosea 4:6a

In both verses, the Hebrew word for “knowledge” is da’ath:

da’ath
knowledge, perception, skill, discernment, understanding, wisdom

So God is saying that His people are destroyed or led into captivity because they lack knowledge, perception, skill, discernment, understanding, and wisdom. “Knowledge of what?” you may ask. Well, the context of the verse in Isaiah talks about God’s people not regarding, paying attention to, or perceiving His works and purposes in the earth. The context of the verse in Hosea is a mass turning away from God to idols. In both cases, the people of God were living their lives with total disregard for their Creator.

And modern-day believers tend to fall into the same kinds of traps, living secular — or even worse, religious — existences in ignorance of God’s desire to be vitally involved with their daily lives. Now many would nod their heads in agreement, self-righteously affirming that sin is indeed a problem, but that is only one facet of this issue. The even greater tragedy is that, whether through inaccurate or ineffective revelation of God or a total lack of knowledge about the things of God, they are totally at the nonexistent mercy of Satan, a supernatural psychopath bent on their complete destruction.

So rather than responding to an attack with the expertise and confidence that come from good training (education + practice + time) in a soldier, such believers either blame the attack on God (“He wants to make me humble” or “He wants me to suffer so I can bring glory to Him”, or “He wants to teach me patience,” or other pious-sounding religious drivel) or they forget that we are not warring with flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12), blame other humans and sink into bitterness. Either way, rather than striking back back at their true enemy with skill and elán, they throw down their weapons and refuse to fight, allowing the enemy to roll over them and/or their loved ones like a tsunami.

When that second dog attacked me, I responded without thinking in accordance with the training I had received. Because I reacted correctly and with confidence in both my weapon and my knowledge of how to wield it in such a circumstance, the attacker was driven off — if it hadn’t, the dog would have died there on the spot. Any way you cut it (pardon the pun), I won the fight!

This is article is not lofty theory, but practical, where-the-rubber-meets-the-road applied theology that I have experienced in my own life and walk with God. When I heard my cancer diagnosis, it never occurred to me to be scared. It was like I was surrounded by this cocoon of grace and all the years of receiving training in — as well as teaching — the Word of God concerning divine healing immediately kick in. By God’s grace, I was already fully equipped and trained to face that attack when it came and the end result is that I am now cancer-free.

Conclusion

It was said of the Roman Army:

‘Their drills were like bloodless battles and their battles like bloody drills’ — Flavius Josephus, 1st century AD historian

Today’s military professionals follow the same maxim. The harder and better you train in peacetime, the more likely your personal survival as well as victory over your country’s enemies.

This is a fundamental truism for every aspect of life.

We get to the same place spiritually by knowing God on a continuously, progressively greater level. As we know Him more closely and intimately, our faith in His Word grows and our skill in handling our weapons and armor increases. And when that scurvy dog Satan tries to attack us, we respond with “HAH!” and cut him to ribbons with the Sword of the Spirit.

The Church is supposed to be populated with victors, not victims! We are compassionate to our brothers and sisters to have fallen to the enemy’s attacks while we remain resolute and steadfast against the enemy himself (By the way, never get those two mixed up!).

‘But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.’ — 1 Corinthians 15:57-58

Thanks for reading!