Column: Bit by a dog, and wondering about coexisting

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Commentary by Elizabeth A Luckman, of Carmel

You’ve probably seen one in your travels around town.  It’s a blue bumper sticker with white, stylized religious symbols that spell “Coexist”.  Although this iteration specifically promotes religious open-mindedness, the “Coexist” movement fundamentally aims to achieve peaceful coexistence among peoples who have many differences by nurturing tolerance.

Undoubtedly, tolerance is a virtue.  But the lofty goal of peaceful coexistence cannot be grasped through tolerance alone.  We must also be accountable to one another, and we must abide by the laws and rules we have agreed to live under.   Without accountability, there is disrespect, and without adherence to codes of conduct, there is chaos.  In my view, accountability is becoming more scarce, and bending or ignoring the rules of civilization more common.  Last week, I experienced both.

As I was walking my dog in a common area in the Village of West Clay, we were attacked and mauled by a large, vicious dog that was running freely in the neighborhood.  The animal assaulted and knocked me down, bit me, and pulled my dog from my arms.  I screamed when I felt the animal’s teeth, then cried out in horror as it violently shook my dog.   At least three adults tried to pull the attacking dog off of us, but they failed.  I’ll never know how, but I righted myself and extracted my dog from its jaws.  My sweet little dog had a stunned look on his face, tongue out sideways, ugly bite wounds covering his back.  As we rushed to the emergency animal hospital, I had no idea if he would survive.

I’m recounting this grisly story because it never should have happened.  It’s emblematic of the decline of responsibility and the rise of a look-the-other-way culture.  This dog has a lengthy history of intimidating and attacking adults, children, and pets.  Its owner has refused to acknowledge the concerns of her neighbors; moreover, she has been defiant and even suggested that others are responsible for her dog’s increasingly dangerous behavior.  Although many in the neighborhood see her viewpoint as an abrogation of the truth, many don’t want to rock the boat and believe that she is not answerable to the community.

The City of Carmel has a leash ordinance, and a series of ordinances dealing with vicious animals.  Unfortunately, on many occasions, when the owner violated these regulations, the authorities were not alerted.  In these cases, both the owner and the community ignored obligations to the rule of law.  When a few of the incidents were called in to the neighborhood officer, they were ignored.  At least one other time, this dog bit a person; it was called in to the Carmel police, who did little. When I contacted the police after our trauma, they were unable to find this initial report because it had been filed incorrectly.  Despite this record of ordinance violations, both animal control and the Carmel police reacted to my ugly experience last week without urgency.  I wonder if they react to all ordinance violations cavalierly.

The Village of West Clay Home Owners’ Association has been similarly dismissive.  They refused to inform the members of the association about the danger of the vicious animal.  A concerned neighbor posted a warning on the Village of West Clay’s Facebook page, but her post was removed and she was blocked from posting again.

My dog and I are recuperating at home.  He endured multiple surgeries, had flesh and muscle removed and staples put in to close the tears from the bite wounds. With great care and some good fortune, our physical injuries will eventually heal.  My out-of-pocket expenses are approaching $5,000. The emotional and psychological scars my family and I have incurred will be with us for a long time. And yet few seem to be interested in doing something to protect the neighborhood.

If the owner of this dog will not be accountable, and the people who are paid to protect and serve the public will not enforce the rules, what are we left with?

In my case, it was a dog attack.  In yours, it might be an auto company that installs faulty parts, or a neighbor who never locks the gate to his pool, or the school that doesn’t tell you about the kid who is bullying your child, or the repeat drunk driver.  We know what looking the other way or not wanting to get involved produces.

To live in the beautiful world that we wish for, we must have tolerance.  But we must also have accountability, and we must have the rule of law.  Otherwise, we may exist, but we will not coexist.


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