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Last August I faced a situation which was quite terrifying, probably made more frightening due to us living in an isolated spot in the woods with no one in shouting distance. I was at home alone, my hubby, Bob, had gone to the village in the car, it was a warm day and the front door was wide open as usual, and I was in the kitchen. I heard a noise and looked out of the window but couldn’t see anything, then I stepped into the kitchen doorway. Suddenly, out of the living room to my right, came two dogs. I shouted in surprise, one dog continued on out of the front door but the larger one turned on me. I found out later (from the owner) that the dogs were American Staffordshire terriers. I’ve never encountered an animal showing such naked aggression. It looked like a complete pscho. The eyes were blank and it was barking and snarling with unbelievable menace. The closest weapon I had to hand was the kitchen broom which I grabbed and thrust at it while yelling ‘ALLEZ!’ It immediately attacked the broom which still bears its teeth marks. It was at this point that I wondered if I was going to come out of this alive, probably the most frightening moment of my life. As it was the dog suddenly let go and ran after its comrade. I slammed the door shut, only to hear thumps and scraping noises as the the dogs leaped at the door! They definitely wanted a piece of me.

At this point I decided I wanted some evidence of what was happening and grabbed my camera. I took some shots from the kitchen window which was easy because as soon as I opened the window they came flying down the path, desperate to get to me. I was shaking at this point and almost unable to think properly. Wobbly photos!

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One worry was the thought of Bob arriving back. I needed to stop him getting out of the car. This was easy because we have a balcony which I could wave to him from as he came up the drive. I went onto the balcony. The dogs heard me and tore around leaping and barking underneath. When Bob arrived I signalled for him to wind the window down and shouted for him to stay in the car. The dogs immediately transferred their attention to the car, biting at the tyres and jumping at the passenger door.

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What on earth were we to do? I decided the only option was to phone the pompiers (the fire department in France deals with just about everything from accidents, to heart attacks, to the removal of hornet’s nests!). I phoned the emergency number and stumbled through the situation with my very poor French. It worked because within about eight minutes a car arrived with blue lights and two pompiers. We conversed through their window while the dogs attempted to shred their tyres! The guys made some phone calls and pretty soon more pompiers arrived followed by two men from the Marie. Now we had four vehicles in the drive, nine pompiers in total (one we were told was a vet), and the men from the Marie all locked in their cars! I supervised from the balcony.

A plan was made (lots of shouting between car windows) to lure the dogs into the garage where they could be contained. This required me to go downstairs into the garage which is accessible from the office, open the garage door, and then leg it back to the office. As soon as I’d done this the dogs went into the garage and someone nipped out of a car and shut them in. Three pompiers (one who was the vet) then went in covered in protective gear, carrying poles with loops, while the others, in what looked like riot gear, set up a net in front of the door in case the dogs escaped. At this point I was thinking about my hubby’s new, shiny, red, Ducati motorcycle which was in the garage. He’d had it for about three weeks. Visions of it being knocked over and scraped by dog claws! Fortunately all went surprisingly calmly and after a few minutes the dogs were brought out on the poles and put into two separate cages. I wasn’t allowed to take pics of the pompiers.

So what was the outcome? We were told that when taken to the local vet and given time to calm down the dogs were deemed not aggressive enough to destroy. The owner was found and they were returned to him. We found this quite unbelievable, especially as on the very same day, earlier in the morning, the same dogs had bitten a man working in his garden and terrorised another couple who had to shut themselves inside their house. Both incidents were reported to the Marie. The man who was bitten had to go to the doctor, and the owner had to pay for his treatment.

We were most unhappy with the outcome. I was nervous every time I went into the garden, and in actual fact still am to some degree. For a long time if I went and sat outside I made sure I had the garden rake within reach. What if they came back? We decided to go to the Gendarmerie and make a report, if nothing else we wanted it on record. The man we saw was pleased that we’d come in. He told us about the two other incidents and informed us that he was going to see the owner of the dogs that afternoon. He would be inspecting the dog pen, demanding a padlock on the pen gate, informing the owner that he had to come and see us and apologize, and pay for the claw-mark damage to our car door. He also had to have papers for this breed of dog. Our statement would go on file.

The owner did come to see us. He wasn’t focused on apologies, but spent most of the time throwing his hands in the air in apparent disbelief at his dogs’ behavior. At home they were models of love and affection. He couldn’t understand it. His children adored them. But he hadn’t seen nine pompiers reluctant to get out of their cars! He hadn’t seen his dog on the other end of my broom!

We had interesting comments from friends in other countries after this story went on Facebook. One of my best friends was a dog-catcher in Canada for many years, then there was a relative in Australia, plus friends in the UK – all said if the situation had happened in their country the dogs would have been destroyed. For sure if they’d attacked an elderly person or a child the outcome could have been far worse, and it does still worry me that they’re just a few miles down the road. I just hope the owner keeps the gate padlocked.

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