Monday, June 20, 2011
Attack Date: June 17, 2007DogsBite.org - It's not easy to write about your own violent dog attack. Who could know this better than I do, the voice of DogsBite.org? Usually, I write in third person, but not today. Four years ago today, an event forever altered my life, including all of the environments, activities and personal and business relationships within it. The event was an unprovoked assault by a leashed pit bull on a public street. At the time, I was just a few blocks away from my home.
I've chosen to share several passages from a piece that I wrote in the summer of 2009 on behalf of my dog bite claim. It was the hardest material I have ever had to write. Not only did it require that I relive every moment of the attack, but that I relive the many painful experiences that occurred in the weeks, months and years following it. Most dog bite victims must complete a similar claim document, assuming that a path of civil recourse is available to them.
My attorney, Paul Ayan of Ayan Law Office, hinted for weeks at my necessity to complete the piece. Still though, I put it off as long as possible. Then one day, it erupted onto 18 pages. My core themes included the loss of identity and trust. In one section I write, "It struck me that I will never be able to reach the former Colleen, she will always be just beyond my reach and at times, turning to peer at me." Other dog bite victims have shared similar reflections with me.
We all miss the person we were prior to the attack.1
The trauma of a violent dog attack, along with the subsequent minimization of it by social forces, forever removes parts of a person. These missing parts are often aspects of an individual's identity and trust systems. The process of rebuilding them takes time. Four years later, I think I am about half way there. A settlement agreement was reached shortly after I completed the claim document. I share some of its portions with DogsBite readers today.
Portions of the Claim Document
On June 17, 2007, I was attacked by a leashed pit bull named "Bull." At the time, I had been jogging down 15th Avenue in my Beacon Hill neighborhood. The day of the attack is Father's Day. My father was not a happy father on this day. My Birthday is June 16th. Do you know how many times you are asked your Birthday while being treated in a trauma facility? About a dozen times per hour if not more. Each time I was asked this question, the emergency worker said, "Happy Birthday!"
There are two phrases I hope to never hear again, one, "Happy Birthday," and the other, "Are you right handed?"
* * *
On March 2, 2009, I moved over 1,000 miles away from the City of Seattle. The day I drove into this tiny town (population 8,000), its newspaper reported that a pit bull had attacked and killed a goat. In May of 2009, two pit bulls severely mauled a woman who had gone to visit a friend's home. A deputy shot one of the pit bulls, but the bullet bounced off the dog's head. The attack occurred on Road 29, I live on Road 23. Earlier that same day, I had ridden my bike out to Road 28. This was the second outing I had taken on a bike since the attack, the first being the day before. Why I thought a country road would be safe from a pit bull is beyond me.
There is no escaping the pit bull problem.
* * *
By June 17, the day of the attack, my life was truly at an illuminating peak. I had developed a massive commitment to social activism and was about to meet for the first time, a favorite person who I had been closely corresponding with for months. There was the added urgency that I may not meet Jonathan as well. For each day, while traveling the deadly Iraqi roads, he stood the risk of being maimed or killed and forever lost to me.
As I wrote earlier, by the time we do meet, I am a different Colleen. We do spend two weeks together, but I am in frozen "shock" so to speak from the attack. It will be after Jonathan leaves in early September that I am finally confronted by the reality of the attack. Once confronted, I realize that I must start DogsBite.org.
* * *
This is the same realization I have while being attacked by the pit bull. I believe I am being "eaten" by the jaws of a large wild animal. It was not a dog clamped onto my arm, dragging me across the cement; it was an untamed, ferocious beast and I was its prey. Just inches from my face, I could see my forearm inside the jaws of the pit bull. Its teeth were coming in and out of my skin as he chomped and shook his jaws, like he was trying to tear off a hunk of meat, stubbornly attached to bone.
After I manage to escape and sprint down the street, I hold that part of my arm with my left hand tightly. I scream, "CALL 911!" repeatedly, and as loudly as possible, so that every person living on the block will come outside. I see one man running toward me, he is saying something as I continue to shout, "CALL 911!""I am an ER doctor," He said. "It's okay, I am an ER doctor."At this time, I am terrified of releasing my hand that is covering the wound. I fear that I will see bones and ligaments popping out. Worse, I fear that the ONLY thing that is keeping my right forearm connected to my body is my left hand. To let go would force me to see that the dog had actually bitten my arm into two pieces.
He approaches me with his hands out in front of him, like the gesture, "I am not going to hurt you."
"I need to see your arm," He said. "You need to let go of your arm so that I can examine it."
"NO!" I shout at him. "NOOOOOOOO!"
* * *
On August 21, the terrifying attack on Sue Gorman occurs in a neighboring county. The woman had been sleeping in her own bed when two pit bulls snuck into her home and attacked her and her two dogs. This horrifying attack rocked the Puget Sound and left me nearly fully debilitated for three days. This is the first time that I will wholly relive my attack and all of the emotions that come with it. At this time, DogsBite.org is still several months away from launching. After it does launch, I will have several other experiences that match this one.
* * *
Within days of launching DogsBite.org, pit bull lobbying groups (some of which I believe are fronts for dogfighters and breeders of fighting dogs) had me pegged. These groups immediately threatened me with lawsuits. They turned my name into the FBI as a domestic terrorist as well. The onslaught of destroying Colleen's personal and professional reputation began. In fact, it was due to one of these groups that my identity as the author of DogsBite.org was exposed at all. An attorney who worked for one of these lobbying groups wrote to me as a personal injury lawyer asking, "Who is behind this website?" I fired back:"Given that you are a personal injury lawyer, we presume you are on the side of the victim?After I wrote this, I verified that his law firm was real through Google searches. At that time, I was desperate for help, trusted that he was a victim's advocate and felt remorse about my initial reply. I wrote him back and apologized and also provided him with my personal and business contact information. He did not write back.
Given that we receive death threats and mountains of hate mail, you can understand why we do not place our names on this website -- each of us after all are victims of dog attacks.
Victims once, not victims twice, particularly from zealous, hate mongering pit bull advocates.
We get lots of emails like yours as well. Emails that appear legitimate but are in fact not."
Two days later, most of the information from that email was cross-posted to many pit bull forum boards. Prior to my telling this attorney my real name on January 15, 2008, no one knew who was behind DogsBite.org except close friends.
Sure enough, after doing deeper Google searches, I learned that he was an attorney for one the most aggressive pit bull lobbying groups of all.2
* * *
After reading this document, now you know why there was no website prior to DogsBite.org. The harassment factor is too high. Victims give up and move on. In my case though, the harassment made building out the website even more important. Owners of aggressive dogs and lobbying groups for these breeds have been harassing victims of attacks for decades. Someone needs to stand up for these victims. That someone is me, through the website DogsBite.org.
I did not ask for this job. But once exposed to these injustices, I also could not turn away. When you get emails like the below, how could anyone turn away?"Each time I receive your emails I am amazed at how clearly you are able to communicate the reality of the problem Pit Bulls are in our society. I really believe that you have been chosen by God to bring this problem to light and make a difference..."
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1No amount of money can ever compensate a person for this "loss of self."
2I submitted a formal complaint to the State Bar of Texas about this attorney. The Bar quickly denied it.
05/08/11: Announcement: DogsBite.org Receives 501 (c)(3) Tax-Exempt Status
05/01/11: Announcement: Dog Bite Attorney Directory is Open for Submissions
01/23/10: Announcement: Wishes for the New Year from DogsBite.org
| 6/17/2011 9:06 AM |
It took more courage than I have to put this out before us. You are a strong, powerful woman, Colleen, an inspiration to us all. You may not be the old Colleen, but I think you are better, improved Colleen. Anytime a person undergoes a life change that means becoming a fighter for the right, that is a good thing. "Bull" may have been a blessing in disguise for many victims out there who seek the truth and that truth comes from DBO. Let's hope that "Bull" goes down in history as the instigator of a major social change. Thanks for taking the path you took after your attack, it is serving the world well.
| 6/17/2011 10:05 AM |
The story of your attack mirrors perfectly my own... I especially entrained with the statement "I have lost a part of Colleen that I may never get back".... this is SO TRUE. My friends and relatives wonder who this "new" person is, that doesn't think or act the way that she used to - they are all waiting for me to "get over it".
Trust is definitely and issue, as well as fear... fear is nearly my constant companion - I now travel with a loaded .45 on my daily walk/run, choosing never to again be victimized by the irresponsible owner of ANY animal (but most especially dogs, and pit bulls in particular). Everyone in the area knows that I will "defend myself" if I "feel threatened" (completely within the law) and it doesn't take much for me to feel threatened after my horrific attack.
On the flip side, I, like you, am unable to ignore this plague. I speak out against it at every opportunity, nearly always using information from your site - thank you so much for providing this resource - it is invaluable, and a real "eye opener" to others unaware of the dangers.
I know that I have personally prevented at least three dog attacks on folks, by enlightening them in this fashion. I have also been able to demonstrate to others that you don't have to sit idly by while others violate your personal right.
Your light shines brightly Colleen - keep it beaming to all of the dark crevices of this plague!
| 6/17/2011 10:45 AM |
When I felt like my world had been turned upsidedown by 4 PiT BULLS and their OWNERS, and there were attacks and maulings going on all around us not being reported in the media, and Animal Control seem to be on a mission to protect this one particular breed at all cost by revictimizing the victim, i was below severe depression.....The barking dogs web sites offered little to help me defend myself, my family, and my 2 dogs. I found dogsbite.org and through the victims stories, I began to sort it all out--- this "cultural war", where one "kind" of people with a mindset and their sidekick "breed of dog" can impose themselves on the rest of culture taking over air space, streets and neighborhoods, victimizing anyone who doesn't agree with them-a TOTAL LOSS OF ALL CIVILITY- The value of this web site and the friends who contribute to it is PRICELESS. it has made the difference in whether I lost my sanity or became a SURVIVOR!!! Thanks for all you do !!!!!
| 6/17/2011 12:55 PM |
We are all changed by our attacks. We grieve for our former selves, but we are the lucky ones, we lived. Nobody should have to go through this, all victims say this same thing. We must speak out, and continue to speak out, or the suffering will continue.
Congratulations Colleen, you have done what no one else could have.
| 6/17/2011 6:43 PM |
Colleen Lynn is a leader. Nobody wants to lead through an event like a mauling but Colleen has stepped into a leadership role with great bravery in order to help others. She has provided education to the public which has been desperately needed on this issue. I can say without question as the victim of a mauling by two pit bulls Colleen Lynn has done more good than she will ever know. I hope everyone reading Colleen's story will donate to dogsbite.org which now qualifies as a charitable organization. Many thanks Colleen.
| 6/18/2011 8:28 AM |
Nice to see a website that takes the subject of dangerous dogs seriously. Ironically I was pointed to th site via Animal Planet where I posted a complaint about the show Pitboss. I was stunned to see this show being broadcast by AP as it is both boring and totally irresponsible.The worst of all TV shows!
Fortunately in my country, New Zealand, Pit bulls have been banned after many unprovoked attacks and some on children. The damage these animals can do is extreme and whilst some maintain the behavior is largely due to the owners I have to disagree. This ignores the genetic breeding which inherent in the bred and in many cases I suspect it is what attracts many owners to the breed. The problem is most have no idea what can trigger the attack response in what seems to be an otherwise affectionate animal. these dogs were breed for a purpose which is by nature aggressive and to ignore this is both irresponsible and ignorant. it is a similar situation to those who believe they can make a chimp a family member or a bear a cuddly pet. It simply ignores the laws of nature.
Great to see a site that addresses the real issue. Pit bulls were never bred to be family pets and they cause irreversible damage.
| 6/18/2011 8:41 PM |
Congratulations for taking an active part in informing the uninformed of both the dangers of these dogs and the profound effect on victims of attacks.
It is always a pity those who should take note seldom do and as a group Pittbull owners for the most part are the most difficult to educate. I read with some interest the report related to the psychology of the owners themselves. Whilst this touches on the issue it is my belief that issue is probably more transparent. The first question to ask is why anyone would want to own a Pittbull? The answer, in my opinion, is that the owners enjoy the concept of fear the dogs generate. It is largely a question of power and control which the owner is unable to achieve alone and therefore uses the dog to command the respect they crave but cannot manage as individuals. Naturally this is discounted by owners who have a multitude of excuses from family protection to companionship...all of which can be provided by dogs renown for a predictable temperament.
Find a Pittbull owner and you will also find an individual who has some form of inadequate feelings lurking in the background.
I also note you website suggests that Pittbull owners should be compelled to have at least 300,000 insurance cover. I totally agree but would add a personal fine to be paid directly to the victim. Insurance cover is required to cover medical costs but in reality let's the owner off with the cost of a premium. In this country (NZ) the owner pays a fine and can be jailed for 5 years for any dog attack. We are fortunate that the Pittbull has been band here as a breed after numerous attacks on owners and the public.
It would also be valuable to lobby respected TV channels who broadcast a variety of shows advocating the positive aspects of this breed. While I agree with the concept that everyone has a right to freedom of speech I also believe that there is a responsibility on broadcasters to show both sides of the story. For every program that portrays these dogs as safe family pets there should be one broadcast showing the damage they do and the cost in suffering an human life. This would give the public an informed perspective and hopefully put pressure on those who protect the breed.
Colleen you are doing a great job as this is and will continue to be a growing concern. One look at the photos of victims, particularly children, should be enough to convince anyone. It worked here an I have no doubt it will work there in time. What does it take....a politicians child or grandchild to be attacked before they finally understand?
| 6/19/2011 2:54 AM |
I am a great admirer of Colleen, her intelligence, her integrity and her strength.
I'm awed and deeply touched by the openness and poignancy with which Colleen dares describes what the attack did to her, including the secondary trauma. This is real courage.
I'm grateful that the experience, while it separated Colleen from parts her former self, did not destroy all the best and strongest in her. That it didn't make her end up filled with hate or fear. That it galvanized her to protect those lost parts of herself (and those same parts in all of us) until she can re-find them, since society won't. This is real strength.
I'm grateful for the chances Colleen gives me to write on her blog sometimes, to correct some of the lies and fictions both nutters and science whores spread.
Colleen, you make this world a better place in so many ways...all of us are blessed that you exist and that we may know you.
| 6/19/2011 5:36 AM |
One thing for sure is that the PitNutters allowed the wrong lady to be mauled!
The plan was that nobody was suppose to be tracking these attacks or making them an issue...
Excellent oped piece which directly reflects Miss Lynn's tenacity, perserverance and moral courage.
| 6/20/2011 1:35 AM |
I live across from 6 Pitbulls in 2 houses. Neither house even has a fence and one owner told me that one of them has tried medication for the "testy" Pit mix with behavior problems but the medication did not work. Here in Michigan a bill has been introduced to ban the dogs and people laugh and say it is a waste of tax payers dollars. I have to pay for a bus system I can never dare use because their are Pitbulls everywhere on the way to the stops. I can't sell my house and I can't be at peace with these dangerous dogs around me. I have to run from my car to the house and I don't landscape or mow my boulevard regularly because of the Pitbull problem. 2 weeks ago five pitbulls attacked their owners in Kentwood Michigan and shredded their arms. THEY DID NOT PUT THEM DOWN! They quarnatined them until the owners can get permenent housing or the dogs can be "rescued". If a person shredded my arms, it would be a crime of assault and they would be incarcerated. If a dog does it is okay? Something is very wrong when politicians bow down to these pitbull apologists and supporters and leave the public unsafe. GREAT SITE!
| 6/20/2011 9:40 PM |
Thank you for this site. Two days ago an elderly woman in San Diego was picking up her newspaper in her own yard when her neighbors pit bulls attacked her. She had a heart attack and one of her legs had to be amputated. She may also loose her arm. It's so sad.
There is no other breed that attacks like pit bulls.
| 6/20/2011 11:07 PM |
Now published on Opposing Views:
4 Years Later: DogsBite.org Founder Reflects on Dog Attack
| 6/29/2011 1:12 PM |
Colleen: They say everything happens for a reason. You are a powerful and gifted advocate for some people whom you'll never meet. On behalf of those victims, a heartfelt, most sincere, THANK YOU! Your crusade is our shared crusade. The readers of your site have the tools to make stronger laws within their jurisdiction. An amazing woman, indeed!
| 8/14/2011 8:18 PM |
Colleen, I have learned so much just in this one night of reading and researching. This is enlightening to see the dynamics of the crazy society in which we live. It is unfortunate but people who live in a society with crazy people have to learn self-defense. I live in a rural area and I now carry a 357 pistol loaded with hydashock bullets because I just don't want to be mauled by a bear or wild dogs or even catamounts which are now found in the wild and on the rails trail I walk. I now realize that there is a remote possibility that a loose Rottie or Pit Bull could just get loose and try to take me on. I will now pack my pistola ALL THE TIME. Thanks again Colleen for making me think.
| 6/22/2012 1:27 AM |
Thank you for your tenacity in the face of thuggish dog advocates. I was recently attacked (not bitten, but emotionally traumatized) by this pit bull nearly getting into my car and biting my head off. Such dogs are beasts and are unpredictable lethal weapons. I'm in Canada, and looking to join a site in the fight against these monsters up here. My first step will be a letter to the editor.