On Saturday afternoon, as a Park Slope woman ran to the Union Street subway station to catch the R train on Fourth Avenue, two people were trying to control a small, white dog that was barking and lunging on the sidewalk this past Saturday afternoon.
Irin Carmon, who a staff writer for Salon, tried to keep her distance from the excited pooch. However, Carmon was not able to avoid the confrontation before she took the descent into the subway, which ended in a small puncture wound behind her knee.
“It didn’t bite me in any kind of crazy way, I didn’t even know I was bitten,” Carmon told Patch in an interview on Monday. “I was late for an appointment and the owners were already halfway down the block.”
The canine, described as a “fluffy white dog” on Carmon’s blog and believed to be either a Maltese or a Bichon Frise, scratched her on her lower calf and bit her on the inside of her left knee.
Carmon said that two people holding the dog also had German Shepard. She said that the handlers were a man and a woman, both Asian and around 35 to 50 years old. The attack, Carmon said, was unprovoked.
“I saw that they were having trouble controlling their two dogs and I was trying to steer clear,” Carmon said. “So, I walked as far away as I could on the width of the sidewalk, but the leash was long enough for the dog to lunge at me.”
That’s when the dog bit her.
“I stopped, I was very disoriented and dazed because it hurt,” she said, explaining that she is angry at herself for deciding not to pursue the owners and find out if the dog is up-to-date with all of its vaccines, especially rabies.
Right after the attack she inspected her legs. When she did not see any holes in her tights, she rolled up her pant leg and found a scratch, but it didn’t break the skin.
Later on, she discovered a bite mark, which did in fact break the skin.
“You could see blood, but it wasn’t gushing. It’s a tiny bite, and normally I wouldn’t go to the hospital,” she said, explaining she was told to have it checked out after she sent a picture of the wound to a friend who is a doctor.
Since she was in Manhattan, she went to St. Luke’s emergency room to get a medical opinion. There, the doctor told her although she probably doesn’t have rabies, she should still get the shot.
“The doctor said that the number one risk of contracting rabies is if ‘a raccoon attached itself to your head, or if you were in the woods and a dog came out of nowhere and bit you, and then died in front of you,’” Carmon said, relating what the doctor told her.
He then said, “‘It’s a fairly low probability, but on the other hand, rabies is 100-percent fatal and maybe you don’t want to take that chance.’”
Carmon now has ten days to get the shot, if she actually does have rabies, for the vaccine to keep her from dying.
After she left the hospital, she decided to take to Twitter and Facebook to solicit help in finding the owners and to find out if the dog is up-to-date with its rabies vaccination.
A fellow writer, Felix Salmon, posted on her Facebook wall that she probably doesn’t have to worry.
Dogs with rabies, 2012: zero. Dogs with rabies, 2011: zero. Dogs with rabies, 2010: zero. Dogs with rabies, 2009: zero…You get the picture.
Salmon got the information from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, where it shows data from 2005 through 2012. During those years, there have been no cases of rabid canines.
Another friend on Twitter, with the handle @canislatrans, told her that if she needs to get the vaccine, she should not sweat it since the injections today are not nearly as painful as they used to be.
rabies shots are almost pain free these days. Not something to stress over, i promise.
However, Carmon is still not looking forward to getting the vaccine, which involves three rounds of multiple injections and side effects of flu-like symptoms.
“The idea of taking this week off from work because some little dog bit me is infuriating,” she said. “So I figured I’d make a good effort to find the dog and if I cannot, I’ll get the shot.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, in 2010, 48 states and Puerto Rico reported 6,153 cases of rabies in animals and 2 human cases.
The CDC also reports that in this century, the number of human deaths in the United States attributed to rabies has declined from 100 or more each year to an average of 2 or 3 each year.
Even though it is extremely unlikely that the dog is rabid, professionals agree that Carmon should get the shot. In an article published in Reuters this Sept., a Costa Mesa veterinarian, Dr. Bruce Bauersfeld, said that, "the biggest cause of rabies death in humans is from unvaccinated dogs.”
While Carmon visited various businesses along Fourth Avenue, around where the dog bit her, she stopped into her dry cleaners. The owner of the shop gave her a little bit a hope:
“‘You know, if I was going to get bitten by a dog I’d want to get bitten in Park Slope,’” she said the man told her, explaining that he believes Park Slopers take good care of their pets and will likely get them vaccinated.
However, Carmon will probably not take the chance:
“Do you really want to leave it up to the one-in-a-million chance if you know that you would die?” she said.
If you have any information about the dog or its owners, please let us know! E-mail any tips to: Will.Yakowicz@Patch.com.