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It’s Not a Matter of Luck.

By Annie

StagecoachIt was a typical Saturday afternoon in my central Florida neighborhood. The cloudless sky was bright blue. Kids were riding bikes, roller-skating or playing ball in the yard. Parents were tending to the various chores that seemed always to be relegated to the weekends. The sounds of lawn mowers, hedge clippers and other landscape tools drifted on the breeze. Occasionally you would hear the sound of a baseball announcer from a distant radio somewhere or the splash of someone jumping into a nearby pool.

My Dad had just purchased a CB radio and was installing it in his car. The driver’s door was open and Dad was stretched out across the front seat. His feet dangled out the open door and his head was nearly on the floorboard as he connected wires under the dash. He was engrossed in his chore when a low, continual growl got his attention. Lifting his head slightly, he looked out the open door to find a dog within inches of his feet. It only took a split second for him to realize the dog was rabid.

Dad said his body froze, but his mind raced as he tried to figure out how in the world he would get out of such a dire predicament. The dog made no move, but bared his teeth through a foamy mouth and continued the low growl. Dad was trapped. 

Suddenly, the CB radio that had just been connected came to life. Loud radio static filled the air, startling the dog and prompting him to turn and run away. Dad wasted no time getting out of the car and rushed into the house.

My sister and I -- 5 and 8-years-old at the time -- were playing in the backyard when Dad opened the door and told us to come inside. Normally, we would have tested his resolve by asking why or begging to play just a little longer, but we both understood from his demeanor and the tone of his voice that he would have none of that. We dropped our toys and did as we were told. Once inside, he quickly told us there was a “bad dog” outside and instructed us to stay in the house until he told us otherwise. After making a quick phone call, he went out to the carport shed and grabbed the revolver he kept in his tackle box. As he checked the weapon, he again admonished my mother, my sister and me, through the open window, to stay inside until he returned. Then, with revolver in hand, he headed down the driveway.

We watched as he approached the kids playing in the front yard across the street. He spoke to them for a few seconds then led them to their front door. After speaking briefly with their mother, Dad headed off down the street and out of our sight, the revolver still in hand. He told us later that he had two purposes in mind – to warn parents and kids of the danger and to find and kill the rabid dog.

Within a short time, we saw the animal control truck patrolling the street. As the driver drove slowly down the street, another man followed on foot carrying a long pole with a wire loop on the end. They moved slowly and deliberately as their eyes searched side yards and hedges. Eventually, they too disappeared around a corner.

We maintained our vigil at the front window until Dad returned about an hour later, although it seemed much longer. He put his revolver back in the tackle box and came inside where he related to my mother what had taken place. (That was followed by a lesson on rabies for my sister and me.)

As he searched, Dad warned others about the rabid dog wandering the neighborhood. As the news spread, other neighbors, some armed, also began walking the streets in an effort to find the animal before someone was attacked. When the dog was finally spotted, the animal control officers happened to be nearby and while one of the armed men stood ready to shoot (should the dog try to attack) the officers managed to capture the animal. The dog was carefully muzzled and caged before being taken to the animal control shelter where officers would put him down.

As I recall the events of that day in the early 1960’s, two thoughts come to mind. 

The Benefits of a Firearm When Animals Attack

Perhaps I missed it, but I have yet to hear a valid alternative from gun control advocates for the protection provided by firearms when confronted by a vicious animal. I routinely come across stories of children and adults whose lives were saved because someone with a gun killed an attacking or rabid animal. A few examples:

· In Icy Bay, Alaska a wolf ignored the other inhabitants of a campground to pick up and try to drag off a 6-year-old boy. The wolf was chased off only to return about 10 minutes later and meet his end at the hands of a camper’s gun. (The Seattle Times, April 28, 2000)
· A Vermont woman opened the door at 3 a.m. when the family dog alerted it’s owners to danger outside. When she opened the door, she was nearly overrun by a rabid bobcat. She, her husband and their 13-year-old daughter struggled to kill the cat with a machete. Finally, the husband grabbed his pistol and fired several shots to kill the crazed animal. (Rutland Herald, May 18, 2000)
· A rabid coyote chased and followed a New Hampshire woman into her home. As the woman ran out the back door, the coyote turned on her husband, who shot and killed the animal with a handgun. (Valley News, June 8, 2000)
· An armed neighbor rescued a 4-year-old girl and her grandmother during an attack by two pit bulls. The girl received severe lacerations to her face, legs and an ear; the grandmother was treated for a wound to her knee. (Chicago Sun-Times, October 5, 2000)

Obviously, dialing 911 and waiting for help was not possible in these three cases. And it is not a viable option in most animal attacks. Where would some of these people (and the thousands more like them) be today if a gun had not been immediately available to stop vicious attacks by animals?

Gun control advocates tell us that decreasing the number of guns will limit the availability of firearms to criminals and, as a result, we will all be safer. I wonder what they propose we do about the four-legged predators? Perhaps they will find some magic way to distribute to all of us the kind of luck that spared my defenseless father when he faced the danger of a vicious animal attack with no means of self-protection.

How Would My Father’s Actions Be Viewed Today?

The actions my Dad took that summer afternoon were not considered unusual or dangerous. A man retrieved a tool that was ready and accessible in an emergency. A man used a handgun for its intended purpose – protection. A neighborhood community came together to accomplish a vitally necessary goal – safely and responsibly. Parents called their children into their homes, not out of fear of a man with a gun, but out of fear of the danger the man was trying to alleviate. Neighbors thanked my father for taking it upon himself to insure their children were safe. On that summer day, no one would have described my Dad as negligent or irresponsible. He was simply a good neighbor.

I am amazed at how drastically things have changed since I was a child. What would happen to my father today? Would he be arrested and jailed for his actions? Would he be accused of negligence and child endangerment for having an unlocked, loaded weapon within reach of his children? Would he face criminal charges for openly carrying a loaded weapon as he walked the streets of the neighborhood? Would mothers and children be terrified at the sight of my father, with his unconcealed revolver, in their yards and at their front doors? If the police arrived to handle the call, would they draw on him or arrest him for his actions? Would his neighbors label him dangerous, irresponsible and reckless? Regrettably, the answer is probably yes.

Many today would say my parents were reckless. They would claim my father was fortunate that tragedy didn’t strike. Some might even say I am lucky to be alive. These people do my parents and others in their generation a grave injustice. Theirs was an era in which childproof lighters and medicine bottles didn’t exist. Bleach, household cleaners and other toxic liquids didn’t come with childproof caps. Helmets and pads for skateboarding and bicycling were unheard of. Unbreakable plastic containers for soda, juice, etc. were years away. Latches and locks for kitchen cabinets had yet to be designed. In spite of the fact that their children faced a multitude of “dangers” every day – dangers that could be just as deadly as a gun – these parents raised their children safely and responsibly. Perhaps teaching children about guns came as naturally as teaching them about matches, “Mr. Clean” and electrical outlets.

Was It Luck?

My Dad was lucky to escape his close encounter with a crazed dog without injury or worse. And certainly a little girl and her grandmother were lucky that an armed neighbor was willing to come to their aid.

But was it luck that a camper in Alaska was ready to defend himself and others when the need arose? Was it luck that a New Hampshire man and a Vermont man were equipped with tools to defend their families from danger? Or was it sensible preparedness?

And was it luck that I survived childhood with a gun in the house? Luck had nothing to do with it. Responsible parenting did.

Also by Annie:

Growing up with Guns

Related Reading -- Guns Save Lives from Animals

Related Reading -- Children & Guns


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