When I take vacations, they are packed with photo opportunities from before the sun rises until after the sun sets. This trip started at Las Vegas, Nevada, and would take me in a loop through southern Utah, down through Arizona and back up to Las Vegas. My itinerary included all the national parks (Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, etc.) and anything else I could pack in along the way.

On this sunny July day, I was 45 minutes from the nearest “big” city in Arizona, getting ready to hike about 1.5 miles to photograph petroglyphs. As I walked toward the entrance of the visitor center, I was busy thinking about the hike and trying to anticipate the photography conditions. I was almost to the front door of the visitor center when out of the corner of my eye, I saw a blur of fur coming at me. I felt a “bump” against my right leg. I reacted and ran toward my left away from this thing only to feel another bump against my left leg. Once out of range of this furball, it stopped coming after me. When I looked down at my left leg, I saw blood gushing from a gash. I had been bitten by a small dog. It’s all a haze what exactly came flying out of my mouth, but I remember swearing, swearing, swearing and swearing some more. During the first string of swear words, I instinctively pulled my phone from my pocket and began taking photos of the culprit and “staff” person responsible for controlling the dog. 


Identities have been masked to protect the guilty from further embarrassment.


Focus closely on the very last part of that big, brown sign… ah… “No Pets”!

By the second string of swear words, my hiking partner, Kristin, and the park ranger were by my side assessing what I needed. They began buzzing around the visitor center getting me a chair, water, paper towel, while I looked at the 2-inch long wound on my leg.

And, I have to make a shameless plug… If you have a “nurse line” service that comes with your health care insurance coverage, call the number (most often found on the back of your ID Card). The nurse I talked with gave me a list of things to ask about (rabies shot, dog shots, any odd illnesses, is it a stray dog, etc.) and what to do (cover it, do not touch it, and keep it cool - since there was no ice at the facility - until you see the doctor), all while keeping me calm and sending local urgent care locations to my email so I could access the information from my phone. Amazing!

Being in the middle of nowhere Arizona, we waited about 45 minutes for the Sheriff officer to arrive. I now sat on one side of the visitor center and the dog and his staff sat on the other side of the visitor center. The front door of the visitor center was between us.

During that time, neither the “staff” person holding the dog at the time I was bit, nor the dog owner, ever apologized for what the dog did nor came over to look at the wound on my leg. They were more worried about how the rest of their day would be ruined. 


During that long 45-minute wait for the Sheriff officer to arrive, I sat quietly on my side of the visitor center, wondering: How ironic it is that I get bit by a small little dog when I seek out large animals – far more dangerous – to photograph… But, it doesn’t take long for me to realize there’s more to this little dog’s story. To my amazement, the dog – now on a shorter leash – lunged aggressively at two other people who walked by it as they went into the visitor center.


Thoughts of Stephen King’s Cujo came to mind as I held a cool, damp rag on my freshly bitten leg. I wasn’t trapped in a hot car like in King’s book, but sitting in the Arizona heat with a dog bite for 45 minutes, certainly wasn’t my idea of a good time. I would later learn this little dog’s name was “Pinyon”. The word piñyon, pronounced “pin-yin”, is a type of tree found in the southwest. Pinyon was no Cujo, but he obviously had more bite than bark.

So, you can imagine, when the Sheriff animal control officer finally arrived, she was like a “knightette” in shinning armor. She took my information, asked me what happened, and then, handed me a yellow piece of paper. There was immediate silence from Pinyon’s side of the visitor center when Sheriff explained the yellow paper contained my “Victim Rights”. 

Once done making my statement, the officer let me go so I could start my 45-minute journey to urgent care.

The officer called me later to let me know that Pinyon would be in home quarantine for 10 days so they could monitor him. Pinyon did have his rabies shot, thankfully, but who knows if he had any other health issue, which was the reason for the quarantine. And, I highly doubt they have little ankle bracelet’s to monitor his movement, so Pinyon’s staff is left to be trusted to be in control.

Upon arrival at urgent care, I was whisked into a room, given a Tetanus shot and two “open” stitches so the wound wouldn’t get infected by the bacteria from the dog’s saliva. I picked up my antibiotics at the pharmacy, and headed to the hotel room to put my foot up. Fun times that ruined the rest of my trip and all photo opportunities that I had planned. 

Some of my friends have asked to see photographs of the bite on my leg, and I’m also aware some of my readers are sensitive viewers… I’ve put some photos on a stand-alone page, so Do Not click on the image below if you do not want to see the bite on my leg! 

After sharing the photos of Pinyon with a friend, she sent me a link on the Internet about the Pekingese temperament. You’ll want to focus on the bold highlights:

“Pekingese are very brave little dogs, sensitive, independent and extremely affectionate with their master. These adorable dogs can make wonderful companions. The Pekingese may be difficult to housebreak. Do not allow this dog to develop Small Dog Syndrome, human induced behaviors, where the dog believes he is pack leader to humans. This can cause varying degrees of negative behaviors, including, but not limited to obstinate, self-willed, jealousy, separation anxiety, guarding, growling, snapping, biting, and obsessive barking as the dog tries to tell YOU what to do. They can become wary of strangers, and may become untrustworthy with children and even adults. If you feed them table scraps, they have been known to refuse to eat, as much to show dominance over its owner, as to lack of appetite. They can become dog aggressive and courageous to the point of foolhardiness as they try and take over. These are NOT Pekingese traits. They are behaviors resulting from humans allowing them to take over the home. If a Pekingese is given rules to follow, limits to what they are and are not allowed to do, along with a daily pack walk to relieve their mental and physical energy, they will display a totally different, more appealing temperament. It is not fair to leave such a heavy weight on such a small dog, where he feels he has to keep HIS humans in line. As soon as you start showing your Peke you are able to be HIS strong, stable minded pack leader, he can relax and be the wonderful little dog that he is.”

Initially after being bitten, I was angry at Pinyon, but quickly realized a dog doesn’t choose its owner. The owner chooses the dog. The owner is responsible for making that dog a well-trained dog. 

I immediately reflected on my “staffing” of my beloved, Dotti. Was I a bad owner because she had an insatiable desire for chewing? Even after I took her to dog training classes? Well, no. I disciplined her when she had negative behavior and even when she growled at my nieces or nephews when they got too close to her when she was enjoying food or her raw hide bone. She never bit anyone because she was trained not to bite.

In my opinion, Pinyon rules his household. And, sadly, dogs can’t pick who or how someone cares for them.

My love toward dogs really wasn’t jarred… but my belief was strengthened that dog owners need to disciple their dogs and give them a good home. Even though I had a very unpleasant experience on that hot day in July that lingered for a few months afterward, I want to turn that experience around to make it more positive for other dogs who may not have good homes or may not have a home at all.

Knowing there are many organizations out there that help animals, I found Homeward Bound K9 Rescue through a friend of mine, who helps foster the dogs while they wait to find a permanent, loving home.

Wallner Photography FaceBook: “Clicks for Canines”

During the month of February 2012, Wallner Photography will donate $1.00 to Homeward Bound K9 Rescue, up to $200, for every new “Like” on Wallner Photography FaceBook page. The “Like” button is located at the top of the page, so be sure to “Click for Canines” today. If you have already “Like’d” Wallner Photography’ FaceBook page, share it with others. Every click counts.


Click the image above to be taken to the Wallner Photography FaceBook page. Click "Like". That’s it!

Homeward Bound K-9 Rescue is a non-profit, no-kill dog rescue and placement organization based in Minnesota. They work toward matching the dogs with the needs, wants, personalities and lifestyles of potential adopters to ensure a healthy, happy and permanent home. And, if you know of someone looking for a dog, contact Homeward Bound K-9 Rescue.

I’ll be running my “Clicks for Canines” from January 31 to February 29, so you’ll see FaceBook posts, as well as tweets on Twitter @WallnerPhotos. You can follow me there as well if you’re on Twitter. Please share my “Clicks for Canines” with your family and friends!

And, thanks for helping me turn my experience into one that helps dogs find a good home.