The Bitey End of the Dog

Laura Monaco Torelli KPA-CTP, CPDT-KA

May 10, 2021 Michael Shikashio CDBC Season 2 Episode 10
The Bitey End of the Dog
Laura Monaco Torelli KPA-CTP, CPDT-KA
Show Notes Transcript

This is a very special episode for this podcast as Laura Monaco Torelli joins me to share her personal and poignant experience from a traumatic dog attack that occurred two years ago.
 I want to thank Laura for trusting me as a friend and colleague to have a safe space to talk about the terrifying events from that day.

I also want to give a trigger warning for this episode as we discuss a dog attack that resulted in injuries to both Laura and her beloved dog Vito. We don’t often discuss the impact on victims of dog bites, so our hope is that this show will provide some solace that you are not alone.  If you have experienced trauma from a dog bite incident, there is help available, and there is a link below for emotional and crisis support.

Laura's Website

American Psychology Association
APA Psychologist Locator

If you want to learn more about helping dogs with aggression, we offer webinars, courses, conferences, and more!
AggressiveDog.com
Aggressive Dog Educational Offerings
Aggression in Dogs Conference

Support the show
Michael Shikashio:

This is a very special episode for this podcast as Laura Monaco Torelli joins me to share her personal and poignant experience from a traumatic dog attack that occurred two years ago. I want to thank Laura for trusting me as a friend and colleague to have a safe space to talk about the terrifying events that happened that day. I also want to give a trigger warning for this episode as we discuss a dog attack that resulted in injuries to both Laura and her beloved dog Vito. We don't often discuss the impact on victims of dog bites. So our hope is that the show will provide some solace that you're not alone. If you have experienced trauma from a dog bite incident, there is help available and there are links in the show notes for resources for dog bite victims. Hey everyone, I'm Mike Shikashio. Welcome back to The Bitey End of The Dog. Today have a very special episode. I'm here with Laura Monaco Torelli. She's a very good friend and colleague of mine, she is a trainer as well , i'llgive you a little bit of background about her. She's the founder of Animal Behavior Training Concepts in Chicago, Illinois. She began her career in 1991 at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium, where she trained beluga whales, dolphins, sea otters, seals, river otters and penguins. After nearly a decade at the shed, she moved on to San Diego Zoo and then Brookfield Zoo as a lead supervisory trainer. During your time in the zoo community Laura worked with a wide variety of terrestrial animals including primates, large cats, birds of prey, horses parrots, tree kangaroos, giraffes and red pandas and dogs of course. She's currently part of a training team with exotic animal rescue and rehabilitation for the wildlife Discovery Center in Lake Forest, Illinois. She serves as a faculty instructor with the Karen Pryor Academy for animal training and behavior KPA. And as a training or teaching assistant rather for Dr. Susan G. Friedman's Living and Learning with animals online course. Really fantastic course by the way. She offers private training at West Loop Veterinary Care located in downtown Chicago, she's lectured all over the world. She's been on the media recently, all over the place as well. w gn NBC News. So she's here today to talk about very special topic. And in regards to this overall breaching subject. We talk about aggression in dogs and what can happen during certain events, repercussions that can happen, the ripples that can have an effect when these events happen. So I'm going to let her take you back to May 27 of 2019. During a time very traumatic, horrific incident happened, where two dogs were off leash in Laura was out with her beloved dog Vito, out in the just for a walk, and she was attacked, her and Vito were attacked by these two off leash dogs. So welcome, Laura. And let's, let's go back to that day, and I'll let you kind of give your story and tell the audience what happened.

Laura Monaco Torelli:

Oh, thank you, thank you so much for this special opportunity to be here to you know, tell our story. For this safe place to land. I couldn't think of a better friend and colleague to share this with with their podcast. So thank you for this opportunity. It's taken me about two years to want to really go on this platform. And as I was sharing with you before we started the recording. It's it's been a journey. And each of us that deal with trauma when it comes to the pets in our lives. We each cope with it differently. And so you know, my heart and compassion goes out to all of your to all of your podcast listeners and guests that have experienced similar trauma to the story I'm going to share, which is you know, my personal story. And for some of your guests that have lost so much more, you know, they've lost a beloved pet under really unfortunate tragic conditions. They've sustained much worse injuries than I when I was protecting Vito. So I just want to, you know, extend that compassion to those that are listening because, you know, full disclosure, some of what I'm going to share my trigger the trauma, you know, it still triggers me because I'm tripping over my words. I'm already choking up I'm like, Okay, stop with the lump in the throat but it's still fresh to me because I relive it all the time. Two years out. So You know, full disclosure for your listeners, you know, there's going to be details if you want to hit mute or you're not sure if you can listen to this in small bursts, listen with care to yourself, because I'm very sensitive to when I hear things that flashes me back to what Vito and I went through, so I just wanted to share that as well. It was it'll be two years, the end of next month. Vito was at the tender age of nine months of age. And for those that are listening, they know that's a very delicate canine developmental period of you know, still young adolescence, potentially being in the window of a second fear period. All these things were flashing through my mind while we were in the midst of the dogs attacking. And I'm kind of reliving the story all the time like and these flashbacks in my head about what I was seeing happening while I was trying to protect Vito, but we were about two blocks away from our house and looking out the window as I'm telling the story towards the area where it happened. The same walk we've taken with our previous Ridgebacks over the previous 20 years with no problems. There are leash laws where we walk there are leash laws in Chicago. And so why would we think a dog would be off leash? It's it's the law. The dogs in this area are supposed to be on leash, and we were enjoying a beautiful hike. midafternoon beautiful spring day. Vito was, you know, prancing along, sniffing looking, and I happen to have a long line. Thankfully, upon hindsight, a long line draped over my torso, so my hands could be free to give treats carry his toys, you know, reach for his water, which ended up being one of the saving areas for Vito not getting away from me and running down the busy streets of Chicago during the dog attacks. This part's gonna be hard for me to get through because as I was sharing with you, Mike, before we started recording, I'm still harboring self inflicted guilt because I feel like I could have protected Vito more proactively because I didn't see we didn't see the first dog coming because it came from behind off leash. So both of these dogs were illegally off leash. We were walking north. And we were at South Michigan Avenue and 34th street so if anyone is familiar with the Chicago area, you'll know where we are in the Bronzeville district just south of the South loop. And it was a blur and Vito was down and there was a dog on top of him and it just hit his right the dog hit his right front side and I sent I sent you some pictures Mike of the injuries that Vito sustained, and the first dog came from behind and next thing I knew it was a blur of a dog on top of veto and Vito was pinned down on the left side of his body on the grass. And you know, crying out vocalizing you know, was he screaming but Vito was vocalizing in a way that wasn't indicative of this play. It was not play it was trauma, and the dog. This is all flashbacks, but the dog pulled back for a second. And then I was able to collect the long line. So Vito was closer to me while I was body blocking as best I could. And then I'm thinking, where is the owner, and I'm looking, I'm briefly looking up scanning the environment. Going any second now an owner is going to show up and this is going to be over. This can't be happening. I can't believe this is happening Vitos nine months old. This would be tragic at any age, where is the owner and I'm literally playing like goalie and between blocking Vito who's trying to run away and the dog that keeps trying to dash around me to get back to veto. And it was about two minutes. If I were to guess it was about two minutes of this. But then I saw the second dog coming and the second dog was coming straight on where I could see around a pine tree. No dog owners in sight. And then I really felt like we're in real trouble now. I have no control. And they were both substantially large dogs. The second dog hit Vito on the right rear, and then the first dog went back on his right front. So I threw myself over a Vito to protect his head and his body like his head in his upper torso. And I just kept thinking this might be the last time I see Vito. Like they could kill him right here. And where are the owners? Like there's no one helping me. So I just started yelling help but I had my head down because I still had kind of like like spring ish gear on so thankfully I had like, like a like a like a long sleeve t shirt, a jacket, a long sleeve jacket thankfully. But I put my I put my body over veto because Vito couldn't get up now they were all over him and Vito just kept screaming out. And then I remember some of Vito fur on my hand so I thought oh my god, like oh my goodness they're breaking skin. You know, this is, you know, this is not play. This is not reciprocal behavior. It's not invited by Vito by any stretch of the means he's trying to get away, but he can't because they're not getting off of him. And about maybe five minutes if I were to guesstimate and because my head was down, and I had my my body over Vitos upper torso and his head, I just saw like a shoe like a sneaker and one dog was gone. And, I kept, you know, yelling Help, Help, Help. And then I saw another shoe. And then the second dog was pulled off. And I remember seeing on the second dog I remember seeing a hand come in and grab the dog's collar and pull the dog off of the front of Vitos head because that's where I was facing. And right then I looked up and I saw no leashes, both of the dog owners grabbed each of their dogs individually by the collar and we're like almost carrying the dogs. Like with only the dog's back feet were touching the ground as they were pulling the dogs away from us. And then I saw that the dogs were taken away, so I got off a Vito. And the rest is really blurry. But I remember then seeing pedestrians across the street. And I saw the two dog owners walking away not like moving quickly. They weren't just walking but they couldn't run because they didn't have leashes on their dogs, they were grabbing the dogs by the collar. And I just started yelling Help Help. We've been attacked, help, you know someone called the police. And I remember seeing one man and one woman across the street and I saw them on their cell phones and I thought okay, thank you like something's going to mobilize now. And then my words came out of my mouth that would make a sailor blush because I yelled over my shoulder at the second individual that I saw. Get back here I want your information you know, your dog hurt me and my dog you know, we are bleeding. And I'm looking down at my right hand and I can see my right hand is bleeding. And Vito has like missing fur I couldn't look deep yet but missing for along the right side of his upper torso and along his right rear leg. And I can see like fur missing and I'm and I could see redness, then everything kind of you know, blurry from there. And I remember one of the owners came back, the dogs are gone. But one of the owners came back. And the owner never said, Oh my gosh, how are you? How are your dog? How are you? How is your dog? I'm so sorry. What can I do to help? Nothing? It wasn't that bad at all. It was, um, Why are you yelling after me? The dogs were just playing. And that's when the other side of Laura came out. And I just, I lost it. I was trying to stay like as calm as I could. And I said, Do you not see my hand? Do you not see my dog? Play means that both parties agreed to it ahead of time. My dog was not playing my dog was screaming. He was scared and your two dogs. We're not getting off of him. There was no play about that. No one asked us for permission ahead of time. And then I said and you're breaking the law. And just then a Chicago police officer walked up and he owner yelled back at me Still no apology. No moment of accountability. Said we didn't break the law. The dogs are allowed off leash. And that's when the Chicago police officer and officers because multiple showed up. In addition to paramedics. The Chicago police officer was amazing, very calm and said actually, you did break the law. There are leash laws and your dogs are supposed to be on leash by law. And then there was a long pause. And now I could tell that the one of the dog owners is being very careful about what this what they're going to say now, because now that now the Chicago police are they're holding the line for the laws. And then the police officer looked at me and said, Are you injured and I looked at my hand, and I sent you the picture of my hand, Mike. My hand was bleeding, and it was just numb. And I looked down and I said, one of the two dogs bit me, I don't know which one. But what I want to know where are these dogs? I want to know their rabies that their current under vaccinations, and then put another Chicago police officer walked up and said, the dogs have already been taken in a car with the other dog owner and they're gone. I can't even see the other dogs right now. Because apparently the two dog owners were friends. And they were letting their dogs play off leash in this, the leash law area. So the friend took the two dogs and just left had the dog owner shown compassion and this is something that you know, you and I chatted about before we started recording is I've been you know, very private and this recovery journey for me and Vito for two years because of the fallout more for Vito. But I want this to be a story that helps others who feel heard at a time when we need to be. there need to be considerations as dog owners, when we have our own dogs, there are considerations that we should always have in mind when we're out with our dogs. And a big part of that word is considerate, to be considerate, and empathetic and think about a bigger picture. This dog owner was not considerate, not apologetic or supportive. So when the police officer asked me, you know, while I need to take a picture of your hand, the paramedics are coming. Vito is, you know, I'm giving him treats, he's back to eating treats. And I'm like, okay, you know, he's standing. I don't see any overt signs of he needs to get to E.R, like right now he's going to go to E.R, but you know, right now. And then they said, Do you want to file a bite report? And I looked at the owner, and the owner was so inconsiderate, and uncaring. And not taking any accountability that I chose to. So I filed the bite report that was followed up on. And all of this was happening just before I was going to fly to Japan, and Singapore for work. All these things are on deck. So I was traveling with an injured hand that was like, swollen up to here. And I'm getting, you know, emails and phone calls while I'm overseas about the bite reports and the vet records of the other dogs. But I never got an apology. To this day. I've never heard, Ma'am, I'm so sorry about what happened. We accept responsibility. We'd like to pay for the vet records. Are you okay? There was none of that it was our dogs were just playing that was just playing, you're making more of it than was necessary. And I think maybe, you know, and this is why I'm really looking forward to this conversation with you. Because now I would like to hear you talk for a while is if our dogs are the ones that caused like an injury, that extension of the olive branch right away, could be a deal breaker for what could happen with those that might have gotten injured a dog or person and there was none of that I didn't get any apology. And yeah, and so, and then our story just keeps unfolding from there. But that's what happened that day. And then when my husband showed up, the paramedics were wonderful. They looked at my hand and they said well obviously we can take you in an ambulance and I said I don't want to go into the ambulance. I have my dog. I am now triaging and in my head Mike like now, they're telling me I need to go to E.R, but I'm triaging Vito and I, he needs to get to a vet ASAP. I need to assess what's happened to him. And it was like, I could just feel the unraveling inside me starting like I had no control. And now I just want Vito to be okay. And I don't know what that's going to look like long term. So there, I just unloaded it all right there. That's what happened.

Michael Shikashio:

I first I want to say thank you, to you for trusting me, for this to be a safe place for you to tell your story. And I really wanted to give you that time and just uninterrupted way to So what's a very wrong, what's obviously still a very raw and difficult thing to talk about experience to talk about. And so thank you Laura for being here to share that experience with us. I'm sure there's other people that are listening in that have gone through their own experiences with dogs, you know, displaying aggression. And I'm sorry that, you know, it's that you had to experience it in such a way with with people that can be so callous, and not caring, you know, it's literal, literal assault on the proverbial wound, right? When it makes such a big difference, if people could just show some empathy and concideration for others, with such a profound lack of regard for safety and well being of others, just, it's difficult to do that. So, so that's been two years. And it's, you know, that feels like a long time to some, but for you, it feels like yesterday, right. And it's, and that can happen when we experience trauma. And something so difficult. You know, you were mentioning before we, before we started recording some of the things that you think the residual effects that it has around others around you, and you were talking about your husband who sounds like a wonderful supporting, husband. Everything is you're talking about, it's just wonderful. And so take me to some of those, some of those things, you're talking about some of the repercussions it has on those around you. And then we can kind of shift towards you know, where you're at now. So, let's focus on what you know, we were talking about earlier, I think repercussions on those around you and those watching, those involved.

Laura Monaco Torelli:

Yeah, thank you. Again, for the soft place to land, I have a nice tall thing of water here on deck. Hydrating as I'm telling the story, after the incident occurred, and you know, the police arrived, and I got my hand assessed by the paramedics and they were so gentle, like, they were wrapping it and they're like, okay, like you need to go tonight, you need to get this looked at, you're gonna need really like antibiotics, they're gonna have to flush it, and it's really going to hurt. And just a side note too, Mike, I had never been bit by a dog in my career. Until that day. So I had heard from many of my trusted friends and colleagues, it really hurts. And so you know, this is where I continue to send out so much support to friends and colleagues and dog owners, those that have been bit by a dog, and not play bite, you know, not like puppy play bite. But you know, you know, when like, when we look at the six levels of a dog bite, you know, which you and I were chatting about before via email, oh my gosh, I mean, it hurt so much. And so to see my husband, who's so laid back and so tight be, so easy going. When I called him and the police were still taking the information, they were still talking with one other dog owner, because remember, the other dog owner took both dogs off site immediately. And I just said to the police officer, I said I need to create space from this dog owner, because I'm so upset by his response right now that I need to go over here under this tree and give Vito some shade. And I need to not be near this dog owner right now because I'm so upset. So I was like, you know, creating space as my escape avoidance coping strategy

Michael Shikashio:

Kudos to you for that alternative behavior. Because most of us, you know, a lot of us wouldn't have that kind of control of our actions for making that decision.

Laura Monaco Torelli:

Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, I had words flying out of me. I was like this, I just need to stop and just move away. So I called Jim and for those that are familiar with the Chicago land area, Jim was about an hour drive north of where this occurred near O'Hare Airport. Which you know, with traffic could be every bit of an hour and a half drive just to get to me. And I remember I do remember distinctly starting off with Hi It's me, I'm fine and Vito is fine. And I said it right off the bat so I didn't get into storytelling and him wondering you know what I just said I'm fine and Vitos fine. And then there was a pause and then I started to cry and I said, but we both been injured by to be illegally off leash dogs, and I need you. The police are here the paramedics just left and I need you to help me with Vito, I need you to get here to load him up in your truck and take him home. And I can't imagine when I think about our guests that are listening that have had similar if not more traumatic incidences. This trickle down effect of who else the bite incident, the dog attack incident effects, You know, not just the dog owner and their dog, but all the caregivers, you know, are people that saw it happen and their trauma of seeing it happen. And so, you know, Jim had every bit of an hour drive to get to me, which it was every bit of an hour dealing with the police report. And thankfully, I had a ton of dog treats on me. So Vito is back to eating treats. He's in a shady spot, and I'm triaging and in my head priorities, you know, don't forget to get this Don't forget to get that don't forget to get this information. So when the Jim showed up, and he pulled up his truck, and I remember Vito and Jim have a very special relationship. When Vito saw Jim, wiggles, you know, Vito was like, Oh, my gosh, there's dad, and I thought, Okay, good. But now I could see Vito bleeding. So I could see that, which I then did walk, I did walk back, and I said to the dog owner, you see that blood coming from my dog's upper torso, that is not play. So I just want to say I did get that in. And then I'm pointing at my bandaged hand from the paramedics and I'm like, Oh, it's on, you know, and then I backed away again. So it just showed up. And then I went back again, just to make my point. And even now, as I'm talking to you, I got my finger going in the air, like, just so you know, this wasn't play that for me and my dog. But when Jim showed up, I could see in his body language, you know, he's six foot tall guy, big guy. And he's clenching his fists at his side, as he's looking across towards where they were, the dog owner is talking to the police. And I just said, you know, the police are handling it. I'm getting everything that I need. And he's like, looking at my hand, he's looking at Vito. And I can tell he's like, trying to like breathe, you know, because now he's mad. And I said, but you do need to go over there and you need to say whatever you need to say, and but just keep it below. Like, Don't yell. He's like, when do I yell? I go, you're right. You're not yeller. You know, Jim walked over and just said, this is what he told me. He said, why weren't your dogs on leash? And now the other dog owner is acting different. And I hate to say this, but maybe it's because, you know, the tall fella showed up, and behavior change under certain consequences. And so Jim came back, he's like, yeah, the dog owner didn't say much, but I let them have a few of my thoughts about breaking the law and that you're injured and that my dog is injured, and the police officer still writing down information. And I said, Thank you. I said, Are you needed here anymore? And he said, No. Here's the police report. So Jim handed it to me. And I said, I'm going to have you take Vito home. And I'm going to talk with the police officer a bit more. So Jim loaded up Vito. And then we texted a friend to show up and watch Vito, while Jim and I started to deal with the hand issue. And it was like everything was spinning. Like we have to have eyes on Vito constantly. While we're trying to get eyes on my hand, you know, because we both need medical care. I called her that I described what happened and our vet said, okay, you get to E.R, now you get your hand looked at it sounds bad. And, you know, we'll be on deck for you to bring veto in when you call us. And so it was like this, we were staggering our times. And so we got to E.R, and So sure enough, and having my first dog bite, I didn't know what this was gonna look like I was in denial. I was like, I don't think I want to go and it was like, No, you have to go. Because I just wanted to be with Vito. I didn't want to leave Vito. We showed up, and sure enough, they had to flush the wound. And again, you saw the picture. They had to flush the wound. And on their first attempt to flush it, it hurt so much that I was like I just told the doctor to stop it hurt so much, that I can't take the pain anymore right now. And my husband walked behind what I was sitting on that, you know, like in the E.R, the thing that we sit on, the table, my husband came behind me. And you know, he just put his hand on my back. And the doctor said, Okay, hold on one second, the doctor left, he came back in and he was so kind and he said, you know, ma'am, we have to flush it. We have to, and I'm so sorry that this hurts. So we can either do a nerve block and do it but the nerve blocks really going to hurt. Or we could just try and do it as fast as we can. And then you know, so I was weighing options. And I remember looking over my left shoulder and I looked at Jim and I said Do me a favor, and I'm totally giving you permission for this. I said take both arms around me and squeeze me as hard as you can at the same time that they flush. So I'm focused more on the pressure you're putting on me versus the hand. And Jim said okay, and he just gave me this big bear hug is they did it and I Just remember looking at Jim's face during the whole E.R visit, because he's spinning, like my wife is injured, my dog is injured, we still got to deal with our dog who our friend is watching at the house, you know, sending text updates. And it was that Fallout. It was that fallout and a part that I didn't share on social media that I think really is evoked anger. And Jim was a couple months after the incident, I was drawn out once it was about a year after the incident, because Vitos rehab journey has been a long one. I was walking near the same area and a young individual, I shall say in their early to mid 20s walked up to me and said, I can't believe you're walking down the street. And I looked at this person and I said, you know, excuse me, this is public, like I live a block away. This is a public Chicago sidewalks. And they said, You got my friends in trouble last year. And I said I was like, I have no idea what you're talking about what friends? Like Hi, I'm Laura, Who are you? Not? Hi, how are you? How was your dog doing? How are you doing? Apparently their friends told their friends that this lady filed a dog bite report against their dog and their dog and them got in trouble. So a year later, this random person, Mike It was unbelievable approached me and started. And it just threw me back a year before it threw me back to that day. And I literally went like this. This was you know, pre COVID. But I covered my mouth. And I could feel the crying start. And I looked at the person and I said, I said your friends broke the law. And then this person said back to me, well, you got them in trouble. And they said, it doesn't matter. And that your friends broke the law and that injured me and my dog, aren't you even gonna ask how me and my dog have been doing the past year. And then this person yelled back at me. You got my friends in trouble. And then I said, You're harassing me. I can't even believe I'm telling you this part of the story. I've been holding it in. The only person that knows it is Jim. And I came back home and I just started to cry. And because then Vito has a person in front of him yelling. So I'm like shoving treats in his mouth trying to walk away. And this person's following me saying I got their friends in trouble because I filed a police report for a bite. But they're but they broke the law. So this doesn't fall on their friends, dogs. This fell on the fact that as dog owners, they broke the law. So this trauma just got rehashed A year later, and I've been bubble wrapping myself in it. Because it was horrible. It was like I cant believe im back here again, so sorry, I feel like I'm going all over the place.

Michael Shikashio:

A horrific experience that. Im so sorry you had to experience that. And I want to just mention that it's awful. It's awful that you had to go through that. It's just like revisiting bringing everything back for for no good reason at all. Just awful, so I hope, you know, I hope you don't have to talk to that person again.

Laura Monaco Torelli:

We when we asked about Jim, when I came home, I was crying and I'm not much of a crier. So he's like, Is everything okay? And then I told him what happened? He got on the phone. We live across the college campus. Okay, so as we piece together the story, the two dog owners, whose dogs were illegally off leash, were in front of a fraternity house, just south of downtown Chicago, not following leash laws. And there you go. And so my husband called the head of operations of the college, who we were in contact with right after the dog bite, because information had to be filed. My husband who's so tight be, anyone that knows Jim would be like Jim did this? Go Jim. Jim called the college campus, had a security and just said my wife just got harassed. A year after the incident walking our dogs the same place we walk our dogs for 20 years by some random college student who yelled at her that she got his friends in trouble when his friends broke the law. No, My wife is a dog lover. She's the kindest person you'll ever meet What is going on? And so sure enough, then this person followed up. I mean, Mike It was like this is never ending. And then people wonder why I didn't want to talk about it because it just kept like coming at me. I'm like, What is this gonna end and then there's Vitoes recovery. So you know Jim has been my rock through this and and in our advocate and Vito's the advocate for like, you know, you need to feel safe walking in our neighborhood. And this has happened two blocks away. And that's part of Vitoes story, which we'll get to when we talk about tips and suggestions. Because I do want this to be an upbeat, like, supportive podcast, like getting through the journey, and the resilience aspect of it too. So, yeah.

Michael Shikashio:

I think you are already being filling that supportive role, because the listeners facing similar experiences or have had similar experiences, can kind of relate to your story of that, you know, we're gonna share tips, but also know that there's other people experiencing this because it can be lonely when you have this kind of experience happen because sometimes you don't know who to talk to. And speaking of that, you know, you mentioned that we were also talking before this, about potential resources. There's not a lot of resources out there for people that have been a victim of dog attacks, you know, joking that if you go online for a search, most of the advice you find is from attorneys, and people, you know, attorneys writing articles about what to do when you've been bitten by a dog. And there's so much and trauma and some of th se articles. But there's ce tainly a lack of resources or dog bite victims or victims of dog tax in any regard. So whether it's their dog being victim or family member of hemselves, this really not a lot of resources. I did want t mention, though, I did have D . Melanie Cerone on as a guest o podcast earlier this season. A d we had actually talked ab ut the same topic, and the lack f resources. But I did want to m ntion, one of the resources that she had brought to my att ntion is the apa.org, which is he American Psycholog cal Association, they have a cr sis hotline for a number of different resources that are vailable there. But if you are e periencing trauma, or feel like you need help, or you're ex eriencing these symptoms, please do reach out to somebody. APA is one resource that does have a crisis hotline, so if the apa.org so did want to mention t at during this podcast but Laura you had mentioned also some people who reached out to suppor network to help you and reall also to help Vito because t ere's two sides of the story of oosting impacted. So once off ore about that.

Laura Monaco Torelli:

Yeah, sure, sure. And thank you for sharing that very important resource for your listeners as well. So back when it happened, and you know, those that follow me on social media, remember I did like a one post, I did a post of like my hand and then a photo It was a photo of Vito taken just before the dog attacks. And after that, I just kind of bubble I just pulled away from talking about it publicly because it was so traumatic for me and we were dealing with the legalities of it. And I still was working through it. And even as I was drafting, like, like my blog series about it, I just haven't been able to hit Publish yet. Because I didn't want this to be, you know, a anger post and fingerpointing post, I knew that I when I did find the chair that share our story mine and Vito story, that I wanted this to be a journey about how we got through it and then got to the other side, so to speak, over time, but also what people didn't know because I wasn't sharing it publicly at the time was after the dog attacks. Vito was diagnosed with epilepsy as a younger puppy, but it was like a one off, you know, it was a one off seizure, but we did the MRI, we did the neurologist and it was well managed and we didn't see any more for you know, three months after the dog attack incident. And I have the data I've been charting it. Vito started to experience cluster seizures that we could not get under control. So after the dog's attack, subjective assessment, I'm not saying it's cause or causality, but the trauma that he endured physically and then behaviourally, that was a really hard journey for my husband and I had to watch because there was a time where we're like, if we can't get these clusters, seizures under control, this is a quality of life for Vito. And so we just kind of went under the radar and pulled in the best of the best to help us out in our area, and one of which was Dr. Kelly Ballantyne, who is a Board Certified vet behaviorist based here in Chicago. And I realized, you know, I'm a professional trainer, but this is way out of my wheelhouse and Vito needs help. So besides our regular vet team at West Loop vet care, and they did an amazing job of doing the initial assessment on him. Dr. Ballantyne did a diagnosis and treatment plan is started him on medication. In addition to another board certified neurologist, you getting on board and adding more medication to manage the seizures, but veto also sustained and if people were to look back at my social media posts after the dog attack, dog attacks on I strategically took photos of Vito's left side because I didn't want the flashbacks of seeing the memories on on social media pop up of his right side. So I was strategically taking photos during his recovery where I didn't want to keep seeing his right side in every photo I was documenting it on my own. But he sustained when the first dog Well, the first dog hit him right front. But in the photo I sent you you see Vito in E.R, with you know, he's got the IV in, his heads resting on the pillow. He's just exhausted. But the right front elbow sustained blunt trauma. And we brought him to also see Dr. Rosemary Lagitous who's amazing. And sh specializes in canine and eq ine rehab here in the Chicago su urbs. And I've known her for ov r a decade, she's known our Ri gebacks. And I brought Vito to see her. And she said it was I hink it's called a Bursa. It wa kind of outside, but she's li e don't do surgery. Don't me s with it. Let's just observe it And sure enough, now when pe ple see photos of Vito, he's on his right, so it's gone down. Bu he sustained that injury. An so when I looked at my pr fessional resources of fr ends, as I kind of retreated in o my bubble of what are we go ng to do to help Vito and th n I'll deal with me, kind of pa allel to that, you know, our ve team, a Board Certified ne rologist, Dr. Rosemary La itous on a rehab front, Dr. K lly Ballantyne, I think I've aid her name a million times we were brought in every resou ce to know that we would exhau t everyone that, that we could for their expertise to help eto. But we also saw Vito would not leave our property of the f ont. So he wouldn't even leave the house for just short snip alks. And that was heart reaking to see. So talk about behavioral trauma as well. And I was scared to take walks now t o. So I was sharing with you, hen we were chatting befor our recording, I've been using my biothane 15 foot long line cross my body because I'm notic ng that because of the guilt that I carry, for not seein the first dog come behind us. I know I had no control, I get t at. I understand that. But I was nervous on walks. So I could tell that I'm still hyper vigil nt, I'm still looking for dogs t a distance, I'm still waiti g for that, for that off leash dog to come flying at us again Or then the second one. So I' e been working through my own l ash handling techniques, you k ow, doing a lot of counter condi ioning and desen itization. And, you know, I alw ys like, you know, think I've ot like Ken Ramirez on the shoul er, Susan Friedman on the shoul er. You know, I think about you know, Dr. Patricia McCon ell was a gift she called me wh n she saw the post and was like, okay, you know, if, if you need good ear, you know, I read he education of Will she knew was, you know, such a fan of he ability to share such a perso al story. You know, I think about all my friends out there that really came in to help ith the process that they like, you know, Kiki Jablon and Dr. B llantyne, of course, and you k ow, Dr. Friedman, I was just ike, I need to bounce thing off of people because I'm scare to go on walks with Vito, he's cared to go on walks, I don't know when the next cluster seizu e is going to happen. So when think about consi erations as a dog owner, and b ing considerate, if there are l ash laws, please keep your dog o leash, because it's the law b cause if you take your dog off l ash and you think no one's aroun , it'll be okay for a minut or two, it'll beat a perfe t storm, the stimulus will happe in the environment, that you c nnot predict how your dog is go ng to respond to that stimu us. And your dog is off leash you have no control at that At that moment, so many bad things can happen within oment. seconds. And so it affects so much more than just the other dog owner and the dog. It affects them tremendously. But then their vet care team and their family and everyone on the outset. You know, so to go back to your question, and Gosh, I mean, this is so cathartic. I'm just passion talking after two years of holding the sin of talking to our vet team. Dr. Ballantyne recommended a licensed clinical social worker, she recommended Kristen Bueller who was in the Chicagoland area at the time. And I had reached out to want to start that ball in motion and I was just felt so traumatized that I just went back into my shell again. And I'm like, I can't talk about it, I can't talk about it to anyone, and I just kept shouldering it, besides talking to my family, you know, to my husband, who they're hearing it and seeing it, I know was stressful for them. You know, because there was a stretch, Mike, we didn't know how much longer we were going to have veto, because his seizures could not get under control for a while. So yeah, I feel like I kind of got off track there. But it's been, it's been a journey. And it's been a learning journey, because this has made me a better professional for my clients that reach out whose dogs either attacked a person or a dog or their dogs, or them were engaged in an off leash interaction that had detrimental effects, or maybe minor, but still, you know, consent require someone saying, you know, yes, my dog would like to say hi to your dog based on your dog's body language, and my dog's body language, let's do it like this, and veto and I never had that.

Michael Shikashio:

Thank you, you sharing this journey that you've been on is just such a powerful thing, because it's, it's gonna be so helpful. Because the story you're sharing the emotions that I'm hearing the emotion, that you're explaining, I'm certainly no psychologist or have any kind of background in human behavior. But I certainly have listened to many stories of dog aggression happening. And the different emotions involved and many of the stages that you've gone through is very similar to a lot of my clients, their experiences, and the different emotions of sadness and depression, anger, rage, frustration, and even sometimes denial, some of the cases, I want to make sure that, that it's understood that it's very normal to experience those feelings after a traumatic event. And everybody's going to go through their own journey. And it seems like you've found the support through reaching out to people, you know, fortunately, in Chicago, lots of great resources. So you've got a nice network. And it seems to, you know, I'd like to ask where you're at now seems to now, you know, you're talking about it now. But it's also segwayed. I've seen you've been talking about it on media more some of you're media apperances. It's not necessarily about the incident, but tips and certain things you're doing now. So you want to talk about that kind of where you're at with this journey. And what you've been up to, as of recent.

Laura Monaco Torelli:

Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, just just to circle back, how wonderful of a resource you are for our community, all the excellent, reputable work that you do and share within, you know, dog care, dog training under the aggression umbrella and the great network of colleagues that you have brought into your podcasts and webinars. So thank you for that, because that's been supportive, not just for me, but I'm sure all of your all of your fans as well. I appreciate that. So, yes, as Vitos Health started to stabilize, and when his new medication management protocol, so better life through medication and complement to behavior modification through positive reinforcement. There was about a five or six month window after the dog attack. So he was nine months of age, we got to about five or six months on the outset. And I remember there was a moment where my husband and I looked at each other and said, there's our guy, Vito's back. There you are like we have missed you, We are so glad to see you playful. Thankfully Vito is not scared of Santino for that we are grateful. But Vito is scared of other dogs, still to this day. So we have to be careful. When we do that visits, you know that dogs aren't too close on walks, we're very careful, still, vetoes responses still to run away. But some go to's that I've gone through is thinking about communication strategies that I use with dog owners, especially now when our faces are covered. That we have a disc golf course across the college campus and we'd like to play disc golf. So I'll bring the boys one at a time with me, I can't do both at once. I'll bring them one one at a time, but I turned a couple of disc golf frisbees into communication signs. So one of them I just, I took white duct tape, and I wrote on one of the frisbees stop. So if someone is approaching at a distance, or if I see an off leash dog at a distance, because it's crazy, people are still doing it. And we're like near downtown Chicago. I will hold up the Frisbee and wave it just to get their attention, they might not even be able to read it. But I'll hold up yellow frisbee that reads stop and I'll get their attention and I'll Do this and then I'll hold up my leash attached to my boys and I'll point to it. And then I have another frisbee that reads leash your dog. So then I hold up the other one, and then I point to it. And it's helped us about four times so far in the past two months, it's really helped us out, and it's gotten people to stop. And then the other side of my step frisbee reads scared of dogs. So when people see stop, and they stop I'll flip it and it reads scared of dogs. And then I point to Vito, like, I'm not scared of dogs. Laura isn't scared of dogs, but he's scared of dogs. And it's been such a reinforcing moment of support and consideration that they consider to just cross the street with their dog. So that's kind of been a way for me to claim control of what I can have control over in a situation, Mike, or I'm sure you've heard from your client teams moments where we've had no control. And we lost it, it was never it just gone. So I've turned my disc golf frisbees into communication tools at a distance. And I've also, you know, besides having my training mentors on my shoulder, I look at the great training work gets done by some of my colleagues, you know, the work that you do, I think about like, you know, Leslie McDevitt's work of the look at that where I thought, Okay, well, Vito won't leave the house. So let's just sit on the front porch, he's on leash at a distance, we're behind the gate. And if he so as much as hears a dog bark at a distance, I'm going to pair the well that's not so much Look at that. But I'll pair the acoustics with the reinforcer, you know, stuff that we do a lot that I learned early on in the Zoo and Aquarium field. So the acoustics of a dog, click and treat the jingle of a dog's collar, click and treat the site of a dog that is completely neutral. Click and treat. And so that's kind of my way in, of stuff that we did do while Vito made it to the other side.

Michael Shikashio:

So, you know, I love the Frisbee idea, the reason why it's because I have clients, and I'm totally guilty of this myself of having a tough time, always speaking up, like so a lot of people, some people have no problem like get your dog or you know, the ability to be the person to point or make very big gestures. Some people like myself with some of my clients are not quite as vocal. And so I love the visual cue that you're giving. So you don't have to even say anything you just put up like, it's like a universal signal, like that's a stop, you know, like a stop sign would be or putting someone's hand up in the wave like stopping traffic. So I really, really liked that idea. And it's a great way of communicating even at a distance to like, you don't even have to be that close to somebody for them to see that. So really, really great idea actually haven't seen it done that way, you know, I've seen other visual tools that kind of come and gone over the years, but nothing quite like that, because that's very obvious to most people.

Laura Monaco Torelli:

And there is photos of them. And I put up some videos of them on my social media pages. And Fox 32 news was really nice enough to feature the frisbees when I did a live segment, a live TV segment about dog parks. Yeah, talk about opening Pandora's box on that topic. Last month that I actually held them up, like when the news anchor asked them like, Oh, these are the frisbees that I used, you know, so that has been empowering. I also was looking into your resources, after it happened quietly below the radar about things to carry with me, that could potentially scare the dog off because the first dog came from behind, and we were both startled. I you know, I feel like I didn't have an opportunity to maybe get ahead of the game and that that I don't know if it would have mattered or not. But now what I do carry with me is thanks to your tips but I have we can't shop like normal people as dog trainers so I went to Home Depot to get like something for the house you know, or the garden I think. And the Husky section like the Husky brand, they had this great little Velcro tool, thing that I put one of my training belts through and I put it around. So I have my training pouch and I have my Husky, my Husky training pouch and in that I have the citronella direct stop, I carry, People are gonna laugh well not laugh but this is what I did. I actually have a wooden spoon that I put inside my Hurtta training vest. So if I need to stick it in a dog's mouth to get them to release my hand is at least a bit more distance. So I'm thinking like, Why don't if I can have a big breaking stick but I need something that's solid, or at least to just wave it or just do a little tap or something I don't know. So I always carry now. A long wooden spoon a thick one in my training jacket that's hidden so you don't see it in my training videos. My my citronella Direct stop, I'm drawing a blank. Oh, I always carry a backup leash across my body. Because if for some reason, um, the leash could have snapped like if Vito was trying to pull away, or and the leash gave or a piece of equipment broke in Vitoes attempt to escape, I now where a backup leash across me so that I can unclip it and then clip it to either his harness or his collar. So I have backup in case that fails me under certain instances as well. But I've also heard other great tips, you know, like some people carry an umbrella, you know, you provide excellent resources as well. So now I feel like I've got more on me than I had before. And thankfully, I haven't had to use it. And then the frisbees are super easy just to slide inside my training jacket, too. So yeah.

Michael Shikashio:

Yeah, it's amazing that, you know, when we do other activities in our lives, we're so used to carrying other things or bringing things with us for those activities. You know, if you go for a bike ride, you get your helmet to get your water bottle, when you do that, like you don't even think about it. I would love to see that happen with like walking our dogs, we can carry a few other items to keep things from going south In a lot of cases. S I always recommend to my c ients, you know, everybody's t pically wearing a treat pouch, b t that tree pouch can carry a l t of other things, you know, s you had mentioned that the s ray shield or direct stop. I e en with some clients go a ste further, depending on where the live some some areas, there' even more propensity for of leash dogs or dog attacks t happen. So I have them in som countries, even they don't eve sell spray shields. So they'r using something like halt, whic is a pepper spray base deterrent. You can even go a far as using pepper spray i some locations, it's illegal i some areas to get to check th legality of it. Yeah, that migh be the only option for someon who's in terms of a spra deterrent. Certainly carrying an umbrella can help. So it's one technique that I actually

Laura Monaco Torelli:

That's Fantastic. teach where, again, you have a lot of off leash dogs in a certain upper higher, high r likelihood of off leash dog , who often have the time to ta e out the umbrella. But I use mu

Michael Shikashio:

I mean you can even go a step further, you h more smaller portable, so not ike something like Charlie Chaplin style like small portabl , easy to hang off your treat p uch, not going to add a lot of eight. And that can be popped pen in a pinch. So it's not so uch the umbrella that does an thing, the bit the sturdin ss of it. So an umbrella like on of these disposable umbrell s is really cheap and flimsy y itself. It's the visual timulus that can be a real hi h level to turn to dogs becau e it blocks them so you kind o like see the outcome going kin of poke towards them. So you're not hitting the dog or anything Just that stimulus though can work wonders. Off le sh dogs away can be used to ward off multiple dogs and it blo ks the visual stimulus for a oment to from your own dog if they have issues with other dogs So use that, Trish King. Us d to paint scary eyes on their u brella too, olmost like a big s ary monster kind of opening up can combine the Laura Monaco Torelli, Frisbee idea with the umbrella. Paint some words on our brella really wants to create some visuals.

Laura Monaco Torelli:

Yeah, but yeah.

Michael Shikashio:

That umbrella it works really well because it's very portable and carriable. But one of the other tips too I give to some of my clients, let's say they're in an area where there are some off leash dogs sometimes. But there's typically in a friendly areas, you're walking by like a dog park that happens to be in your house. And some of the people go into the dog park, let their dogs off leash before they're actually in the dog park and they come running up sometimes to your dog and they're friendly. So they you know, they're probably social dogs, but you don't want to be spraying them with like spray shield or pepper spray. One of the things I recommend to my clients, if they've got the treat pouch on if they're working with their dog, they should have that treat pouch on. And to carry it to just go in and grab a huge handful of treats and throw it right at the door that's coming at them. Sometimes if it's multiple dogs, you need multiple answers, but that can keep the typical lab happy go lucky lab occupied, while you can get out of there with your own dog. So that's another tip I recommend. So yeah, there's lots of different things that the owners can do to keep their own dog safe. And of course, good leash handling is important as well to make sure we have control over our own dogs. In your case, you know, people arent born with the eyes in the back of their head either. So it's some cases you're going to have to kind of be going into damage control mode when the incident is happening. So, but then the sprays and things like that can work in those scenarios.

Laura Monaco Torelli:

And something else that I started to also do proactively is, you know, being aware of my hyper vigilance that I'm very, I'm now very careful that Vito isn't observing or feeling a cue through my equipment handling or the way that I'm shifting or even moving my body to go look at something that that's a cue for an aversive stimulus. Which to him is another dog. But because of the great resources that I've read through, you know, from you and from other colleagues, I always am looking out for like, Is there a building where there's doors? So if a dog is at a distance headed my way off leash, whether the owners running behind them or there's no owner, can I just open that door and get behind it with my dogs? And at least I have a barrier waiting for the owner to show up late or the dog to keep going.

Michael Shikashio:

Yeah, that's kind of like the silver lining I was gonna say in this is that, yes, you become hyper vigilant, which can impact our dog's behavior, if it's translated in certain ways, like tight leash, but at the same time you become situationally aware. So you're situational awareness is going to keep a lot of people out of certain situations, whether they're driving a car or walking their dog. Another term could be like defensive handling, just constantly aware of your environment, so that you can spot things that might happen. So it's kind of like this fine balance. Yes. You don't want to be constantly beating that emotion to your dog, but also its good to be situational and aware you know, and sometimes that isn't, that isn't taught, right. It's learned from these kind of experiences.

Laura Monaco Torelli:

Well, that I did learn thanks to Vito because, you know, he, much like all of our animals, Aren't they the best teachers were ever going to have. When I started using the frisbees. The first time I held it up, I saw Vito shift back a little bit. And I thought you brilliant little teacher, so we're going to have some work to do. So we went in the backyard, and I would hold up a frisbee and I would give them a treat, and I put the Frisbee down, and I'd hold up another frisbee quickly. Like I've gotta alert somebody and it give Vito a treat. And I'm like now let's take it on the hikes without dogs around. And then let's play the Frisbee game with dogs on leash that are neutral dogs that are paying no attention to you. And you seem pretty okay with at a distance. And I felt Laura don't just whip this thing out when there's an off leash dog because as soon as you hold that cue up, Vito is going to try to run and then talk about that plan falling apart. He's such a brilliant little guy.

Michael Shikashio:

There's the experienced trainer side of you coming out for sure because I actually forgot to mention that with the umbrella too. You want to definitely desensitize and condition your dog to seeing an umbrella popping open right next to them, and certainly don't do it the first time, because you know the dog. I'm glad you mentioned that.

Laura Monaco Torelli:

Yeah. Well, this has been, you know, I was sharing with you before the recording, I could tell about 24 hours ago, I was starting to get nervous about this conversation, you know, and I'm the one who reached out to you. I'm like, okay, I I've had others asked me to tell the story. I haven't been ready. I haven't been ready. But now it's time for the opportunity for me to heal and become more resilient. And hopefully, for those that are listening to feel, you know, that they're not alone, that they have, you know, a support system out there great resources that you share, too. But now that I've talked it out, like I feel this huge weight off my shoulders, because I think I've been harboring that, you know, I didn't protect Vito. I didn't see it. I didn't see it coming. What was I thinking? You know, so thank you for this. Again, the safe place to land. This went far better than I thought it was going to go for me I cried a lot less than I thought I would.

Michael Shikashio:

Well, I want to thank you again for for sharing your experience and sharing what I'm sure it's going to be like I said earlier, helpful for so many people that have gone through similar experiences, and may not have had resources or anybody to talk to about it. So thank you Laura for coming on and sharing everything that happened in your journey with Vito. And I do want to kind of also talk about what you're up to next to give you an opportunity to kind of if people want to learn more about you or maybe spot and go back to some of your social media feed to see more of your journey. Yeah, where can they find you?

Laura Monaco Torelli:

They can find me at my website, LauraMonacoTorelli.com. I'm on all the social media pages. I just started TikTok. still learning how these things work. But I do share more snippets of Vitoes recovery, one of which is because of all the ER visits after that happened to him, that visits have become an aversive Association. But and you've There were so many good points in there, too. It's just this, probably seen more of my posts like you know that visit went great like he's doing bette so people can continue to follo Vito's journey. You'll see more photos of him and videos of the ight now that he's you know healed up. And also too, you know, I want to share more of hese considerations as dog own rs when we're being con iderate that we're proactive tha we're supporting each oth r. And, you know, even if Vit and I are walking down the str et and another dog owner app oaches and says, you know, you know my dog is dog friendly, can my dog Say hi to your dog? Jus saying that is it have me ove the moon right away because the I can say he's scared of oth r dogs. I'm so grateful that you asked your dog is beautiful, hav a great day. And then we can keep going. But not all dog own rs are thinking, you know, wel maybe Laura is okay with Vit , but Laura might be scared of ther dogs or maybe Laura is rec vering from an ankle sprain and she could really only handle wal ing her dog. But if you bri g your dog in the mix on lea h and things get more ani ated, I could reinjure mys lf so we don't really know ano her dog owners full story is to hy they sometimes and should be mpowered to say no, don't app oach. You don't deserve an exp anation. If the other dog owner ays No, please don't approa h and that's all you get. The bi gest kindness that we can give a the other dog handler is to say no problem. Have a great day, b autiful dog. They said No, we on't need their story bec use the more you ask for the r story, Vito is going to get more scared Vito is then goi g to pancake to the ground Vit is going to try to run and all of the hard work that you kno your clients have done, Mik , under your support, or our col eagues are doing with their cli nts. We don't know that dog own rs rehab journey, we don't kno what them and their dog hav been through. So if we're not considerate, we could unr vel the emotional and med cal and financial investment tha they've put in just to have tha nice walk that you happen to ee a snapshot in in that day that could be the best walk tha they'd had in months. And if ou're not the responsible oth r dog owner, you could set the back months, if not years of raining. And now that I've exp rienced the other end of it, you know, the Bitey End of not bein on leash, so to speak, I see hat so much more clear as a dog wner, myself, and I got big boys So when I'm walking down the treet, and I see another dog, see one of my Ridge backs and reeze I'm like, that's my cue to just walk the other way. I w ved to the dog owner, they wav at me, thank you. And I'm lik , I'm not even gonna walk par llel to you anymore. Your dog definitely sees my dog. And we ot plenty of other places to go. So I've learned a lot thr ugh this journey, too. I'm jus so grateful for this. you know, I hope that it continues I think I've seen a change in some positive regard the sort of etiquette and the consideration you're talking about and the culture of dogs. So I hope it continues that way to hope that it is adequate and consideration for others with their dogs will continue because you brought up so many reasons that we don't think about a lot. So thank you for for bringing those up. Well thank you again for this. Thank you for all the great work that you do for the support system for dog owners that are really struggling because the struggle is real.

Michael Shikashio:

It was my pleasure. Yes, thanks for coming on. And I look forward to seeing you in the next in person doggy events and I hope you are going to do and I wish you well you and Vito well on your journey.

Laura Monaco Torelli:

Thank you. Thank you so much. And I'm sure you and I will talk more about this when we're not recording as well.

Michael Shikashio:

Thanks for joining me for the Bitey End of The Dog. If you like the show, please feel free to subscribe, share and give a rating and hop on over to aggressivedog.com or the looseleashacademy.com for more information about webinars, courses and conferences, all dedicated to helping dogs with aggression issues. And don't forget the aggression in dogs conference will be happening from October 22 to 24th. With 12 amazing speakers all streaming from a television studio in Chicago. It's going to be a truly unique event in 2021.