How to Fight a Dog

If a dog is trying to kill you, wrap a jacket around your arm and hold it in front of your throat.

I skip-stepped around a slow walker in front of me.

When the dog jumps up to tear your throat out, it will bite down on the jacket.

I was still five blocks away from the gallery and my friend's performance started in seven minutes.

You have to get the dog down onto the ground, put your knee on its neck, and use your free hand to gouge the dog’s eyes out. Then it will stop trying to kill you.

At normal speed, one block took me two minutes. If I fastwalked I thought I could get it down to 1.5 minutes per block.

The fire safety training woman who came to my office today taught me how to fight a dog. I was showing her how to use the water carbonator in the kitchen and she started telling me about the other trainings she runs. I loved it. I’d never even imagined having to fight a dog.

An old guy with white wispy hair and a white puffball dog on a leash was walking ahead of me. The dog had no neck. Its head disappeared into the white mass of fur around its shoulders. The dog’s mouth looked too small to get around a human throat. You wouldn’t need real tactics against that thing.

Two blocks left, two minutes left. I’d be late for the show, barely. Should be fine.

There was a woman in a long green jacket walking toward me with a large black dog. Looked like half German Shepherd, half something else. Lab maybe, or husky. There was a little kid with them too, with his hand by his ear to reach up and hold his mom’s hand. The kid probably weighed less than the dog. Dogs like that weigh up to eighty pounds. If that thing latched onto your throat you’re going down.

“If you’re ever being attacked by a dog, you should take off your jacket, put it around your arm and then hold your wrapped forearm in front of your throat.”

The jumbled conversations of thirty strangers bounced between the white walls, concrete floor and tin ceiling. I leaned toward my friends so they could hear me.

“When the dog lunges at your throat,” I continued, “it will bite down on your forearm. Then you get it on the ground, put your knee on its neck, and use your free hand to gouge out its eyes. Then it will finally stop trying to kill you.”


“Wow. Gnarly.”

“Yeah it’s metal,” I said.

“I never thought about that.”

My friends were impressed.

“Oh, it looks like the studio opened.”

A woman stood at the back of the gallery next to the open double doors. She was dressed in black with a grey jacket that had a bunch of straps hanging off it, and handed programs to the people going into the next room. We went in to get seated.

My friend Sal’s post-tonal performance was pretty boring. I was glad I had something more exciting to think about.

After the show I found Sal to say congrats.

“That was great, man.” I gave him the flowers I’d gotten across the street from my office. That was more important than the dog thing.

“Thanks so much for being here,” said Sal.

“How are you feeling about the performance? You were awesome.” Sal was the kind of person who would like to learn about how to fight a dog, I needed to get the niceties out of the way first.

“I feel OK. I wasn’t supposed to repeat the second refrain before going into the third part, not sure if anyone noticed.”

“It was great. I bet no one noticed.” It all sounded the same. Of course no one noticed. Nobody had any idea that there had been a second part or a third part in the first place. It all blended together into one big droning cacophony. “Hey, so I learned this crazy thing today. If a dog attacks you—like trying to kill you—and you have to fight back, you get it to bite your arm instead of your throat and then get it down on the ground under your knee and gouge out its eyes. That will make it stop fighting back.”

Some old guy stepped half in front of me and started talking to Sal. Looked like one of those patron-of-the-arts-type guys who Sal had to act gracious to.

Sal and I would catch up later. I went to get a drink at the bar.

OK, I thought, enough of the dog story. I’ll just go with the flow and see what’s going on with other people. I don’t want to keep repeating myself.

I sipped on a free hibiscus hard seltzer and scanned the reception crowd while pretending to kind of look off into the distance beyond anyone I accidentally made eye contact with.

I couldn't stop thinking about it.

I didn’t want to keep telling people the same thing over and over.

I needed to stop doing that.

I found Greg, one of the friends I’d told earlier.

“Hey Greg.”

“Hey mate.” Greg cheers’d my plastic cup.

“So what’d you think of the show?” I asked.

“Love Sal. Obviously.”


“Absolutely dull music,” said Greg. “Who even listens to post-tonal-whatever?”

“Well, Sal.”

“No. I asked him,” said Greg. “Sal told me he likes to write it and perform it but never listens to any other post-tonal musicians.”

“Oh. I guess I never asked.”

“Hey! Lindsey!” Greg spotted someone he knew.

“Hi Greg.” Lindsey had on a torn denim jacket like Greg and me. Hers was slime green. I’d never seen one like that. The denim looked good and thick like it could protect your arm from a dog bite if you wrapped it around the right way.

Greg introduced us. We shook hands.

Maybe I should have asked what she thought about the show. I was still thinking about her jacket and didn’t say anything fast enough.

“Tell Lindsey the thing you were talking about before Sal went on,” Greg said to me. “I loved it. That was all I could think about during the show.”

“What was it?” Lindsey asked.

I took a deep breath.

“OK, if a dog is attacking you and trying to kill you, wrap a jacket around your arm and hold it in front of your throat so the dog bites down on the jacket when it goes to tear out your throat.”

“What if it’s summer and I’m not wearing a jacket?” Lindsey asked.

“It doesn’t have to be a jacket. Just wrap something to protect your arm from the bite. Anyway, the important part is while it’s distracted with biting your forearm instead of your throat, you get it on the ground and put a knee on its neck and gouge out its eyes with your thumb.” I gestured with my thumb straight.

“Wouldn’t the dog be like thrashing all over the place?”

“I mean, yeah, probably.” I said.

“How am I supposed to hold a dog still with my knee while it’s squirming all over?” Lindsey said. “I can’t even get my cat to swallow one heart medication pill.”

“You have to commit. You have to fight with vengeance, not just kind of try to hold it down. You have to really get your hands on its head and put your thumb in there.” I had my hands up like one might be wrapped around the dog’s head and the thumb of the other hand might go into the eye like this.

“Yeah I don’t think that would work.” Lindsey wasn’t even trying.

“It would definitely work,” I said. “You don’t think a dog would stop attacking you if you gouged its eye out with your thumb?”

“Not sure really.” Lindsey was looking out across the room.

“You don’t think a dog would stop when its eyeball is flopping around, dangling out of its gaping eye socket, supported by the optic nerve and nothing else?” I knew I sounded insanely annoying. And I knew I was right.

I met one more person that night.

Didn't tell them the dog thing.

The conversation was awkward and boring.

They left quickly. I didn’t remember their name or anything either of us said.

I found Greg again and we talked through what we’d do if the dog bit our ankle first instead of going for the throat. We decided we’d put that knee on the ground, therefore exposing the dog’s throat, and we could go with plan A from there. Our Achilles tendons would get wrecked. That’s the price we’d have to pay.

I imagined all the people in the world who were getting attacked by dogs and didn't know what to do.

Here I was with this useless bare-handed-dog-killing knowledge, and out there in the real world thousands of people were dying from dog attacks every year. What’s wrong with the universe, that the right people can’t just know how to fight dogs and instead the wrong people can’t stop talking about it?

What a tragic distribution of knowledge.

It seemed like a waste that I would never use it. I knew the safest way was to de-escalate and avoid a dog attack by moving slowly, not making eye contact, and not facing it directly. It would never come down to wrapping my jacket around my arm.

Heading to work on the rush hour subway, I stood against the door, listened to music, and stared across the car between two strangers at the place where my eyes should be in the dark window reflection of my own face.

In the lull before the next song, I tore off my headphones—someone had just said the words “gouge the dog’s eye.” I swear I heard it clearly against the backdrop of the rushing subway track and low babbling conversations. I looked up and down the car, leaning forward, shifting left and right to peer between shoulders. Who said that?

The door opened. I got off at my stop.

At work I mostly focused, read a few articles, and talked to no one.

At home I brushed my teeth while scrolling on my phone. Drank a cup of water before bed. Put in my night guard. Threw a shirt over the glowing LEDs of my sound system.

I wondered how long the excitement over this dog thing would last. The next night was the opening for a group show that one friend had a piece in. It would be nice to see some friends and talk. Greg would be there.

Webb Allen is a writer from New York.
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