DEAR ABBY: I have a married niece with a 4-month-old baby girl whom I love dearly. They have a medium-sized dog that they rescued from a shelter, and the dog is prone to attacking other dogs. For a time they considered returning the dog to the shelter, but now they have it trained quite well. It responds to voice commands, but is still aggressive, primarily to other dogs. On at least one occasion my niece and her husband have paid vet bills for dogs that have been injured.
This dog stays in the house with them and the baby, and my fear is that as the baby gets a little older, this dog may attack her.
I'm an emergency room nurse. I have seen the results of dog attacks on small children. Most of them were house pets with no history of aggressiveness. It seems the sounds a small child makes, combined with their normal, uncoordinated movement and grabbing, can mimic prey-like activity. The dogs, responding like the animals they are, attack. In one instance, the injured toddler died.
I have cautioned my niece and her husband not to let the dog lick (they say "kiss") the baby or let her play near the dog unsupervised, which they don't always do. Even on a leash, I have seen this dog lunge at another dog without warning. I fear for the safety of the child.
Please address this concern. My niece reads your column and may listen to you. Think I'm just an overly concerned aunt? -- DEEPLY CONCERNED IN EVANSTON, ILL.
DEAR CONCERNED: You are not "overly" concerned. Because of your experiences in the ER, you have seen firsthand the tragic result of this kind of negligence.
As much as your niece and her husband love their dog, they are barking up the wrong tree by leaving their baby alone with an animal that has shown aggressive tendencies. My experts tell me that small children should not be around animals unless supervised. Period. And as to kissing a baby's face -- let's just say that a dog's mouth is less than sanitary. I hope these new parents will rethink their stance on this subject.