Rachel Gossen spent last Saturday evening in the office of an emergency veterinarian clinic, waiting for Tyson, the family dog, to be stitched up.
She says Tyson has been attacked by a neighbour’s dog several times. Saturday was the fourth trip to the vet’s for stitches, but there have been three other attacks, with injuries they were able to handle themselves,.
This is the second time in two months that he has had to be treated under anesthetic. Gossen feels she’s tried every route she can to protect Tyson, but her options are limited.
She describes the terror of seeing him attacked, and being helpless to do anything other than make sure her kids are safe.
On Saturday, her daughter Gracynn, nine, was playing on her scooter in the driveway of their Line 4 home when the neighbour’s dog got out of his pen, crossed the street to the Gossen property and attacked Tyson. Gracynn was traumatized.
“We are asking for help,” says Gossen on Facebook. “We are begging for help.” But as she has discovered, it seems little anyone can do.
She has called the Town’s canine control officer. She’s called 911 and had the police arrive and stay in their car — they weren’t getting out.
She’s called the humane society, hoping they would take the aggressive dog.
So far, nobody has been able to do anything. They can’t remove a dog from its owner, she’s told.
Each time, her neighbour, Paul Ermanian, says he’s doing his best to keep Diago contained, but the dog keeps getting out.
Diago has attacked Tyson in the Gossen’s garage, and even once when Tyson was in his own dog house. Ermanian had to come over and pull Diago out of the dog house, Gossen says, while the family watched in terror.
Saturday night, Ermanian says he was out when he got the phone call about Diago. He went right home, believing it had to be someone else’s dog, because he had left his two penned up. It wasn’t someone else’s dog, he says, and he’s sorry for the trouble Diago is causing the Gossen family.
Ermanian, who was happy to tell his side of the story to The Local, says he did consider “to some degree” giving up Diago, trying to find a new home for him, but decided he would keep him, and do his best, as he has been doing, to prevent any more incidents. He compares Diago to a wayward child — whatever they do, you love them anyway. “He’s part of my family,” he says.
He suggests the Gossens should build a fenced area for their dog.
But it’s not their dog leaving his property, Gossen says, calling Tyson a “porch dweller.” And as concerned as Gossen is for Tyson, an eight-year-old border collie/Australian shepherd cross, she is more worried about Diago attacking one of her kids.
“We just don’t feel safe anymore. We’ve asked him (Ermanian) how he would feel if it happened to one of our kids. The threat is always there.”
Gossen says she doesn’t want to make this sound like a fight between neighbours. Other than the issue of the dog, they’ve always gotten along, and he’s been a great neighbour.
She knows he does try to keep his two dogs contained, but “that will work for a while, until Diago gets out the next time, and he’s over at our house, looking to kill Tyson.”
There was one day when the bus driver wouldn’t let Gracynn off the bus, because Diago was in their driveway, and she was terrified, says Gossen. “What if one day she gets off the bus, and he’s there? Our kids have watched over and over again, watched the dog they love being attacked. Does it need to be my daughter who’s attacked before anybody does anything? I guess that’s what it has to take.”
Gossen says she wants to be a good neighbour.
“We want to be peace-makers, to get along with everybody. But it’s frustrating to have to fight for our safety. We want to feel safe in our own home.”
Ermanian always apologizes, and always offers to pay the vet bills. The latest one, she expects, will come to about $1,500.
He told The Local he’d be going over to the Gossens to pay this one, as he has the others, because he knows it’s his responsibility when Diago gets out. He describes in detail how fencing was put together to keep the dog from escaping, and his surprise when he discovered Diago had found a way out. There was a portion of the fencing, “that unbeknown to me, was not secured properly. Maybe it was the wind Saturday night. I’m not sure what happened, but he was able to crawl out,” he says.
There was a time when Diago and Tyson would play together, he says, and he believes this all started when his other dog, a female, was in heat, and Diago became jealous of Tyson. “My dog has a dislike for their dog.”
He says the thought of Diago hurting children “is my worst fear too.”
But he’s not aggressive with other dogs, and Ermanian doesn’t believe Diago would ever attack a child, or any human. He has no problem with Diago being around his own grandchildren — he has never displayed any aggressive behaviour around them.
“I’m still upset,” he says about the Saturday attack.
“I don’t want this to happen to anybody. But I feel strongly he would never harm a person.”
Diago is a mixed breed, a rescue dog, and “not as aggressive as he’s being portrayed. It would be really hard for me to get rid of him.”
Instead, he says, “I make every effort to contain my animals.”
Ken Reid, the Town canine control officer, was called out to the Saturday night attack, and is also frustrated with the situation.
There is very little he can do, and that is hard for him.
“I’ve been wracking my brain to figure out what I can do to help these people, but there just isn’t an answer.”
He has told Ermanian it’s his duty, his obligation under the law to keep his dog contained, and he knows the dog owner is trying to do that. However, it’s not working.
“I’ve suggested he build a pen in the barn, so if he gets out of the pen he’s still locked up. But he has gotten out of the barn before, so I’ve suggested he has to be chained in the barn.”
On Saturday, he told Ermanian he should have Diago neutered, but isn’t sure whether he plans to follow through on that.
He’s “a lot of dog, a big strong dog. Neutering might make him less aggressive,” says Reid.
“I keep getting asked, ‘why can’t I do something.’ But other than telling him he has to contain his dog, there isn’t much I can do.”
If he were to find Diago off Ermanian’s property, he could pick him up and take him to the humane society, but Ermanian would just have to pay to get him back, “and we’d be back where we started.”
Even if Diago were to bite a child or a child were to get in the middle of a dog fight, which is a real possibility, “I can’t take that dog,” says Reid.
The humane society requires that a dog who bites a person be quarantined, and could take the dog for that time, but then he would be returned to his owner, Reid says.
The only way to take a dog from its owner is with a court order. That would require the Gossens to press charges, which they say they don’t want to do.
And even if they did, if it’s a fight between dogs, the judge could just tell Ermanian to keep his dog contained, says Reid.
Under the law, the dog owner is “doing his due diligence. He isn’t allowing his dog to run free. It escaped.”
Reid suggested another home should be found for Diago, “but Paul has had him since he was a puppy, and he doesn’t want to do that. It’s just one of those situations that is totally frustrating, and it keeps happening. I know both parties, and it’s difficult to come up with a solution. In the long run, it’s the dog owner who is responsible. I’ve told him ‘you have to do everything in your power to keep your dog contained. And if that’s not possible, you have to find the dog another home.’ I don’t want to see anybody going through this, on either side of the situation, but there’s nothing more I can do.”