Dog Attack While Abroad- When the (Jamaican) Dog Bites

Sometimes in the travel world, things don’t quite go as planned. You forget your iPad charger, you miss your flight, you have a gnarly hangover, or two dogs surprise you. Here is the tale of my dog attack while abroad.  Spoiler alert: I am ok and I am fully healed.

I had been in Jamaica for four days, and was staying in the home of a wonderful woman, who was amazing and so welcoming and just the loveliest person. I woke up on my first Saturday in Jamaica at 7am as we were to go out to a major agricultural show, the biggest such show in all of Jamaica. Since I’m working with an agriculture project, this show was a big deal and everybody was excited to go.

I wake up and get ready, but then have to go outside to find my coworker, as my two big suitcases are in her car and I need some stuff for the day, like sunscreen for my pasty white skin.

Suddenly, two dogs came around the corner of the house and there I am.  These are the property pets/alert dogs, that were in their fenced in area the night previous when I had arrived late. At that time they had been barking when we drove in, but they were behind bars. They had been let them out for a few minutes that morning while everybody was still asleep.  Unfortunately, I had woken up early, which goes to show you should never wake up early. 

Generally I appreciate dogs having a chance to fun free, I hate seeing caged animals or chained up dogs, either at home or while travelling abroad. These dogs both maybe needed those cages, or chains perhaps?  Not one of my top 10 experiences. 

Dog attack while abroad

Both dogs came at me barking and jumping at me. As I backed away from them, they lunged at me, knocking me back into bushes. One jumped up and chomped down on my left forearm and on my left ankle. The other dog got me a bit on my right hand and right foot, but those were more scrapes, though it all bruised. 
I screamed, not knowing where anybody was and figuring them coming would probably be the only way these two would get off of me.

Once their owner came around the corner and yelled, the dogs backed right off and I ran into the house bleeding and crying, both from pain and from fright. It all hurt bad, and was scary as hell. It was my first week in Jamaica, and I had dog bites on two of my favourite limbs. 

It was also incredibly surreal, like, is this actually happening?! What the heck?!?! I was so surprised this was happening I almost didn’t believe it!

Dog attack while abroad

My left forearm had three good puncture wounds, and my left ankle had two deep ones and then some smaller spots. There seemed to be no deep muscle or nerve damage but was all very sore, especially since one of the spots on my ankle was right on the bone, so it was extremely tender. Arm and leg were both sore, little strength in arm and walking was difficult on my leg. Just generally painful.

Dog attack while abroad

The woman I was staying with called her friend who is a doctor and she came right over and looked everything over, cleaned it all out and recommended I get a tetanus shot. My tetanus was good for another 3 years, but still because I was bit so deeply, she thought it was a good idea. Another doctor was also consulted and he agreed, better safe than sorry. No stitches for any of the punctures, as there was thankfully no tearing, all punctures the length and depth of a dogs canine.

Needless to say I did not go to the agriculture show. The doctor was bandaging my ankle and accidentally grabbed one of the best dog bites and I reflexly freaked out and cried. There was instant consensus that I wasn’t going. I also couldn’t really hold my own body weight that well, so a day in the sun with no way home would not have been a good thing.

Dog attack while abroad

My host of course felt awful and apologized profusely, for days following. Her dogs had never done anything like this, and she was so upset with them I actually felt worse for her than for me. That day, she drove me to the ocean for seafood lunch at Little Ochie in Alligator Pond, about an hour from Mandeville on the south coast. Ok! Eating an entire fresh fish while gazing at the ocean somewhat salvaged the day.

Despite the fish, not the best day I’ve ever had. I have been assured that both animals are up to date on their shots, specifically rabies. Plus word has it that there is no rabies in Jamaica! We heard this from 4 different doctors, so many doctor friends!  Hot tip: while abroad have friends who are friends with many many doctors! 

Being attacked by dogs really is no laughing matter, and if you don’t have the rabies vaccine, the aftermath can be downright dangerous.   I do have the rabies vaccine, which I appreciate, since I am terrified of dying of rabies.  Seriously, a dog attack while abroad was always scary due to the rabies element. Well, actually a monkey attack would be worse.  I hate monkeys.   But it is a major concern while travelling abroad.  And I’m not the only person who this kind of thing has happened to.  Mary from A Mary Road has her own scary dog story: The Day I’ve Got Bitten By A Stray Dog – A Traveller’s Horror Story

We never know what is around the corner, and being alert and thoroughly vaccinated are some of the best precautions we as travellers in new places can take.I know the rabies vaccine is expensive, but for the piece of mind, it’s worth it!

Dog attack while abroad

After it all happened and my adrenaline started to wear off, all I wanted was to do was call my mom. Having just arrived in country, I still didn’t have a SIM card, so couldn’t, but I guess it’s true, no matter how old you get, when mean dogs attack you all you really want is your mom.  Later that day, I got online and emailed my parents, brother, and best friend fishing for sympathy.  None of them immediately emailed me back as I had hoped (they had their own lives, what nerve!), though later on they were very empathetic to my dog attack episode. 

So, do I still love dogs? Yes, just not two specific ones so much. And yes the random animal photos in this post are to prove that I do love animals, and dogs, and have had very lovely relationships with many of them in the past.  So it’s not all puncture wounds and screaming.

Dog attack while abroad

Am I maybe more scared of unknown dogs than I was prior? Yes! For sure! I’m a fragile flower and can’t take being gnawed on! And all lightheartedness aside, it was very scary. I thought that this was the moment I would lose my phenomenal face.  And like this? I mean, I’ve done much stupider things while travelling than walking outside on private property in the morning light.  

This whole experience says to me that I definitely need to carry my trusty dog rock with me at all times (a dog rock is a highly advanced form of personal security, wherein you find a rock on the street to have ready to throw at any advancing dog). But like anything bad that happens, you can not be so scared of it happening again that you stop living. The wounds have healed, the bruises have faded, and while this was pretty scary, I will still want to pet cute dogs and I am already looking to woo a neighbours dog away from them to become my own.  Not steal them, woo them with Jedi mind tricks. 

My host was truly wonderful.  She helped me so much in the days following and as I said, I felt bad she was put into such a compromising situation because of her pets.  We had some great times in the days that followed, she took me shopping and helped me set up my new home, and was my first friend in Jamaica! We also talked about Donald Trump a lot and how much we both despise him. So sometimes good things come out of crappy things. 

My Jamaican dog attack was definitely no fun, and I got off relatively easy, back up on my feet again in a few days. But it’s not to be taken lightly, all travellers need to be savy to the fact that animals abroad may not act the same as they do back home.  I for one was very thankful I was with such a wonderful woman, who took good care of me. My Mom was glad too.


Onwards and upwards!

8 thoughts on “Dog Attack While Abroad- When the (Jamaican) Dog Bites

  1. So sorry to hear about the dog attack but am sure glad it didn’t scar you for like, either physically or emotionally. Well written article and great photos!! 🙂

  2. So glad you survived the attack as well as you did. I just spent last weekend helping your Dad with the squash event at the Americas Masters Games and heard that he and your Mom had to make the final decision on their dog Alexis. Always a difficult decision.

    Hopefully, the rest of your stay in Jamaica is much more positive ! It can only go up from here. 😉

  3. Dude! That’s so scary! The first day I spent in Bangkok, my friend Amy and I met a dude from the Kootneys and went to see a temple with him. At some point he had wandered away, and then we heard a ton of barking and he ran around the corner with a pack of dogs chasing him. Amy and I ran away, and my first thought was “I’m going to get rabies.” The dude decided to turn around and stand his ground. He yelled at the dogs and they all backed off, except one. Eventually he realized that the dog was just barking at him, so he backed away slowly and came to join us. I must’ve forgotten about that for the rest of my trip, because it didn’t stop me from cuddling all sorts of stray, and pretty mangy, cats and dogs for the remainder of my trip. I still feared monkeys; I’m not stupid. Anyway, so glad your face is okay.

  4. Well, now I know why your mom was so insistent that I read this blog: “After it all happened and my adrenaline started to wear off, all I wanted was to do was call my mom. Having just arrived in country, I still didn’t have a SIM card, so couldn’t, but I guess it’s true, no matter how old you get, when mean dogs attack you all you really want is your mom.”

    That woman, huh? Always parading her motherhood! Well, she’s done a great job with you.

    Emily, I am so happy that you’ve escaped pretty much unscathed from this barking mad experience so that you can continue to do the wonderful work that you’re involved with. Your parents have kept me up to date on the things you’ve done, are doing, and will do–your mom mentioned Guyana, Barbados, and San Lucia–in her e-mail last night.

    I love your parents and am thrilled that they raised a daughter with a strong social conscience and equally strong sense of wanderlust. All the best to you in all of the things you do to take a bite out of the world’s problems.

  5. I LOVE seeing you share this. This is life-saving for people who travel to read your experience. I’ve lived in India and have experienced street dogs…some look noble and kind while others look hungry and a bit growly.

    Our compassion wants to save them and our innocence does not understand their background or how they’ve learned to survive and interact with people from the time they were born. I work with conscious pet parents in the US to help them to have an amazing relationship with their dog and that’s what we know and value in western countries…things like pet parenting…love…snuggles…fun…fur babies.

    And as we travel, we need to be aware that although all dogs are domesticated, dogs learn how to live in our human world from their mom and from other dogs. Biting, growling and attacking are part of that. Once learned, it’s difficult to change. I know someone who adopted a street puppy imported from India to Canada. The dog still bites, despite my friend’s hard work to rehab her adorable dog.

    Stepping up to take the time to share your scary experience may save someone’s life. Travelers are full of adventure and many are conscious, caring people too. They may not know that “pets” in 1 country can be feral or aggressive on their home turf. I’m so happy you are okay! And I know your mom is saying the same thing. 🙂

    1. Hi Lee,
      Thank you so much for your message, it means a lot that you took the time and I agree with you 100%. Culturally the world over, animals and humans have very different relationships and my experience goes to show that we can never fully predict what those relationships will be. Since this experience, I still want to save all of the dogs, and I actually have rescued a fuzzy little kitten that was going to be put down just because her owner didn’t want to deal with her. Her name is Michelle Obama and she is a true sweetheart. This was such a traumatic moment for me I wanted to share it in my blog, knowing that not all cultural learning experiences are positive ones, but they all make us who we are.

      Thanks again, cheers to the pet parents out there!


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