I may have told this story before, but today’s entry over at Hell in a Handbasket got me thinking about it again. I think I might just have more words about it or at least some lessons learned. And hey! Content! I am ostensibly a blogger, after all.
James shares a story of his recent defensive gun use, and it has several things in common with the one and only time I have ever gone for my handgun for anything other than training or practice. Go read it.
Like his encounter, mine was with a dog and ultimately, no shots were fired. Unlike his story, mine does not include injury and medical treatment. Good for me, bad for James, but he’s going to be alright.
A couple of dogs had gotten loose in my neighborhood. I had successfully wrangled one of them and put it in the backyard and was very carefully attempting to corral the other. I’ve done this countless times with many different dogs without issue and assumed the chocolate lab would be no different. For those playing along at home, this is what we call the first mistake, and thankfully the only one. Unfamiliar animals have a tendency to act in unpredictable ways.
I held out my left hand in a non-threatening way and encouraged the dog to approach me, which she did very cautiously. (Left hand because I am right-handed and that allowed me easy access to the snub nosed revolver holstered on my hip that day. I may have been overly assuming, but I was not stupid or unprepared.) The dog sniffed my hand and visibly relaxed. She even allowed me to pet her head. This seemed like my opportunity to slowly crouch down to inspect her collar for identification.
It was at that point that her demeanor did a complete 180. She went from frightened but calm to a mass of teeth and snarls. I jumped back and shouted something forceful (I have no idea what I said). I made multiple observations, calculations, and decisions in that moment. I observed that there were no kids playing in the street that day. I decided that should she lunge at me, my choices would be to shoot her or be attacked. I pivoted on my left foot ever so slightly so as to have a solid backstop if it came to that (down into the yard). I raised my left arm so it was between the dog and my face. I’d far prefer to be bitten on the arm than the face and the corduroy jacket would have mitigated some injury . I swept my right hand back brushing aside my jacket and gaining a solid grip on my handgun. James noted about how time compresses, and I found that to be true. All of that happened in a matter of seconds.
And lunge she did. She raised up on her hind legs and just as I was beginning to draw, she dropped back down and ran away. It was over. I pushed the revolver back into the holster and made certain she was really gone before taking a deep breath and assessing the situation. I don’t know if she just sensed that my aggression was bigger than hers and decided to back down or if she heard her owner arrive home. Her behavior was more erratic than any dog I’ve dealt with before or since. All I knew is that thankfully, I didn’t have to shoot a dog in my own front yard that day.
A couple of points I want to highlight. It’s important to be aware of all threats, not just the two legged variety. And also that this didn’t happen in the ‘bad’ part of town. It happened in my front yard. My castle, if you will. The place I should be able to let my guard down. Yes, I carry at home. Finally, I’ve been carrying a firearm on my hip for over 5 years. I’ve been in several heated arguments in that time (one with the owner of said dog. Now I know where the erratic behavior comes from), plenty of road rage incidents, and had some crazy woman get in my face threatening to ‘kick my ass’ even, and yet, the one and only time I’ve reached for it was when there was a clear and present threat of severe bodily harm. From a dog. I know, I totally fail at the whole trigger happy gun nut thing.
And again, no shots fired so it will never count as an official defensive gun use. I didn’t even get fully drawn, so it’s not even brandishing territory.