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On March 1, 2010, the Liam J. Perk Foundation Fund was announced in Cape Coral, Florida with the express purpose to educate parents and dogs owners to provide a safe environment for children and dogs as a family.
Liam died on December 22, 2009, shortly after turning two years old. He was bitten by his family’s dog.
Be prepared to cry and mourn with his family as you read Liam’s father’s story here. Really, go read it and come back to discuss what can be done to help dogs and kids be safer with each other.
I remember reading the original news articles and thinking this one isn’t another dog bite death with so many outlying risk factors as to make it the kind of thing that happens to “other people.” You know, the ones you can choose to dismiss because it must have been a so-called “bad dog” or maybe it was just a “bad kid” that shouldn’t have been messing with a dog or the catch-all: “bad parents” who weren’t watching their kids.
“Tsk, tsk,” we say, “People should really supervise their kids around dogs.” And then we all go about doing the same old things that are setting our good kids and our good dogs and our good parents up for trouble. Nothing changes.
Well, there is no one “bad” to point a finger at in Liam’s case and there’s no hiding from the fact that this is a family just like yours and mine: established family dogs, involved parents, happy toddler bouncing around and a Dad who was RIGHT THERE — close enough to catch his boy before he even fell.
In fact, except for where the bite happened to land, this incident would not even have made the local news. Maybe a couple of stitches and a band aid and one more family struggling on their own to figure out what went wrong and how to keep it from happening again.
Bite statistics are kind of squirrelly, but I’m sure we can all agree that dog bites to young children are not uncommon. Deaths and serious injuries are incredibly rare, but not so for growls, snaps and relatively inhibited bites — those not much different than the one that hit Liam Perk in the absolute wrong spot.
I am in awe of Joseph and Carrie Perk’s willingness to share their story and engage other parents and dog owners to consider what can be done differently to help our dogs and children live together in safety and friendship. Doing what everyone already does wasn’t enough to save Liam.
More to come in future posts as I summarize the main points I teach in my classes:
- Make “Deposits” to Your Dog’s Goodwill/Tolerance Account
- Keep Your Child From Being “Magnetized” to Your Dog
- Body Language – How Your Dog Asks for Help
- The Curse of a Good Dog
- “Friends” at Five Years of Age (Maybe), Not Before
- Use Only “Baby Safe” Training Methods
- Speak Up!
Would any of this have made a difference for Liam? Will it make a difference for your family? I can’t eliminate all the risks, but I’ve worked for years to identify at least a few simple things you can do to cut out some of the more common risk factors. People come to my classes and say it’s nothing like what they expected to learn but now it makes perfect sense, and they leave safer than when they came in.
I’m not vain enough to think that I have all the answers. I’ll post my pieces of the solution and link to other trainers and experts who have their pieces and together we can give families the information they need — before it’s too late to be of help.
That’s what I hope to achieve with this blog.