IT is the stuff of which nightmares are made.

It happened on a sunny Saturday morning near my home in Edinburgh. It was August 22nd. The park boasted its usual scattering of children, dogs and bicycles. For no apparent reason, a tiny Jack Russell, off-the-lead, ran up to a massive Malamute and nipped its hind leg, twice. Quick as a flash, the Malamute, which was attached to a bike, turned its large jaw and clutched the little dog by the scruff of the neck, shook it vigorously, inflicting multiple injuries and breaking its back. It lay bleeding. Its owner, a charming elderly man, picked up his pet and was forced to watch him die in his arms. The Malamute stood still while its owner tried to comfort his small child who had witnessed the horror unfold. He apologised then disappeared with his dog and child. The distressed owner carried his blood-soaked dog home to break the news to his equally distraught wife. He was escorted by a kind, practical neighbour, Marion, who provided moral support.

As I said, the stuff of which nightmares are made.

You might think the police would deal with the situation. They haven’t. Yes, they have interviewed the parties involved but that’s it. You might think Edinburgh City Council’s dog wardens would deal with the situation. They haven’t. You might think the Malamute’s owner would muzzle his dog. He hasn’t. Instead, whenever the dog shows aggression towards another animal, the owner covers its eyes with his hand. A muzzle would be far simpler. It would also allow us, as a community, to feel safe.

Do we not have the right to feel safe walking the streets and parks?

It has been alleged that this dog has attacked another dog but, this time, its victim escaped. Without exaggeration, the killing of this Jack Russell has terrorised an entire village, particularly the active dog walking community. The tragedy is that the owner of the Malamute lives in the same street as the couple whose dog was killed. Many of their neighbours also have dogs. One, a woman of 85, is now too petrified to walk hers.

We have a Westie puppy, called Jura. Every time we go out, we wonder whether we will meet the man with the Malamute. Jura had been in the park shortly before the attack. It could have been us carrying home a dead puppy.

A lot of people believe it is the owner who makes a dog dangerous not the breed.


I disagree. Yes, owners of such dogs have a lot to answer for. They are responsible for socialising their animals; for making sure they don’t attack other dogs or humans. However, some dogs, particularly Malamutes, have a reputation for being both fierce and unpredictable. Bad - perhaps even deadly - behaviour is in their genes. We all know that some breeds can turn without warning. That is what unpredictable means.

Of course, originally, dogs lived in the wild. They scavenged and hunted for food. It may be that where pets and humans are concerned, things have gone too far. It wouldn’t be so bad if we treated pets like members of the family, with a healthy measure of disrespect. But, it’s gone way beyond that, hasn’t it? Animals are the family members we wish we had but don’t.

In our offices, we have photos of the dog on the desk, not of our children. We feed our spouses pie and chips and give the smoked salmon to the cat. We dress our pets in ridiculous clothes. Not for nothing did George Bernard Shaw say: "animals bear more than their natural burden of human love."

Unfortunately, these days, so many hooligans buy large, square-faced, jowelly dogs because they need something fierce to make an entrance for them. You see them all the time, swaggering along, a menace on a lead at their side, prowling and sniffing everyone with suspicion. Invariably, the owner will say: ‘He has a lovely nature. He wouldn’t harm a fly’.


There has been talk of assessing people to see whether they are fit to become dog owners. It is a good idea, but, a better one would be to stop breeding all potentially violent dogs.

Children often fall victim to dogs. Invariably, these kids are scarred for life; mentally as well as physically. If they survive, that is. They grow up and grow old terrified of dogs; afraid to walk the streets for fear of the same thing happening again.

Here, in Edinburgh, we are very afraid - always wondering whose dog, or, whisper it, child, will be next.