We all know in theory life can change in an instant. But that doesn’t mean we are truly prepared if it does.
Life took an unexpected turn for the Bannister family of Thetis Island on June 18 as they took their leashed dog for a routine evening walk. Another dog suddenly appeared off-leash and wanted to come and say a doggie hello. The humans with the other dog were on bikes, trailing behind.
The Bannisters’ dog – adopted from the SPCA – is very friendly with humans, but reactive with other dogs. Kelly Bannister did her best to communicate the need to keep the dogs apart but the message was lost on the other party. A friendly sniff turned into a bark and then a lashing out.
Caught in the middle and with a split second to make a decision, Kelly decided to pull the dogs apart. That’s the instant life changed.
As she pushed the other dog away, her own dog was still in ‘protection mode’ and lunged at it. But Kelly was in the path and became the unintended recipient, badly bitten on the knee. Just how severe wasn’t understood until a couple of days later once a nasty infection set in. Bannister had to have extensive surgery to remove damaged and infected tissue, repair the joint and irrigate to decrease the bacterial load.
It was no small feat to get to the hospital from Thetis Island. Bannister said she was “extremely grateful” to the local First Responders and volunteer fire department who attended to her on the roadside, the water taxi driver who shuttled her to Chemainus, the ambulance attendants who whisked her to Duncan, as well as the staff at Cowichan District Hospital.
Bannister spent several more days in hospital fighting the infection on IV antibiotics and fever medication. “It was pretty scary,” she noted. “My body just couldn’t get on top of the infection even with max(imum) doses of the drugs.”
Her fever suddenly broke and the swelling started receding on Day 5. She had been journaling her experience online through Facebook. She attributes the positive shift to “a lot of people from all over the world, from many different faith traditions, loving and praying me back to health.
“A couple of friends in particular, were there for me, when I was at a loss.”
She continued another week as an outpatient getting IV antibiotics and being monitored at Chemainus Acute Care. “I saw a bit of everything there. We are so blessed to have this facility and the exceptional staff in our little town.”
Bannister is in training for her black belt in the marital art of Aikido. “At first I was really upset about missing my Aikido practice,” she said.
But as the extent of the injury and infection became apparent, she had to look past that, as well as weeks of lost income, inability to walk or drive, and many inconveniences.
“My goal changed to having two legs that work,” Bannister noted. “And being able to be a mom again to my two kids, instead of the one needing all their care.
“It’s been life-changing. I’m grateful for the care and compassion I’ve received. And for many quiet blessings, such as the stories that people have confided in me.”
She says many similar dog stories have been shared by friends and strangers. “The importance of having all dogs on leashes in public spaces is really clear to me. Yes, even the friendly ones.
“We don’t know the history of other dogs, and what will trigger them. We can’t make assumptions that all dogs are properly socialized. There is always uncertainty that needs be met with respectful caution – by everyone.
“I’ve learned that many dogs have problems, perhaps more than most owners will admit. But that doesn’t mean we get rid of the dogs. We need to learn from these tragedies and do our best to take responsibility.
“Our dog now wears a muzzle for her walks. And we are looking into more training. That’s what we can do. We also need others to do their part and leash up in public. It’s vital.”