"Oh, he won’t bite" is among the 10 most common lies people tell each other. It’s right up there with "No new taxes" and "[He/she]’s just a friend."
Mail carriers know this. According to the U.S. Postal Service, 27 carriers were bitten by dogs last year. This doesn’t count the number of pants or sock savagings wherein no blood was shed.
"He won’t bite" probably ranks No. 2 on most common lies people tell mail carriers. It’s right after "He/she doesn’t live here anymore."
Note: You have to rate the 10 most common lies according to your own life experience. For me "He/she won’t bite you" is No. 2, right after "We don’t have the money for that."
Lie No. 1 is invariably uttered by my wife whenever I want something expensive. I’ve heard it for nearly 40 years, beginning the day we got engaged. I’ve come to accept it because even though it’s a lie, it’s usually the last barrier between me and a jail sentence.
But I never believe someone telling me that their dog doesn’t bite. All dogs bite. That’s how they got (and still have) pointy teeth.
I have been bitten by dogs at least a dozen times, beginning with the first while delivering newspapers as a kid, and the last when attorney Ron Yengich’s dogs bit me while I was writing for newspapers.
Another note: This doesn’t count accidental bites, like the time my head got between Duncan’s dog Petey and a deflated, tooth-punctured football.
The first intentional bite occurred while collecting for my newspaper route. An old woman went inside for her purse, leaving me alone on the porch with what appeared to be a snaggle-toothed, overfed muskrat.
"Oh, Lovey-Dovey won’t bite," the old woman said. "He’s just a little sugar nookums."
Lovey-Dovey was a #$%*@ maniac is what he was. As soon as the screen door shut, he went for my genitals.
I made two complete laps around the house and was fleeing on my bike before realizing that Lovey-Dovey was still attached to the front of my pants.
On my next visit to the old woman’s house, I received an apology and an extra dime for my trouble. That was the last time I believed "He won’t bite."
I’m lucky that Lovey-Dovey was small. Had he been the size of the dog who years later dislocated my thumb and put me in surgery, I would have been forced to adopt the grandchildren I have.
But size doesn’t matter when it comes to whether a dog will bite. Sometimes the smallest ones are the most inclined.
One of my wife’s friends has a breed of dog known as a "Yorkshire terrier," which I believe is the Latin term for "rodent." Remy is no larger than the head of a toothbrush but is still obviously in possession of fangs.
Remy seems to like me. That doesn’t mean anything. The last two dogs who bit me (Annie and Lily Yengich) were wagging their tails before, during and after.
It would be convenient to blame all of the bites I’ve suffered on the likelihood that dogs have more teeth than brains.
While this almost certainly is true of some dogs, when it comes to me, it’s far more likely that all dogs are simply excellent judges of character.
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