Greenwich woman says service dog attacked in Darien
Published 12:21 pm, Thursday, March 28, 2013
Amy Dixon relies on a guide dog to help her get around despite limited vision, but the Greenwich resident was forced to protect her companion recently after she says the dog was attacked by an off-leash dog in Darien.
Dixon -- who works in the restaurant industry and calls herself the "Blind Sommelier" -- was in Darien on business Sunday, and was on her way back to the train station with her Labrador retriever, Elvis, when another dog walked toward them.
In a flash, the other animal, which Dixon said was likely a cattle dog, yanked Elvis to the ground. Dixon says she lunged to protect her dog, spraining her ankle in the process.
Dixon then called the police, and said the other dog owner shouted her name and address before quickly leaving.
A Darien Police spokesman could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Dixon, 37, said she plans to press charges against the owner, who violated a town law that requires dogs to be kept on leashes while on public property.
The situation is even more harrowing for people like Dixon, who depend on service dogs to maintain their independence. Dixon developed uveitis, an autoimmune disease involving the eye, at age 22, and has since lost the majority of her vision. She got Elvis four years ago from Guiding Eyes for the Blind. The nonprofit, based in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., extensively trains the service dogs, which are given to people who need them.
"There's a leash law for a reason," Dixon said. "Obviously, somebody who is disabled is not going to be able to defend themselves from a loose dog."
The organization sent a staff member to Dixon's house after the alleged attack.
Dixon said Elvis is physically OK, but will require some extra training to make sure the attack won't prevent him from doing his job.
Dixon said she will limit Elvis's exposure to other dogs that he doesn't know for next few weeks, and limit her travel.
Michelle Brier, a spokeswoman for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, said guide dogs aren't attacked frequently, but when they are, it can be harrowing for both the owner and the dogs, whose stable dispositions make it difficult for the service animals to defend themselves.
"They're not at all trained for protection in any way," Brier said.
While the situation could have been worse, Dixon said the attack has shaken her.
"I encounter dozens of dogs every day in downtown Greenwich," Dixon said. "The No. 1 reason I moved here (was) because I don't have car. I can get everywhere I need to on foot, and now I'm afraid to leave the house."
In the meantime, Dixon said she is working with state Rep. Alfred Camillo, R-151st District, on legislation that would require dog owners to acknowledge that they have read local leash laws when licensing their dogs.
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