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When I was 8 years old, I was having a play-date with a friend of mine. I remember the day very clearly, not because it was a significant play-date; because the course of that day scarred me forever, both physically and emotionally.

We had stopped in a toy store in Bridgehampton to buy some water guns to play with, and roped by the back door was a black Labrador. After asking the man behind the cash register whether the dog was friendly, I proceeded to play with him to my heart's content while my friend continued to check out the merchandise.

The dog was surely nice, happy to have someone to play with. Everything seemed fine.... until he gave a quick growl and then clamped his sharp teeth right below my left eye and inside my mouth, tearing my mouth tissue, pulling off the top of my cheek, and causing severe blood loss.

I wasn't even with my parents -- my friend's mother had taken us to the store. My own parents were halfway back to the city by then, and here I was, stumbling over, blood pouring and gushing down my face, crying. I was gasping for breath because of the blood dripping down my throat, and what did the man behind the cash register do? He cursed quickly and then offered me ice.

Had the situation been handled differently, I wouldn't have decided to sue him. As it was, he didn't even start to call 911 or help with anything. I had to get 40-50 stitches on my cheek and in my mouth, and suffered months of antagonizing swelling that caused everyone to stare when I walked down the street. Thankfully, all that's left is one small, barely noticeable scar, but the emotional scar that this incident has caused will forever remain dark and ugly.

I still love dogs. Whatever provoked the dog to bite me, I don't blame him. It's called instinct. My own dog is very friendly and would never hurt me, but even so, whenever he starts to growl when I play with him, I back off immediately. No lasting damage was really caused by this horrible event, but whenever I'm sent back to that moment in time, there is such a state of depression and sadness that I begin to wonder why so few understand why I was so affected by this terrible day.

As life goes on, this does not affect my daily life. But there will always be a vague outline of that awful moment, and for that I blame the owner of that dog, the man behind the cash register, not because the dog bit me, but because the situation was so much worse and had to extend for so much longer than it could have.
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