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HomeFeaturesUncle Jack Fultz's Memories of Carter County: Dealing with Mad Dogs

Uncle Jack Fultz’s Memories of Carter County: Dealing with Mad Dogs

By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times

If you, like me, grew up watching Looney Tunes and other cartoons of the era – things like Tom & Jerry and Droopy Dog, or Woody Woodpecker and Chilly Willy – you probably thought mad dogs were going to be more of a problem in life than they’ve actually been. 

Same for quicksand, and trap doors, come to think of it. But there was slim chance of encountering either of those while walking to school. 

Strange dogs, on the other hand; they were everywhere. 

And while toothpaste and whip cream around the mouth might be played up for comedic effect in the cartoons, another seminal film, Disney’s Old Yeller, drove home just how serious, dangerous, and heartbreaking the disease could be.

By the 1970s long-lasting rabies vaccinations for livestock and pets were widely available, and so most of us have – thankfully – never had to deal with a mad dog. Attacks from rabid wild animals still happen every year in far-flung locations across the country and around the globe. But the dreaded “mad dog” is nearly a thing of the past. 

Thanks to cheaper and more readily available vaccines, vaccine requirements for pet owners, and programs that immunize strays, our children and grandchildren are growing up in a world where they are even less likely to encounter mad dogs than we were. 

But our parents and grandparents didn’t necessarily grow up in that same world. For them the fixation on mad dogs – and thus their entry into pop culture – was much more justified. 

In May of 1924 the Carter County Herald reported on a young boy bitten by a “mad dog” in Olive Hill, while walking with his father, who had begun treatment to prevent the disease. He wasn’t the only one to be bitten in recent weeks either. The paper also reported on a woman and her son who were bitten near Upper Tygart, requiring treatment as well. 

And it wasn’t a one-off thing. In July of 1925 the Herald reported on at least four more children undergoing treatment for exposure to rabies. Though Pasteur had created his first rabies vaccine by 1885, treatment for exposure in the 1920s was still fairly new, and required a series of treatments to be successful. 

Today, treatment for rabies exposure isn’t nearly so intense. There are also preventative vaccinations for those in high-risk situations or professions, such as veterinarians. 

But we’re still really glad that pet owners are required to vaccinate their dogs, and that the Carter County Animal Shelter assures all animals in their care receive a rabies vaccination before they are adopted out.

Whipped cream from a dessert being blown by a fan onto Droopy’s mouth, just as the dog catcher walks past, is funny in the cartoons. What isn’t so funny is four children being bitten by rabid dogs. Or the editor’s suggestions for dealing with stray dogs. 

We’ll take rabies shots for our dogs over that any day. 

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com

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