Rest in Peace, Liam Perk

Two year old Liam Perk and family

On March 1, 2010, the Liam J. Perk Foundation Fund was announced in Cape Coral, Florida with the express purpose to educate parents and dogs owners to provide a safe environment for children and dogs as a family.

Liam died on December 22, 2009, shortly after turning two years old.  He was bitten by his family’s dog.

Be prepared to cry and mourn with his family as you read Liam’s father’s story here.  Really, go read it  and come back to discuss what can be done to help dogs and kids be safer with each other.

I remember reading the original news articles and thinking this one isn’t another dog bite death with so many outlying risk factors as to make it the kind of thing that happens to “other people.”  You  know, the ones you can choose to dismiss because it must have been a so-called “bad dog” or maybe it was just a “bad kid” that shouldn’t have been messing with a dog or the catch-all:  “bad parents” who weren’t watching their kids.

“Tsk, tsk,” we say, “People should really supervise their kids around dogs.”  And then we all go about doing the same old things that are setting our good kids and our good dogs and our good parents up for trouble.  Nothing changes.

Well, there is no one “bad” to point a finger at in Liam’s case and there’s no hiding from the fact that this is a family just like yours and mine:  established family dogs, involved parents, happy toddler bouncing around and a Dad who was RIGHT THERE — close enough to catch his boy before he even fell.

In fact, except for where the bite happened to land, this incident would not even have made the local news.  Maybe a couple of stitches and a band aid and one more family struggling on their own to figure out what went wrong and how to keep it from happening again.

Bite statistics are kind of squirrelly, but I’m sure we can all agree that dog bites to young children are not uncommon.  Deaths and serious injuries are incredibly rare, but not so for growls, snaps and relatively inhibited bites — those not much different than the one that hit Liam Perk in the absolute wrong spot.

I am in awe of Joseph and Carrie Perk’s willingness to share their story and engage other parents and dog owners to consider what can be done differently to help our dogs and children live together in safety and friendship.  Doing what everyone already does wasn’t enough to save Liam.

More to come in future posts as I summarize the main points I teach in my classes:

  1. Make “Deposits” to Your Dog’s Goodwill/Tolerance Account
  2. Keep Your Child From Being “Magnetized” to Your Dog
  3. Body Language – How Your Dog Asks for Help
  4. The Curse of a Good Dog
  5. “Friends” at Five Years of Age (Maybe), Not Before
  6. Use Only “Baby Safe” Training Methods
  7. Speak Up!

Would any of this have made a difference for Liam?  Will it make a difference for your family?  I can’t eliminate all the risks, but I’ve worked for years to identify at least a few simple things you can do to cut out some of the more common risk factors.  People come to my classes and say it’s nothing like what they expected to learn but now it makes perfect sense, and they leave safer than when they came in.

I’m not vain enough to think that I have all the answers.  I’ll post my pieces of the solution and link to other trainers and experts who have their pieces and together we can give families the information they need — before it’s too late to be of help.

That’s what I hope to achieve with this blog.

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  1. I am Liam’s uncle. Just wanted to say thank you and let you know that this blog was written spot on. Our mission, in part, came about due to the fact that prior to Liam’s death we had never really given dog bites or dog behavior a second thought. After the tragedy we started finding ton’s of information. After the fact definitely did not help us at all. Our biggest concern with Lloyd was knocking one of the kids down and giving them a concussion or something. He was a big dog. We are a very dog loving family. We work wih rescue groups and have fostered many dogs in our home. We thought we were pretty educated dog owners. We are working with a number of organizations, trainers and book authors across the nation and want to continue to grow that network. It would be great if you would respond to me so we can determine other ways which we can work together. Thank you for reading Joey’s story and using it to spread the word. Liam’s Uncle Henry

    1. Hello Henry – thank you for your note. I am so sorry for your loss and your family’s horrible experience. Liam’s story was so beautifully written that I felt like I knew him enough to miss him.

      I’d be honored to contribute the ideas I stress in my classes that may help prevent future incidents. You are welcome to e-mail me at: enjoydog@san.rr.com.

      I’m using this blog to get some of the main points out there for people, but I’ll only be posting once or twice a week. I hope to get back to putting a book proposal together this summer.

      I don’t mind giving doing sort of a teleclass for you to show you what I cover in my Dogs and Babies class. Most of my presentation is digitized now and I can walk you through it and you can see if anything is of value for your family’s foundation and educational projects.

      Please contact me if I can be of help.


  2. I agree with everything except “friends at 5″. It is very clear from studies of child development that below the age of 7, children lack t”heory of mind” and empathy. Theory of mind means an awareness that the minds of others differ from your own, and with small children this means that they operate on the basis “if I want to play, you want to play”. It is inconceivable to them that the other individual might feel differently. Children should be extremely closely supervised when together or with animals, until they are old enough and mature enough. Parents who say “I can trust little Freddy because he is very mature for a 4 year old” are dangerously delusional: a child of 4 lacks the neurological wiring that permits him to feel empathy or understand the minds of others in the way that an older child can.

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