I SUPPOSE it was bound to happen one day.

It was just that, after so many years, I had stopped worrying about it.

I still took precautions, of course. It wasn’t the sort of thing that you wanted to become complacent about.

So staff were trained and clients educated but deep down I probably always knew it was inevitable sooner or later. I had heard about it happening to other people. I had read about the pain, the heartache and both the financial and the emotional consequences.

I had spoken personally to one or two who had been unlucky enough to experience it and I could see that it still troubled them deeply.

When it finally did happen, it came without warning. A normal day; things were going well. The surgery was busy but not packed. A client had just left my consulting room when I heard the snarling outside. I wasn’t unduly bothered; minor stand-offs between patients who are waiting to be seen are generally just posturing. Usually, it is the owners who are at fault, as they let their pet invade the space of another, despite them clearly sending out signals that they are afraid or unhappy. But then I heard the screaming. I shot out to the waiting room and my worst fears were confirmed.

It took a fraction of a second to determine that the writhing masses on the floor were two black dogs that were locked onto each other. One had the other’s jaws clamped on his leg while he had hold of his combatant’s nose. It was impossible to tell who the aggressor was and both owners were shouting and shrieking so loudly that I couldn’t make myself heard.

Rule number one in these situations is don’t get bitten yourself. People are maimed and careers finished by undue heroics with dog fights. Rule number two is don’t let anyone else get bitten. Rule three, don’t let the owners start fighting as well. Rule four, summon help. Rule five, six and seven, strangle both dogs till they let go, pray they are ok and don’t forget rule one. The plan worked. An experienced nurse arrived and dealt with one dog while I got the other. Both had bite wounds that were treated quickly and simply.

It turned out that the aggressor was a new patient who, being very sore, had limped into the surgery without a lead. When he was bumped by the other dog as he made to leave, he had attacked. It was out of character but the pain he was suffering from a bone tumour caused him to lash out. The innocent party’s owner was placated when the situation was explained and, unfortunately, the aggressor had to be put to sleep because of his cancer.

The other loser was Mr. X. This elderly gentleman was sitting with his two Yorkies on his knees while the drama unfolded. Both small dogs were so traumatised by the conflict that their bladder and bowel opened. He can’t have had a pleasant journey home.

Now you know why we ask for all dogs to be on a lead and all cats to be in a basket.