Front door Knockers

Dogs bite political door-knockers

RICHMOND — Man’s best friend is the door-knocker’s worst nightmare.

That’s how it seems lately in Northern Virginia, where two political candidates out hunting for votes ahead of Tuesday’s elections wound up in emergency rooms with dog bites.

“Door knocking is perilous business this year, ” said Del. Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax), who had a run-in with a pair of 80-pound mutts while campaigning for state Senate Thursday. “Voters are unhappy, but even the dogs aren’t happy.”

Surovell said he has knocked on about 22, 000 doors over three election cycles. All without incident until Thursday, when he stepped up to a townhouse in the Lake Ridge area of Prince William County with its front door open, its storm door unlatched.

“Right as I knocked, these two big dogs came charging down the hall at me, ” said Surovell, who is running against Republican Jerry Foreman for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Linda T. “Toddy” Puller (D-Fairfax).

Like any experienced campaigner, Surovell is used to dogs coming to the door and barking up a storm. This pair was not all bark.

“These two came slamming into the door, and as soon as the dogs figured out the door wasn’t latched, I realized, ‘These dogs aren’t stopping, ’ ” he said.

Surovell tried to hold the storm door closed, but one of the dogs was halfway out. It whipped around and chomped on his leg, ripping a nickel-sized hole just above the knee. The homeowner’s father soon pulled the dogs away and offered Surovell apologies and a paper towel for the bleeding.

“The guy came outside and said, ‘Is there anything I can do for you, ’ ” Surovell said. “I said to the guy, ‘I’d be happy to have your vote.’ He said, ‘Absolutely.’ I looked it up later and he’s not registered.”

His only reward came later, in the waiting room at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center. There, Surovell got a friendly hello from the parents of a football player being treated for a concussion.

“They said, ‘You knocked on our door a couple weeks ago, ’ ” Surovell said. “ ‘By the way, we got our [absentee] ballot and we just mailed it in.’ ”

On Monday, Ruth Anderson met a similar fate while campaigning for Prince William Board of County Supervisors.

Anderson is a first-time candidate but a veteran door-knocker, which she has done for her husband, Del. Richard L. Anderson (R-Prince William), since 2009, and other candidates since 2003. Anderson also is comfortable with dogs, having lived in a rural Alaskan village with sled dogs. (Her parents ran a trading post there.)

So she wasn’t worried when three 70-pound chows came bounding toward her as she walked up a driveway in the Davis Ford corridor.

“They looked really cute, kind of like a teddy bear or lion with a mane, ” she said. “They looked perfectly friendly, so I just kept walking, and I didn’t see it happening. I suddenly felt the pain. One of them put my leg in his jaw and held on . . . . The pain was terrific. Thank God the other two dogs didn’t join him.”

Anderson said she inched back toward the car and was able to free herself of the dogs once she cleared an invisible fence line that the chows could not cross without getting a zap.

A military veteran, Anderson went to the emergency room at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital for treatment. She later made contact with the dog’s owners.

“They were perfectly friendly, ” she said. “They even offered to pay the medical bill. We discussed maybe a ‘Beware of dog’ sign would be helpful.”

If these pol-biting dogs were channeling the nation’s snarling political zeitgeist, they also unleashed a bit of bipartisan outreach.

“Scott Surovell just called to say, ‘Welcome to the club, ’ ” Richard Anderson said with a laugh.

“You could say that Northern Virginia dogs are bipartisan, ” he added later via text. “They’ll take a hunk out of a Republican as quickly as they’ll take one out of a Democrat.”

Richard Anderson has never been bitten while door-knocking, but he had a close call in his first race.

“One dog in 2009 grabbed my pants leg, but he only got the fabric, not the skin, ” he said. “As a badge of honor, I had my tailor repair the pants leg in the suit.”


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