Last February, our dog bit a man. This was an occasion for a good deal of hand-wringing, not to mention column-writing.
It was also an occasion for an insurance claim of something less than $100, for the cost of a doctor visit and a pair of blue jeans.
That was that. When the last form was signed and the last line written, I closed the case on the non-news story of the year.
How was I to know that the insurance company was just beginning?
In June, I received what was to be the first of a series of letters from my insurance agency informing me that my dog was now a bad risk.
Oh, they would be thrilled to continue covering me as a happy homeowner (at those prices who wouldn't be thrilled?), but I must waive forever the right to make a claim if the doggie did it again.
Enclosed, for my convenience, was a dog-bite exclusion form.
What was going here? you ask. Well, it appears that the average insurance company, short of Lloyd's of London, is perfectly willing to cover anyone for dog bites as long as 1) they do not have a dog or 2) the dog doesn't bite anyone. Once the dog actually bites someone, they immediately strip him of his right to insurance and wipe him off the books.
I grant you that it's hard to fathom the mind of an insurance-policy maker. But this was the limit. Insurin;g dogs until they bite is like selling health coverage as long as you are healthy and fire coverage as long as you are fireproof.
My opinion on this subject was presented calmly enough to the insurance agent. This poor beleaguered soul, given the job of interpreting policy to the world, offered the following information. In the acturial world -- as opposed to the actual world -- all dogs are divided into two categories: biters and non-biters. Once a biter, always a biter.
What, no second chances? I asked. My dog, after all, was a first-time offender.
No, she answered, the only loophole to this law was if I could prove that it wasn't the dog's fault.
Ah, I said, fault is in the eyeteeth of the beholder. It depnds on your point of view. The bitee, the electrician, believed that it was within his rights to go to the room with the fuse box. The biter, however, had no way of knowing that the bitee was an electrician and not a burglar. Could Zachary be tried before a jury of his peers?
On that fine legal point, the insurance agent referred me to the insurance company.
There I reached Margie. Margie, bless her soul, has a dog named Dusty that also would have bitten under similar circumstances. But the insurance company, we commiserated, doesn't care about that sort of thing. The only way the company would have forgiven Zachary is if he had bitten a real, honest-to-god burglar.
However, as Margie noted, the burglar probably would not have made a claim against me in the first place. "I don't think the average burglar would have come looking for the medical claim. But these days, you never know."
What about a second chance? I asked Margie. Could we put Zachary on parole? No, she answered. It appeared that the insurance companies of America do not believe in canine reform.
At that point I began to feel somewhat hurt. The dog they regard as an offender, I regard as a defender. yas one of the few in my neighborhood who have never been robbed, it occurred to me that the insurance agency ought to encourage dogs.
If they were going to eliminate my dog-bite insurance, they ought to at least give me a discount on my burglary insurance. After all, they give a break for the mechanical burglar alarm, why not for a four-legged system complete with teeth?
You will not be surprised to larn that this utterly reasonable approach also failed. Policy, explained the sympathetic Margie, owner of Dusty, is policy.
At this moment, then, we are the owners of a one-time loser, a dog with a record, blackballed from the insurance racket, condemned without a trial