As a challenge, I am spending time each day writing for 15 minutes. Today, I'd like to share my musings about experience.
It was a year ago today that my life changed.
It was a regular Friday morning, spring appearing earlier than everyone had expected. I had a long list of things to do that day, but had resolved to start the whole day off with a quick walk around the neighborhood. The days at work were long, and my three dogs were understanding so it was the least I could do before heading out for an extended period of time.
I clipped on three leashes and off we went. Just fifteen minutes, I told myself, then I’m off to work to get started on my day. The first ten minutes of the walk were dull and uninteresting. The tangle of dog leashes and juggling bags of scooped-up poop bags, all normal occurrences. We were on our last leg of the journey when a new scene unfolded.
I’d noted one particular dog that usually spent its time outside in a small crate in the front yard of a home. The crate was empty but I was relieved; in my mind, I thought that the owner had finally done the right thing and found a better situation for the poor dog.
But my relief was quickly turned to fear. A block ahead, a woman called out, “My dog is loose, can you go the other way?” It was too late. The dog had seen us, and was headed our way a little too quickly.
It happened so fast and yet all in slow motion at the same time. It came to greet us all, but the wagging tails quickly turned to snarled teeth. I remember screaming for help, and the way the owner had stood by and cried but did nothing else. I remember my two smaller dogs breaking free and running to safety a few yards away but my mind was zoned in on my larger dog. He was in the midst of a fight for his life and there was nothing I could do. The other dog had no collar - its fur so thin and silky, impossible to grab on to. And yet I tried. I tried everything I could think of. I hit it with the leash as hard as I could until the leash broke. I tried to remove its jaws from my dogs throat, but that only resulted in the dog turning on me, ripping open my hands, arms and legs until it turned back to my first dog. I tried to slip my dogs collar off of the dogs head to put it over this dog that kept coming back in like a shark, but my hands were swollen and raw, torn open by previous attempts.
My screams brought on-lookers. All stood by and watched mutely. One man even remarked when I begged for his help, “Those aren’t my dogs,” before turning away and moving on with his day. I felt helpless. The love I have for my dogs is reminiscent of a mother. How could I just give up and let nature take its course?
It had been ten minutes, and there was no sign of help coming. My dog, exhausted and resigned, sat down trying desperately to keep the pit-bull's bites at bay. One man finally stepped forward, an extension cord from his car in hands. I had a final thought: I need to cut off its air supply to distract it. Without a second thought, I laid my full body weight on top of the still-snapping dog. Angling my head away from its mouth, I placed an elbow of full weight on its throat and prayed. Within a minute it released my dog, and the man behind me quickly wrapped its legs up and pulled it away while I ran with my dog down the street and away from the scene. I gathered my dogs just as the police and ambulance arrived.
It was a Friday morning where I thought I had my whole day carefully scheduled.
Instead I found myself spending hours at the emergency room and the vet clinic, and hours after that being showered with love and care from my family and friends. A terrible situation that highlighted the bad in people also became an experience in which I saw the good in people.
It was an experience that I am still trying to move past on an emotional level - walking my dogs alone isn’t something I can enjoy any longer. Yet it was also an experience that allowed me to see the resilience and bond that can form between human and animal.
On a physical level, the wounds have healed but the scars remain. For the first few months, I was extremely self-conscious about the spattering of scars on my hands and arm. I would go out of my way to cover them, buy expensive creams that promised to make the scars disappear.
But now I see that I earned these scars. I didn’t stand mutely by while the animal that I promised to love and protect when I brought him into my home was attacked. He and I fought for our mutual freedom from a situation neither of us ever wanted to encounter. These scars highlight that I am stronger than I realize. These scars portray a story that is now a part of who I am.
These scars are the reminder of what could have been another average Friday.