Month: July 2014

The One I Didn’t Want to Write: Izzy Gets Attacked

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve put off writing this post because it was my worst nightmare. Thankfully, the nightmare didn’t complete itself.

During the past couple of years, Izzy and I have walked the streets of my neighborhood and others, exploring the world around us and often coming face to face with things, animals, people that threatened us. Other dogs (remember Nasty Dog? Haven’t seen him lately), skunks, people who didn’t like dogs. But we’ve either fled from them or were able to deal with the situation. That wasn’t the case a couple of weeks ago.

I was walking down the driveway talking to my friend/next door neighbor when a large German Shepherd wandered up the driveway. I watched the stray near Deb and so did Izzy. For the first time since I’ve had my little buddy, he barked at another dog. Usually, his tail wags and he pulls at the leash so he can go say hello to the dogs we see on our walks. This one was threatening, and the only thing I can surmise now is that the dog was nearing Deb, one of Izzy’s best human friends.

I had the retractable leash and before I could stop him, Izzy was at the end of it, and he and the Shepherd were checking each other out, both tails wagging. They did the usual sniffing routine, and I watched attentively, looking for signs that the other dog posed a threat. She seemed okay.

Then she headed down the lawn toward me, and within a heartbeat, Izzy’s leash tangled around the Shepherd’s legs and they were on top of each other. Right in front of me. Biting. Snarling. Growling.

Izzy’s 16 pounds. The Shepherd was at least 90. And Izzy was under the Shepherd.

I screamed. Deb screamed. My mind flashed back to the nightmares I’ve had about losing Izzy to an attack. My own memories of being attacked by a Chow surfaced.

I pulled Izzy’s leash. That made it worse. Now the Shepherd had Izzy’s head in her mouth.

I knew I had to get the dog off my boy. Digging my hands into the ruff of her neck, I yelled for Deb. I kicked the leash handle between the Shepherd’s legs.

“Take Izzy! Run! Now!”

Deb took the leash and pulled Izzy while I held the struggling Shepherd.

It seemed to take forever for Deb and Izzy to flee but when I knew they were gone, I let the other dog go, fully expecting the dog to go for me. Instead, the Shepherd raced up the driveway where Deb and Izzy had gone.

I followed as quickly as my legs would carry me, screaming at the dog. Screaming for anyone. Screaming.

The dog circled the house, leaving me an opening to dash in through Deb’s back door. She was standing there, with Izzy on a blanket in the middle of the floor. Deb’s face, white as a sheet of paper, reflected my own. I started shaking uncontrollably and sank to my knees beside Izzy.

Deb’s husband Danny took a fireplace poker and went back outside while Deb and I checked Izzy for bites. His entire body was wet, his black eyes wide, his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth. But he was okay. No blood.

For an hour afterward, we waited for the dog officer to arrive to take care of the Shepherd, who was still roaming the neighborhood. We watched the dog follow the mailman from house to house and now that we had time to look at her, I could see the fur matted on her hind end, the obvious hunger and thirst in her eyes and evident by her lolling tongue. Still, she had no collar. No tags. And I was terrified to go back outside, even without Izzy.

Finally, the dog officer arrived and when I told him Izzy had been attacked, he said, “That’s not an attack.”

Excuse me? I was watching my dog being overpowered by a much larger one and that wasn’t an attack? Needless to say, the Boston in me came out and I gave the guy a piece of my mind. We have a leash law. This dog was definitely not on a leash, not with a person, and posing a danger to other dogs and humans.

They found the Shepherd and took her to the pound. I hate to think what happened to her afterward. But even more so, I hate to think what would have happened to my Izzy if I hadn’t been able to control the Shepherd.

More than anything else, I realized how important it is to have animals under control. And I’m now going to fight for a stronger leash law in this town.

Funny, the attack happened more than two weeks ago, and I’m still trembling as I write this. The PTSD I suffered for years after the dog attack that left me with partially disabled hands came back full force, but I’m kind of glad it did because it gave me the adrenaline rush I needed to save Izzy.

Now, the work begins.

Update on Momma Pitty

I’ve included stories about my former student Sara and the pit bulls she’s rescued in the past. One that particularly stole her heart — and the hearts of everyone who meets her — is Momma Pitty Pumpkin. Found on Halloween when Sara was out for a horse ride, this friendly, small girl was in her advanced stages of pregnancy and shortly after Sara took her in, Momma gave birth to a whole passel of puppies. Sara found loving homes for every single one and they’re now pretty much full grown and gorgeous. Momma Pitty was the last of the group to find a home, and when she did, Sara let her go with a caveat: take care of her because she has cancer.

Throughout the past year, Sara has run campaign after campaign to raise money to care for Momma and the pups. She’s been successful each time, but when Momma was diagnosed with cancer, you could sense that Sara felt defeated. Suddenly the bills were overwhelming. Even though Momma had a new home, Sara was still invested and wanted to make sure she got the best of care.

Then Momma and her new owner disappeared.

Sara was frantic. The new owner had violated his contract with her and wasn’t taking care of Momma’s cancer. She found a lawyer and threatened the new owner with court, and though I’m not sure of all the details, the bright side is that Momma’s cancer is being tended to.

Momma Pitty Pumpkin’s radiation treatments started just a few days ago, and she’s a trouper. Everyone at the vet’s loves her and she loves them, and like Sara says, this tail-wagging pup will probably be pretty weak and not so happy soon, so she’s stealing all the kisses she can.

Check out her Facebook page if you want to keep up with her: https://www.facebook.com/PumpkinPitty?fref=photo

Animals and Emotions

Lately, I’ve been doing some research for a new novel that has an elephant as a main character, and though I thought I knew something about these fascinating animals, I’m finding out more and more with each page I turn.  I realize as I do  my research that the emotions we define as human-like are often simply instinct and the animal instincts we see are often emotions.

For example, last night, my friend Peggy came over with her dog Ellie (I’ve written about them here before).  As soon as Izzy heard her voice, he went into “play mode,” exceptionally excited to see both of them.  He ran over to me, tongue out, tail wagging, then went back to the door, over and over again, as if to say, “Well, aren’t you going to open the door?  I’m excited!  Look who’s here!”  To say that he wasn’t happy to see them would have been the understatement of the century.

Then there’s the dog who lives across the street from me, tied to his tree all day, all night, every day of every week of every month of every year.  There are times we walk by him and he simply cries.  Sadness?  You bet.  And Izzy feels compassion for him because when he hears Tyson cry, he whimpers a little, too.

Elephants are said to have emotions.  They sense their own mortality and are known to mourn over the lifeless bodies of those who were part of their herd.  Baby elephants torn from their mothers and forced to work for the vanity of humans experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Adolescents who lose their families because they’ve been off exploring are incredibly anxious about catching up with the matriarch.  And if a human abuses an elephant, that elephant will not forget.  Truly.

Over the recent Father’s Day holiday, I found a photo of my dad with one of his dogs.  I happen to know that the photo was taken shortly before my father had his sexy pompadour shaved, not long before he headed off to World War II.  That head of hair never grew back but was maintained in a crewcut for the rest of my father’s life.  That moment when the photo was taken was particularly poignant for my father who knew he might never see his beloved dog again, and I believe that dog picked up on the emotion, because he leans in protectively against my father’s leg.

My father and his dog, a Shepherd mix, circa 1943

My father and his dog, a Shepherd mix, circa 1943