It's all John Grogan's fault. If he hadn't written Marley and Me, this place would still be a one cat household. Don't get me wrong, I love dogs. I grew up with dogs, dogs as house pets and dogs that were my father's hunting companions. Then, several weeks after moving in to our house, I was viciously attacked by a neighbor's dog. This attack happened in the presence of the owner of the dog and several other people. When the dog attacked my behind, puncturing it nine times, the neighbor's other five dogs formed a circle around me, barking loudly. I felt that they had formed a pack mentality and would drag me down and tear me to shreds. The owner of the dog remained seated in her lawn chair during this dramatic event, either too afraid to act or characteristically evil and malicious. (Now that she is a TSA official I have a tendency to think she's not only afraid, but evil too...)
Thankfully, the man next door (who's residence I was visiting) grabbed the attacking dog by the neck and threw it over the fence. The remaining dogs disbanded at this action.
I ran home, in rage and in tears. My in laws were visiting us for the first time in our new home. My father in law was a Catholic Deacon. To my great shame, I released a spew of swear words to make a sailor blush. The attack was vicious and the circumstances frightening...but in stead of crying, I seethed rage. HOW dare they keep a dog like that? If my son (who was then one) had been there with me he would have probably been killed.
In fact, the reason for my visit that day was to make them aware that during the day, the dog would come to the fence and harass us with barking, biting the fence and shaking it so hard that the caps on the posts fell off. He would do this regularly whenever we went into our yard or when I would hang laundry on the line.
I suppose he had been warning me. But I was invited by the neighbors to come over that day, and saw my opportunity to kindly make them aware of the situation.
After my wonderful in laws and my husband got the full story, I went upstairs to assess the damage. Already large bruises were forming around the punctures. I went down stairs for ice and to my surprise, found the woman who owned the dog standing in my kitchen.
I'm so sorry to admit this, but in front of my kindly, spiritual and completely loving in laws, I said the f word. Very loud. In fact I might have let it slip several times in my blast of rage.
Later, I was spared shame because it was revealed to us by another neighbor that this dog had attacked or bitten neighbors on five other occasions but no one reported these instances out of some type of fear from the owners, or because the bites did not require medical treatment.
Mine did. And so when I saw my doctor, he said that he would not treat me unless I promised to report the incident to animal control, to which I gladly agreed. The dog was put down and that side of the neighborhood does not speak to me in kindness anymore.
Well, the fake kind of niceties are exchanged if we happen to meet. Sometimes even pacifists have enemies.
Afterwards, I spent the next three years afraid of dogs and their teeth. Can you imagine how I felt hiking with the black bears?
People think I'm unreasonably afraid. Well, it's not that I'm afraid of bears and dogs as creatures, but of the potential harm that they are capable of inflicting.
It got to the point that I would wince if I was taking a walk past a fenced yard and a dog would bark while charging the fence.
It is amazing to me now that I was so afraid for so long. I needed some kind of therapy, and it came in Grogan's bestselling book, Marley and Me.
After loving the book and enjoying the movie, I was able to put away some of my fear. Then, we were blessed with seeing my parent's chocolate lab Bear, who is a gentle giant. Bear helped me to trust the presence of a dog again. When we offered to pet sit while my mother recovered from surgery, the last of my fears melted and I considered myself a recovering dog lover.
Last fall we began a search for the right dog for our family. In my mind I hoped this dog would be medium sized, quiet, obedient and gentle.
My wish came true. Ozzie was born after his mother's human owner had passed away. Ozzie's mom attempted to survive with her pups alone. Unfortunately, all the puppies in this litter contracted Parvo. Ozzie is the only surviving member of his family. What that must have been like for him to watch all of his siblings and his mother die, one after another, with no one to help him....
But he lived, and was eventually rescued. He is afraid of people the way I am afraid of dogs.
He is our steady, loyal companion. A gentle, sweet dog who loves toast, long walks and cuddle time. He likes our cat, Annie and would love to play with her more, and she has gradually come to befriend him.
Two days ago, we took him for a walk and discovered a neighborhood where people gather in the late afternoon to let their dogs play in a common area, free to romp in a clearing, unleashed. These neighbors were kind and invited us to let Ozzie play. After a little while, a boy came out to play with his dog, and suddenly Elliot made a new friend.
I was so delighted with the sight of Ozzie playing with his new friends, and Elliot playing with his new friends, and my husband talking to the neighbors, that I forgot to be afraid of dogs and their teeth.