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A Cautionary Tale

A Cautionary Tale

GavinIt was 63 degrees and the sun’s rays were peeking through the emerald green leaves like sparkly bands. The breeze was just a whisper and my sweet little Gavin was attached to my hip; trotting along on a perfect Tuesday morning. The first weeks of summer are oddly quiet; usually Lil’ Big Head wiggles, jiggles and squirms with his best “I don’t know you, but, I love you” dance just HOPING one of the school children will stop to pet him. I remember thinking how grateful I was that I gave myself a little extra time that morning to enjoy our walk.
Then, I heard or I felt from behind; a half block away, something. I turned around. And, I saw two dogs racing out of the alley. Every angle of their bodies and the intense glare on their faces told me that the GIANT dogs were gunning for Gavin, not me. I stood as tall as I possibly could while silently begging, “please, don’t kill him”. I leaned forward and shouted “Go! Go! Go!” Then, bam! One of the dogs bit Gavin on his left shoulder. I was able to pull him off of my helpless Pit Bull who was laying on the ground, like a threatless pancake. And again, chomp! I could see the dog’s teeth sinking into Gavin’s left hip. Every time I pulled the dog away, he came back at Gavin, and harder. No one was around as I heard words come out of my mouth that I would never normally utter. Again and again, one dog kept biting Gavin while the other dog stood back and barked, seemingly like he was egging on the assailant. I was terror-stricken and had an atrocious, powerless feeling that my dog was going to get severely hurt, or worse. And, my entire body burned with rage and despair.
Finally, a woman came to our rescue after I’d been yelling, “SOMEONE, PLEASE HELP ME!” She kicked the dog to attempt to get him away and still, the dog kept coming back to bite Gavin. The nice stranger tripped as she tried her best to help us and fell to ground, knocking me down with her. At that point, I was in better position to try again myself to get the dog off of Gavin. So I pryed his teeth off my boy’s shiny black coat and the dog chomped down on my hand. A man ran up to our hapless group who was no match for this one dog and he successfully yanked the dog away and held his collar. But, the dog was not giving up and broke free to again, brutalize Gavin. It took yet another man to finally restrain the dog who, with every bite, was sinking his teeth deeper into Gavin’s defenseless body and at that point, starting to shake his head when he clamped down. I thought the dog was going to kill Gavin if we did not get him away from us. The two gentlemen held onto the dog and we hobbled away as fast as we could while I apologized to the kind woman who also got hurt trying to save Lil’ Big Head.
The whole walk back to our house, my hands were shaking; I was crying and I was looking down at Gavin to see how badly he was hurt. But, I wanted to get him to the safety of our house as quickly as possible. I felt so vulnerable and exposed while we were still outside; mere blocks from a dog who relentlessly kept biting my dog. When we arrived home, I looked Gavin over and based on the number of welts, scratches and punctures on his muscly frame; I would estimate the dog bit him at least 30 times. I took a deep breath before I called our veterinarian, knowing, that for as long and as many times as that dog attacked my dog, the physical damage could have been so much worse. The vet was opening in 30 minutes which I knew we could wait. And, it gave me time to call 311 to report the blitz of teeth and growls. I needed to know those dogs were not still terrorizing the neighborhood before I opened my front door to get my battered boy to the car. And, I sat on hold, for 30 minutes while I kept checking Gavin’s wounds. Then, after another 15 minutes, waited again with no success to speak to someone at 911. After I knocked on my neighbor’s door to see if they could sit with Gavin, I left him at home; where I knew he was safe and walked down the street. My coffee cup was laying on the ground; and there were dirty paw prints smeared on the sidewalk, punctuated with little drops of blood.
I walked to the alley where I thought the dogs had come from and saw one of them in a backyard; and was relieved to see a police officer standing in the front yard when I circled to investigate more. If I had been in the offending dog guardian’s shoes; I would have apologized profusely, asked what happened and pretty much offered anything they needed to help. But, no. The people responsible for those dogs just stood there blankly staring at me so I guess the fact that they were nowhere to be found when one of their dogs was hurting Gavin should have been no surprise. The police woman asked me if I knew which dog attacked Gavin and I said I didn’t; the young girl said “Loki is the lighter one”.  Seriously, I was trying to fend off two dogs who outweigh Gavin by at least 100 pounds and the only thing she said to me is that I should have noticed the subtle shade differences in their fur?
The rest of the day was a blur. I noticed a brief sense of relief when I filed the police report; overwhelming comfort when our veterinarian told me that all of Gavin’s wounds were superficial as he nestled under my arms and I collected his medications; then a little more tension trickled down my shoulders when the doctor at Urgent Care confirmed I had no internal or long-term damage to contend with outside of my swollen, bruised, painful left hand. I kept thinking as I sat in traffic, waiting to pick up my antibiotics and attempting to find a store that sold Spray Shield (which will be an absolute last resort that I hope I never have to use, I plan to toss treats away from us first if we EVER have any scares again), what a gorgeous day it was outside and how amazing it would have been to be exploring our neighborhood parks with my cutie, four-legged sidekick.
Then, we had to take a walk. When I stepped outside of the fence of our courtyard building, my heart began thrashing inside my chest and the deep breaths I took to calm myself down seemed to be filled with muck. What was once a relaxing, shed-the-busyness-and-noise-of-the-city time for me had turned into a tense, looking over my shoulder, jumpy excursion. Of course, I chose a path as far as possible from the home of those two dogs and the scene of the crime. But, their abode is a mere two blocks from my home so it was impossible to not see their faces gunning for Gavin, even though no threat was there. My boy, on the other hand, seemed completely un-phased as he pranced along on the sidewalk and cooly sniffed every pee-covered blade of grass like our last stroll ended in our usual game of fetch or a few greetings from the neighborhood kids or his canine buddies. If any good has come from this horrific ordeal, Gavin and I now have a regular early morning walk date with a dear friend of mine and her dog. I am continually grateful for Gavin’s endearingly strong spirit as I watch him wiggle for his buddies so emphatically that I can hear his tale whipping his hips while he shimmies back and forth for every doggie date I have set up since that nightmare Tuesday morning.
If there’s any wisdom I can pass along, it’s this. Please, pay attention to your surroundings. I, like everyone else, have been guilty in the past of “just one glance at my email or a quick text” while out walking my dog and I cringe thinking of how much worse the attack might have been had I not been fully aware they were behind us when I did. I had a few seconds to brace myself. And, I don’t know if Gavin instinctively positioned his head behind my leg or if I did, but, dear Lil’ Big Head had absolutely no injuries on his head or neck. My vet said we were so lucky. And, do not give up if you can not reach the powers that be in Chicago. I could not reach anyone to report the incident, even at 911 and it took days of  stalking Animal Care and Control then finally pulling a few strings to find out where the dogs were and what I can do to keep my Gavin safe. We have begun the very long, arduous process to officially have one of the dogs charged as a dangerous dog; legally requiring the guardians to put extra restrictions in place to assure the dog never gets out and injures anyone else ever again. For me, it is not business as usual. I feel a much stronger resolve to keep the dogs and people I adore safe and to educate those who cross my path on how important it is to be responsible pet parents so we can prevent bites and attacks. And, one day, I hope I can feel as light-hearted while traipsing through my neighborhood as Gavin does. Until then, we are finding lots of new places to explore and the eyes in the back of my head will have acute awareness for a very long time to come while I watch for any potential danger and the three amazing people who came to our rescue. I have yet to find them to give my thanks.
 

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