I nearly lost a finger to a dog during my walk today. I walk sometimes because all other forms of exercise are off limits due to my shoulder rehab. But this is no leisurely stroll, which is a good thing because today it saved my finger.
Approaching on the sidewalk from the opposite direction was a woman walking her dog, and immediately it struck me that the dog was wearing a menacing look. At the same time I noticed that the dog was tethered to an unusually long leash, so even if I had wanted to steer clear there was no way I could out distance the slack.
I veered toward the outer edge of the sidewalk, one foot in the grass, as the woman assured me, “He’s okay.” I was a half-step past the dog and the woman when I felt something against my little finger and simultaneously heard a loud teeth-gnashing snap. I wheeled around to see that the dog had charged after me and was now straining against the leash while the woman desperately leaned her body over backward. The leash was wrapped tightly around her body, but still I wondered if she could really hold him back. I didn’t wait to find out. I zipped up the pace just as I heard her declare, “bad dog!” Nope, the dog is who the dog is. This was not an instance of the dog being bad or any different than how the dog really is.
People who have animals like this never seem to realize that they’re living with a wild and reckless animal. They always seem so surprised to find out what a perfect stranger on an innocent walk can deduce in a microsecond. I wanted to point at the dog and say to the owner, “Let me suggest you return home and count up your children to see if you’re missing any.”
It reminded me of when I was a paper boy and had to deliver to a drunk woman every week while fearing for my life because she owned a vicious German shepherd who went crazy every time any of us even played in the street across from their house. We all thought the dog was a wolf, and if it wasn’t it certainly hadn’t descended very far down the evolutionary chain.
When the customer was home the wolf was in the back yard, safely behind a six-foot high cedar stockade fence. Still it would throw its body against the fence and growl and bark like it was wrestling with a tiger. It would leap in the air enough for us to see its crazed head above the stockade.
When the customer wasn’t home the dog was let loose in the house and it would come crashing into the living room, pounding against the heavy wooden door and then pounce on the couch to bang up on the windows. I don’t know why the glass never broke. I usually dropped the paper and ran. None of my friends who helped me with the route were ever willing to deliver to that house.
One day the woman was home and she was clearly fumbling around drunk trying to open the locks to the door, alternating unlocking them and then locking herself back in again before she could push the door open. As much as this woman had a serious drinking problem, her husband was much worse. One night then man was at my house, slobbering drunk on the couch, trying to put the moves on Grandma. Grandpa had had enough of this and told him it was time for him to go. He had been in the middle of telling a story about how his son had made a ton of money from selling Grandpa’s rare comic book collection and my coin collection that he had stolen while we were away at church one day. As proud as he was of his resourceful son and as funny as he thought this story was, nevertheless he was told again it was time to go. Miraculously Grandpa got him on his feet and out the door, but he was unable to walk home under his own power and grandpa couldn’t support his weight, so he rolled the man into our wheelbarrow and brought him home that way.
The man’s his wife was home this one day I delivered the paper, but instead of the dog tearing himself apart behind the stockade fence it was actually in the house being held by the inebriated woman. She finally managed to open the heavy door, and at first I refused to let her open the storm door, but she insisted it was okay because, “He’s only wild if he’s loose,” she said about her dog. Maybe she was right, I thought, because the dog wasn’t even barking or trying to pull away. I stepped into the living and as soon as she said, “See, he doesn’t bite,” the dog put a canine through the top of my thigh.
“Bad dog!” she shouted. Nope, the dog is who the dog is. This was not an instance of the dog being bad or any different than how the dog really is. The dog is who he is, and that should be no surprise to the person who lives every day with this animal! When the lion mauls the curious kid after the tyke falls into the pen at the zoo we don’t proclaim what a bad lion it is.
So it’s a good thing I learned my lesson those many years ago. I trusted my instincts today and that is why I still have all my fingers, which I will use to pat Tula, who is never a bad chinchilla.