When the dog bites…

I wander into the kitchen, pour a half cup of popcorn kernels into the air popper, plug the thing in and wander out again. I’m distracted. I’m feeling sad. I’m hurting a bit. Just a bit, on my left forearm. Mostly, I’m wondering what I could have done differently in the moments before my encounter with that beautiful dog. Before I walked past her house. Before she charged out of nowhere, biting my arm and breaking the skin through two sweaters.

Should I not have stopped to look at the photo I’d just taken of the living sky that evening? Should I not have passed that way? Should I have had Cash (our dog) along? Should I have shouted at her? Would that have stopped her in her tracks?

As I said. Distracted. Sad. Hurting. And humming. “When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feelin’ sad, I simply remember my favourite things, and then I don’t feel so bad!”

Dogs are one of my favourite things. Popcorn is too—except when I forget to put a bowl under the spout and the exploded kernels pile up so high they can no longer settle, so instead tumble off the counter and onto the floor like so many fallen blossoms. “Jesus,” I say, aloud, stuffing a handful into my mouth. “Jesus Christ.” It’s what I heard the bylaw officer say just before he hung up after I reported what had happened. Only I was praying. “Jesus, peace, please. Bring peace.”

Once, a long while ago, we had to put a beloved dog down because he was too aggressive. It broke our hearts. I know the fear. The loss. The desperation and the tears. “Jesus,” I add, “please don’t let that happen. Show the way.”

I’d thought twice about reporting the attack. But children live near that house. And sometimes grandbeans walk with me. Always, always, the dog, inside its kennel, lunges and barks. If I’d had a child along…. I shuddered to think of the possibilities. And of what may have happened if someone hadn’t been on hand to call the dog off. Then I’d picked up the phone and made the call.

Sometimes life is more thorns than roses. I remember vividly the day our family had to make the fateful decision about our own dog. The heartrending cries from the children and me; the steely (and absolutely necessary) determination of their father. As a last ditch effort, we tried a rescue, a home in the country. Things got worse, and in the end….  (Oh, I hate that ending.)

We had eight years together. A continual blur of rapturous red, a million sloppy kisses. Countless calendar photos of large brown eyes framed by droopy, silken ears. That dog gave us the gift of tales still told around our dining table. He loved life, our Chalmer. And we loved him. But dog psychologists aren’t available to everyone. And when all else fails, people must come before dogs.

Lord, show the way. And come by here.

Our grand-dog, happily, has an entirely sunny disposition. Sweet Phi.
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