This is the hardest post I’ve ever written. I’ve heard the horror stories, and always told myself- that it would never happen to us; we live in a nice area with well trained dogs and responsible owners. Statistically, I told myself that the likelihood of it happening was so minute that I should just put it out of my mind. Having owned horses my whole life, I am a practical person when it comes to animal ownership and know the risks and benefits associated with each. You still never think it will happen to you. Until it does…
Elvis and I have been a team for 4 years this March. We just celebrated our anniversary. We’ve been through Eleven eye surgeries at Yale, horrific rain and snow storms, parades, major mountain climbing, a painful nerve injury to his tail, and dangerous faulty train doors that have trapped him by the neck. I really thought our ‘tough stuff’ was behind us. Never would I have thought that a routine walk home to the train in downtown Darien would leave us permanently scarred. The sun was shining, and I had just finished a terrific meeting for my new project, The Wine Lab, my restaurant to be opening this fall.
Walking along the adorable shops, I heard a scuffle take place amongst some dogs again. I noted that I would take the long way around the buildings to avoid interacting with these dogs as I’m always wary of any poorly behaved or aggressive dog. Would you throw your Ferrari in the commuter lot with a bunch of Hondas to get scratched and dinged? I don’t think so.
We continued on our way, as I saw the dog scuffle breaking up. The typical Fairfield County scene- some woman not paying attention to her dog, while her cell phone is glued to her ear, and the other walking two dogs that did not know how to behave on leash, growling and barking at the cell phone lady’s tiny pup. In the horse world we call this being “over-mounted” or having too much horse for you to handle.
I turned the corner to discover that about 20 yards ahead was this woman again with the two dogs, A yellow Labrador who clearly wanted to greet Elvis, and a little black Cattle Dog or some sort of Heeler that began trotting towards us. Uh-oh.
I’ve come across loose dogs dozens of times. It always disorients me and causes me to bump into something as I’m trying to refocus my dog and get back in the direction I was headed. Sometimes they even snap at Elvis, who ducks away or scoots to put some distance between us and the dog. I usually give the command, “Hup-up”, equivalent to clucking to a horse to make it move faster. Typically in these situations I can pretend to ignore the offending dog, who realizes Elvis isn’t a threat, and they drop back or give us a few warning barks and we are on our way. Every now and then they get his ear or grab his neck. This was just such a dog. It was like lightening.
I screamed as Elvis was yanked down to the sidewalk by this fierce and determined creature. The woman was being dragged towards me by her Labrador who wanted to investigate. My blood pressure shot through the roof as my heartrate skyrocketed, causing my vision to completely wash away. I was now completely blinded. I heard the muffled growls coming from the dog’s mouth which was buried in Elvis’ neck scruff. I grabbed the back of this dog’s neck and flung him with every ounce of strength I had. I began screaming for help. I caught glimpses between the flashing lights that make up my vision when my heart rate jumps. It’s like being in a bad pyschedelic disco without the music. Disoriented, I felt for Elvis’ body, which was laying still on the ground. I laid on top of him to cover as much of his body to protect him as I possibly could. Since I could no longer see anything, it was the only thing left to do, as I didn’t know where or when the next attack would come from.
The dog came again, grabbing Elvis’ leg that was sticking out. My foot made purchase on his side and I shoved him hard away from us. Sensing an opportunity, I tried to stand up to make myself as big and frightening as possible to the dog to keep him from grabbing Elvis yet again. I screamed and made myself as tall as I could. Being totally disoriented from the attack, I fell. Off the sidewalk, I landed in dirt on a bush. When I tried to stand, I realized my ankle was injured. I needed to get back to my boy. I could hear the dog pulling on Elvis’ body like a canine body tug of war. Crawling, I found Elvis again, still on the ground, and covered him as I was able to remove the dog from his neck yet again.
I was screaming for help, and could see as I lay there that the woman stood off to one side, about 10 feet away, silent. She didn’t call the dog, or try to retrieve her dog. I screamed, “Help me! Call the police! Hurry!” To which she replied, “No. No police.” I dug for my phone in my pocket, attempting to dial 911. My hands shook violently and I kept mis-dialing. I tried using Siri on my IPhone, but she couldn’t understand me in my panicked state. I begged, “Please, help!” She walked towards me, and I backed up, afraid for the next attack. My hands were on Elvis, who was covered in either blood or saliva. I had no way of telling which one it was.
Once I was standing, she said, “I need to get my dogs home before they bite someone else.” She turned to walk away. “No, don’t! Please stay! You can’t leave me here!” My phone finally dialed, and I was trying to make sense to the officer on the phone. I screamed to the fleeing woman, “Where am I? I Don’t know where I am? I don’t know the street! Oh my God, help me please? Please stay? Who are you? Where do you live?”
She shouted her name and street address to me and said, “I really have to be going.” Defeated, I sat down on the curb. I decided that I needed to follow her and stood up. Elvis still laid on the ground, shaking violently. I helped him up, and gave him the command, “Follow”. I took two steps before I doubled over in pain. “Dammit!” I yelled as I remembered the ankle. And with that she was gone.