It has taken a few days for me to put it in perspective. Our little delinquent, Mishka, put some drama into our lives earlier in the week.
Natasha had returned from school about 8:00 PM. Mishka, exhibiting his usual behavior, was spinning about, barking at the door, and loudly announcing her arrival in the drive-way. I slowly rose from the couch and met her at the door, all the while lightly admonishing Mishka to behave and settle down. Natasha was happy and a little excited herself having aced her first final exam. I kneeled next to Mishka, patting his side and reminding him to behave. I coaxed him on his side, but he wasn’t happy about it. As I turned my attention back to Natasha, he clamped down on my right hand in a furry.
I recall about 10 seconds of violence. Natasha pleaded with Mishka to let go and pulled at his collar from behind. I eventually put my left hand to his mouth trying to force his jaw open. I don’t remember him releasing, but I recall wrapping my hand in my shirt and getting to the kitchen sink.
I won’t go into details about the wounds. They were (and still are) ugly. But what Natasha and I both shared was a profound feeling of sadness and disbelief. There have been brief nips from our energetic puppy, but nothing like this prolonged, violent attack.
I spent the next 4 hours at the emergency room getting medicated and cleaned up. We had a lot of time in the waiting room, treatment room, the pharmacy, and at the Wendy’s on the way back home to talk about it. But I knew my head would not be clear for some time to decide what to do.
Mishka spent the next 60 hours confined to the back yard. Over the past few days I have told and retold the story. It is difficult to tell a story about domestic violence. Yes, I am calling this domestic violence. We brought Mishka home when he was 8 weeks old. He is just a couple of months short of 3 years old today. He is “our boy”. Some people understand, having experienced something similar at home. Others stare in silence with thoughts of dysfunction and disorder.
I had a number of people tell me if a dog attacks his owner, “It’s over.” All the experts and several of my friends and coworkers have said that an aggressive dog is a failure of his owner. We don’t think of Mishka as aggressive. He is a smart, funny, playful dog…. who attacked his daddy. We know he isn’t a child, but that doesn’t really change the way we feel about him. And, unfortunately, that’s the problem. Children get unconditional love, dogs don’t.
Throughout my early life, I was not a “dog person”. The running, slobbering, and barking always reminded me they were noisy, unruly animals. And the teeth reminded me of what could happen if I gave them the wrong vibe. I often gave dogs the wrong vibe, justifying my distance and caution.
It wasn’t until my first dogs, Lucy, and her brother, Who’syer, came into my life that I understood their loyalty and friendship. Who has been with me for 10 years, while Lucy went her separate way with my ex-wife. Who’s a bit odd and melancholy, but he has been my closest four-legged friend through divorce, 1000-mile moves, and the courtship of my Kookla. Who never bit me. I know I made a lot of mistakes with his training and upbringing, but he never attacked me, and I can’t recall a time he has done anything but worship me — the other endearing quality dogs have.
With Mishka’s arrival into our home, I had lost my earlier apprehension about dogs. But with the development of Mishka’s primitive instincts, I have changed. Maybe it’s the same “vibe” I had earlier in life…. It feels like it.
Mishka wants his buddy. But I can’t be his buddy. I watch him. I listen to his every grunt, growl, bark, and whimper to judge his mood. I have to be his master….if I’m up to it. I’m not sure if or when the trust and love will come back. We have to work on that. Or it’s over…..