Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Of Courage and Helplessness

I hate pit bulls.

For the past several days Tom and I visited a favored aunt and uncle in Arizona and did some touring. While sitting at the rim of the Grand Canyon at sunset my cell phone rang. On the other end was a near hysterical Cassie. She and Caroline had taken Sammy our beagle on his daily stroll 'round the park when out of a PARKED CAR raged a pit bull straight for my beloved trio. The murderous dog attacked Sam, chomped on his head and neck trying to kill him.

Cassie, screaming at the dog and its owner while pulling Sam away, managed to keep the other dog from succeeding in crushing Sam's head, though its cruel jaws were around Sam's noggin attempting to get a good grip. The dog's dagger-teeth remained on Sam's head and neck, chomping, the two dogs shrieking and snarling primal dog noises, piercing fear into the hearts of my two precious girls. Up and down the street Cassie dragged Sam while the owner-woman cussed a blue streak at her dog unable to restrain him. Children and adults from the park tried to get the wild-eyed pit bull away from Sam. Poor Caroline stood horrified at the unfolding scene.

The attacking dog was restrained enough at one point for Sam to collapse onto the street, vomiting and in shock. Cassie, loving owner that she is, scooped him up and ran for home. Sam weighs 32 pounds! Caroline helped. They ran nearly the entire two blocks before they had to set Sam down. So heavy. He seemed fine, walked okay, marked this and that.

It was upon their arrival safe at home that Tom and I received their phone call while at the Grand Canyon.

I nearly fell to pieces. So far away. No control. I felt like a bad parent but mostly I wanted to hold my children and assure them they would be okay and so would Sam. I sat there on the bench at the Canyon while Tom tried to find a parking space for the car - something we were in the process of doing when the girls called - and I wept. I stared at this gorgeous creation of God's while the lowering sun painted each strata and glowed on the peaks, and I muttered, "Yes, it's beautiful God. But it's a piece of crap compared to my children. I want to go home!"

We immediately changed our plane tickets from Thursday to the following afternoon, found lodging in the park, and knowing our friends and our son, Joe, were with the girls for the evening we decided to just sit at the Canyon and watch the stars come out, trying to enjoy the moment even as our hearts were with our kids. What else could we do?

Tom Crum tells a story about a little monk who is chased by a lion until he, the monk, is forced to jump over a cliff. On the way down he grabs a tiny tree, holding on for dear life. Six feet below his kicking feet is a bear, swiping giant paws and claws upward, drooling jaws ready to devour him when he falls. Lion above ready for his blood and bear below, the monk notices a huge, red, ripe strawberry growing out of the cliff within arm's reach. He looks at it and says delightedly, "Ah, a strawberry!" He plucks it and eats it, relishing the sweet, juicy flavor. The lion was the past, the bear the future, the peril very real. Still he enjoyed the strawberry fully in the moment.

Inside the majestic El Tovar lodge, in a wide, comfy, leather mission chair, huge old beams above, tall starry windows beside, I sat, a million miles away...worrying. Then, I remembered the strawberry. I pondered the parable for awhile. My tense, furrowed face eased a little. Just a little.

"Let's enjoy the strawberry, shall we, Tom?"

He knows the story, too. "Yes. Yes, let's"

Hand in hand we wandered outside, still very upset and concerned, but determined to see and experience what was right before us. We were greeted with a herd of elk grazing on the front circle of lawn. Two bulls and eight cows and calves. We watched for a long time. They bugled now and then. Awesome. A family protecting one another. Beautiful.

We walked to the rim of the canyon, looked up at the stars, saw the Milky Way, pointed out familiar constellations, and marveled.

Knowing that Tom and I were completely dependent on friends, Joe, God, and the kindness of strangers to nurture our traumatized daughters in our stead caused a change in me, the one who feels the need to be in control at all times. Uncertain of what to label this change I rest in the fact that it is something good.

We made it home safe and sound, traveling back to Phoenix via scenic Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona. Our flights were on-time, smooth, the skies clear, the late night drive home from Portland easy.

The hugs upon arrival were long and tight.

Home sweet home!

But I STILL hate pit bulls!! (And I'm not too fond of irresponsible owners, either!)

(The photo of the canyon is one I snapped from where I sat on the bench praying. It's what I was looking at when I said the canyon was crap. The second photo is Tom and my clasped hands as we flew home toward our very hearts.)


cecily said...

Ah Cherie, thankyou for sharing. That in the moment thing is so hard... glad the girls and Sam are all OK.

Wandering Coyote said...

That's absolutely horrible, Cherie! It sounds like your girls did the right thing and handled themselves well. I hope Sam is OK! Did they or anyone take him to the vet's to get checked out? Might be a good idea...

I hate to say this, but I don't blame the pit bull at all. I blame the owner. There are some terrible dog owners out there who don't have a clue how to socialize certain breeds of dogs. I do know that pit bulls can be great pets - in the right hands.

Cherie said...

Cecily, it IS hard, this trusting in God when the going gets rough thing. Reveals so much. Thanks for your comment.

WC, Sam was checked out and all seems to be well. Can find only two puncture wounds which have been treated. He's had all of his shots, too. He's 'stove up' as my mom would say; sore neck and wounded pride, moves like an old dog. But each day he gets better. He's like normal when he's out on a walk, though.

I agree with you about terrible dog owners - as you can tell, I'm still pretty emotional about this. My post exhibits that. Still, this is the second time we've had a pit bull attack Sam, who's always just minding his own business. The first time we were far enough away that the owner was able to restrain the dog before it got to Sam. Scared us to death, though!

Here where we live there are pit bulls attacks too often. Always pit bulls. One attacked an elderly lady who was walking her tiny dog. It killed the dog and permanently damaged the woman's arm; surgery didn't completely restore it. And she was traumatized, of course. It was the same thing for her, a careless pit bull owner with her dog unleashed. At least five times pit bulls have attacked children in this area with varying degrees of harm. Always pit bulls. And the owners are typically just as surprised as the victims. "Our dog has never done anything like this before. He's always gentle and easy-going!" or words to that effect.

So you can see where my bias comes from. Is it the type of people who want pit bulls the problem, I mean, is owning that breed a symbol of being badass or something? Wish I knew.

For now, I guess I shouldn't say I hate pit bulls but that I fear that certain irresponsible type of person - STUPID - who would own a potentially dangerous breed of dog without educating himself/herself on its propensities and then taking proper precautions.

Still upset.

deanna said...

What a thing to go through, Cherie, for all of you. Dear little Sam. Your struggle to remember truth. Pain, anguish, righteous anger! More of an adventure than I'd wish for you, but good job getting through it.

His Love is the Theme of My Song said...

I'm SOOOOO glad that the girls and Sam are all okay! What a horrible thing to happen...some people can be so downright stupid, it really makes us upset! Also sorry this dog-owner's lack of consideration caused you and Tom to cut your trip short...bummer...but, as you stated, you reached for the strawberry...way to go! Love you, Sis!

thebookbaglady said...

Oh my! What a horrible event! I'm so glad that it resolved OK. I am in the 'I hate pit bulls' camp with you. A new and rather not-nice-kinda-scary neighbor has one that keeps getting out. I am frustrated that the feeling of safety is gone as we check to see if the dog is out again. It wanders and comes into our yard!! All of us neighbors are making phone calls to the police, however. That seems to have helped. Still--it's maddening.
Love, Gretchen

Cherie said...

Deanna, the ordeal continues as we watch Sammy struggle with a sore, swollen neck. Thanks for your understanding.

HLITTOMS: Yes, downright stupid! We're glad the kids and pup are mending, too. (The girls are overcoming the shock.) We're pretty grateful that we'd seen all we hoped to see - and more - while on our trip before the girls called so it wasn't regrettable to have to cut it short. I'm eager to hear about YOUR adventure.

BBL: I know what you mean about the feeling of safety being compromised. We had a similar neighbor who's escaping pit bull caused us to avoid a certain part of our block until he moved away. Maddening - good word! Tom and I took Sam to the park yesterday, just to fight the fear. A couple of little boys (9 and 11?) came up to us and Sam and asked, "Is that the little dog that was attacked?" They were so happy to see him out walking, however stiff-necked. They pet him and told us their eye-witness account. Nice little boys. I was happy to hear how many people came to the aid of the girls. The boys told us that three men held down the pit bull and told Cassie and Caroline to, "Run! We can't hold him down much longer." They risked their limbs for our daughters.

The kindness of strangers. Made me feel good even as I had to fight fear walking the walk where it happened. I will not give up my park for one irresponsible woman and her mad dog - but I walk with weapons now, and a very cautious eye.


tshsmom said...

What a terrifying experience for ALL of you! Your feeling of helplessness must have been unbearable! To have your gentle, loving family terrorized in this manner is inexcusable!

I agree about pit bulls. I blame the breeders, as well as the owners. Pit bulls are bred for their aggressive fighting behavior. There is NO place for this behavior in civilized society!

Yes, I've met a few mellow pit bulls, but they're the exception, not the rule.

I'll be linking to this post if I get around to writing about our trip to vet last week.

Keep us posted on Sammy's progress.

Cherie said...

Tshs: Oh no! Now I'm worried about what has happened up there with you and your pets. I hope Hairry is okay!!

I'll be watching for a post when you get a moment to write one up.

It's rather disgusting to have a breed of dog bred for aggressive fighting behavior out wandering neighborhoods among the innocent, isn't it. And frightening, too.

tshsmom said...

Hairry's fine. It's just a matter of owner responsibility that so many people just don't get.