I was twelve. I loved that dog. His name was Sam and he was a rescue. He was sweet. And also, vicious, hurling his body against the front door when anybody dared to knock. But until the moment he bit my face, he had never been vicious to me. The thing was
I'd been stupid, leaning over to kiss his darling face while he was asleep. I'd scared him and who could blame him for lashing out. Not me, is what I'm trying to say. We all do things we may regret when we're afraid.
But still, there was the matter of the bloody mouth, the dangling lip. I knew I needed help, but being something of a rescue myself, I wasn't sure where to go for it. My stepfather, for example, had threatened to kill the dog. My mother did not typically react well in a crisis. But twelve is old enough to know when there are situations too difficult to navigate on your own.
In the end my stepfather did not kill the dog. My mother did not react well to my bloody face reveal but pulled herself together and got me medical care. Life went on for all of us, me, with a scar no one can see, and for the next twenty-five years, a terror and hatred of dogs.
I got a dog. I won't bore you with the details of her intelligence, her adorable-ness, her loyalty. Over the next ten years what first began as a tolerance, quickly turned into friendship, into love, and beyond that, a love that could extend to other dogs too. Which brings me to the events of this week when my daughter and son-in-law asked my husband and me to watch their dog, and halfway through the week, my husband went out of town,
leaving me alone with the two dogs.
During the period of my life when I was afraid of dogs, I did not know how different dogs could be from each other and I did not really care. A dog is a dog, is what I thought, and please get it the hell away from me. But here I was this week juggling the two dogs, my sweet Zooey, and the bigger, and I don't want to say dumber, but maybe... not quite as intelligent, but still darling, lumbering, goofy Louie.
I have gotten such a kick out of them, Zooey and Louie, clambering up beside me at night on the couch while I read, their forays into the backyard, bonding over their mutual outrage at the existence of squirrels, our ridiculous walks around the block, the two of them continually stopping to sniff or pee in opposite directions, a near constant crossing and crisscrossing of leashes, leaving all of us tired out and ready to snuggle again.
Once, I hated dogs. Once, I was afraid of them. And all of that fear and anger tangled up inside my childhood self, solidifying as I grew up, becoming an integral part of who I was.
But last night alone in the dark, a warm body pressed on either side of me, the snores and sleepy sighs, the thumps of their hearts, I felt more of that old self untangle.
Dear Sam, I'm so sorry I scared you. Dear twelve-year-old Jody, it wasn't your fault.