I originally wrote this piece in May 2018. Due to the possible legal implications, I held off hitting the publish button. Now that all has been settled, I can share this emotional day with you all.
I’ve waited a while to write this because I needed my emotions to even out a little, I needed time to gain some perspective. I’ve never felt such a range of emotions at any given instant; rage and panic, worry, sadness. I wanted to hurt things and heal them all at the same time. I wanted to make it go away. I wanted to go back in time and do something different to make things play out differently. I felt all of this in the time it takes someone to snap their fingers, and to come down from that takes a person some time.
This particular Monday morning was different from no other, except I skipped yoga for whatever reason. I just wasn’t feeling very Zen I guess, I don’t know. Grandma was home, and we talked about this and that while I prepared for my day. Matt came downstairs with his normal pre-teen bullshit, cracking jokes and annoying me. I looked at my phone and noticed the time.
“Dude! It’s 7:41!” He usually walks out the door at 7:40. Does a minute make a difference? Maybe, maybe not.
“I know, I know. I’m leaving.” And he walked out the backdoor.
“Does he have his ID?” Grandma asked, referring to his student ID.
“Oh, I don’t know,” I answered, and rushed out after him. “Matt! Do you have your ID?” He checked his pockets as he walked down the driveway and said he did. “Alright, I love you kid. Have a good day!” He grumbled his I love you and continued on his way, walking to the bus stop a couple blocks away – too far away for me to see, so I don’t bother trying to watch him.
I proceeded to go back into the bathroom where I had already finished straightening my hair. I stripped off my plain black t-shirt, and wearing just a tank top and the skirt I had picked out, I brushed my teeth and got out my makeup. The new Godsmack played from my phone to my Bluetooth speaker, and I felt like all was going fairly well for a Monday.
I heard the back screen door slam and Matt’s trademark footsteps. I had time to look at my phone and see that it was 746am. To wonder what the hell he forgot. To wonder if it was actually just grandma walking in the kitchen because I had double checked that he had the item he so often forgets. “Matt? Is that you? What did you forget? You’re going to miss the bus!” And he was standing in front of the bathroom door, white as a ghost. I’ll never forget that face. Ever.
“Mom, I got bit.” And he was choking back tears.
“Huh?” I was confused. “Bit? What do you mean?”
“A dog bit me!” He choked out, still trying not to cry. And as his statement sank in, a cloud descended on my brain. Rage and worry; a fury so deep that it reached the bottom of my soul. In an instant I was grabbing my t-shirt. I was screaming “What the fuck?! Where the fuck is it? Where did it bite you?” And I was heading past him to the door. I was pulling my t-shirt over my head, ready to go kill the dog that hurt my boy.
I am normally the cool, calm, collected one. I am normally the soother, the voice of reason. Not in that moment. In that moment I was a victim of a mother’s emotions. I was anger and fear. A million thoughts in a fraction of a second. Rabies. Infection. What kind of dog? Where was it?
“Mom. Mommommom. It’s not that big of a deal.”
“Like hell it isn’t!” I answered, turning back to see my boy, still white faced. Looking to me for calm while simultaneously providing it. He needed his mother. He needed me there, not chasing down a dog. Reason started to take over panic. I walked back to him, wiping the tears that had mysteriously appeared on my cheeks.
This all took place in the space of maybe 10 seconds.
“Where did it bite you?” I asked, and he stuck out his leg, showing me the bite on his right calf, several visible puncture marks from the canines teeth. The panic came back. This time I felt the tears. “What the fuck. . .” I said, running my hand through my hair. I didn’t know what to do, where to start. Luckily, Grandma was there and took over, seeing I was a mess.
I hate admitting where I was at emotionally and mentally. We as parents are supposed to be pillars of strength for our children. I was not. Period, point blank. Had grandma not been there I would have figured it out and calmed down eventually, but her being there was an immense help.
“My other leg hurts?” Matthew said in an uncertain, shaky voice. He lifted the now torn fabric of his silver basketball shorts away from his right thigh, and I saw another bite.
“What in the actual fuck.” I uttered. And that’s when grandma took over.
“Okay, Matt. We need to get it cleaned up. We’re going to have to squeeze it.” Grandma has a background with animals, thus a knowledge I lack. I knew squeezing it would get any bacteria out, and the saliva which could create infection. “You need to call the police.” She called over her shoulder to me, rushing Matt into the bathroom. “Son, it’s going to hurt but we have to do it.” I heard her say. That’s when I lost it. I grabbed a cigarette and walked outside, holding back body shaking sobs. I couldn’t stand inside and listen to that. I knew she was right, but I knew it would hurt him. I quickly text my boss, and then stood there, shaking and trying to calm myself down enough to think. 911? Non emergency? I mean, he was walking and talking. Did this really warrant an ambulance? Grandma came out and asked if I’d called. I asked her which was correct. She said to call 911 and listed reasons, but I stopped listening and walking down the porch stairs, I dialed the number. I had to repeat myself a couple of times to the operator because I couldn’t control my voice enough to speak clearly.
I was a mess. I can’t convey to you how horrible that makes me feel, how embarrassed I am that I couldn’t get my shit together.
Even the seemingly strong have their weak points. I can deal any day with a run of the mill cut, scrape, bump. Unusual ailments, fevers, vomiting. I have been in car accidents, seen my father stitch up multiple people who needed a doctor but couldn’t afford it and dad was the next best thing. . . I can tell you all the crazy, weird, fucked up things I have witnessed and done and kept my shit together. I am a realist, I am organized and think through things quickly and thoroughly. But I guess with this there were too many unknowns. There were too many variables and I couldn’t figure out which was the most important.
I do have to take into consideration that we are not even 10 minutes into the sequence of events, as well. Time seemed to crawl and my fumblings weren’t adding minutes, they were adding mere seconds. Every second seemed an eternity, however.
Anyway. So, 911 had been called. As I finished my cigarette I text my co-workers. I walked back into the house where grandma was finishing up with Matt. Now that help was on the way, my brain really began to calm down and think again. We began asking Matt questions; What kind? He didn’t know. What color? Maybe brown and white. Which house? He tried to describe it but since we don’t walk by there, what he was describing meant nothing. I had walked down there the day before school started to check that there weren’t any questionable houses, people, dogs; at that time all was well. Apparently that had changed since August.
I was standing at the front door, and grandma at the window. We were watching for EMS, and when Matt realized that he began to pace. He was still pale, his voice still shaky when he spoke. He was stuttering a lot, and annoyed that I had called 911.
“Matt, is that it?” Grandma asked, pulling the curtain aside and pointing across the street. Sure enough, a dog wandered around the front of the buildings across the street. It was too far away to discern a breed, size, or color though. Matt squinted out the window. “I don’t know. . . Probably?” A few minutes passed. It’s hard to write this portion because my brain was just a confused mess. As Matt calmed he was able to recall more details, so I’m going to leave this here and tell you his story.
Matt left the house as I said – mumbling his return I love you, confirming he had his student ID. Matthew is roughly five foot three, a little over 100lbs. He was wearing those silver basketball shorts with black accents and a black t-shirt, matching for once. He also wore his signature black zip up hoodie. Before he left we discussed him wearing jeans, and he opted not to. It’s funny how these things occur to you after the fact – How would this story be different if he had worn jeans? Anyway, so he was walking down to the bus stop, roughly a block and a half to two blocks away. We reside on a busy street so I never feared him being taken – although as you’ll see as I tell this, my faith in humanity has taken a hit. I now watch him walk to the bus stop each morning, until his feet are both firmly planted on the bus and the doors closed. I’m getting ahead of myself, however.
So, Matt’s walking along. There’s several dogs on his route, but he’s become accustomed to their barking now that we are at the tail end of the school year. He didn’t even look up from his feet as he passed a house with two dogs that bark at him each morning. They are always on chains and behind a fence, so he doesn’t even acknowledge them.
Until he noticed one dogs bark seemed closer than is normal. He glanced behind him and noticed that today was different. The dog was not on a chain, and it was barreling towards him across the yard.
Fearing the worst, Matthew picked up his pace, now speed walking past the house.
And suddenly the dog was there. It was at this point he thinks the dog bit his upper thigh, snagging him from behind and throwing him off balance. Matthew fell to the ground, and that’s when the dog bit him on the calf.
No one stopped to help Matt. He was laying on the sidewalk with a dog biting him on a busy street and no one stopped to help. I know humanity isn’t horrible. But I lost some faith when this realization struck me.
Matthew blanked here. He says the next thing he remembers is that he was no longer on the ground, he was standing. And the dog was beside him, fixated on traffic.
The dog is just standing there, watching traffic. Matthew turned and bolted, as any child would do in his situation. He must have attracted the attention of the dog however because he heard it take chase after him.
And Matt stopped. Recalling a conversation he had in one of his classes, where his teacher advised them that in the event that a dog was chasing them that they should not run, and they should yell at it. So Matt stopped and turned to the oncoming dog.
“Mom, I don’t know why I even said this,” he told me as we waited for the paramedics. “I said ‘DON’T YOU DO THAT! YOU LEAVE ME ALONE!'”
And miraculously, the dog was spooked by Matthew’s alpha dog demeanor, and ran from him, across the street. At which point Matthew walked home, thinking that he would just have me clean him up and take him to school. He had no idea the severity of the situation, or even the physical and mental toll the experience had on his body and mind.
The paramedics showed up first, followed by Matt’s dad, and then the police, who called the dog warden. We recounted our story three times, first as the paramedics cleaned the wounds, then to the officer who seemed just as upset about the situation as we were. Then to the dog warden who ultimately would handle the situation, taking pictures of the bites and walking back down to the house with Matthew. The dog had jumped back over the fence and was back in its yard again.
I then took Matt to the hospital where they gave him a tetnus shot and some antibiotics. The dog warden called me with information he had obtained from the owner of the dog, that it was up to date on shots. . . And that the owners had opted to have the dog put down.
A sad situation all around.
I feel for the owners. . . however. However, this whole story could have gone down in a much different fashion.
My son could be permanently handicapped. Or worse. My son could be dead.
I think it was that realization when he first stood in front of me, white as a sheet, that temporarily hindered my thought process. I could have lost my son.
Instead he is left with two scars. He still walks and talks and is his annoying 12 year old self. The day of the attack he complained of being tired and hungry, both an obvious result of the adrenaline rush he experienced. He’s now a little nervous around dogs, even ones he knows. But he’s alive.
I feel for the family who lost a pet. Trust me when I say that. But God forbid. . . So many realizations hit me. What if Matt was smaller, what if Matt hadn’t thought to yell at it. . . What if the dog hadn’t been put down and it happened again and there wasn’t such a lucky outcome? I know my opinion isn’t a popular one with animal lovers, but I am wholeheartedly thankful the family decided to have the animal put down.
We’ve been successful in changing his bus stop, thankfully. I watch him to the bus each morning, ready to spring in the event there’s another rogue dog or other mishap. I don’t trust humanity to be decent and help my son. . . Too involved in their own lives, too scared. Usually I have a sunny outlook and think the best of people. But that outlook definitely has a cloud now.
If you’ve read my four part series on Matthew’s adventures, you have an idea how often he has scared the shit out of me and been fine.
Someone, something, was watching out for my boy that day, and does so regularly. And I am eternally grateful.