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Life or Death

This isn’t the article I intended to write this week, but sometimes things change. Especially when it comes to life and death.

Thursday evening was beautiful. Storms across the state had cooled the temperature down, and a lovely, gentle breeze made it feel even better. Just the kind of evening my miniature rescue poodle, Jack, and I like to hang out at Meridian Dog Park in Wichita. It’s stress-reducing to me to go to the park, laugh at the goofy dogs, talk to the other weird dog people, and get some fresh air. Jack just likes getting out of the house to see his doggie friends.

There were quite a few dogs there, running around, having fun. It seemed like a pretty mellow evening. Dogs were coming over to Jack, introducing themselves, in the usual sniffing each other kind of way. We hadn’t been there 5 minutes, when one of the, get-to-know-you-dose-does turned ugly.

Things can go from hunky-dory to death in a heartbeat.

One minute we were having fun; the next minute we weren’t. One of the bigger, mixed-breed dogs attacked Jack. Viciously. And would not back down. Dogs are such pack animals, that as soon as one dog started attacking Jack, others joined in. People came running to get their dogs, but it’s not easy when a frenzy like that happens, and dogs won’t listen to their owner’s commands. I tried to grab Jack but couldn’t get him. I recognized his voice, crying out in the tussle as he was hurt, and didn’t know what to do: how close to get into the middle of the fray. I kept thinking they’d break apart, the way it usually happens when dogs get into fights at the park. But, the attacking dog wouldn’t stop going after my baby.

Sometimes putting yourself in harm’s way is the only way to get things done.

I was lucky. I could have gotten bitten. Bad.

When I heard a woman scream in a nearly hysterical voice, “He won’t let go.” I knew I had to take action. Immediately. People were trying to pull the dogs apart, which I knew would cause a lot more injury. I threw myself to the ground, forced the dog’s teeth apart, and pried his jaws of my little man. It must have taken a lot of strength, because my shoulders and upper arms have burned since. I’m finding bruises on my hands and scratches on my arms and feet, that I didn’t even feel before, when I was in shock. It’s amazing it wasn’t worse. For both of us.

Just because you act like a badass, doesn’t mean you are one.

Jack wasn’t completely innocent in this incident. He wants to be the alpha and will growl at dogs that he doesn’t want to sniff him. The bigger dogs will usually look at him like he’s crazy and leave him alone. Unfortunately, the one on Thursday night didn’t back down.

After we got the dogs apart, people started yelling at the owner, telling him his dog had been aggressive since they got there, and they needed to leave the park immediately. The owner asked for my phone number and promised he would call me, but he never has. I don’t expect he will. I just hope he stays away from the dog park and thinks twice about letting his dog around other dogs.

Emergency Rooms are the same, whether they’re for dogs or people.

At the dog park, many people told me multiple times to go straight to the vet. Duh! Looking Jack over when I got to my car, it miraculously appeared that he wasn’t seriously injured. His skin had be ripped apart in about a three-inch gash in his right armpit, but there didn’t seem to be any other damage and there wasn’t much bleeding. He was definitely in shock, we both were, but he was quiet and calm. It took me a few minutes to calm myself down enough to remember where the emergency vet clinic is, and how to get there. It seemed like we were driving through molasses, taking way too long to get there.

Emergency rooms take a lot of patience, and a clinic for animals is no exception, especially since we only have one in Wichita. Waiting is tough, and since Jack’s injury wasn’t life threatening, I knew it would be a while before he could see a doctor. We were put in an exam room right away, and his vital signs checked, assuring me it was only a flesh wound. We were in that quiet, white, cold room for a long time, feeling the pain from our boo boos more and more as the shock wore off. Eventually they took Jack to stitch him up and sent me home to wait. It was 1 AM when I finally carried my zonked out poodle in the door.

Advocate for those who can’t, and don’t take “no” for an answer.

Even with the pain meds the emergency clinic gave us, as the sedative started wearing off, Jack let me know he was still in pain, and whined and cried most of the night. It was tough not being able to comfort my sweet boy. In the morning, a friend checking on us, encouraged me to call the vet to see what we can do to increase his medication.

It took a surprising amount of persistence to get this done. The emergency vet wanted me to follow up with Jack’s regular vet, just like they do in human emergency rooms. I called my vet’s office to discover the prescription would involve an office visit, which couldn’t happen until Monday, and of course, there would be a charge. Rather than giving up until Monday, I called the emergency clinic back, and explained the situation, reminding them I’d spent hundreds of dollars with them the night before. Thankfully they conceded to give us a prescription. The Poodle is resting much more comfortably now. I was even able to get some sleep.

There are good people in the world.

I’m deeply touched by the response Jack and I got on Facebook. In less than 24 hours, 205 people reacted and 103 commented on the post I put up while we were waiting at the clinic. That doesn’t count the phone calls, text and Facebook messages offering to come sit with me and asking if I needed anything.

I cried like a baby, when I got the message from a friend that she had gone to the clinic and paid half the bill. She told me that I do so much to help other people, and that it was my turn. I still tear up about it every time I think about it. It’s all overwhelmingly touching.

Our furry friends are so much more than a pet.

The relationship we have with our four-legged friends are deep. They’re more than a friend, more than a family member – we are connected at the soul. The unconditional love they show us is something we can’t even begin to understand or imitate. They learn everything about us, understand us, and love us anyway.

I rescued Jack four years ago, when he was abandoned as a puppy by his owner. I was newly single, after decades of married life, and was rebuilding my life. He is my confidante, constant companion, cheer leader, true love and my rock. When I realized he was about to die, I didn’t think twice about prying him out of the jaws of death. I am so grateful that we both made it through without more serious injuries. I don’t even what to think about how it could have turned out.

We’re taking this weekend to chill together. Jack is requesting extra TLC and cuddles. I think he knows I saved his life. Considering what he has done for my life, I’m happy to oblige.

Give your furry friends extra love,

Headmistress Jill

Update: Just want to let everyone know that Jack is doing well after his attack I talked about in last week's article. He's a good healer. He acts like nothing happened, and is just as active as ever. I'm doing well too. Did hear from the owner of the other dog, but he's been unresponsive to my return text. Thanks to everyone for your support. It means a lot to me that so many of you have reached out.

Another update: Jack's stitches are out and he's doing great. It's like it never happened as far as he's concerned. We haven't been back to the park, more because of my trauma than his. Still, the weather will be getting cooler again soon, and we'll try it again. This time I'll have a tiny air horn on my key ring, just in case. I filed a report with Animal Control and give them the name and phone number the man who's dog attacked mine sent me over a week after the fact. They haven't been able to reach him, so of course the case is closed. Oh well. Still just grateful it wasn't worse.

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