I had worked the previous evening and got home late. As I laid down in bed, I looked forward to sleeping in the following morning.
At 7:38 AM my daughter screamed “HELP! DADDY! HELP!”
Our two dogs were barking, and by the tone of the barking, it was easy to tell that they were attacking something.
I think that the noises were initially incorporated into my dream. Then my daughter let out a blood curdling scream and my wife yelled “WhiteCOOOOAT!”
I flipped back the covers and jumped from the bed. My foot got tangled in the covers as I ran to the bedroom door and I fell to the floor.
The intensity of the dogs’ barking and yelping became louder and more intense.
While jumping down the stairs I tried to get a grip on what was happening. My wife was home waiting for the bus to pick my middle daughter up for school. After the bus leaves, one of us takes our youngest daughter to pre-school. Our two dogs are great. Both are shelter rescues. One is a Vizsla mix and has been with us for a couple of years. The other is a boxer mix that has been with us for about 3 months. The Vizsla never used to be very aggressive until we rescued the boxer. The boxer loves humans. When she sees someone in our family walk in the door, she wags her tail so hard it sounds like a drum banging against the door. If you lay down on the floor, you have to cover your face because she’ll literally lick you to death. However, she doesn’t especially like other animals. By the number of scars on her face and legs, the shelter assumed that she had been discarded from a fighting ring. They found her roaming the streets – terribly underweight, but still alive. They spent a couple of months rehabbing her. The two dogs get along great together, but they play rough. As a result, the Vizsla is now a little more of a “guard dog” than he used to be. I hoped that if someone had broken into the house that both dogs were chewing that person’s ass to shreds. Then I thought – what if something happened and they were attacking my daughter?
I swung around the bottom of the staircase and ran down the hallway. My daughter’s screams grew more earnest. I turned the corner into the living room and saw blood spots all over the carpet. My wife was holding the two girls against the wall, guarding them from the dogs. My middle daughter’s head was peeking out from under my wife’s arm. My youngest daughter just held her hands over her face. In the middle of the living room, the boxer had a firm grip on the hind quarters of the Vizsla. Both were growling loudly.
The boxer had a hip that bothered her sometimes. I ran up to her and kicked her firmly in the hip, hoping that the pain would cause her to let go. No luck.
Then I grabbed the boxer by the collar and tried to pull her off of the Vizsla. I picked the boxer off the ground and her grip was so strong on the Vizsla that she lifted his hind end off the floor. I threw them both against the wall. Still no luck.
Then my martial arts brain kicked in. What vital points are open to attack? I ran over to the dogs and jumped on the boxer’s back. My daughter yelled “Be careful, daddy!”
I grabbed the boxer’s collar and twisted, trying to choke her. She still wouldn’t let go. The Vizsla was biting at the bridge of her nose and yelping at the same time. I looked up at him. His eyelid was shredded and he had blood dripping from a wound to the side of his chest. My heart dropped.
The nose is a vital area in humans. I grabbed under the boxer’s upper lip and pulled the lip and nose up away from the Vizsla as hard as I could. Nothing.
Then I went after her eyes. I buried my thumbs to the bases in both of her eye sockets and twisted back and forth. The only response that got was a few shakes of her neck back and forth. All she cared about was ripping at his leg.
Cold water splashed all over us. While I was trying to separate the dogs, Mrs. WhiteCoat had gone to the kitchen sink and filled a pot full of cold water. We were all cold and wet, but still no response.
“I don’t know what to do! What should I do?!?” She pleaded.
“Get something to pry her jaws apart!”
By this time both girls were screaming and both dogs were growling loudly.
I always carry a knife with me, but only had a pair of scrub pants and a T-shirt on when I was in bed, so the knife was still upstairs. Should we get a knife from the kitchen? Would I really want my girls to see me slit our own dog’s throat?
I kept a firm hold on the twisted collar to keep the boxer from turning on me. I yanked on the collar again, pulling the dogs away from the wall. Then I changed positions, trying to put my knee on the boxer’s windpipe.
Suddenly, a coat rack came crashing down on the boxer’s head. I positioned the rack over the dog’s neck, then knelt on one end and leaned my body over the other end. That got her to release. The Vizsla ran into the kitchen yelping loudly. I jumped up and grabbed the coat rack, ready to do battle with the boxer. She rolled over, sat up on the carpet and hung her head, looking up at me with the same sorrowful eyes that first drew us to her in the shelter. It seemed like she telepathically transmitted the words “forgive me” to the center of my brain.
We got the kids out of the room and called Animal Control. The control officer arrived at our house fairly quickly and caged the boxer.
“We aren’t going to be able to allow her to stay here,” he said.
“I know,” I said slowly, “we wouldn’t feel safe with her here, anyway.”
With my hands still shaking and my thumbs still hurting from the incident, I signed the piece of paper stating “Owner Surrender.”
“There’s a $125 fee for the euthanization. I can get that from you later.”
“No, I’d rather write you a check now.”
He handed me another form to sign, and with a few more strokes of my pen, I gave a complete stranger permission to kill one of our family members.
As I drove my car to work later that day, tears welled up in my eyes when I saw remnants of her doggie boogers on the passenger window and thought about her tail wagging as she poked her head out the window while we were driving down the street just the day before.
Much like an alcoholic who goes back to the bottle, our little Pearlie had demons in her past that she just couldn’t shake. Her life started out hard and ended tragically, but for the last few months of her short life, we were at least able to show her what it was like to live in a house filled with love where she didn’t need to worry about being attacked and she didn’t need to worry about where her next meal would come from.
The memories of this day will never fade from my mind. While I’m happy at the joy that Pearlie brought to our lives, I’m still bitter about what happened. I’m bitter at the people who put this poor dog in the position that she was in. I’m bitter about dog fighting. I’m bitter about people who train dogs for fighting. I’m bitter about people who have anything to do with dog fighting. I’m bitter about watching each of my kids break down sobbing when they walked in the house after school and I had to tell them that our dog was put to sleep.
I just wish that these Michael Vick-types could be forced to watch the aftermath of what happens in the lives of the dogs that they create, abuse, and then discard like some crumpled up McDonalds bag.
Rest in peace, Pearlie. We all still miss your slobbery kisses.
Thanks for the good wishes.
Several people have asked and e-mailed about how our other dog fared.
He required a couple of hours of surgery, but is hopefully going to be OK. His eye will be permanently scarred. We hope that it won’t affect his vision. Even he misses Pearlie. He walks around the house whining sometimes and often goes and sits in the corner where Pearlie once sat to look out the window.