Category Archives: Pets

Dusa Dog the Temporary Canine Goth Fashionista

My little blind dog, Dusa, now has staples that look like zippers across the right side of her face and on the top of her head. (Staples are the new stitches.) She also has a wound on one shoulder, on a front leg and under her mouth. She has a laceration under her right eye. For the next few weeks she will be sporting the canine version of Goth fashion with multiple piercings and a large blue collar to keep her from scratching at her wounds with her hind legs. When she is sniffing around the kitchen floor and under the dinner table she will look like a strange vacuum cleaner on four legs with a wide blue attachment.

Walking Away Didn’t Help

The attack happened quickly.

We were walking in a park where we walk almost every day. This park is a large park with several athletic fields and signs saying pets must be on leashes at all times. It is not a designated “dog park” where dogs are allowed to run freely within an enclosed space. We were walking after 9 A.M. because most of the people who walk their dogs earlier in the morning allow their dogs off the leash. This is not generally true of dog owners who walk their dogs later in the day. I would say this is more an evolved tradition rather than an indication of the law abiding nature of the different groups of dog owners.

We were walking on a sidewalk by a parking lot when a married couple we had recently met a few times drove by and pulled their car into a space in the direction we were walking. Knowing that their dog is usually off his leash, Dusa and I started walking away to avoid getting too close. It has become standard practice for us to cede the right of way to dogs who are off their leash.

Here’s what happened next. The couple let their large breed dog out of the car, accompanied by a small breed dog they had been taking care of for a friend. (In my opinion, the breed of the dogs is irrelevant.) Unprovoked, at least by anything a human would understand, the small breed dog immediately came growling and charging at Dusa. Dusa responded with growling, but since I had her leash on I was able to restrain her. This, of course, didn’t do any good because the small breed dog was not restrained.

The rest is a blur, but this is for certain: The couple’s dog, a large breed dog who usually walks placidly alongside his owners carrying a blue frisbee in his mouth, followed the small breed dog and came charging and growling straight at Dusa. The next thing I knew he had Dusa’s neck and part of her head in his mouth. It was a very violent scene.

I didn’t know what to do. Pulling on Dusa’s leash was not an option while the large dog had her in his jaws. I thought of kicking and hitting the large dog to drive it off, but decided on grabbing him by his collar from behind with my left hand, because I had Dusa’s leash in my right hand. I had to get into the fight to accomplish this. Moments after I grabbed him, his owner got there and somehow got him away from Dusa.

“I Never Thought He Was Capable of Anything Like This”

It was a matter of seconds. I looked at my trembling and defeated little blind dog and saw that she had a puncture wound on her head. I told the owners of the large dog, now at a safe distance and with their pet on a leash, that I would take Dusa home and put some antiseptic on her “breaks.” I was so shook up I couldn’t think of the word “wound.” The large dog’s owners are very nice people and they were very sincerely upset and sorry about what had just happened. The man said, “I never thought he was capable of anything like this.” This struck me, because it’s approximately the same words we have all seen many times in newspaper stories about all breeds of dogs who, out of the blue, have attacked children.

Instead of going home, I went immediately to Dusa’s vet. It was then that the full extent of the damage became known and that Dusa had her wounds cleaned and stapled together. The vet said that Dusa was actually “very lucky.” I shudder to think of what “very lucky” meant.

I puzzled over some tiny punctures on one of Dusa’s front legs and realized they could have been from the small breed dog. The small breed dog was quickly forgotten once the larger dog got involved, but could have been there.

Who Is To Blame?

So, what went wrong and who is to blame?

What went wrong is the easy part, though many might reasonably disagree. The special cause of out-of-character behavior on the part of the big dog that day was the small breed dog’s actions. The big dog, normally quiet and peaceful, followed its natural instincts as a pack animal and got drawn into the fray by the small dog. If the small dog had not charged at Dusa, I’m certain the big dog would have gotten out of the car and marched on its happy way with its cherished blue frisbee in its mouth, as usual. Its owners and I would have exchanged a few pleasantries from a distance.

Who is to blame, besides the authorities who rarely enforce leash laws? In a case such as the one I’ve described, where other dogs not on their leashes charge at your leashed dog, it’s pretty certain who is at fault: the owner of the unleashed dog(s). I’ve been told that this is the case in the eyes of the law even if your dog on its leash actually starts the fight. If your dog is off its leash, you are by definition not in control of your dog.

People have encouraged me to sue and ask if I gave the other dog owners a piece of my mind. No, I did not. I don’t feel this way, though the thought did occur to me very briefly. The owners of the other dogs involved are no different from so many others. It could just as well have been the fault of many other dog owners. They all want to see their dogs romp freely and be dogs, even where leash laws are posted. I understand this and am not previously (and possibly in the future) without sin, which is why I have tried to keep from sounding self-righteous here. Most dog owners believe their dog is not capable of seriously injuring another dog because they never have, or because of their breed characteristics, or because their dog “would probably just roll over if another dog wanted to fight.”

Did Dusa “Diss” the Little Instigator?

What about Dusa? Does she have any fault? Did she bring this on herself? Did she send out a dog vibe unrecognizable to humans that “dissed” the small breed dog who instigated the whole mess? Does the fact that Dusa is quick to respond in kind and might attempt dominance if a dog in her immediate proximity snorts, growls, breathes heavily or displays any other sign of canine aggression have anything to do with it? It might, except for one thing. I have her on a leash. I have control over her. Unless I allow it, she cannot act upon her instincts. (Okay, there’s the self-righteousness you’ve been waiting for.)

I have never seen Dusa attempt (remember the leash) to charge another dog without provocation… What? This sounds familiar? Where could you have heard this before? (Smiley face.)

Note: For another blog about Dusa see bit.ly/auc6mh

Confessions from A Life Revised

I had a small business, which a big business bought, leaving me with a blank canvas (at 53), a reasonably young age. But I continued pursuing life as if I were still in business, with to-do lists, time management system and all that. It took several years to metamorphose into the new me. I was surprised at some of the things I decided to do with my time, but for the most part I have been drawn to projects that involve my creative tendencies.

Comment left by the author on Madison Woods WordPress Blog, “Blank Canvas”

I know some financially successful people, people who could retire tomorrow, who say they have no idea what they would do if they stopped working. They say this is why they continue. They are sad about it and they are not joking. They have spent their entire lives focused on their work. It’s all they know. Most importantly, although they don’t admit it, they believe their status in life is wrapped up in what they do for a living. It’s who they think are.

I try to encourage them. I tell them they will never know who they really are until they drift for a while, until they just empty their minds. I offer a metaphorical suggestion: Drop your bottom into one of those big black truck inner tubes on a warm day. Float down a lazy stream until all the thoughts that follow one after another, on the power of association, are gone. When you reach a mental dead-end you will have actually arrived at a new beginning. Now your canvas is blank.

It takes time to shed the symbols, mannerisms, “corporate speak” and attitudes acquired in the work world. It takes time to realize that deadlines are not always necessary. And it takes time to completely empty out the self-imposed and self-limiting choices anchored in your own mind.

The attitudes about what’s important and unimportant in life are the first things that need adjustment.

During my headier work days, I once referred in conversation to “the real world,” meaning the “important” world of pressure to perform and compete, of deadlines, of movers and shakers, and of travel with perks. This comment and my attitude were quickly put down by a few stay-at-home-moms and a guy who went to a regular job everyday. They wanted to know what world I thought they lived in and why I thought I lived in the “real world.”

Today, I would completely take their side. I’ve seen it from both perspectives now. People who don’t have a day job do manage to stay busy – and worthy. They take care of children and the elderly. They do all sorts of volunteer work. They create amazing pieces of writing and works of art, for the free enjoyment of others. The list goes on and on.

Here’s a clue to what’s really important in life: Observe people who are retired. They rarely talk about their past work lives. They may talk about their travels or the people they worked with, but not of the work itself or even their most worthy work accomplishments. Everybody has to work to live, so big deal. (An exception to this is military service, about which older men frequently reminisce, because they see it as something different from just making a living.)

So, what have I done with my own blank canvas? I have become a person I’m much more comfortable with than the person I have relinquished. I have done a turn as a house husband and found out how rewarding it can be. (Yes, ladies, I know I had a choice and it was not automatically expected of me. Plus, Mr. Mom gets praised for things real Moms are expected to do as a matter of course. But you’ve been keeping quiet about the many satisfactions!) I have been able to help others with medical situations (some terminal) and have been the executor of somebody’s will. I have hiked a bit on the Appalachian Trail at age 62, sleeping alone at night in a lightweight tent that fit me like a hotdog roll, and I have encountered bears at close range.

The author, happy and revised on the Appalachian Trail

I have become a competitor in the fast world of draw-from-the-holster defensive shooting sports, something I would never have imagined given my previous attitudes. It has tested me, humbled me and given me a new circle of friends. I have volunteered my photographic and video services for Boy Scouts, church, my younger son’s lacrosse teams and to help preserve a Civil War battlefield. I have become my dog’s best friend and constant companion.

Now, just so you know, there’s one more check-in-the-box I need. It’s something I saw on a postcard once in trendy little shop in Austin, Texas. Here it is: I want to be the person my dog thinks I am.

Impossible.

Dusa

“You know it’s really nice that you kept her, don’t you? A lot of people wouldn’t have.”

I hear this all the time. I’m a grown man and it makes me want to cry. It’s true. A lot of people, sadly, would not have kept her. You know what that means.

She’s not ordinary. She’s blind. Even after medications and laser surgery, the pressures from glaucoma were wracking her eyes with pain and she could hardly see with them anyway. So her beautiful amber eyes were removed two years ago and the pain went away with what was left of her sight.

When we go somewhere I guide her into the car and while we walk in the park I watch the ground ahead of her to make sure she won’t step on something sharp. I also look for mud puddles and snakes and guide her around. I slap bees away from her. I keep her from falling off steep embankments. When we come to a curb I say, “Up!” or “Down!” She knows what I mean. I am a seeing eye human.

In the beginning, after her eyes were removed, she often banged her head into things in the house. I would cringe and console her, but she would just shake it off. In an amazingly short period of time she had the house memorized, so this problem went away for the most part. When we go away for a holiday and leave her at The Perfect Pet Resort (it’s actual name), they always comment on how amazed they are that, after the first time she goes out in their fenced play area, she gets around like any other dog.

One day, not long after her eye removal surgery, she and I were walking in the park. It was autumn and the leaves were gorgeous, but she couldn’t see that. A single leaf came tumbling out of a tree and helicoptered slowly down in front of us. She tracked it perfectly in the air, pointing like a bird dog, following it until it came to a skittering, rustling halt on the sun-dried fall grass. I emailed her eye surgeon about this and got a quick reply: “You just made my day!”

Some people say the worst thing is that she can no longer see me. “That little dog really loves you.” This is what a woman sitting next to me on a bench at a lacrosse game once said, watching Dusa gently put one front paw and then the other on my knees so she could get closer to my face and simply stare into my eyes with her deepest affections. I miss that and she must, too, but we make up for it with lots of nuzzling. I think I have become more dog-like and it’s wonderful.

Sometimes when we’re walking in the park, a passerby will comment on her “blue” eyes.

Dusa's "Blue" Eyes

Usually, I smile and let it go. What they see are her fake eyes, her silicone ones. Sometimes I don’t let it go and say, “They’re not her eyes.” This is for the amusement of watching their puzzled expressions. Then I pull a laminated photo out of my wallet that shows her before her surgery, so they can see how beautiful her real eyes were.

In the winter months I cover Dusa up in her bed with a fleece blanket. I know she loves that and she looks so contented with just her head showing. When she gets up and turns around to reposition herself in the middle of the night, I cover her back up and nuzzle her.

Our bond is so strong because we really need each other. She shows her affection in countless doggy ways. She depends on me and I adore her. She will be nine years old this October. I am blessed.