Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Attack (Part Two)

     I didn't sleep a wink that night as I lay in bed with Molly by my side. Thankfully, after being thoroughly examined, Molly had been lucky enough to get away with some minor punctures on her back. I thought about that question that had been repeated to me over and over by anyone I had spoken to within those hours, "How did you not get hurt as well?" I had no answer. I had no explanation to how after kicking and screaming, and pulling my dogs out of that German Shepherd's mouth, that it did not make a nice Jewish meal out of me. To be honest, I had such an adrenaline rush to save my dogs, that it never even occurred to me that I could get hurt too. Maybe I had a guardian angel protecting me. I'm not sure.
     The next morning, while suffering through the wait of Lucy's surgery, I called Toronto Animal Services and told them about what had happened. They said they would send someone in a few days. I tried to describe the urgency of this situation, and they told me they were backed up and would get here as soon as they could. So the sit around and wait game began again. Luckily I work in film, so it's a game I've gotten to know very well.
   A few hours later Dr. Miller, the vet at the VEC, called to say Lucy's surgery had been successful and explained that even though they had to put all her organs back into place, they were expecting her to make a full recovery. Except, as my mother was on the phone with the Dr., he suddenly had to go because Lucy went into cardiac arrest. My body froze with fear as I waited for him to call back.  He finally did and told us that they had revived Lucy and she was now stable. I cried tears of relief and was told to wait another 24 hours before I came down to visit her. Every time we called to check in, she was still stable and doing ok.
   I needed to find out why that dog had been outside without his owner. The woman who had witnessed the attack had thought that the dog jumped off the second story balcony because she had seen it jump before. My dad went to the building after work that night and spoke to the superintendent, who was already aware what had happened. She gave my dad the owner's name and apartment number. When he got to the owner's door there was a big "Beware of Dog" sign on it. No one was home when he knocked, but he could hear the dog on the inside, which was good, because I was nervous the guy would flee before we got to him.
     The next morning I was able to go visit Lucy in the intensive care unit at the VEC. When I saw my poor dog hooked up to the IV, with an oxygen tube in and most of her little body shaved and bandaged, the tears came pouring out. She woke up when she sensed me there and dragged herself over to me. She put her head down in my lap and sighed. She was also making a whimpering sound and the vet technicians told me that the pain killers she was on were probably making her a little loopy. I sat on the floor of her cubicle patting her, crying, and apologizing over and over that this had happened to her. The vet tech told me how lucky I was to have such a strong dog. She said that they had all been saying what a miracle it was that a 14.5 year old dog could survive both the attack and the surgery.
"She's a really special dog," I said, mimicking the same words that Joanne the breeder, had uttered to me nearly fifteen years ago when I had gotten her.
     On my way home from visiting Lucy, I happened to see the superintendent outside the building where we got attacked. She was standing with her small son as they loaded up the recycling bin. I got out of my car and went to go speak to her. She didn't speak English very well, but I explained to her who I was and wanted to know what had happened. I asked her if the dog had jumped off the balcony. She laughed that off and said, "No, no. He had taken the dog to the park and the dog wouldn't come when he called so he left it there and went home."
Those words knocked me down harder than the German Shepherd had. Was she kidding me? He left his German Shepherd in the park to find his way home himself? This woman would have been better off telling me the dog jumped off the balcony. What kind of negligent jerk was he? I asked her if she understood how serious this was. What if it had been her little boy? I asked, pointing to her son who was playing in the same grass where my dogs were attacked. "No, no. That dog likes people. He just doesn't like other dogs. I'm not afraid." 
I went home furious. It then took Animal Services a week to show up at my house. Lucy was already home from the hospital by the time they finally did come by. When the woman saw her she freaked out at how awful the attack was.
"Yes," I said. "This is why I have been trying to stress that it was an emergency situation for the past week." The woman examined Lucy, looking for the puncture wounds. She said she couldn't see any.
"It's been a week," I said, completely agitated. "They have healed. you can see the scabs."  She apologized for how long it had taken for them to get out to see me and assured us that they would take action. The first thing she would do is issue a muzzle order for the dog, then they would press charges and yadda, yadda, yadda.
It has now been four months since the attack and the dog is still running around Earl Bales Park without a muzzle on and any small dog he comes across he lunges at. Needless to say, I am not impressed with Animal Services, nor do I feel any safer. Thankfully, as far as I know, there have been no other attacks. Everyone on my street and in the area knows to keep a careful watch out for the dog and his owner, who is just as vicious.
    Lucy is doing better than ever. She has even more energy and is more alert than she was before the attack. She races up and down the hall of my parents house and has a comparable energy and zest, that she had as a puppy.  Her recovery was quick and her hair grew back within a month. She is a survivor. She is a miracle.
  It has taken me a long time to find a silver lining from this situation. I mean, for months I had not been able to understand why this careless incident happened to us. However, even though I still do not have that answer, I do know why Lucy and Molly were meant to survive, when all odds would not have been in their favor. You see, since my Dad died last month, these dogs have not left my side. They have been so much comfort to me and sometimes the only reason I have had to leave the house, or  just to get up in the morning. In a way, as cheesy as it may sound to a non-animal loving person, I feel they are saving me every day and keeping me strong.
This week I will meet with my lawyer, and I will do all that I can to not only get the 10K that it cost for Lucy's surgery, but in hopes of preventing this from happening to anyone else. I will fight, just like Lucy did, and I will win, just like Lucy did.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Attack (Part One)

It's just the most amazing thing to love a dog, isn't it? It makes our relationships with people seem as boring as a bowl of oatmeal."John Grogan (Marley & Me)

           Last week I received an email from a personal injury lawyer that I had met at a party a few months ago. He wanted to find out if I was ready to make a decision about the “dog attack” case. Did I want to proceed with pressing charges against the owner, or did I want to let it go because of everything I have going on in my life right now? Without any hesitation I emailed him back immediately. “I am ready to fight. You’re hired.”
 It was a warm autumn evening, this past October of 09 and I had just returned home from another day tutoring on the set of a great television series called “Happy Town.”  I was also in a fabulous mood because after a year of unfortunate distractions, I had finally completed the manuscript for my second novel, and had sent it off to be edited. Around 11:00 pm, I got my two out of my three dogs ready to take out for their evening walk. Charlie, my oldest, who you’ve already learned about, was now suffering from arthritis in his back legs and wasn’t walking so well anymore. He, sadly, was no longer able to join us for our evening walk. Lucy, my 14.5 year-old, had also been having some health issues lately. She was almost deaf and I’d noticed she’d become a bit lethargic over the past few months. However, she was still mobile and loved being outside. I attached the leash to my 6 year-old, Molly and she immediately grabbed on to Lucy’s, pulling her along as if she was walking her. Lucy’s leash is attached to a harness that goes around her body so that her neck doesn’t get pulled while she’s walking.
I drove up to the top of the street like I always do, in hope of avoiding the wild animals that had been plaguing my parent’s street lately because of the ravine there. I had seen way too many raccoons lately and I knew there was also a fox lurking around. I let my dogs out of the car and we began our walk. I barely made it ten steps, when I suddenly saw a huge German Shepherd off leash heading towards us. I had seen this dog many times before and it belonged to a man who had no control over it, even when it was on a leash. Tonight I did not see the owner anywhere. Within the five seconds I had before being pounced on, I grabbed Molly who was already jumping on me in fear. Lucy, who obviously could not hear or sense the dog coming, didn’t even know what hit her when the German Shepherd grabbed her. I lost my balance as I tried pulling her out of his mouth. He seemed to have her by the neck and was shaking her around as she cried out. Luckily my own cries were loud enough for someone in the apartment building to come out, and she immediately screamed for her husband to go get the dog’s owner, who was in his own apartment. I kicked and screamed at the dog and he finally threw Lucy off to the side, but as I ran for her Molly squirmed out of my arms and the German Shepherd grabbed her. Molly, got shaken a few times, but was fast enough to wriggle away and I finally had both dogs in my arms. The German Shepherd stood there just staring at me, as if I had just ruined his game. I was panting and crying and there was blood everywhere. I felt paralyzed over what to do next. The woman on the balcony was trying to coach me from above.
“Get your babies to the car!” She was screaming.  The German Shepherd watched me as I ran for the car and managing to get my two dogs into the front seat of the passenger side and slamming the door.  It ran over and blocked my side of the car, pacing back and forth in front of it. I begged it to go away. It just stared. Not once through this whole incident did it occur to me that I could get hurt too.
Finally the owner of the dog came running out and ran after it. I screamed a few profanities at him as I jumped into my car. Why had this dog been outside at night without the owner around? I didn’t have time to think of an answer to that, because I needed to get to the emergency vet as soon as possible. I screamed to the woman on the balcony that I had to rush the dogs to the vet. She said not to worry and they would be there for me for whatever I needed. I drove to the vet, crying to my parents on my cell phone about what happened. I told them that Lucy was really hurt and my mom said she would meet me there. When I got to the vet, they rushed Lucy in while I sat and waited with Molly. I called the police, who wouldn’t come take a statement because I hadn’t gotten hurt. Instead, they directed me to Toronto Animal Services, who of course were closed at that hour. I sat helpless staring at my blood stained clothes. The vet came out and told me that Lucy was going to need surgery. He sent us down to the VEC at Yonge and Bloor, where they had an anesthesiologist on call. Since Lucy was an older dog it was very risky to put her under. The vet at the VEC told us that Lucy’s insides were basically a mess. From all the shaking her intestines and other organs were now out of whack. He told us that we can try surgery to put her back together but it’s risky and expensive. He told us that considering her age she might not even make it through the surgery. I thought back to when I first got Lucy. The breeder, Joanne, was very hesitant to give her up. She wanted to keep her for herself because she knew she was a very special dog.
“I don’t know why,” she had said. “She’s just really special. I really feel strongly about it.”
That night I remember turning to my mom with tears in my eyes and telling her that I was not letting Lucy die like this. She deserved a chance. My mom agreed.
“Lucy is going to fight!” I told the vet. “Please do everything you can to save her.”

The surgery was scheduled for the morning when the anesthesiologist would be there as well as the head surgeon, Dr. Miller. We just had to hope she would make it through the night. To be continued….

Friday, February 5, 2010

Good Things Come in Small Packages

"I've seen and met angels wearing the disguise of ordinary people leading ordinary lives."- Tracy Chapman

     The street I grew up on has always been considered a hidden gem in my parent’s neighborhood. It’s sort of off the beaten path and concealed amongst a huge park and ravine. Over the years my brother, sister, and I have rescued so many lost dogs out of both the ravine and the park that it’s become second nature to us. I will never forget a particular rescue about ten years ago when we saved two large dogs out of the ravine at the back of our house. It was a Sunday, and outside the rain was coming down hard. We could hear barking coming from the backyard and when I looked out through the large living room window of our house, I could see a black Lab and a Golden Retriever in the ravine on the other side of the hill. They seemed to be stuck and in distress. Without even thinking, my brother and I ran outside and soaking us through the rain and mud, managed to get a hold of the dogs. They had gotten stuck amongst fallen trees and were scared. My brother and I got them safe back to our house, and immediately called the phone numbers on their tags. They were soon reunited with their owners who lived a few streets south of us. At the time, I would have named that as the number one dog save that I had done in my life; however, since then there have been a plethora of others that have been just as heroic.

Last Saturday as I was coming out of the house on my way to meet a friend for brunch, I saw a little white dog that lives on the street running by. His name is Rico and he belongs to our neighbors a few doors down. His owners were nowhere in sight and I figured he must have gotten loose on his own. To my horror, I watched as a car swerved by him without stopping. I immediately ran into the street and called his name a few times. He stopped and looked at me, with his tail wagging with excitement. Then he came over to me. I picked him up and headed up the street towards his house. As I approached his driveway, Rico’s owner came running down it waving her arms frantically.
“Oh my god, Oh my god!” she screamed. She told me she was helping her daughter put her boots on, and Rico must have escaped through the open door. I told her he had been heading up towards Bathurst Street when I caught him. She thanked me over and over with tears in her eyes. I told her it was just perfect timing that I happened to come out of the house at that second. We said goodbye and I headed back home, but a few seconds later she was calling me back.
“Andrea, I completely forgot, my son made something for you in school,” she said. I was confused. “Really?” I asked. She grabbed my arm and said, "Yes, yes! Wait here. I’ll go get him.” She went into the house and a few moments later returned with her eight-year-old son, Victor.  He handed me a little doll made out of yarn with googley eyes, that he had made.
“It’s called a Waggle,” Victor said. “It’s supposed to make you happy. My teacher told us that we should give it to someone that we know who is feeling very very sad. I wanted to give it to you because I know that you’re sad because you’re dad died. I think it will cheer you up.”
I was stunned. I had only met Victor three or four times since his young family had moved onto the street a year ago. I was so touched that he had thought of me. I leaned over, and with tears in my eyes gave him a hug.
“Thank you for saving my dog,” he called out, as I began my short journey home. I turned back and smiled.
“Thank you for saving me,” I responded.