WARNING: this story is about a dog attacking me and my dog. While we are both fine, the story could be triggering to victims of violence. Please read with caution.
Spectrum was due by 4 (Wi-Fi woes) so when I got home around 3:35, I hurried to get my beagle, Isabella, out for a potty break before they arrived. We walked maybe 3 minutes before she was done with her business and we turned back for home. Just before I stepped into my yard, I saw Dobby, the neighbor’s dog, cutting across my front yard from my back yard. It was about 3:40 pm at that point.
“Oh, Hi Dobby,” I said, “What are you doing . . .” That’s the last thing I remember before he rushed towards me and Isabella.
Dobby, a rescue dog who belongs to our next-door neighbors, is noisy, but skittish. He barks a lot, but our dog does too. In fact, Isabella and Dobby have had an ongoing conversation for several years. One would hear the other and respond enthusiastically. So, when I saw Dobby, I wasn’t even a little nervous.
And that’s the first lesson I’ve learned from the whole thing. See, I’ve known my whole life that dogs of any breed can snap and lose their ever-loving minds. When I was in first grade, a preschooler in our community was mauled by a police dog. I have vivid memories of her struggles and the subsequent comments my dad made about dogs: “Under the right circumstances, any dog will bite, maybe even attack.”
I knew this, but I now realize that I didn’t really believe it. I’m a dog lover. I’ve never been bitten by anyone else’s dog, and any bite I’ve gotten from my own animals was under adverse conditions that made a bite the only effective means of communication. So, when Isabella and I would be out walking and fenced-in dogs would bark at us, I didn’t jump or run or react. I might remark, “Well, hello there Noisy! Aren’t you unwelcoming today!” And Isabella and I would continue our walk. Lesson number one (a four-plus decades one that has lain in wait): Dogs will bite. And also, it hurts when they do.
Anyway, Dobby’s presence in my yard that day didn’t give me immediate cause for concern. I greeted him. He barked at Isabella. She barked back.
And then in a flash he was on her and I was trying to get between them, but Dobby was stronger and faster and Isabella is a beagle princess, not a fighter, so she was trying to get away and I was screaming and screaming and screaming for help, and no one was coming, and I thought he was going to kill her especially when he went for her throat because he got her by the jugular and started to pull back and shake her. I got her away from him. (Isabella has rope burns from the leash which was looped under her tummy.) Losing his hold on her neck, he went for her leg, then he dove for her underbelly; at one point I thought, maybe he’ll pull her leg off and will be distracted by that and we can get away. I kept screaming for help, trying to find more volume from deep in my core and failing, fearing my voice would give out before help came. Eventually, I just curled down over Isabella, with my head and face covered and tried to keep hers covered as well.
A humor break: Isabella is a submissive dog; always has been. Still, she wanted to protect me somehow, so from under my left arm she barked intermittently at Dobby. I am not fluent in beagle, but I think she said something like, “Please don’t do that!” or “That’s not nice!” or “Please stop!” Valiant effort but, bless her heart, not effective in the least.
Not able to gain purchase on his target, Dobby went after me, grabbing my right arm. Just as he did, I saw the blood dripping from around his teeth and gums. I knew Isabella had been bitten badly.
And that’s when Mike, a neighbor from the next street over, came running down through the woods. The structure of our neighborhood is like an amphitheater with our house at the base and Mike’s at the rim. The acoustics are such that I can hear him talk on his phone when he is outside . . . and I have significant hearing loss! So, my screams carried up to his ears and he came running, as did Darlene, a woman who lives near him.
Later, I asked Mike and Darlene what they witnessed.
Mike said, “Dobby had a firm hold on your right arm growling and tugging. [I was yelling but] he never let go until I was only three feet from you and then Dobby turned, showed his teeth, and started growling at me.”
Darlene said, “The dog had hold of something and and was shaking it, but I couldn’t tell from where I was if it was your arm or your dog.”
Mike picked up a limb to threaten Dobby which got the dog to respond. Then, Mike chased Dobby back to his driveway and returned to check on me. Before he got to me, Dobby was back, headed for me and Isabella, still huddled on the ground. This time, Mike chased Dobby all the way back to his home where the teenaged son met him at the door and took possession of his dog.
Mike’s a big guy—well over six feet tall—with a big voice. “That dog was not afraid of me at all,” Mike told me. “Not at all.”
Darlene had arrived by this time.
“I knew from the blood either you or your dog was badly hurt,” she told me. “When I arrived, I saw it was your arm and just made sure you kept pressure on it to slow the bleeding. Then I called 911.” (She made the call at 3:54 pm, meaning the whole thing lasted between 10-14 minutes.)
The EMTs arrived in minutes, examined my arm, said I should probably see a doctor, and offered to drive me to the hospital. I declined, more anxious to get Isabella to the vet, but Jay (who had arrived about the same time as the EMTs) assured them that I would be going to see a doctor shortly. Animal control had arrived too; they made a report, and impounded Dobby.
The end result is that I’m fine and Isabella will be. My arm is very sore and bruised, but not broken. There are a few puncture wounds and the outline of a dog mouth imprinted in my skin, but the bone was not compromised, so healing should be quick and lasting. Isabella’s injuries were worse than mine. She had wounds at her throat, groin, and eye along with miscellaneous scratch and bite marks. However, she had quick surgery thanks to the good people at Cedar Ridge Animal Hospital, and will be just fine.
This is a complex situation that involves lots of humans. I’m an animal lover. And Dobby is a family pet. His family loves him. They are good people who take care of their pets. This incident is evidence of a fencing problem, not a character flaw. I am not a perfect pet mom and have made my share of mistakes. I at least understand containment problems with dogs—I have had beagles for heaven’s sake. So let’s all try to remember the Golden Rule here and treat them (in the comments) as we would want to be treated. They are suffering too. I cannot imagine how upsetting this has been for them.
Dobby is a rescue. His current family did not train him to attack. Perhaps that was a part of his former life; it is for so many dogs. (And by the way, let’s make that stop.) I’m very sad for Dobby. I know he just snapped due to something in his past that came slamming into the present. At some point, he was a puppy who was mistreated and neglected. Ultimately, those who use animals for harm are the ones who create this kind of perfect storm in the first place.
Still, I have been changed by this attack. It was terrifying. I thought it would never end. I thought I’d have to call our kids and tell them Isabella was gone. As a result of the attack, I will always be more cautious around animals. I’ll start carrying something to defend myself and my dog when we go for walks.
One thing keeps looping through my brain through all of this: what if Isabella were my human daughter (don’t tell her, but she’s 100% canine), and Dobby were her boyfriend? It happens all around us you know. A little boy is abused, neglected, used for the wrong reasons. His past slams into his present and prevents him from having healthy relationships. He grows up and meets a girl who realizes the danger too late. You know the stories . . . they are legion.
I don’t know the answer to these problems, but I do know all of us are both broken and beautiful, and that God loves us beyond and through all of our imperfections. I know all children should be treasured, loved with an everlasting love. I don’t know what will happen with Dobby, but I know I will continue to try to love the people in my life deeply and fully as Christ loves me. My daily, fervent prayer is that the love I share will, by the power of the Holy Spirt, seep into cracks of pain and regret and will bring hope that empowers and transforms. Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.
Margaret, our animal whisperer (the one of our three who knows the daily schedule of Animal Planet™ far too well), has loved animals since she began identifying them in her picture books. So, considering her gift for persuasion, along with her blond curls and blue eyes, it’s to our credit that Jay and I held out until her 11th birthday to get her a pet of her own.
Giggles the guinea pig joined our family five weeks ago. And five weeks ago, our Margaret fell in love.
She cooed to Giggles snuggling under her chin, “You are just the cutest; yes you are.” Giggles talked back in guinea pigese, proving she had been aptly named. Margaret giggled back. “I love you, Giggles!”
Yesterday morning, Margaret mentioned to me that Giggles was acting unusual. But it was Jay who became concerned around 3:00 when he found her unwilling to eat and lethargic. We realized that her cage was spotless—meaning that she had not pottied in 24 hours (not a good thing for a rodent who usually potties every 15 minutes or so. . .). She was making a bizarre squeaking sound, didn’t want to be held, and was struggling to breathe.
Margaret and I rushed her to the vet, Margaret—holding the box that held her beloved and covering her ears so she wouldn’t hear the sound that told us something was terribly wrong. At the office, the pet nurse tried to get her temperature but needed some help so she stepped out of the room to call for help. While we were alone in the room, Giggles revived a bit and Margaret took her. “That’s my girl, you’re going to be okay, aren’t you?”
At that moment, Giggles fell over limp. I took Giggles immediately and dashed to call in the vet. Margaret ran out of the room. The vet—an amazing woman—began working to save our little guinea. After about 15 mins of trying, the doc told me she was gone. Then, it was my job to tell Margaret.
Margaret was looking at books right outside the office (it’s located in PetSmart™). I touched her shoulder. She turned to look at me. Walking away from me as fast as she could, she said, “No, no, no, no, no. . .” I caught her. She crumpled in my arms. “No, no, no, no.”
On the way home, she was inconsolable, “I’ll never get another guinea pig. I don’t want anything that’s going to die.” She wept, nearly hyperventilating from sobbing. “I should have known, Mommy, I should have known.”
“You can’t know everything, baby.”
Tears still streamed down her cheeks as she hiccupped out her words. “But she was my daughter. I should have known.”
“It surely feels that way, doesn’t it?" I longed to help her feel better but knew I couldn't. I said, instead, what she already knew, "Nothing in the world hurts as bad as losing someone you love. Nothing.”
“I’m never getting another guinea pig.”
“You don’t have to decide that now.”
“Can we read when we get home?” (Margaret and I still read together like we did when she was a preschooler. It’s an indulgence we both enjoy.)
“We can do whatever you want.”
“Then can we read on your bed?”
We came home, cuddled up with her lovies and our book. Margaret’s sobbed on. “Just read, Mommy, I need to get my mind off it.” I read.
Meanwhile, Jay had been out running errands—he left to go when we left for the vet. I had called him to tell him the sad news, but he had not gotten back by the time we arrived. About a chapter into our book, Jay came home.
“Hey Noodle-bug,” he said softly, using our pet name for her.
She turned her sad, weepy face to him. He held his cupped hands out to her. Instantly she scrambled up from the bed, brightening back into our Margaret. From the palms of her Daddy’s hands popped a furry little face. She reached for her new guinea, smiling, cuddling it to her. “Her name is Lemon Square,” she told us, shrugging the tears from her cheeks, “And I’m going to take such good care of her.”
A little girl, transformed from heartbroken to hope-filled, because a Daddy who loved her more than she can understand gave her the gift of new life: That’s grace. That’s love. That’s Good News.
He was supposed to live forever. I felt sure he’d live to be 15 at least. That meant I’d have him another four years minimum. And heck, Butch—the oldest beagle on record—was 27 when he died, so I figured if Butch could do it, so could my Charlie.
Charlie and I found each other one September afternoon in 2003. I’d been looking for a dog since my youngest child, Margaret, went to kindergarten a month earlier (the house had become way too still). I prayed about it all the time, asking God to guide me to the right dog for our family. I had in mind an adult female mixed-breed rescue; but despite visiting several shelters, I had not found one with whom I felt even a slight connection.
It was my husband who suggested a beagle puppy. I checked the classifieds and of all the beagle listings, one ad stood out to me.“Three month old, tri-color beagle puppy. Male. Full blooded. Parents on site. $100.”
(The ad might as well have said, “The exact opposite of what you think you want.”)
The children (5, 7, and 9 at the time) buckled up, and we followed the back road directions I received when I called the number listed. We rounded the last bend and the address came into view. As we drew closer, I saw a woman out in the yard with a blur of black and tan at her feet. I pulled up and shifted into park. The blur settled into a brown-faced, floppy-eared, saddleback beagle, his white-tipped tail waving to me. Instantly, I knew. I knew because I felt deep in my spirit that all-to-rare feeling of being perfectly in sync with God’s will. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was truly one of the high holy moments of my life.
I bent down and held out my arms. He came to me. And in less than 20 minutes, we were on our way back home with the beagle I’d already named Charlie. At puppy school a week or so later, the trainer remarked, “Wow. Charlie is definitely bonded to you. It’s unusual for such a connection to exist so soon.” Unusual? Shoot; it was downright supernatural.
Fast-forward 11 years to June 7, 2014. My oldest daughter would be 20 in a month; she was living and working in DC for the summer. My son was about to graduate high school and Margaret, 16, was finishing her sophomore year.
She was the one who called to me, “Mom! You need to come here! Something’s wrong with Charlie!” I went upstairs immediately to the kitchen where I found Charlie standing, awkward and immobile. He seemed stunned, confused, afraid. I scooped him up and Margaret and I took him to the closest vet. Still, it absolutely did not occur to me that my sweet baby could be dying. That was unthinkable.
By the time we got out of the car ten minutes later, Charlie had begun losing hair by the fistful. He could still walk, but he trembled all over, his tail sagging and his steps unsure. In the exam room, we held him close, telling him what a good boy he was, so handsome, so brave. When the vet came in, I lay Charlie on the table, continuing to stroke him while I told the doctor what had been happening. After the briefest of exams, the vet told me it didn’t look good. He could barely get a blood pressure and Charlie’s heartbeat was weak.
My husband, my son, and his girlfriend arrived and crowded into the exam room with me, Margaret, the vet, and the vet tech. My beloved beagle lay in the midst of us, fading away. “There’s nothing more we can do for him,” the vet said, “As best we can tell, he’s had a stroke. The humane thing would be to let him go.”
I think I screamed.
Seconds later, his heart stopped beating and he was gone. It hadn’t been forever. Not even close.
When he was alive, Charlie did not actually follow my blog (Google Translate™ doesn’t do Beagle), so I’m pretty certain he’s not reading this now. But if he were, if I could tell him just one thing, it would be this:
(To read more of Charlie's story, click here, or paste https://aileengoeson.com/?page_id=1597 in your browser.)
Lightning flashed illuminating our sleeping household seconds before thunder rolled from the rooftop through the basement. Over and over again the storm pounded our home, promising to awaken the whole family. Amazingly, the house slept on—everyone except for Charlie.
Charlie is my beagle. And like his human siblings before him, he is a Mama's Baby. He rides with me on errands, follows me from room to room, and settles down beside me when I’m working. Still, the family joke has always been that Charlie views my husband Jay as the top-dog of our pack, not me. When Jay’s out of town, Charlie freely jumps up on the furniture at will; but when Daddy’s home, Charlie finds an acceptable place on the floor. And while he knows I will give in and let him on the bed, he would never, ever try that with Jay.
That stormy night, I felt Charlie’s paw taps at my side of the bed and heard his fearful whimper.
“Hi buddy. You want Mama to put you on the bed?”
Charlie trembled in my arms as the lightning lit up the room; I laid him on the bed at my feet. Immediately my beagle stood and walked to the middle of the bed to snuggle up--not to me--to Jay. You could not have run a rawhide between Charlie and his top-dog.
“I see,” I said to my beagle, “When the storms get this bad, you need Daddy to keep you safe, is that it?” Charlie didn’t answer me. He’d already gone back to sleep, cuddled up next to his security.
Featured Image taken a decade after this conversation: My niece and her beloved Lucia.
"My parents should get me a dog.” My six-year-old niece was holding my beagle’s leash as we walked. “I’ve been asking for one, but Daddy says, ‘No way!’.”
“Daddy’s very smart.”
“But Aunt Aileen! You got your kids a dog.”
“Nope. I got myself a dog.”
It’s true. You see, the youngest of my three children had just started kindergarten and this stay-at-home mom needed someone to stay at home with. After much thought, research and a great deal of prayer, I bought a dog: Charlie, my beagle.
Sure, I let my children play with Charlie and help me take care of him. We all laugh when he’s funny and we’re all sad when he’s sick. We all love Charlie. But Charlie is my beagle—he always has been.
My advice: never get a pet for your children. Get a pet; but don’t get a pet just because your children ask for one. You’ll be wasting a perfectly good pet.
I know, I know. Your child makes a great case. It goes something like this:
“Please, please Mommy, can I have a goldfish?”
“Honey, I’m sorry, but I just don’t have time to take care of a pet.”
“No, Mommy, I’ll take care of it.”
“Do you know what is involved in caring for an animal?”
“Oh yeah! I’ve read The Complete Guide to Goldfish Care. It explains everything.”
”What about the bowl? Are you going to clean out the bowl?”
“The book shows how to do that too. All you have to do is. . .” She describes the process precisely.
We’ve all been there. Our child pleads, promises, and then pretty pleases with a cherry on top. And we want to bless them. We do. We want them to have the desires of their hearts. Guilt sets in. Every boy needs a puppy, right?
So we start asking other parents for advice and sure enough, our friends are happy to weigh in on the issue.
“Oh, do it! Pets add so much joy to our lives. Besides, it will be good for your child—teach him some responsibility.” (Just so you know, these dear friends aren’t going to clean up the fresh piles of responsibility on your new carpet.)
Give the child chores—not gerbils—to teach responsibility. And as for needing a puppy, children don’t need puppies. Children need love, shelter, food and water. Beyond that, raise them up in the faith, get them a good education, and help them learn to get along with other people. Really, a child doesn’t need a puppy. Or a kitty. Or a komodo dragon.
The truth is most children don’t take care of animals in the long run, parents do. Kids usually tire of the daily grind of pet care. Then parents get frustrated with their children for neglecting the pet that the parents never wanted in the first place. Inevitably, parents are stuck with a goldfish floating upside down in a dirty bowl, or even worse—looking for a new home for a living, breathing potbellied pig.
When we were potty training my beagle, we learned that puppies make messes when their people mess up. But we worked together; I never saw it as my kids’ total responsibility to train Charlie. When it’s cold and rainy and Charlie needs to go outside, I don’t like it, but I bundle up and take my beagle for a walk. When Charlie makes mistakes and tears things up, it annoys me, but I don’t get mad at my kids for letting their animal tear up my things. After all, he’s my dog.
But let’s say you have a radically responsible youngster who is devoted to the pet plan. Your child is the exception to the rule and she really will take excellent care of your new family member. Great. Is she also devoted to the financial responsibility of a pet? It adds up quickly: food, boarding costs, routine veterinary care, and fun things like toys and treats. Plus most pets require some type of enclosure—reptiles and rodents require cages, puppies and piggies need yards with boundaries, and even kittens need carrying crates. And what about veterinary emergencies? Most childhood allowances won’t cover the cost of vet surgery.
When we travel and Charlie can’t go along, I pay the boarder to keep him safe. Each year, and sometimes more often, I pay for vaccinations. When Charlie gets sick, I take him to the vet and pay the bill. And I don’t mind these expenses. After all, I wanted a beagle, and these costs are part of having Charlie in my life.
Indeed, my kids benefit from having a pet in their lives. It teaches them lots of things like cooperation and compassion. But the thing is I wanted the beagle. Hey, I needed the beagle. And because I have Charlie, my children get to reap the benefits of living with a pet.
But forget the guilt trip; your kids don’t really need a pet. If a pet is not right for you, it’s not right for your children. So get a pet for yourself if you need one, or if you want one. But do be sure to share. Your kids will love it!
“It’s driving us all crazy,” I told the vet. She and I sat cross-legged on the exam room floor as my beagle paced, sniffing around for a way out.
“Charlie licks the floor constantly,” I said, “And it’s not just the floor either. He licks the carpet, his bed, everything. It’s . . . well. . . it’s gross.”
She got my point. “Any other symptoms?” she asked, holding out her hand to Charlie, enticing him to come close. She scratched his ears, cooing, “That’s a good boy, Charlie. Aren’t you a sweet boy?” He leaned into her so she could do a better job.
I told her what was going on with him, trying not to leave anything out.
“It sounds to me like he has some tummy trouble,” she said. “When dogs experience stomach pain, they try to find a way to get rid of that pain. So, they lick, trying to consume something that will make them throw up.”
“Yeah, I know. But when they can get rid of the contents of their stomach, they feel better. At least for awhile.”
Fascinating. What she was saying was that it is my beagle’s instinct, when his tummy hurts, to consume something even worse for him to make the pain go away. Even after Charlie and I left the vet that day, I kept thinking about this canine tendency. I thought about how many times I do this. How many times do I self-medicate, using a drug that’s far worse for me than the problem itself? My drug of choice is food. Yours might be sleep, anger, work, cigarettes. Whatever: we just keep licking the floor, trying to find something to make us feel better.
“And the problem is,” the vet said, “that the licking itself can become a habit. If an animal has had long-term chronic stomach pain, even if it is treated and the problem is resolved, sometimes he will keep licking out of habit.”
(Like self-medicating just because we can?)
“Then we have a psychological problem.”
“So what we try to do is treat the stomach ache early, before the licking has become a compulsive behavior all its own.”
(Now there’s an idea.)
She prescribed—yes it’s true—Pepcid®. In a few days Charlie was feeling much better and licking a lot less. Amazing. We treated the real problem, and the destructive behavior went away.
Wonder if that would work in humans?