I have a second cousin, my mom’s cousin Cathy, who loves animals. While I was in college, Cathy gave me one of the first books I ever read on animal holistic medicine. I devoured and savored it. I still have it today.
When I was a child I would walk down the street to her house, eat freshly baked cookies, and swing on her front-yard tree swing. Her dogs were always locked up in the back yard. I would secretly take a peek at the dogs when I arrived, but this was a forbidden act. I was instructed by my parents to stay far away them. I had also heard stories of the dogs scaling the fence. Each visit, I would assess the dogs and the tall fence in amazement.
For a few minutes, the dogs would silently watch me with curious calm eyes and then, if I got too close to the fence, they would go into their barking frenzy, alerting Cathy of a trespasser. This would send me quickly to the front yard swing in hopes that Cathy would not notice where I had been.
I felt guilty for the dogs having to be locked up. They had a reputation for being unpredictable and aggressive and I believed I had a huge part in that. Cathy had brought Pongo, her Dalmatian, to a family gathering, when I was four years old. I remember clearly that Pongo and I were getting along well. He was smiling at me and even licked my cheek a few times. We were sitting facing one another. I scratched him behind his ears and he bowed his head towards me to keep scratching.
Then I took the back of my hand and started to stroke him under his chin and down his neck. This was a type of petting Jinx, our family’s English Cocker Spaniel, loved. Pongo’s neck became stiff. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “I don’t like that.” I heard him clearly. I whispered in response, “You have such a soft neck,” and scratched him behind his ears. Then I said, “Jinx loves to be petted on his neck. I’ll be more gentle.”
I reached for Pongo’s neck again. “Don’t do it. It hurts there.” I had already started, and just when I reached his chest he lunged at me and bit my face. He punctured both sides of my bottom lip, my chin, and my gums. “Ow!” I hollered at him with a glare. In an instant my dad had me in his arms, and blood was trickling down my face and onto my pretty spring dress. My mother and great grandmother where screaming.
I wasn’t in pain and I wasn’t mad at Pongo, either. I had an older brother and this incident felt no different than Grant getting mad at me and tackling or pinching me. “Get that crazy dog out of here!” my mother yelled while Cathy grabbed Pongo’s collar. As they whisked me out the front door to the hospital I looked back at Pongo. He was sitting next to Cathy. He had sad droopy eyes. “Sorry, forgive me,” he begged. “Bye,” I whispered waving my hand back at him.
Now, as an adult, I try to remember what Pongo and I talked about when we secretly visited by the fence.