Friday, January 23, 2009

More On Dogs

Not only did I not grow up with a pet dog in the house, but the only childhood encounters I had with dogs were brief and sometimes terrifying.

My Aunt Evelyn had a harmless black poodle who peed and shook all the time, but she lived far away and we didn't spend that much time with her. My Uncle John, however, who just lived over in East Syracuse, had an obedience school dropout named Willie who would barrel towards you and knock you over til you were laying flat on your back and he was standing on all fours on your torso. I tried not to be scared and laughed when it happened, and eventually became prepared for it, but still, I was scared.

I could never shake the feeling I had when I was really little, one late afternoon when my sister and I were walking home from Bill's Bakery on Burnet Ave, up that big hill back to our house, bringing big boxes of sheet pizza home for dinner. As we trudged up the hill, a stray dog came sniffing after me and my pizza, and I became so terrified that I swerved around like I was being chased by a bee, eventually ending up right in the middle of the road with a car coming towards me. Mom freaked out of course as she always did when there was the slightest hint of danger, and screamed at me for what seemed like all night.

A couple years later when I was bitten by a doberman on the back of my knee on a bike ride in my neighborhood, I didn't dare tell her what happened. But I had two fang holes in that delicate fleshy area, and they really hurt. Fortunately the dog had just approached me from behind, bit, and left, rather than embarking on a full-blown attack, but it was still scary. I told my sister about it one night at twilight on our back porch, but I didn't tell my parents.

I was so shaken by the experience that when we had a class assignment to write a "Letter to the Editor" as a writing exercise, I wrote mine about my dog bite and how I thought that leash laws should be enforced. Little did I know that my teacher actually sent the letters in, and mine got published.

My father came home one night clutching the newspaper that someone at the bank had brought to his attention, accusing me of lying, grilling me as to why I would make up such a story, especially to the newspaper. I professed that it really did happen, but my father thought I was still lying, and threatened me with rabies shots in the stomach and other horrible things that happen to you when a dog bites you and runs away.

My sister didn't seem to remember me telling her what happened so I was on my own.

It all blew over eventually as many of those dramas did when I was a kid, but unlike most big fights, the dog bite never seemed to be thrown back in my face again. It was like it never happened. But I still remember the feeling of those canine teeth piercing my skin.