My dog was attacked by a pit bull last week. “Attacked” seems like a strong word considering there wasn’t a single mark on my 14-pound, 8-year-old Chihuahua mix, Dexter, despite his engaging with the pit bull for what seemed like an eternity. I honestly don’t know what else to call it, though. “Incident” seems so trivial compared to my recollection and reaction, but is likely more accurate, given the result.
I was walking my two dogs back toward my apartment when I saw the familiar blonde, female pit bull being walked by her human. I usually walk away from the pittie when I see her. Whenever she sees us, she tends to bark and growl while straining against her leash, causing her rather formidable male human to have to plant his feet and use two hands to hold her. But he does hold her and makes her sit until she calms down before he resumes her walk.
My older dog, Geddy, a 16-lb, 12-year-old Chihuahua mix, is also somewhat aggressive toward other dogs, but because of his small stature, doesn’t face the societal scorn that the pit bull does. Of course, if Geddy fought another dog, his potential to inflict damage is far less than that of the pit. Nevertheless, he is not just an innocent bystander in this story.
Because I know the pit is aggressive, and because Geddy can also be an asshole, like I said, I usually walk away immediately upon seeing the blonde pit to avoid any potential confrontations. This time, however, I decided not to adjust my route. The pit was in an area that was across from, but definitively along my path back to my apartment. Instead of turning left and walking up a hill away from the pit and also my home, I told myself that the man is always in control of his dog, and that it would be okay for me, this one time, to not walk away. “Besides”, I thought to myself “Why should I have to alter my route when he doesn’t?”
So, I crossed the street and started the walk along the sidewalk that leads to my apartment. The pit was squatting and peeing across the side street to my left. My dogs and I continued to walk straight toward home. I looked forward and pulled my dogs, but the pit became aware of our presence, and began to snarl and bark and pull on her leash from across the way. That got Geddy all riled up, so he started pulling against his leash, and barking and snarling back. Both the pittie’s human and I corrected our dogs immediately. We each seemingly got our dogs under control quickly, and while he forced his dog to sit, Geddy, Dexter and I moved forward.
We passed some small shrubs and what I think is a Mulberry tree on our left, putting some foliage between my dogs and the pit. “Out of sight, out of mind”, I silently thought and hoped as we continued forward. We got just past the swing set and little park area on my right when I heard the man yell, “No! No! Get back here! Get back here now!”
My heart sank and then immediately started pounding 1,000 beats a minute. I scooped up Geddy who was at my feet, and turned to pull Dexter closer to me, when I saw the pit running at us, low to the ground at full speed. Before I had a chance to grab Dexter, the pit pounced on him with such force, that I was left stunned and standing with just his leash in my hand, while the dogs rolled several feet past me and to my left. Dexter barked loudly, and I fully expected to turn around and see my dog lying dead on the ground. Thankfully, that did not happen, but there was so much snarling and movement, and everything was moving simultaneously so fast and yet in slow motion, it was hard to process. The pit’s owner was barely even across the street and seemed miles away. With Geddy in my arms, and Dexter’s leash hanging from my left hand, I just screamed loudly and in as low and as forceful a voice as I could, “NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!”, while walking toward the fighting dogs.
As I got closer, Dexter and the pit both stopped for a second, but then the pit looked at me and took a step toward me. I stopped advancing and then Dexter started barking, and the two dogs were engaged again. Rolling, snarling, barking, and growling along several more feet, we were now in front of our apartment building, but still several doors down from our unit. Again, with Geddy in my arms and Dexter’s leash hanging from my left hand, I walked toward Dexter and the pit yelling, “NO!” Again, the dogs stopped for a second. By this time, the pit’s human was closer, and he tried to grab the pit’s leash or harness, but that got the dogs engaged again, and he backed off and so did I.
More rolling, snarling, barking, and growling. The dogs were now on the sidewalk in front of the apartment two doors down from ours. Neighbors were coming out of the apartments, gathering on their balconies and porches to see what was happening. The pit’s owner tried for the leash again, but missed and the dogs, rolled, snarled, barked, and growled some more. They were now stopped on the sidewalk in from of my bedroom windows.
I still only had the capacity to scream the word “NO!” over and over and walked toward the dogs again. The pit was standing over Dexter, but as I got closer, neither dog engaged with the other. I called Dexter by name, and he took a step away from the pit and toward me, but the pit started to go after him again. I screamed, “NO!” again and kept walking closer. The pit’s owner walked in closer as well, and I graduated from yelling “NO!” to yelling, “Dexter, come!” over and over again, while walking toward my apartment door. Dexter took a few steps away from the pit and walked toward our door, and the man finally successfully grabbed his dog. There was one more feeble attempt by both the pit and Dexter to engage, but they were far enough apart, and likely exhausted, so nothing came of it.
I walked up the stairs to my apartment with Geddy in my arms, unlocked my door and stepped inside. Dexter walked up the stairs a few seconds behind me and went into the apartment. I put Geddy down, and began to shut the door, but it was stuck. I looked down and saw Dexter’s harness still attached to the leash that was still in my hand, and blocking the door from shutting. That was the moment I realized I didn’t just have Dexter’s leash in my hand, but his entire harness had been pulled off.
I looked for a moment back at the man, who was simply saying to his pit, “What’s the matter with you? Why did you do that? What’s the matter with you?” He did not look back and said nothing to me as he walked away. I suddenly realized I was inside my apartment, and shut the door quickly, as I briefly imagined the man losing control of the pit again, and it getting in my house.
Once I realized the ordeal was over, I started screaming for my husband. Geddy started barking incessantly, and Dexter was hiding under the dining room table. I was terrified to see what he looked like. My husband came running in asking me what had happened. I was shaking and could barely speak. He thought I had been hurt, and was trying to comfort me, and I just yelled, “No! Dexter! That stupid pit got loose and attacked Dexter!!!” I covered my eyes, afraid to see what had happened; imagining Dexter’s ears and neck flesh ripped and bloody, completely oblivious to the fact that he had walked into our house with no assistance and without so much as a limp.
My husband checked Dexter everywhere, and didn’t see a single abrasion or drop of blood. He felt his paws and legs and neck and all over his body, and Dexter didn’t wince or yelp at all. He had stopped shaking and was wagging his tail. Geddy stopped barking, and we all took a breath. My husband gave the dogs their after-walk dog treats, and Dexter ate his without hesitation. He was okay. There was absolutely nothing wrong with him.
I, on the other hand, was completely traumatized. It took me hours to fall asleep that night. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw the pit with her bright pink harness running at full speed toward us. I felt the tug of Dexter’s leash and my eyes would bolt open. The image would just repeat over and over again every time I attempted to close my eyes. I imagined scenarios where the pit killed Dexter with a single, harsh shake while gripping Dexter in her powerful jaws. I imagined the pit knocking me to the ground, and then killing Dexter and Geddy. I imagined her killing me. I eventually fell asleep from exhaustion at about 4am. The next night was more of the same.
During the day, I replayed the scenario over and over in my mind. I felt stupid and weak for only being able to yell “No!”, over and over, and not swooping in some more dramatic fashion to save my dog. As I replayed the events in my mind’s eye, and I saw my neighbors watching, I imagined them laughing at me. I saw myself not as someone who was trying to calmly and assertively get the dogs to disengage, but more as a frightened and pathetic female version of Michael Scott, the character from the American version of the television show The Office, screaming “No! God please, No! No! No! Noooooooooooooooooooooo!” which has since been immortalized into a gif and a meme.
I felt horrible guilt for having picked up Geddy, leaving Dexter to get attacked. I picked up Geddy because I knew he is more aggressive and would fight to the death, and I knew that he would lose that fight. I also thought if Geddy fought, then Dexter might try to protect Geddy, and I might lose both dogs. Picking up Geddy also brought more danger to me, as the dog might have attacked Geddy while I was holding him. There were 1,000 reasons why picking up Geddy was the right decision, but I felt guilty nonetheless and that is because Geddy is also my favorite dog. I know you’re not supposed to have favorite children, but I don’t have children, I have dogs. I love Dexter dearly, but Geddy is my favorite. I have always felt a level of guilt about this, and that guilt was magnified after this incident.
For several days after, I shortened all of my walks with the dogs. I stayed very close to our apartment, and avoided my old, favorite, meandering routes that increased my chances of encountering the pit and her human. I avoided walking near the neighbor’s apartments whom I had seen come out during the fight. I didn’t want to have to speak with them about it, so I always went left instead of to the right, where they were more likely to see me.
I also found myself afraid of other dogs again, which I hadn’t experience so viscerally since I was a child. The day after the incident, I went for a long walk by myself, and saw a couple walking an old golden retriever. Just like when I was a child, my heart started beating rapidly at the sight of the dog, and I immediately walked into the street rather than walk near it on the sidewalk.
My husband was growing concerned for me and encouraged me to seek out a therapist, which I had been wanting to do before this even happened. He also bought me citronella spray to carry with me on walks. It’s in a container similar to pepper spray but won’t hurt animals or humans; it will just repel them (hopefully.) Having the spray definitely makes me feel more confident. Time passing and forcing myself to venture out onto old, familiar paths without new incidents also helps.
Today, a week and a day since the incident happened, I forced myself to take the dogs “to the wires”. That’s what my husband and I call walking to the path that runs parallel to the power lines that divide the air and field that runs between the apartment complex we live in, and the townhome complex up the road. It’s just under a mile round-trip, and with multiple pee, poop, and sniff breaks, takes about 30–45 minutes to walk. It’s my favorite route, but it involves walking past the pit’s home, so I’ve avoided it this past week. But I knew I couldn’t avoid it forever.
My usual route to the wires is to walk up the main road of our complex, to the community pool area, Dexter’s favorite place to poop. We then cross the street and wander along the path through the field near the wires; past the woods that separate us from yet another apartment complex, and along the winding sidewalks that return us back to our apartment. The pit lives across the street from the pool area. I know this because every time we walk by her apartment, even when we are across the street, we hear her barking and snarling and see her, on her hind legs throwing her front paws against the glass doors, trying to get out of her apartment. On more than one occasion, I imagined what would happen if that dog got through those doors and off the porch. Now I know.
Instead of going my usual way, I did the trip in reverse. We walked the meandering sidewalks and path along the woods to get to the wires. We crossed through the field and went to the pool and walked behind a building, blocking us from the pit, coming back around to the main road well past her apartment. We went down the remainder of the main road and up the sidewalk where a week before one of my biggest fears came to fruition. Uneventfully, we walked into our apartment, and settled down for a boring, quiet Sunday in the suburbs, and it was glorious.
Sharing my thoughts in hopes of defining myself and connecting with you.