A dog attacked my daughters beagle on Thursday while I took on her an evening walk. I want to say a dog attacked my family — but this sounds like the dog mauled everyone in my family which it could have but instead it only mauled the beagle. Although we all feel that we have been mauled, the beagle is the only animal in our family with teeth holes in her fur.
My daughter liked to announce that we are going for a walk with the dog by shouting walkies over and over again because her beagle begins to yowl and roll her eyes. Our beagle is a walk fetishist. Every piece of paraphernalia associated with the walk, the leash, her collar, plastic bags for collecting her poop, the front door handle, people putting on shoes, the word walk, everything becomes evidence to her that we are about to go for a walk. By the time my daughter says walkies, in her piercing falsetto, the evidence is clear and the beagle is about to crawl out of her skin.
Part of the reason that my daughter becomes so excited by the dogs excitement is that the beagle is nonplussed about most things aside from food. Even her endless loitering around in the kitchen and under the dining room table is done with a kind of nonplussed, despondent waiting. At times, weve thought the beagle was depressed. But, she is purely docile to the point of being practically inert. My daughter plays with her and arranges her limp limbs, dresses her in old clothes, and one time stuffed her into the bottom of a sleeping bag and we spent ten minutes trying to figure out where the dog was. In short, she is a perfect dog in some ways for a five-year-old child, because my daughter would most likely have been at least nipped by a less docile dog. But, it is this sense of life in her brought about by the walk that excites my daughter. She often asks why dont we have a dog that plays fetch? Because we have a dog with whom she can peel back the eyelids when she is interested in seeing what is behind eyeballs.
Our dogs docility is a trade off, and one that Im happy to make because I grew up in a dog neighborhood filled with farm fields and vast lawns and unleashed dogs who would sometimes chase kids walking past their houses. I learned to lean down and clutch a handful of gravel and this usually stopped the rush of the dogs, this gesture down to grab the gravel. But, Ive had to throw rocks at dogs. Another time when I was my daughters age one of my dads customers brought his very friendly and sleek Doberman pincher to the house. Why is he called a Doberman pincher? Does he pinch people? While my dad and his customer tried out the merchandise, they put me out in the yard with the dog and the dog proceeded to chase me down and then somehow roll me across the yard. I just remember the dog nipping me, and I was getting tossed somehow. Maybe I was flailing around. And crying and screaming and the dog was nipping me, and finally my dad and his customer came out and put the dog in the car and went back to business. Perhaps as result of these incidents, I am not a dog person.
But, we dont live in the country like I did when I was a child with plentiful heaps of gravel and vast lawns or fields. Instead, we live among reduced sight lines and hidden spaces, a region of asphalt roads, wooden fences, and garages. The space in the suburb where I live has been divided and broken down into even smaller chunks. My father asked why we had two rings of fences on our sliver of land. The outer fence was placed to keep people from cutting across the lawn in their trucks. The inner fence was placed to have a place where a dog could wander without wandering off. This was helpful with our beagle because she smells things and becomes entranced by their smell and kept following the smell, and we were told by the pound this is often how beagles become lost. They follow a smell and then look up and are somewhere else completely. Our suburb is a compact region of subdivided, private spaces.
This abundance of privacy breaks down all of the normal civic functions I associate with living in the city. A city to me is where there is foot traffic, people eating and drinking in street level places, a mix of businesses and living but in the suburb where I live there is merely privacy, there are merely front doors, wooden fences, and garages. There are asphalt roads in which people ride in their cars. Civic activity takes places at agreed on public sites, such as the churches, schools, the mall or the downtown parks, but these are all distances that require people driving there. As a result of this privacy, I do not know my neighbors even though Ive lived in my house for three and more years. I find contact with my neighbors slightly sinister, because their interest never feels neighborly but predatory. When Wayne came around my house, he asked a lot of questions about my daughter and really nothing else. He was missing a tooth. He wore an unwashed plaid shirt and peered through the windows of my house — into MY PRIVACY — while he asked his questions, which were not his business to ask. When Keith and his pleasant wife dropped off a loaf of banana bread in a tin we were obligated to return, we found they wanted to recruit us to their church, and get our daughter enrolled in their private religious school.
The beagle thought does not know about privacy. Rather she is vastly interested in the smells produced by the other dogs in the neighborhood, and I get the sense of her, her walk is a chance to break out of her cloister and socialize even it is primarily through the medium of other dogs urine.
My daughter and I passed an open garage. We could see inside the garage to the persons neatly staked U-Haul boxes, their lawn implements stacked on the wall, it was a bit like seeing that a button on someones shirt was open and that you could see their skin underneath. A tiny poodle with a golf ball in her furry mouth began to race toward us.
My daughter adores poodles because she believes they are playful and poodles, with their fluffy hair generally conform to an idealized version of cute. A poodle! my daughter said.
The beagle leaned toward the dog, excited to socialize with a real, live dog rather than a urine sample.
A very short, blunt nosed dog, a pit bull mix, or something, a dog that was essentially all legs, neck, and mouth darted from the garage. A man inside the house began to shout and wave his arms. And then, the mouth dog attached itself to the soft, fleshy underside of my daughters beagle. The mouth dog began to work its neck muscles. Rather than bite or fight, my daughters beagle made a started, docile yelp noise.
I started to yell and kicked the dog off the beagle. My daughter backed away and looked around at the houses for help. I kept yelling, go away. Get back. I was yelling as loud as possible and the dog would circle and then dive at the beagle again. By this time, I thought the dog had finally opened up the beagles stomach. Saving the beagle seemed improbable now. She was in pain, but she kept making these soft yelps that I could hardly hear because I was screaming.
I kept kicking the dog, and it kept diving and this seemed to go along for a long time and I thought it was only a matter of time before the beagle was turned into hamburger.
Finally, the man who had been yelling pulled the dog back and took the dog inside.
I began to check the beagle, and I was amazed to find her soft tissue under her stomach intact. At first, I didnt find any marks on her.
The man came out and began to apologize and for some reason I apologized for kicking his dog. He said the dog wasnt supposed to get out of the house.
Your dog is crazy, I said. Why does anyone own a dog like that? I kept thinking as I looked at this man who seemed like a very nice man, he was softly spoken and he owned up completely to the fact that he owned a crazy killing machine mouth of fangs for a dog. Did the fact that he had an animal like this make him feel safe? Did the possibility that his dog would kill a passing toddler make him feel any safer?
In a strange moment of contact, I asked the man for his address and he gave me his address wrote in shaky handwriting on a sticky note. Well, its nice to meet you, I said, Even if this is how we met. I live just over there. As I gestured I pointed across hedges, fences, garages, and houses full of who knew what private horrors. I might as well have been pointing to Ellensburg or Boston. I lived blocks away.
When I returned home, my wife inspected the dog, and found a number of puncture wounds. The worst was a bloody hole in her chest. I kept thinking as she inspected her fur and the beagle yelped — far louder than she had when shed been bitten — how this could have been my daughter: a hole in my daughters chest.