Drama and Trauma
I’m sorry to be out of touch for so long. It was an eventful few weeks after the last report and I wish I could say all was well but it was drama in spades. Fortunately Wyatt and I came out the other end with only a few psychic and physical scratches and hopefully a little wisdom.
...when a friendly border collie approached. I was calmly watching from five feet away when this tail-wagging collie pounced fangs-first out of nowhere onto Wyatt. The two grappled for a few seconds in what seemed like harmless roughhousing until Wyatt was pinned to the ground and yelped in pain. I ran to find blood dripping from a one-inch cut below Wyatt’s right eye and another under his throat.
I’m attached to the squishy, Buddhist ideal that beauty is superficial and compassion should be doled unconditionally, even though I fail this ideal so ridiculously often that I should get lumps of coal every Christmas. I know we’re all genetically and socially biased toward attractiveness; it’s a main reason I chose the Siberian breed. So of course, fate throws a curveball and I’m forced to confront how much beauty really matters. It threw another when I moved into a house with a terrier named
Since this report is going to be a short novel and you’re probably on a bathroom break by now, I’ll cut to the bottom line – yes, Wyatt’s looks are a source of unearned affection and pride; yes, I feel this reinforces the unfairness of life’s genetic lottery; no, I don’t know how to resolve this. For the moment, I am content to table this conflict and simply be grateful that the scar is gone and that I enjoy making Wyatt happy as much as ever.
A week after the attack, I noticed that Wyatt was eating less frequently and had lost interest in previously irresistible treats. I thought this might be due to the irresponsibly large amount of human food I spoil him with – he gets a nibble of almost every meal and has become my pre-rinse dishwasher (a nice little perk of dog ownership). But Wyatt had been eating a lot of grass, which apparently dogs do to settle an upset stomach, and I soon learned why. During a walk, Wyatt strangely stopped in a crosswalk and strained to poop in the middle of a street. As I looked closer, I was horrified to find a live worm squirming through the mess. (I took a picture for the vet but out of decency I’ll spare you poopworm.jpg.)
I decided my wounded, infested, bulimic dog and I had a rough week and deserved a treat, so we walked to the Cheesecake Factory and I bought myself a plate of pasta and Wyatt an entrée of pork chops and spinach (clearly a parental indulgence). Wyatt surprisingly delayed gratification, going for the spinach first and only then the succulent pork chops.
One night, I decided to run a scientifically-valid experiment to determine Wyatt’s favorite bone. I bought three flavors of organic N-bones, a strand of rawhide, and a bully stick (which I later learned is made from the hanging parts of a bull), then spread them out for a deliriously excited Wyatt to taste test. The bone completely devoured first would be crowned the winner.
Wyatt expectedly indulged like a kid on Halloween night, gorging all day to the point that he would exhaustedly collapse, only to keep gnawing a bone with his head laying sideways on the ground. After hours of chewing, the chicken-flavored N-Bone narrowly edged the bully stick as Wyatt’s winner (and I needed a dumptruck that night to clean up the inevitable aftermath).
“Have you seen Wyatt?” he asked.
“This morning?... no, I let him sleep outside last night.”
“Oh… I don’t see him in the backyard.”
My blood pressure rose immediately and after I thoroughly inspected our yard, I had learned that my Siberian, born of the breed that a dozen owners had warned me have a strong escape instinct, was gone.
I can not convey the sense of loss I felt; it was more intense than any I can remember. Wyatt was not just the most playful, beautiful, and curious dog I had known; he was mine, the first living mine of importance. Only two months had passed but I had already bonded to him and considered him family. Those of you with close pets probably understand, those of you without probably don’t. I wouldn’t have two months ago.
My overactive imagination raced with terrible possibilities: Wyatt smashed by a car, Wyatt drowned in a canal, Wyatt eaten by wolves, all of them my fault. I had already seen Wyatt dig under our fence the first day I moved in, producing this perfect image of Siberian wiliness:
Wyatt had spent several days in the yard without escaping but now he had somehow done it.
I didn’t realize at the time that I was cycling through the textbook stages of grief and loss, acronymed DABDA. First, denial: I couldn’t believe Wyatt had escaped after all the measures I took. He must be hiding nearby somewhere. This is just karmic payback for the time I was three and thought it would be hilarious to hide from my mother for an hour under a clothes rack in a mall. (Mom, I understand now and I’m really sorry.)
After half an hour of checking and re-checking the house, I hit stage 2: anger. What the hell is wrong with that dog?! After all the love I’ve given him, why would he run away? I knew how irrational these thoughts were but that did nothing to prevent them. Our minds work in strange ways.
After an hour, I entered stage 3: bargaining. As I drove around and around the neighborhood, interrogating every person I found, I was brokering my deal with God. ‘God, please give him back to me unharmed and I promise I’ll be better, I promise I’ll tithe.’
I called Lori (Wyatt’s breeder) and my friend Kay for advice and dismissed her suggestion of immediately calling local shelters. Wyatt had a collar tag and a microchip, I said, and if anyone found him, I’d be contacted immediately. This would soon be added to my healthy-sized record of mistakes.
Three and a half hours after I learned he was gone, I received the call, an unfamiliar number:
“Yes! Is he okay?!”
I knew what was coming was a moment of truth: the expected second something of extreme importance and uncertainty becomes certain, the tipping between ecstasy or devastation - admission letters, blood test results, marriage proposals, the last seconds of air before your lungs expand or drown.
“Yes, he’s fine.”
I can not describe the relief and joy I felt at that moment, just as I can not convey the despair I would have felt had the answer been different. I now can not comprehend the suffering parents endure when they learn their child is fatally sick, has just died, or worst, been senselessly killed. I felt how there is no comparing that loss to the loss of an item, even a very rare or expensive item. Items are replaceable, and even if they aren’t, we aren’t built to bond with them as we do with the living.
I acutely felt how relationships are irreplaceable, which honestly made me question my assumption of having children, a commitment where I would never want to endure the fourth stage of despair and work somehow toward the final stage of acceptance.