Life and Risk

by Hannah

Dog fight this morning. I thought my baby was going to tear half of the new puppy’s face off, so tight were his jaws around her ear, through her skin. He wouldn’t let go. I was screaming at the top of my lungs, kicking at their faces to try to get them to stop, but those jaws just wouldn’t let go. He was in a trace, I think, eyes bulging out of his little skull…

I thought he was going to rip her ear off. I thought they were going to kill each other over that dead animal they found in the woods.

Now, they rest in separate rooms (or, as separate as they can get in a one-room cabin – Junebug in her crate, Barley on his own personal sofa). After the vet had slathered her in antibiotics, especially the puncture wound in her ear canal, after the shot of penicillin and the long rest in the heated car, Moriah brought her in to see Barley again. They are both completely loving dogs; nothing ever got between them in their months together – except food. He had fretted about her all afternoon, watching out the window…He probably thought he killed her.

When Moriah brought Junebug into the house Barley’s tail stood straight up in the air, his hackles raised, his body tense. He sniffed her ear, and wouldn’t play with her, no matter how much she begged. She jumped on top of him, play-bowed, waggled her little bum everywhere. In my imagination, he could not believe what he had done to her. “I hurt her that bad,” he thinks. And, “I might have killed her.”

“I really pulled that trigger?”

I can’t think of a worse thing than to be in such disbelief at ones self.

We have to find a new home for her now. Those lovely, soulful eyes, that endless energy forcing us into the woods and down to the river. I wonder if she’ll miss us. I know she’ll love another family, that we’ll be okay – relieved even – with just Barley as our baby again. I am afraid of what he has learned from this street girl from the Bronx, tazed to submission at the concrete shelter: to hunt chickens, to jump on strangers, to disregard our calls when running loose in the forest…but most of all the fighting. He’s gotten a taste of another dog’s blood between his teeth – can he ever be trusted with other dogs again? Ever?

It breaks my heart. Such sweet animals, coyotes, wolves, dogs. What on earth made someone desire to breed them to tear each other to shreds? What pleasure could one possibly glean from the horror I glimpsed this morning? So much love to receive from this breed, so much sensitivity to be learned. You can see a soul through their shiny coal eyes. In the fifties they were trusted to watch the babies, the pitt bulls.

I hate to admit it, but for one shaky moment I thought we might have to put them both down. How can we live with the risk of something so terrible happening?

But then, how could I ever consider having children? Or even, continuing to live myself? The risk of terrible things happening is such a visceral reality, isn’t it. This last summer painted that reality the way Georgia O’Keefe paints bones: with a simply horrible, unexplainable beauty. The strokes swept across the page with a wide, wide brush in my little town, my little home, and my little self.