A few days ago when Jason was bicycling home from work, a dog attacked him and bit him in the leg. He didn’t know how bad it was—or wasn’t—until he got home, because he just kept peddling and got the heck out of Dodge. At home, he pulled up his ripped pant leg and found blood dripping down his leg.
I called 911 to ask if I was supposed to call them—or who—about a dog attack. They asked some questions and before we knew it, paramedics were at our door. They wrapped up the wound and said we ought to go to an ER or Urgent Care to clean the bite and get shots and stuff. Fortunately, they meant tetanus and antibiotics, not rabies. Not yet anyway. So far Jason hasn’t started howling at night—and last night was a full moon. Oh wait. That might be from a werewolf bite, not a dog bite.
Anyway, he’s doing fine now—physically anyway. Not sure yet about the psychological impact. He will bike home tonight for the first time since the attack. Maybe if anything tries to bite him, his own fangs will emerge and he can bite it back.
This biting thing takes my memories back to a day when the kids were about a year old and we had a bite to deal with. We were at a holiday gathering with extended family members, and those extended family members’ members. There were some other little kids around and they were all playing nicely. Or so I thought. Suddenly Charlie got the biggest eyes and a face like he couldn’t even imagine what had just happened to him. Then he wailed. After some investigation, I found the source of his anguish. On the inside of his upper arm I found red bloody teeth marks in the perfect oval of a certain other toddler guest at the party. All my attention went to Charlie, not the offending child, whose mother knew what had happened and swiftly pulled him away and took him to another side of the room (not to reprimand him, mind you). Meanwhile, I tended to Charlie’s wound and trauma. He didn’t know what had hit him (or bit him). He’d never been suddenly attacked like that before. It was unprovoked and unexplainable. But the worst part (well not the worst, because having Charlie’s arm chomped on was truly the worst part), the mom of the kid who did it (and many people in the room saw and knew what had happened) ignored me for the rest of the party. She never came to me to acknowledge the incident or to apologize, or even check on Charlie! Now granted, she was a young single mom who had a really messed up life. So I can certainly give her grace now, knowing what I know that I didn’t know then. But man, it really chapped my hide that she didn’t at least say, “Hey, is Charlie all right? Sorry about that.”
Fast forward about six months. We were at another one of those extended family extended family gatherings in someone’s pretty small apartment. That biting little boy and his mom were there too. And sadly, by no fault of his own (I realize now), the little boy had a terrible cold. His upper lip was covered in thick green snot most of the party. With four little kids of my own, the last thing I needed was for a single one of them to catch that nasty cold. If one got sick, then 48 hours later, another would get sick, and then after another 48 hours, another one or two would get sick. And by then, I’d be sick myself and without sleep or comfort, I would still have to care for my sick kids. So I had a real phobia about other people’s viruses, especially when it was so apparent they were sick.
In the packed living room of the small apartment, the kids and I were squeezed onto the end of a sofa, which had a small walking space between it and the wall. The boy with the snot-covered face and his mom came to pass by via that small walking space, where Charlie was kind of standing, propped against me and the end of the couch. To give them room to pass, I picked up Charlie and pulled him over. So Number One, I was actually doing what I would for anyone, moving out of the way so they could walk by. But Number Two, I also was moving Charlie so he wouldn’t get smeared with nose boogers, which were right there at his height where the little boy was passing by. Whether I pulled Charlie over too quickly or too far, I’m not sure. I might have been too eager to get him out of the way. I might I have offended the mom, I don’t know. But what she said was amazing. I imagine it came from that fear of saying the very thing you know you shouldn’t say, the thing that goes over and over in your brain, with your Super Ego telling your psyche Don’t say that, don’t say that! But whatever the reason, her words left me speechless. I pulled Charlie aside, and after a huff she said, “It’s not like he bites or anything.”
Yes! Yes, he does bite! He so does too bite! I was so incensed, I didn’t know what to do or say. So I said nothing. I should have said, “You know, that day when L— bit Charlie, that was awkward and uncomfortable wasn’t it? But things like that happen with little kids. I know that. I’m not angry anymore about it. Charlie is fine. He healed. It’s okay.” But actually, I was still angry. And so I didn’t think of something mature and wonderful to say to help ease whatever feelings were roiling around in her mind that made her say the very thing that we were all thinking but afraid to address.
So I guess, if I ran into that dog’s owner today, the one who let their dog out (or who didn’t even know their dog had gotten out), I wonder if I’d have the grace to say, “Man, it stinks but sometimes these things happen. I’m not angry. Jason is healing. We’re going to be okay.” I wonder. I somehow doubt I could be so eloquent. But maybe I could get closer to it than the day I probably offended that poor stressed mom with the sick, biting kid. If I could at least ask the biting dog’s owner to cover the ER bill—that might go a long way to help me be gracious.
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