I’m going to start with the good news: Zelda is going to be fine. Most likely, anyway, but let’s stick with the optimistic belief for right now. Zelda is going to be fine.
I’m going to point out some more good news: people are kind. I’ll elaborate more on that in a minute.
And some more good news: we got incredibly lucky. We really did. Every time I think about that, tears start rolling out of my eyes, but it doesn’t change the truth — an inch to one side, a different spot on her body, and her story would be over today and I would be devastated. So I’m not devastated and that’s good. I’m just kind of… well, crying a lot.
So, the story: I’m in a nice campground, my first New York State Park, which shall go unnamed because I don’t hold the park responsible. Oh, but it really is very nice. Loads of green grass, a water view, sea gulls swooping in, lots of people but big spaces so we’re not all on top of one another.
And I’ve had a very nice day. I sent out an email to my mailing list this morning and have gotten some lovely emails back from people happy about Grace, and then I worked on Fen for a while and liked what I wrote. The weather has been pretty overcast, but not unbearably hot. In the late afternoon, the van is getting toasty, but there’s a cooler breeze outside, so I decide to take Z for a walk.
We’re walking along and I am totally in my head — I don’t remember what I was thinking about, but I know it wasn’t admiring the scenery or being in the moment. I’m just daydreaming. And then suddenly a dog is jumping Zelda.
A bigger dog.
And it’s not playing.
It’s trying to kill her.
And I hate to admit this truth, because I do think that they get a bad rap and I have known some lovely pit bulls — our back yard neighbor dog Haley was a sweetheart — but it was a pit bull.
And it was not going to let go.
And that’s probably why pit bulls get such a bad rap. They’re terriers. They are absolutely determined, they have been bred to be absolutely determined and they are not giving up. I was trying to pull it off — totally willing to get bitten myself, not avoiding its mouth at all — its owner was trying to pull it off, a guy from a neighboring campsite was trying to pull it off, and that pit bull did not give a damn what any of us were doing. It had its prey in its mouth and it was keeping it.
The guy from the neighboring campsite got a stick and started hitting it and whether it was that or the owner getting a better grip on its harness, they finally got the dog off Zelda.
She had been bitten only once, but it was deep, all the way through her shoulder. I was shaking. So was she, probably. Stuff happened. People talked. I wrapped myself around Zelda and tried to breathe and tried to organize my thoughts about what needed to happen next.
That’s where the people being kind comes in. Neighboring campsite guy — named John — gave me water, got a wet cloth for her, offered me a ride back to the van (eagerly accepted). He stopped on the way and reported what happened to the campground host and then to the ranger. He called his dad and asked him to investigate vets, got my number from me so he could call when he knew more. He dropped me off and I carried Zelda into the van. She couldn’t put any weight on her leg.
Some people were walking by the van on their way to the water, with a small dog. I said to them, no preamble, “Where do you live? Do you live here?” The woman gave me a name, I said, “Where is that? Is it near here?” She started describing its location, somewhere around Buffalo, I think, and I interrupted her and said, “No, too far, I need a vet here,” and headed to my next door neighbor, who also had a dog. I did the same thing to her.
Within minutes, I had four or five or six people, gathered around me and Zelda. Bringing her ice and a first aid kit, finding a vet, calling an emergency vet service, handing me the phone, cleaning up the blood, bandaging her puncture, finding the one on the other side. Fairly soon — also forever, but I know it was fairly soon — I was on the phone with the vet. She was about 45 minutes away, an hour given that I was going to need to pack up the van to get there, and it was after hours so walking in the door was going to cost $175. By this time, I was pretty sure Zelda was going to be okay — we were both traumatized, but it was her leg, not her face or abdomen. But I was going to feel a lot better when a) a vet told me that and b) a vet gave her some painkillers. So I packed up the van and headed off.
The vet was lovely. Truly a nice person, very gentle with Zelda, and pretty gentle with me, too. She sedated Z, took x-rays to make sure her leg wasn’t broken (it’s not) and gave her lots of stitches. I knew that antibiotics were in our future, but when I said that Z’s weight was a little lower than usual because she hadn’t been eating during her three weeks of antibiotics for ehrlichia, she gave her the antibiotic shot instead of pills. Z’s not out of the woods — the vet was worried about nerve damage and warned me that there’s going to be some deep bruising. Z’s probably going to be in pain for a while and we’re going to have to start doing gentle exercises with her leg in four days to make sure she maintains the muscle.
But she’s alive.
I’m incredibly grateful for that. Apart from that… I don’t really know how I feel. People have suggested that I should be angry, and maybe I should, but I don’t feel it. People have told me that I need to make the other dog’s owner pay for her vet bill, and obviously I should do that, but I don’t know, I don’t, can’t, feel the energy to make that happen. I stopped by their campsite to tell them that she was okay and they were apologetic but they didn’t offer to pay the bill and I didn’t ask. I didn’t feel hostile to them, I felt sorry for them. They were so in the wrong and that’s their karma, not mine. But we all got lucky. So, so lucky.
And people are kind and at the end of the day, that’s what I want to remember.
But I really wish I could call my mom. Three days from now, it will be seven years since she died, but she’s still the only person I want when what I really need to do is cry and say how scared I was and cry some more. I miss her.