Help Save the Dog that Bit Me (He’s Available for Adoption!)

The little guy passed his temperament test!

I passed!
I passed!

Bungee–as the shelter has named him–passed his temperament test and is approved for general adoption!

Which means anyone can adopt him, not just me! Which is great, because my boyfriend was unhappy at the idea of a third animal in our apartment (willing to put up with it to save a life, but unhappy). For the background on what happened, you can see my original post about the little guy: How I Got Bitten in the Face By a Dog (And it Was My Own Damn Fault).

I repeat, the pup was not at fault. Just scared.

If you know of anyone who’d like to adopt a cute little terrier, please send them to his profile.


How I Got Bitten In the Face by a Dog (And it Was My Own Damn Fault)

Last week I got bitten by a stray dog I was trying to rescue. My neighbor (JG) had knocked on my door to ask for my help with this stray he and his wife (L) had coaxed into our shared driveway. I’ve fostered three dogs in the time I’ve lived at Tortuga, so I am the “stray-dog-expert” insofar as we have one. I am not a professional and I made a mistake.

First, take a look at the little guy who bit me.

Dog ID# A933383


Not terrifying looking at all, right? And not a vicious dog.

We’d managed to coax him closer to us with the use of slices of ham and sitting calmly on the ground so we weren’t a threat. He came close enough that L was able to pet him. He seemed to be calming down. And this is when I made my mistake. I tried to pick him up.

First I grabbed hold of his collar (he did have one, though no tags) and then I scooped my other arm under him. He started freaking out and struggling. Which I should have expected. But I didn’t.

I should have put him back on the ground and possibly tried to hold onto his collar. Or I should have let him go. But instead, I instinctively pulled him closer. This works great with wriggly toddlers. Not so much terrified terriers.

He started snapping at everything in reach. My hand, my arms, and, unfortunately, my lip. He didn’t even leave a scratch on my hands and arms, which is one of the reasons I don’t think he’s an inherently violent dog. That’s a dog trying to get away. Not trying to hurt. Not trying to latch on. But he managed to catch my lip.

Lips are fragile, in comparison to regular skin. He got me good. Note–he didn’t try to hold on. He could have hurt me a great deal more than he did. He’s a terrier. They’re made to kill things (yes, really, terriers are intended to kill rats and other rodents). But he let go.

Meanwhile, blood is pouring down my face.

This is me being amused at everyone else freaking out.
This is me being amused at everyone else freaking out.

L saw the blood and shrieked (this seems a perfectly normal reaction to me). JG, who had gone indoors, came running. I sent her off to get me a paper towel, told him where the key to my storage unit was and how to find my small dog crate. And I calmed the little guy down.

He actually did calm down while I held him and cooed at him.

We got him into the crate and then JG drove me to Urgent Care. Which is actually only two blocks away, but I figured I might get light headed if I walked.

Let me tell you, when you walk into Urgent Care with blood pouring down your face and neck, they respond right quick. They took down information and got me to a doctor. Ultimately (after a brief phone consultation with my Dad) the doctor sent me up to plastic surgery.

Normally, he said, they don’t do much other than cleaning mouth wounds. However, one of the cuts crossed the Vermillion border (there’s a name for that boundary between lip and regular skin!). That, he said, can be tricky. The injury only barely crossed it, so he said it was a toss up as to which to do. I called my Dad, who then talked with the doctor. I let my Dad decide. Because, at that point, I wanted to just sit and do nothing.

JG stayed with me and walked me over to plastic surgery. I deliberately had not washed the blood off myself because, again, people respond quickly when you’re covered in blood.

The plastic surgeon cooed over me, cleaned me up, and set to stitching. That hurt more than the bite.

Fast forward to Animal Control arriving. Because bite reports go to them. I was worried (and rightly so, though hopefully I can still work this out) that they’d want to put him down. The woman I spoke to was actually very helpful, explaining to me what would happen and why. She said they don’t normally adopt out dogs that bite (which I read as code for: we put them down).

So, I asked if I could adopt him.

I told her it was my fault. I told her why I didn’t think he was a vicious dog. I told her about fostering.

She was concerned that I already had a big dog who didn’t get along well with other dogs (she also knew exactly which houses on our block had dogs and how long they’d had them…). I noted that he’d done okay with the fosters and she got this considering look on her face and murmured. “Maybe he just reacts when the other dog acts like prey…” (I have found this to be true.)

She told me there was a chance they’d adopt him out to me. After all, I already knew he bit. She told me to tell them in writing that I wanted to adopt him. To just email them saying I wanted him and giving his ID#. (Here’s his profile from the shelter)

She put up handwritten signs around the neighborhood describing the dog, since the original owner could reclaim him easily. If they knew. If they wanted to. If, if, if.

I also put up posters with a picture of the little guy. A couple of the neighborhood kids helped with that one.

And now… we wait.

He’s in isolation now, so they can be sure he doesn’t have rabies. The clock on isolation runs out on 2/21. And isolation will only make him more skittish. And less adoptable.

So I’ve applied to adopt him via their web contact form. And I’ve sent a follow up email asking about him. I haven’t heard anything back, but he’s still listed on their found dogs page.

I look at that first picture and I just want to cuddle him and reassure him. I hope his original owner claims him. Or that they let me adopt him. I really, really hope they let me adopt him. He doesn’t deserve to be put down for my mistake (and no, I’m not beating myself up, just wishing I’d been smarter about it).

In future… I’ll call a shelter first. I hadn’t wanted to, because I didn’t want him to be at risk of being put down. But now he is, more so than if I’d called them first.

I will say that I found out other people in our neighborhood had seen him and even had him in their yard and done nothing about it. They let their kids pet him. But they didn’t try to do any of the things they should have. Hell, don’t let your kids pet a strange dog. They should have called Animal Control, instead of ignoring the problem. And that upsets me, too.

Ugh. I’m thinking of a lot of “what-ifs,” even though I know it won’t help.

Cross your fingers they let me have him.

He's adorable.
He’s adorable. (Dog ID #A933383)



Puppies Make Everything Better

photo (2)This is Gracie, our latest foster. She’s about 3 months old, fearless, wriggly, happy, and absolutely determined to pounce Ragnar at every opportunity. She hides under the coffee table and waits for him to walk by so she can nip at his feet. At which point he, of course, flops down on his stomach and lets her chew on his ears and try to fit her mouth around his skull. She fails at that one, but they both seem delighted by it.

I… am feeling overwhelmed. Not by the puppy. A few weeks ago my primary care doc noticed something funny when I swallowed a sip of water. So she sent me to get an ultrasound of my neck. Which took a rather long time. The impression I got was that it was longer than it should have been, but I don’t know how long these things normally go. I knew better than to ask the technician what she saw; she wouldn’t be allowed to say, anyway. And the results came back. And I saw them before my doctor’s office called. Because I’m the kind of patient who *always* logs in to PAMF’s MyHealth Online service. And I saw that there were a lot of nodules. Which worried me.

But it wasn’t until the nurse called to tell me I needed to set up an appointment with endocrinology to get the nodules biopsied that I really started worrying. I think it was her tone of voice. She sounded very uncomfortable. Very solemn.

It could just be that she’s used to patients freaking out at all sorts of things. I don’t know. I’m not prone to freak outs when discussing medical things. I think my father would have disowned me if that were the case. Well, not really. But I’m his kid. I’m not afraid of needles, I want to see everything (like my tonsils once they were removed–they were each the size of a golf ball–or my intestine pictures after they did the celiac biopsy), and I don’t freak out at test results. Also…. I have a spreadsheet where I’ve kept all of my test results going back to 1984. Which, let me tell you, sure helps with getting a diagnosis. I’m the gal who, when the ER doc asked me, “I don’t suppose you happen to know what size your ovaries normally are?” said, “Oh, yeah. This is how big they were when I was 19, and this is how big they were when I was 25, and this is how big they were two months ago.” And I showed her my spreadsheet.

So I have a bunch of nodules in my thyroid. Both sides. Both have a large main nodule. One side also has a lot of smaller ones spread throughout. People can get nodules in all sorts of places. Most thyroid nodules are benign. Even most cancerous ones aren’t a huge concern when it comes to the thyroid. When I talked to my dad his mode of reassuring me was to say, “If you have to get cancer, thyroid is the one you want.”

And maybe, at a different time in my life, it wouldn’t stress me so much. But in a year when Jay died of cancer, when my mother is still recovering from the chemo she got for her breast cancer… And I feel guilty for not doing enough for either of them… Some lizard brained part of me feels like that would be appropriate punishment.

I get that I shouldn’t be thinking that way. I get that it’s superstitious and counter-productive and my guilt has little basis in reality. But. Yeah.

I am stressed. A little scared. A lot overwhelmed. I go into shutdown mode when that happens. Kinda numb. Flat affect. I see the endocrinologist next Tuesday. It’s an hour long appointment and they’ll probably do the biopsy right then.

And I keep thinking about that Edna St. Vincent Millay line. “It’s not one damn thing after another, it’s one damn thing over and over.” And I’m very glad I have a puppy around.

Rabbi Plans to Kill Dogs Because he Can’t be Bothered

Or at least, that’s what he’s trying to do. But I’m not going to let him. And I’m asking for your help.

My grandmother died in March, leaving her rabbi & tenant of the last 15 years as her primary beneficiary. Which makes perfect sense; he was her family. She left him lifetime tenancy in her house, $50k a year that will likely last him the rest of his life, and two small dogs.

When I first spoke to her lawyer, he told me the rabbi was unhappy about having the dogs and that he was worried the rabbi would put them down. At the time, I thought my parents or I could take them. But I’m a freelancer and currently I don’t have a gig. My savings were wiped out when my cat needed an emergency surgery and I already have three rescues. I can’t afford it.

We’ve also learned that my mother needs to have a surgery soon, which will require roughly two months recovery time in which my father will be taking care of her.  My parents can’t take the dogs.

I explained all this to the rabbi a few weeks ago. I pointed out that my grandmother, in her will, specifically left the dogs to him; clearly she expected him to care for them. I thought it was settled at that point.

Yesterday I received an email from the lawyer’s office telling me the rabbi is going to have the dogs put down. They argued with him, trying to convince him to at least take the dogs to a shelter where they’d have a chance. Or put up a notice at the vet’s office saying the dogs were up for adoption. He seems to have agreed.

He also left me a voicemail saying that if I want the dogs put down, he’ll do that but he obviously can’t keep them. He’s trying to put this on me, to salve his conscience, but it’s his responsibility. It’s his choice. He *owes* my grandmother this.

He’s right, though. I won’t let him kill her dogs.

Within two minutes of searching, I found a no-kill shelter not far from the house. The dogs will be going there. But I would much rather find a home for the both of them. Which is why I’m asking for your help. Give this a signal boost. Maybe you know someone who would want them or could offer suggestions.

I’ll post a picture here of the dogs as soon as I can get a hold of one.

The dogs are in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. A mini-dachshund and a terrier mix.

Homeward Bound

How, in a house of my brethren can there be so few pens? And then maybe, I think, they aren’t my brethren in that way. In the pen and the paper and the ink and the ideas swirling away into bits of paper.

Maybe they’re my brethren simply by blood. Which isn’t simple, is it? Never is. Brethren by blood or by choice. Considering epigenetics, in this case the two are inseparable. But that’s considering epigenetics, and I am far too looped out on Ambien to do so coherently at the moment.

Consider Phlebus.

Or don’t. I rarely do.

Consider Ragnar taking up a quarter of his bed, watching me whenever I move in case I leave while he wasn’t looking. He won’t even eat his breakfast anymore, he’s too busy watching to make sure I don’t duck out while he’s eating.

I owe him something. An environment where he can relax. Where I am less stressed. Where it’s okay to not always be on the run, always getting things done by the skin of my teeth. Always on the verge of collapse because, in addition to my personal goals, I want to give those around me whatever it is they want from me. That last one…. that needs a full on revamping.

With J, I could not be the out doorsy, studiously productive cynical girl he needed. I tried. I managed cynical. Instead of studious I did obsessive; he didn’t like me when I was obsessive.

Don’t get me wrong. I still love him a great deal, and probably will for a long time. And I still miss him something fierce. But I’m much happier on a day to day basis, able to recall the fun we had, how madly & quickly we fell for each other, how so many things about us just *fit*.

But if you’re trying to be what the other person wants… and you don’t even know who you are… sigh… The person he wanted, she’s a good person. Someone I’d have fun with, someone I’d admire. But not me. I’m not interested in scuba diving, or getting drunk, or week long camping trips.

I owe Ragnar, and I owe myself, a home. A safe space in which only our interactions matter. And the cats. A home, together, the three of us. I owe us all a home without constant judgment and criticism. Without a constant looming disapproval. Without the sense that the other shoe hasn’t dropped yet. A home that is ours. It will be my home by all outward measures. But ours. No one else gets to complain when Kayla projectile vomits off the top of the bookcase. No one else gets to point out how many knots are in Marx’s fur, but then refuse to help shave them out. No one else gets to look down on Ragnar — on *my* dog — and complain about his behavior.

Because, for fuck’s sake, he’s a dog. He gets paw prints on things. He sometimes smells funny. He eats things you don’t even want to think about. He wants to sniff your butt, and your butt, and everybody’s butts. But. His home. Where he will not be punished for being a dog. He will be trained and disciplined, and the fact that he waits for permission before getting on the bed will be acknowledged. And that he rings bells when he wants to go outside will be admired for the awesomeness it is.

He will be appreciated in his own home.

I would like to be appreciated in my own home.

I would like my own home, and I haven’t had any space I could truly call mine since college. For a while, I thought I had that at Tortuga. But, no. Shoes dropped. Judgments got made. Suddenly, it wasn’t a safe space to come home to. It was a place to walk on eggshells and then attempt to read tea leaves to figure out whatever the fuck was going on.

And so. I want a home of my own. And it’s looking like I’ll have one, soon.

Pending signing the lease and handing over the deposit, my family and I will be moving into a three bedroom house in the east bay. One with a ginormous backyard where Ragnar can bound and leap. And there will be cat shelves. Oh, yes. I will put up cat shelves in every room so the cats can circumnavigate the house without ever once having to be on the ground with Ragnar unless they want to.

I will have a home.


Oh. And my home will be entirely gluten free. No gluten shall enter. Ever. So I will never have to fear contamination and illness in my own home.

All of which is a rambly and emotional way of saying I may have a place for the menagerie and me within the next week or so.


Don’t Take Your Little Dog to the Big Dog Park

Don’t take your little dog into the big dog park.

And if you do, and if the owners of the two big dogs there say it’s a bad idea, do not then continue to insist that your 13lb poodle likes to play rough. He doesn’t. He really doesn’t like to play rough with my 100lb mastiff and the other dude’s 60lb pitbull. Really.

And if you continue to insist, no, really, my miniature-fucking-poodle likes playing rough and it will be okay, and the owner of said 100lb mastiff says again that’s not a good idea, listen.

And if you decide to ignore said advice, and if your 13lb poodle decides to go after that 100lb mastiff, and that mastiff responds by grabbing the poodle’s neck and holding it to the ground (without hurting it)… you don’t get to complain, lady.

Did you not read the sign? Large Dogs. You’re supposed to go to the enclosure next door that says Small Dogs.

And don’t go telling me my dog is vicious. You put your dog at risk despite several warnings. You allowed your dog to attack a dog nearly 10x its size, and that dog did what he was bred to do–without, I might add, harming your dog.


When we bring him home the first day he’s covered in dirt. I carry him past mom and into the bathroom to wash him while Dave runs interference. We weren’t supposed to get a puppy, we were just supposed to look. But really, send Dad and Dave and me out to look at puppies and expect us not to get one? Losing battle, that.

Washing him has the unexpected side effect of arousing mom’s sympathy. Wet bedraggled and bewildered puppy is apparently one of her triggers for mothering.

My brother names him Orion.

Soon enough Orion loves everyone. He spends his first hours with us trying to lick our noses. Our older golden retriever starts drooling uncontrollably; her anxiety response. Eventually she decides Orion’s okay. He’s remarkably tolerant of her drooling on him.

Six months old and Orion is limping. He can barely walk. Both front legs are having problems. Watch a six month old puppy try to play and stumble because his legs won’t hold him.

Osteochondritis Dissecans. Congenital problem with joints and cartilage. Dad calls up the breeder and chews him out about faking the health certs for the parents. The breeder offers to take Orion back, which we all know would be a death sentence. The man would just put him down.

Mom and Dad comb through the budget to find the money for surgery. It will cost 2k, and they can only scrape up 1k. Uncle Stan gives us the rest.

Orion goes in for surgery on both shoulders. He’ll need to stay at the vet for a week after surgery. The receptionist calls to tell us what a wonderful dog he is.

He comes home looking like he’s wearing go-go boots.

He can’t go up the stairs, so Dave brings his sleeping bag downstairs and camps out on the living room floor next to Orion for the next several weeks. Dave is Orion’s person.

Dad and Uncle Stan drive Orion back for a follow-up at the vet. Orion is so terrified, he shakes the entire hour long ride there. Uncle Stan holds him the whole way there. Orion will be the first, possibly the only, one of our dogs Uncle Stan bonds with.

Orion heals and no longer limps. He never stops being a puppy, though, as the years pass. He’ll look at you with complete adoration, like you’re the best thing in the world. Half an hour later you’ll catch him giving the same look to a sprinkler head.

Orion sleeps on Dave’s bed with him every night up until Dave leaves for college six years later. Then he sleeps in Mom and Dad’s room. .By this point neither Dave nor I live at home. Gaia, our older dog, passes away suddenly. No warning. Orion is the only dog now.

Dad and Dave and I get sent off to look at puppies again (you’d think Mom would have learned by now…). We commit to a pup, though she’s still too young to bring home. When we finally bring her, Orion bounces.

Even though he’s six, he acts as young as she is.

The two of them become best friends, curling up to sleep together. Where he goes, she follows. Sienna. She is frightened of everything, and he is her brave older brother. Even though she eventually comes to weight 15 lb more than he does, she always believes he’s bigger.

Mom gets diagnosed with breast cancer. The treatment leaves her bed-ridden for the better part of a year. Orion and Sienna are her constant companions. They’re gentle with her. They know she’s sick, and she’s lonely, and they don’t mind when she needs to cry and hold them. Without them, she would be completely alone most days. For the first time since Bryse died more than 20 years ago, Mom truly bonds with a dog. Orion.

Likewise, Orion doesn’t mind when Dad falls apart and holds onto him and cries. Because Dad won’t let himself cry in front of Mom.

Orion has bonded with every single one of us. Dave, Dad, Mom, Uncle Stan, me. The only one of our dogs to do that.

Dave and I come home for Thanksgiving, and Orion is limping. He can barely use his front legs. But he’s excited to see us. Dad buys a vest with a handle on the top of it for Orion, so we can help take some of the weight off his legs when he goes upstairs. Sometimes Dave just carries him up. Orion is tired, and in pain half the time.

Mom and Dad sit us down. He’s not going to last much longer, they tell us. Which we all knew, but no one wanted to say. So, they tell us, you should probably say your goodbyes now.

We’re all crying. Dave lets me hold him while his shoulders shake. Mom holds Dad’s hand.

We don’t want him to suffer, Dad says. We won’t let what happened to Spock happen to him. No long and painful decline. No dying alone in the veterinary hospital.

Orion makes it to Dave’s birthday. He even makes it to Christmas.

When I arrive, he’s so excited that he gets up and limps over to me. Stumbling. In that time he’s lost even more muscle mass. His left front paw is useless. He can’t go up the stairs.

So Dave gets out his sleeping bag and sleeps on the living room floor.

Dad ups Orion’s pain meds, way past what the vet recommended. But what harm now? When he’s on the pain meds Orion wants to play. When the pain meds wear off, Orion is completely unresponsive.We take pictures. And we make this last week as good as we can.The day after Christmas we spend the morning petting Orion and giving him whatever treats he wants. Uncle Stan comes over and Orion struggles to his feet to go welcome him.

When afternoon comes we walk him out to the car, and he’s wagging his tail and it feels so wrong, because we’re taking him to die. Dave holds him the whole way there.

Orion can’t get out of the car; I carry him. When we get in the door the vet tech helps me carry him the rest of the way.

He’s trembling. We all gather around him, petting him. Each one of us touching him and trying to comfort him. His trembling seems to go away. The vet gives him a sedative.

A few minutes later, when Orion is calm, the vet comes back. It’s an extremely high dose of an anesthetic he tells us. Orion won’t feel anything. His body will twitch, but that’s not him. That’s the body trying to stay alive. He won’t be aware of it.

And it happens just like the vet says.

And Orion is gone.

Sometimes Safety is a Golden Retriever

(I really, really debated whether or not to post this. Then I realized, I’m probably the only one who cares, so why not? I’m going to preface this by saying my father apologized to me. A few years ago, of his own volition, he apologized to me for the way he behaved when I was a child.)

I tried EMDR for the first time the other day. The therapist had me think about a situation that makes me anxious in my life now, that makes me want to run away. And then she asked me to think of another situation when I felt the same way.

So many moments come to mind when she asks me to think of a time I wanted to escape. All of them, all of them, with my parents. The one I settle on, which is no surprise to me, as I’ve settled on it before in my writing, is a fight between my parents. My father is yelling at my mother, I don’t know why. She’s crying and then yelling back, her voice desperate and raw. I’m hiding on the stairway, out of sight near the top. I can’t really see them, just the tops of their heads, an overhead view nearly.

At that moment, the therapist asks “What do you feel?”

“My hands feel small,” I tell her. My hands and arms feel small to me, like the hands and arms of a five year old. It’s the strangest thing.

“What are you thinking?” she asks.

I half laugh, disparagingly, at myself. “I keep repeating the dog’s name in my head, over and over and over.”

“What was the dog’s name?”

“Bryce.” And suddenly I’m crying. I had no idea her name would do that to me. But I feel this rush of grief, tying into a knot at the base of my throat.

“Where is Bryce?”

“Next to me, on the stairs. I have my arm around her.” I pause. “She died when I was five. She was my best friend. She made me feel safe.”

“So she was your best friend, the only one who made you feel safe, the only stable thing in your life…”


“And then she died.”

And suddenly, I understand. When Bryce died, there was no more safety for me. There was no safe place I could go, no one who would always protect me. The one reliable thing in my life was gone. All I had left was the turbulence between my parents. No Bryce to hide with me at the top of the stairs while my parents fought. No Bryce to hold on to.

That was the first time my parents sent me to therapy. When I was five. I was depressed. No, Depressed, with a big D. Because Bryce died and I was alone.

A Sketch of Bryce