By V. Paul Reynolds
The huge, bear-like dog came out of nowhere. It pounced upon Sally and clamped its big jaws around her throat grinding her into the dirt. My 15-year old, frail English Setter kicked and yelped in pain as the St. Bernard shook her like a rag doll. I yelled and kicked at Sally’s attacker. I felt helpless to save my dog from this agony and horror. My wife screamed. Finally, the St. Bernard let go. I hurled a rock at it as the dog returned to the camp driveway from where it came. Sally, bleeding from the throat, ran to Diane.
A woman came out of a camp and collared the big dog. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “What kind of a dog is it?”
My adrenaline still in high gear, I spoke in anger and disgust,”Does that really matter?”
“Well, Maggie doesn’t do well with other female dogs,” she said.
Seething through clench-teethed I pointed a finger at her: “Hear me good, lady. Restrain your dog. My wife and I walk this road every day. Your dog ever comes near me again I will kill it! Do you understand?”
“You should walk on your own road,” she said.
I told myself to leave immediately before I lost it altogether.
Back at camp, we looked Sally over. Though bleeding from puncture wounds in her legs and throat, it appeared that, though badly hurt and in pain, she would survive. I reported the attack to the Ellsworth police.They insisted on sending an officer out. Soon the policeman showed up and we recounted the incident. He said that he would have a chat with the owner of the St. Bernard.
That afternoon, the attack dog’s owner was standing outside the door of my camp uninvited. Looking at me with an artificial smile and holding out to me a bouquet of flowers, she said in a soft, theatrical tone, again: “I’m so sorry.”
Her apology struck me as hollow and calculated.
That night I slept little. Anger had me in its grip like a vice. Sally shared my sleeplessness as she licked at her wounds. Could I have done more to get the neighbor’s dog off Sally sooner? It all happened so fast with no warning. I stared at the bedroom ceiling fan. I could still see Sally writhing and kicking on the ground in the grip of that big dog’s jaws. I wanted to kill it. I still do.
The next morning at 7 a.m.the veterinarian agreed that it would be best to put old Sally down, to free her from her natural infirmities and the pain of the wounds from the attack. She took her last breath with her head against my knee as I wept and thought of better days with this wonderful, gentle dog that was my everpresent companion, at home and in the bird covers.
The next day Diane and I paid a visit to the St. Bernard’s owner, a woman from Pennsylvania. She reimbursed me for the vet bill. Again, she said that she was sorry, that she got the dog at a pound and that it had been abused. I told her that actions speak louder than words. “Put the dog down, if you are really sorry. Do it before someone else’s dog or a kid gets mauled,” I said.
That smile again.
Later, when I told the police officer that my dog had to be put down, he said that he thought the woman was remorseful and that there really wasn’t much that they could do.
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected] . He has two books “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook” and his latest, “Backtrack.”