I survived my trip to the dentist this morning - only by way of the nitrous oxide. I was white knuckled just during the cleaning, so when it came time to have my fillings redone I begged for the gas! As I was laying there, trying to remember to breathe normally, I thought about how odd it was that I freaked out about a dental visit when in reality I am not usually a worrier. I rarely freak out about anything - which led me to think about the one time that I almost freaked out and then recovered. It came to me then - while I was inhaling happy gas and the dentist was drilling away, that I ought to tell you all about Abby. Maybe someone out there needs to read this today, or maybe the happy gas just made me loopy, but here goes!
13 years ago, after Steven and I got married, I started hinting for a kitten. I am a cat person. My husband is not. I got pregnant with our daughter right away, and those pregnancy hormones were working over time, which means I was pestering him like crazy for a kitten! So one day, Steven takes off work a bit early (his SGT kept coming around my office looking for him so I knew something was up) and then insisted we stop at the mall on the way home. We went into the pet shop and as I oohed and ahhed over the kittens, he disappeared for a few minutes. I knew he had bought something, but it wasn't a live animal because it fit in his pocket. I was curious, but trying not to let on like I knew something was up.
We got home and Steven told me to wait in the living room while he went to the bedroom. I just knew I was getting a kitten! I was so excited! Then, this came out of our bedroom:
Yep. My husband had gotten me a dog! He had gone to the Humane Society and fell in love with Abby. She was mostly chocolate lab and about 2 years old they said. She had been abused before we got her - there were places on her back we couldn't touch because she was so bruised. When I took out the broom to sweep the kitchen she cowered in terror and peed on herself. Luckily none of her injuries were serious and she soon occupied a place in my heart as well. She was sweet and silly and a good little mother to all her little stuffed animals. That was back in the day when Taco Bell sold the stuffed chihuahuas and she had almost every one in the collection!
When our daughter was born, Abby was fascinated. She slept in Moira's room, and was always underfoot during 3am feedings. As Moira got more mobile, she was able to pull on Abby's ears and tug on her tail and Abby calmly accepted it. We were a happy little family of 4.
Then one morning, as we were going to work at 5am, I found 2 tiny kittens in the middle of our driveway. They were barely old enough to be weaned, sitting there all by themselves, crying. We adopted those kittens and Abby and Moira were thrilled with the new companions.
By this time Moira was almost 15 months old, still not too steady on her feet and she much preferred to crawl everywhere. Steven was deployed to Saudi Arabia for 6 months, the week before our 2nd wedding anniversary. Here's a picture of Steven and Moira on the day he left:
About a week after Steven left, the Monday of the 4 day weekend for Labor Day, it was dinner time and I was feeding everyone. The kittens had developed a little game that they played with Abby, just to pester her. As she ate her food they would dash up to her bowl, hopping sideways and swiping at her food. She would respond by snapping at the air, because they were too quick for her to catch. This was a nightly routine and they all seemed to enjoy it. I had just set Abby's food dish down and turned to refill the cat dish when I heard the usual commotion by Abby's dish, followed by the most eerie cry I had ever heard.
I turned around in time to see Moira putting her blood covered hands on the wall, trying to stagger to her feet. I realized right away what had happened: Moira had crawled up next to the food dish and Abby had snapped, probably thinking it was a kitten, and caught Moira right on the face. I grabbed Moira up and ran for the phone. Luckily I had just finished folding a load of wash and there was a clean towel on top of the laundry basket right next to the phone. I grabbed it and tried to stop the bleeding as best I could while I dialed 911.
Only, there was no dial tone! This was back in the day of dial up internet and I couldn't use the phone until I disconnected the internet connection! By this time I was nearly hyperventilating, Moira was screaming her head off and when the 911 operator finally came on the line I could barely make out what she was saying. I shouted my info to the operator, just a jumble of words. I remember saying "The dog bit my baby. I think it got her eye!" and then repeating my address over and over again. By this time I couldn't even comprehend what the operator was saying, but I heard sirens so I ran outside to the driveway.
I sat Moira on the trunk of my car and tried to reposition the sopping wet towel to apply more pressure to the wounds. At this point I realized that I was chanting "Oh my God, oh my God" over and over again. I realized that the last thing Moira needed was for me to lose it so I took a deep breath and made myself calm down.
The firemen were the first on the scene and as the truck rolled up to the curb I ran to them and thrust Moira into the arms of the nearest firefighter. They were able to look her over a bit more calmly and reassure me that the dog had not gotten her eye, she had missed it by millimeters!
Next was a series of questions as we waited for the ambulance. Was Abby current on her rabies shots? Yes. Where were her tags? On her collar. Where was her collar? Around her neck. Where was she? Still in the house. Would she bite if they went inside? I don't think so, she'd never bitten before and we'd had her 2 years! Two firemen went into the house to investigate. They came out and remarked "She's a really sweet dog, she's sitting on the couch and she wagged her tail at us!"
The ambulance came and we headed for the hospital. Thankfully I was in full control of myself by this point so I could tell them we needed to go to the military hospital and I was able to answer all their medical questions and try to get Moira calmed down a bit too. When we got to the emergency room, Moira was examined by a very nice, young doctor who told me that he could try to stitch her up in the E.R. or he could call in some specialists to do it in surgery. Umm, specialists please!
As Moira was wheeled into the O.R., I contacted my commander to report what was going on and asked them to send a message to Steven so when he called that night and I didn't answer the phone he wouldn't worry. Next thing I knew the commander was in the waiting room with me. He took one look at me, covered in blood, and called his wife to bring me some clean clothes. When she arrived I was able to wash off the blood and change in the bathroom, and then we waited and waited.
It took several hours before the surgeon came out. They told me they had stopped counting after 110 stitches. Moira would be alright, but she'd have permanent scars. They remarked that it was obvious that the dog had not bitten down, because the wounds were just punctures and tears were the skin was thin. Had she bitten down she would have torn Moira's nose off.
We ended up staying in the hospital for 2 nights. On the third day, we finally went home. During this time, I hadn't left the hospital to come home at all. This meant that the dog and kittens hadn't been looked after at all as I hadn't wanted to ask anyone to go into the house with Abby just in case.
I walked in the house and put Moira to bed right away. Then I went looking for Abby. I found her still curled up on the couch, her head low and her eyes worried. When I walked into the kitchen I saw that she had not eaten any of her food. Her bowl was still full. She had not eaten for three days even though there was a full food bowl in the kitchen! It was obvious that she knew she'd done something really wrong.
Everyone advised me to have her put to sleep. They insisted that once she had tasted human blood she'd become a biter. I'll admit, it was tempting. I had nightmares and couldn't turn my back on her. For about a week I watched her like a hawk, waiting for some sign that she'd turn into a slavering beast.That sign never came. She continued to show signs of remorse - bringing her stuffed animals and setting them outside Moira's door. She would sit and put her chin on my knee when I sat down, staring up at me. Eventually, when Moira was up and around again, I reintroduced them and they played as normal - if anything, Abby was even more gentle than before! Moira didn't seem to remember any of it and wasn't scared of Abby at all.
Abby went on to her reward a few years later, having never bitten anyone again. In the meantime she provided me with companionship and peace of mind while Steven was gone, and proved herself to be trustworthy once more.
Sometimes I think of Abby when I'm teaching those tough-to-love kiddos. The ones that others may have given up on. Who seem irredeemable. Like my little friend who got expelled from her former kindergarten. I try to give them a second chance, just like I gave Abby. And, almost always, they respond exactly as Abby did - fulfilling my trust in them.
I ran across a quote from Charles Swindoll last week:
"I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it."
Imagine, if we all took a moment to pause and reflect before we reacted. If, as teachers, we thought about how our reactions have a lasting impact on the children we teach. When they do the wrong thing do we condemn them? Do we label them? Do we give them second chances? How we react to them can shape their lives. And to me, that's the message I remember when I think of Abby.
By the way, Moira still has slight scars on her face, they've faded a lot as she's gotten older. She's not bothered by them at all, and though other kids were sometimes curious, she never got teased. I was told that when she was 12 she could think about plastic surgery. She's 13 now and has refused. She doesn't see anything wrong with her face. That's another message from this story - accept yourself and love yourself the way you are. I'm so glad she has that attitude!
I'm not sure why I felt compelled to share this with you all, but there you have it. Since TPT is still down, there doesn't seem to be much point in keeping my previous post from today still up so I'm hitting the publish button now and then I'm going to try to take a nap if these painkillers kick in. I hope no one else has to go through anything like that, but if you do, just remember to keep calm because the 90% matters way more than the 10%!