Monday, November 19, 2007

Only some scars are visible

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Update: I continue to make small mechanical changes as I come across them. Everyone needs an editor.

The photo quality here is quite sub-par. That's actually fine by me, and probably by any readers who aren't quite iron of gut. Nevertheless, if you notice a dark spot on the bottom of my nose - well, that isn't my nostril. Or at least it wasn't originally.

Saturday evening I was walking with a friend after she had suffered through a rather rough evening of drama and attack at my local tavern. We arrived at our destination, a house of a mutual friend. She went in, while I stayed on the porch long enough to finish my cigarette. When I had concluded my Marlboro, I opened the door and stepped into the entry.

Everyone else was milling about further in the house. Several dogs - pit bulls, I believe - came up to regard my presence. I bent down to offer a friendly pat. With the first dog, this was accepted. Still stooping, I reached for the second dog, who decided to take a small chunk of my nose.

I recoiled, and retreated out the door as I had come. Another friend was sitting outside, fortuitously proffering rides for those who were too inebriated to drive, or for shoe-leather bums such as myself. I requested she shuttle me the four blocks to my front door, only muttering something about having been bitten and that I was bleeding. In my classical underplayed approach, it might easily have been construed as if I had bitten my own tongue, or perhaps suffered some other minor mishap.

I gained my front porch and hastened to the bathroom, where I thoroughly doused the wound in rubbing alcohol and what I mistook for antibacterial cream. (It turned out to be antifungal cream, actually - I suppose I've nothing to worry about if all that that dog had in his mouth was athlete's foot.) Now, almost 48 hours after the incident, I've continued with alcohol and now real antibacterial goop. The nose has a nice scab on it, but does not appear to be infected. I yesterday consumed two aspirin. That's been about it.

I suspect that I may have also suffered a hairline fracture of my nose. This has happened before, and I had almost forgotten the sensation. But, alas, I couldn't quite shake it before a reminder.

The day after, I tracked down the friend I had walked to the house to gain assurance that all of the dogs on the property were properly vaccinated. She happened to be with one of the owners, and assured me (over the phone), that they were. So I wouldn't have to put myself through the rabies series, hurray. I wasn't sure if this was a concern with dogs' mouths (a RN has since assured me that it is not), but I had gotten a booster for lock-jaw when I suffered an unfortunate boating accident two years ago, so that was good. Keep splashing on alcohol and the antibacterial, the RN said, and I should be fine.

Question: Why didn't I go to ER, and why have I not sought professional medical care in the time since? I am nominally unemployed, and assuredly uninsured. Perhaps the dogs' owners' homeowners' insurance might cover my medical expense? Perhaps. I doubt these folks are homeowners, however; and I seriously doubt that they carry renters' insurance. Perhaps the landlords' homeowners' insurance might cover it? Perhaps. Nevertheless, I felt sufficient with the alcohol and goop treatment, especially in light of the nurse's opinion and the general metrics of the situation.

Another detail: when I had learned the status of the dogs' vaccinations, I also ran into the kind woman who had driven me home the previous evening, when she related that another man had been either bitten or scratched that same evening, also on his nose. It is uncertain whether this was by the same dog; indeed, I doubt I could pick out the one dog out of the four I saw at the house that evening.

Today I related the story to another friend unrelated to, and without knowledge of, the incident. His reaction was quite immediate: "I'd grab a shotgun and kill the fucker." I doubt I have the mettle to pop a dog, even one that quite likely intended to kill me, point blank, and I have no intention of finding out. But I also understood my friend. Quite well, having lost a lob of flesh to the thing.

And here, if they had not yet been sufficiently confused, I shall add another bit of background before I try and untangle my ball of string. About four and a half years before I was born, my father's second son was killed by dogs while he played outside. I will reserve the particular horrors of that tale, and say only here a few things that warrant mention.

Aaron was playing on the day after his fifth birthday. Young. I believe at least one of the two dogs, and perhaps both, was a pit bull. This caused great harm to my family, harm that has persisted even in the 29 years since the incident. I have not told my father of the instant case. (I live with my folks. I've seen dad twice since I was bitten, but have not seen him in such a way that he would easily spy the injury.)

Some will say that I should tell dad, while others will say that, if possible, I should obscure or otherwise obfuscate the details of the event. Some others will say that they are unsure. I am of the third group, but have also forced myself to think for a little bit and try to come up with a solution. My provisional answer is that I will tell dad about the incident when he either sees my face (hardly a given, given to our differing schedules), or more preferably, when I have taken a final action in the matter.

Question: What is the proper final action? This is the real question in the matter. Some parts of it are plain (to me; I beg your advise should you differ), and others cause anguish.

My first admission must be that I am compromised by my family's history. However, I do not think that this automatically disqualifies me from arriving at a sound judgment, but it certainly does add a wrinkle of complexity. I must first strive to disentangle my own issues from the subject to try and think more clearly about the instant case.

It is my best legal understanding that I have a duty to report the attack, and to report it as it was: unprovoked. I also have no ethical qualm against that duty. Unfortunately, this is where my clarity ends.

I have never attempted to properly address my own conflicted feelings on dogs. I can say several things, however, and try to work toward a solution from there. I love animals, in the sense that I pet friends' pets, I feed the neighborhood stray cats (likely not good), and I abhor any unnecessary violence against animals. When I was a young child, my folks had a dog, Yukon, a half Siberian Husky, half Australian Sheppard. I am generally well accepted by pets - I've never before been the victim of violence by one, but some have refused my pet. I've never pressured, chased, or otherwise accosted them once they made their reticence clear. I would like a dog, something mellow and friendly and companion-like. (I'm thinking of the hound or lab, or perhaps another shep, that rides shotgun in my pickup wherever I go.)

Obviously, I never knew my brother. (He died in 1978; I was born in 1983.) I've considered him my little brother since I've been mature enough to consider him, as opposed to his doom. I occasionally walk to his grave, half a mile from my (folks') house, and... I don't know what I do. I don't pray, I don't talk to him, I don't miss him. I suppose I reflect, mostly, about what his absence has meant for our family. On a very few occasions, I have walked to his grave with a close friend and reflected audibly. I never cry, but I always tear.

I never asked dad about things, either. Sure, sometimes I might ask about Aaron, but never about what happened. Like a piece of lore that comes down from generation to generation, I had gleaned bits and pieces of the story, much from my mother. And then last Christmas, after everyone had gone to bed, I went to my local tavern.

I came home at an advanced hour and in an advanced state. I can't remember the conversation - but I know things now I didn't know before, although I'm not sure which bits those are - hell, I can't even remember if I woke pa or if he was already awake when I rejoined the house in the small hours. (Christmas Eve, the evening to which I refer, is a smash night for the local taverns.) I remember, though, that we talked, that I cried, I balled, I talked, I asked questions, he answered as he could. I suppose now that I needed to have this conversation with dad at some point, and I imagine it was more about me than Aaron. I was just concluding a particularly poor period of my life - dropping out of college, losing my longtime girl, getting a drunk driving, driving my car into the creek, et al - and had gotten back on track - getting back into college, getting back into a serious and rewarding relationship, not getting any more drunken driving.

That is all to say that I don't think that I got much about pa from that talk, except that he confirmed my general knowledge of the incident and filled in some blanks, and said in his way a few small but important things. While I can not sort out what I knew before and what blanks he filled in that night, I know that I learned a lot about Aaron's death, and about Aaron, as well. It surprises me, that in my severe state, I remembered any of it, but I suspect that I remember all of it. I just can't remember what it is that it is. And I certainly don't know - am afraid to ask - what that conversation meant for dad (a great disappointment, that I can not ask). I hope that it did him some service; that it did not merely serve to tear open wounds.

Full stop. Back to the instant case.

These are the things I think are likely true:
Dogs are not moral agents. (Confidence*: Near certain)
Dogs should not be killed without good (read: seriously compelling) reason. (Confidence: Near certain)
Assuming that it was the same dog that attacked the other gentleman and I, this dog threatens to injure - or kill - again. (Confidence: Very high)
Assuming that two dogs were involved, both dogs are dangerous (i.e., likely to injure again). (Confidence: High)
People have the right to do what they want, so long as their action (or inaction) does not directly harm others. (Confidence: Very high to near certain, although this is not a proper or full exposition of a well thought about ideal)
A person's action (or inaction) that directly results in the harm of another is immoral (and should be stopped). (Confidence: Very high)
People keeping pets that are very likely to injure or kill others - including the owners' children - should have such animals removed. (Confidence: Very high. Assuming that injuring or killing others is a harm, the previous statement, if true, affirms this)

* On confidence: It's difficult for me to give specific probabilities here, but I try to lay down a few ideas:
Certain: I'm not sure I'll ever find anything to be completely certain about beside stuff like "Red is a color."
Near certain: The highest level of confidence that I will ever assign to anything but the most fundamental claim - unless someone changes my mind.
Very high: Call this in the neighborhood of 75 - 90%, but that's a neighborhood.
High: Again, speculative, but maybe 60 - 75%.
Probable: Of the above, only "Certain" is not probable (because, of course, it is certain). However, when I say only "Probable," I mean to say that I think a given proposition is at least 50% + x likely, where x represents the smallest number. "Probable > 50%."
Again, credit to Dr. Tom Gilbert, Morningside College, whom bestowed a form of the probability stuff upon me.

So now what? I provisionally conclude that the dog that attacked me, and if a different dog attacked the second gentleman than that dog also, should be removed from the residence - likely meaning put down, or not to be PC about it, killed. This agrees with my friend's previously stated opinion: "Grab a shotgun..." insomuch as, well, you get the point. However, a few other notes. A family that keeps four pit-bulls is likely attached to them (I would say that is the case here), and they are valued pets. These folks may even, and not without precedent, think of their dogs as members of the family. Think Katrina evacuees refusing airlift unless the dog could come.

I am myself ambiguous even now, even with my family history. I know the dog is not mean in the moral sense: it did not mean - and could not have meant - any malice. Fingering one of the four dogs could well be a death sentence for all of them, since I doubt my ability to finger a specific one. It is a member of a family, even if it is a hostile member ready to strike at the smallest provocation or - as I believe in my case - none at all.

These folks live near a school. Children may damned well be at risk. The dog injured me only barely, unless you consider the notch I will likely always wear on my beak. But it could have done much more severe damage. I didn't do anything more offensive to the dog than offer a pet, something a passing schoolchild might well do. There doesn't need to be another grave in town - or anywhere, really - for another child like Aaron. There doesn't need to be another hole, in another family, like that.

But, then, should we kill off and outlaw all "mean" dogs? How nanny a country should we become? Who should get to pull the trigger, as it is?

More provisional conclusions. These dogs - for the sake of safety and my inability to identify the specific, all four of them, all as members of a dangerous breed - should be removed to a place where they will not have (rampant) chances to injure or kill. If such a retreat can not be located (which I feel likely), they should be put down. I should exercise less caprice and more apprehension as to which pets I try and pet.

This is all very first draft. And quite personal. But I invite your critiques, especially from strangers who might be able to lend a clear mind. I can't find the strength to get angry and these dogs, even as I wonder if they might not live out the duration of their natural lives without harming again. But, somehow, I seriously doubt it. (Confidence: see above.) If one of these dogs hurts someone else, especially a little kid - Christ that's a burden.

Full stop. Until I hit post, there wasn't a mention of Aaron Green on the web. Here's to you, brother.

1 comment:

Lacey said...

From what you've written, I guess I don't see any question as to what you need to do. Although it may be a hard decision, it sounds like you've already weighed the options, and that the best option you've found is to speak up about it. I feel certain you can "let the law take it from there" once you've spoken up. Although it might ruin a friendship (hopefully not), it sounds like the consequence of not telling could be much worse. In regards to telling your father, I think that is a decision that only you can answer, and will probably come about or not come about from much pondering on your part. Sorry I can't be of more help, but that's just my 2 cents after reading your blog. I'm sure the talk with your father helped him a lot, even if it did open some wounds; Talking about painful experiences usually helps one with healing. Oh, and kudos for posting such a personal blog, as I know that can be a hard thing to do.