Bethany has been inviting me to come see him at her Pack to Basics class ever since I dropped him off and surrendered him to her in early December. Today, I did.
Walking toward her backyard from the street, I could see him, leashed up with the little leader muzzle. He took my breath away. I led Pooka in. And there he was.
He wagged his tail, looking at Pooka. Everyone was standing in a circle, with their dogs leashed. There were about a dozen dogs, from tiny Westies to a huge Newfoundland (still a pup with lots of growth to go). We took our place in the circle. He was looking toward us, wagging his tail. The aim of this class is to let dogs socialize. The instructions were simple: don’t talk to the dogs, don’t touch the dogs, and keep walking around the yard. She then gave me some instructions: don’t talk to him or touch him until after the class.
We let the dogs off the leash and started walking around.
He walked around, wagging his tail and sniffing other dogs. Someone said, “is that the dog that usually just hides?” Bethany said yes, he was, and that his former owner was there. Apparently he was behaving very differently. Much more social.
He went and hid under the deck for a while. And then he came out.
And ran straight toward me. He started jumping on me. I kept walking. This was the hardest part. I wanted to pet him, to talk to him, but kept going. He played with Pooka! He played with other dogs. He seemed totally great.
I met his new mom and talked with her a bit. She is so sweet, and they are perfect for each other. I felt then that he really needs to be in a situation like this — with one person. He was so threatened by Tyler and his kids. He tried to fight his way to dominance of our whole situation, but it wasn’t working, so he did what he thought he had to. He tried to take them down.
I really hope that he doesn’t feel the need to do that with Trudy.
He followed me around most of the rest of the class. I kept walking. It wasn’t until afterward that I got to pet him and give him a little love.
And then we walked out, and didn’t look back.
I felt a huge sense of relief. He’s happy, he’s safe, he’s well cared for. And he’s adjusting fine. And it’s time for me to move on.
Here’s a video of him following me and playing with Pooka:
Pooka is doing great. Eight days after being attacked by another dog, her tubes came out today and she is healing really well. Check out Pooka in the snow the day before the surgery.
Pooka on Christmas day, one day after getting the tubes installed:
Close-up of a tube, noodle, ziti — take your pick:
And today, there are just a few icky holes in her back that are just barely weeping.
For background on the attack, the festering wound, and some stuff about me you may not want to read: On dog bites and trauma.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: abuse, alice miller, breaking down the wall of silence, dad, dog bites, mom, mormon resignation, pooka
Pooka, my dear possibly-dalmatian-mix rescue from Puerto Rico, was attacked by a friend’s Akita a week ago today. Knowing from past experience not to get in between fighting dogs (Gogo bit me twice when i was trying to break up his fights), i found i didn’t know what *to* do. I tried to separate them with my backpack, then my foot. I don’t know how long it went on… probably about 30 seconds, until the owner came out and spanked the akita and got her to stop. My memory is fuzzy.
It was a traumatic experience. And it parallels another situation in my life, so I am using Pooka’s attack as a lens through which to get insight on learned and instinctive behavior. My first reaction was, “it’s ok.”
It was so not OK.
First, it was scary. The sound of dogs fighting — the gnashing, or the crushing of flesh, the salivating, the gutteral sounds they make, all combine into a nightmarish noise i hope i never hear again. I brought Pooka to the car and left her there while Tyler got his hair cut and bleached. I went out a few times, brought her water and a blanket, and petted her. My first reaction was “it’s ok. it’s going to be ok.” it really didn’t look that bad. There was no blood. Looking back, I realize i was doing something I often do — I went into denial.
Back inside, I didn’t think I was mad, though Tyler said later that I was acting tense and upset. I totally don’t remember. I just remember sitting there waiting, checking Facebook, talking, getting some pink extensions (which I washed out later that night). Howevver, looking at a photo he uploaded to Facebook of me sitting in the chair getting my extensions, i look blank, checked out.
So first, denial. “Oh, it’s not that bad.” Second, check out, or disassociate. “maybe if i ignore it, it will go away?”
When we got back to Tyler’s I decided to wash her wounds, which were barely noticeable, let her sleep, and see how things were the next day.
The next day, she was in a lot of pain. I took her to the vet. He shaved her in a couple of places to check out the wounds. He said that the problem with bites is not so much the punctures themselves, but the crushing. Dogs can grab on and keep gnawing. The vet said to watch out for hardness — that the skin, muscles, and tissue can be damaged and die from the crushing, and that she might need to have some of it cut out if that happened. He gave me antibiotics and pain pills to give her twice a day.
Despite the antibiotics, she swelled up — just a little. I kept massaging her back and applying warm compresses. On Christmas Eve, however, the swelling ballooned. It felt squishy, like it was full of liquid. And it looked bad. I took her to the emergency vet around 3:00, because it obviously wasn’t going away or getting better.
This is a different vet — the one that charges more because they’re open on Christmas Eve. They shaved more fur so that they could get a better look at the wounds. They had to sedate her so they could open her up. Apparently, there were several deep abcesses. They put in drains, which look like pieces of uncooked ziti poking out of her back.
She’s miserable. That cone on her head is disorienting. I had to hold her head up and point it forward so that she could see where she was going when we got home. She was too disoriented to go to the bathroom in the snow. It was slow, awkward going down the stairs. She went to sleep by the fire. And I started thinking.
Sometimes wounds close up and fester, and they need to be opened to drain and heal. Even though I washed the wounds with warm compresses and cleaned them with hydrogen peroxide and neosporin a couple of times a day, they closed up.
She couldn’t heal on her own. She needed professional help.
I don’t want to make light of Pooka’s situation. I am so concerned for her right now. She’s doing much better. It’s just that there are some weird parallels between her situation and mine.
I have a wound that I haven’t properly treated. Yesterday I told my dad something I didn’t want to admit, something that I’ve done my best to medicate away in various methods for the past few years. It was a deep, festering wound, becoming as obvious as Pooka’s — through my depression, darkness, and anger.
My dad was really pushing my buttons. First, he didn’t want me to drive to the post office to mail a package i needed to send. There was snow on the ground. Not on the street, mind you, just on the ground. The car they’ve been letting me use is from 1989, but it has new tires. I love that he’s so protective of me — sometimes. I asked if I could drive his car (with 4-wheel drive) instead, but he said no, he wanted to drive me. Maybe he wanted to talk. And I was a captive audience.
He said that he doesn’t recognize me these days — what happened to the courageous woman who lived in san francisco, new york, and puerto rico? I reminded him that I’d lived a bit too much in the moment, spending my retirement to open a restaurant and a yoga space. I’m just a bit beaten down by my financial situation, my seeming inability to get a job even at a grocery store, and this gnawing depression. I asked if he thought that what i was writing was at all courageous. He thought it was just angry.
A few more pokes and prods, and i started reacting, “Do you want to know why I’m having such a hard time? Why I’m so angry and depressed? I can’t even tell you.”
He poked some more, and suddenly it just came out. In the car, in the snow, in our driveway. I don’t want to get more into it at the moment, but I found that the simple act of confession was so liberating. It was literally like opening up the wound so that it can heal.
At first it was really messy, just like Pooka’s draining tubes. We went in and talked to my mom, whose said that what happened was in the past, and that it’s not healthy to relive it. That’s her chosen way of dealing with her past. That’s the way I’ve chosen to do things for years, and it hasn’t helped. I feel that I have to examine this old wound and understand it and see how it’s affected my reactions and behavior.
On Christmas Eve, I had to leave Pooka with the vet for a few hours. I sat in the car in the cold and talked for about an hour to a friend who has had a similar experience. Then I went into the bookstore in Orem and found exactly what I need to read: “Breaking Down the Wall of Silence,” by Alice Miller.
She talks about repressed memory. “The capacity of the human organism to bear pain is, for our own protection, limited.” So we bury things. I was in a serious car accident in college. The trauma was so severe that I bit all the way through my right cheek. I don’t remember it at all. I remember seeing the car pull out in front of me, slamming on the brakes, but I don’t remember the impact, my seizure, the ambulance, or the plastic surgery (seriously). I woke up in the hospital. There’s part of my life that my mind is protecting me from. it was too painful to survive consciously, so i passed out.
Two years ago, I started remembering something traumatic from my childhood that I had buried. Instead of dealing with it, I started self-medicating again. It is so clear that part of moving home is about finally opening up the old wounds so that I can heal — which is so necessary to moving forward in the next stage of my life.
It’s only been three days since I began opening up the wound and letting it drain, but i already feel less heavy and dark. I’m starting to feel like myself again. I know it’s going to be a difficult process, but it’s exciting to think about getting back to who I was before the trauma, before I learned inappropriate ways of dealing with life.
Resigning from the Mormon church was one step that got me closer. I used to think that once I was officially not connected to that organization, that I could get back to my fearless, creative, thinking self. It’s interesting that within a month of resigning from the church, I confessed that secret that I’ve been trying to avoid. Being in a loving relationship has somehow helped me to feel safe about starting to deal with my repressed memory. And being home with my parents I think is also necessary. I’m so grateful that they didn’t question me when I told them. They were shaken, not sure what to do, but they were so loving and supportive. I can’t imagine if they had reacted the way my ex did two years ago. When I told him, the first thing he said was, “are you sure?”
I think that if I hadn’t learned inappropriate ways of reacting to traumatic events — denying, or burying them, or checking out — that maybe I would have paused to think and respond rationally to Pooka’s attack. Maybe instead of automatically denying it, I would have thought, okay, what just happened? Do I know enough myself how to deal with this? Should I get professional help — now? Instead of hoping it will go away, and putting it off until it got infected and more serious.
Pooka’s attack has helped me explain to my parents why i need to open up the wound in order to heal.
A few dishes left in the sink, an empty wine glass on the table, small gifts intended to be shared, but since Tyler and I forgot to bring them, I ended up taking them all — hey, friends, sorry I didn’t think to let y’all do an exchange without us! Discarded wrapping paper, tissue, and newspaper that had covered said gifts. Cotton balls and peroxide left out to remind me to keep cleaning Pooka’s wounds (she was mauled by an Akita on Friday, but is doing much better). A pot of soup on the stove. Contemplating drinking some coffee to get my ass off the couch. Thinking about all the gifts I need to make, now that the dinner party plans are over and Christmas, or hexmas, is just four days away. I wanted to write about the party, the friends who came and helped , the connections made, the preparations, the food (homemade ricotta gnocchi was just one tiny part of it)…
Being the facebook addict, I had to check facebook first. My friend Harry, who lives in Puerto Rico, had just posted the oddest thing on our friend Caren’s wall:
“You will be missed. Rest in peace our dear friend.”
That instinctive gasping and holding of the breath. Heart pounding. I wrote to him:
“i saw what you wrote on caren’s wall and i hope you’re talking about something else…. did something happen? is caren all right?”
I was scratching my brain to think of any other possible meaning behind that post. Maybe her dog died? Something. Anything! But I didn’t think she had a dog. Harry wrote me back and explained that no, Caren was not all right. She died this morning.
Suddenly all the mundane details I was starting to obsess over seemed unworthy of thought. Dishes? The crumbs on the floor? The gifts I still need to make? The partially-finished projects, like my chandeliers, or those projects still in the idea-only stage? What about running upstairs and telling my parents that I love them, and thanking them again for opening up their home to me? What about my nieces and nephews, some of whom I hardly see, even though they live only a mile away? Harry told me a little: that they think she died because her aneurism finally burst. She knew she had one, near her brain stem. Doctors said that if she even touched it, it could burst. Caren knew this, and had been on medication. Strangely, her last week had been filled with social events, dinners with friends every night, as though she knew something, he said. Harry said his wife, Lisa, was with Caren’s husband Ron, and that he’d have Lisa call me later when she returned.
Caren was one of my yoga students. She came to class every Saturday morning at the Secret Garden (aka, the beautiful yoga space). She was one of our close-knit group, who started at 9 a.m. practicing yoga, then went swimming or snorkeling just off the yoga deck afterwards. Sometimes the day would stretch into a barbeque, drinking margaritas and wine. Detox, and retox. That was so typical of Rincon.
At first, Caren came with her husband. Yoga was not really his thing. Caren and Ron did everything together, so it seemed significant that she continued to come after he gave it up. Another friend commented that she was really blossoming. She loved yoga, the way it made her feel. She kept it up with a group of women after I left — they got together and practiced with a DVD or a show on television.
I am guessing that Caren was about 60. Beautiful, short gray hair, the nicest smile, an infectious laugh. Such bright and caring eyes.
I wish I could see her one more time. Just a dinner, or a yoga class, or a walk on the beach. A glass of wine at Harry and Lisa’s. Anything. If I could say something to her, I’d say thank you. Thank you for coming to my classes. Thanks for inspiring me to keep teaching. Thanks for always being so friendly and supportive.
I just thought of one incident: Just after I got kicked out of the Secret Garden, we moved the class down the road to a deck at “the scorpion’s den,” a bizarre building on a multimillion dollar property built to house a restaurant, an apartment, and a strip club. Another student was living there at the time, and he offered it up to us. The energy felt wrong to me, but we needed to try it, or suspend classes until we found somewhere else. The deck wasn’t covered, but it had a view of the ocean (as well as a giant scorpion mural on the wall), and it was big enough for all of us. That first class there, something happened which, as a teacher, you hope never happens. I completely lost it. I think I was reading from Pema Chodron — “When Things Fall Apart” has been a life raft over the past few years. I had guided them into putting their legs up the wall (it was really exciting to actually have a wall, after teaching on that open air deck for so long). Legs up the wall pose, or Viparita Karani, is a deeply restorative pose. Being lifted up by the ground beneath you and letting your legs rest against a wall allows your body to completely surrender. You can give up holding yourself into a position. As you let your back rest, the belly softens, the skin on the front of your body can relax. Even the forehead and jaw soften and release. And the legs, which usually hold you up and get the strongest pull of gravity, suspend lightly. Powerful things can happen in Viparita Karani, if you can let yourself stay there. I started reading Pema to them and got completely choked up. I think I was trying to apologize for having to move the class, which was so tight. We all felt the loss of that amazing space. I felt like it was my fault, that I couldn’t manage the relationship with the owner, and that my actions were punishing them. I actually started sobbing. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I stopped reading, and just cried. Caren said, “why don’t you put your legs up the wall, Jodi, and breathe?” Losing control was embarrassing — humiliating! But at that moment I felt her love — without judgment. I felt like she wasn’t only a student. She was a friend.
I’m thinking of Caren surrounded by love and light. And I want Ron to know how much I cherished her friendship.
Every goodbye is a death. I want to think about how I would want to leave things, if indeed that goodbye is the last.