Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Reality Bites

On May 13th, a Wednesday evening, my son asked me if he could ride his bike up to his friends' house and see if they could come out and play. I told him the usual: "Sure, just check back with me in an hour if you decide to stay." A little while later I tore myself away from whatever Wife Swap or Trading Spouses rerun I was watching to go in the kitchen and start dinner. I had just dragged something out of the freezer when I heard the front door open and Jamie yell, "I'm back!" Or at least I thought that's what he'd said the first couple of times. Finally I went to the door to see why he had insisted on announcing his arrival with so much enthusiasm. What I found instead was my child standing on my front porch, bleeding. I asked him what happened. He said he'd been attacked, and I kept waiting for the punchline. For him to tell me that he had taken his fake blood outside with him and that this was a (not funny) joke. There was a stain on his shoulder. He had wet his pants. He was holding his wrist. "What?" I said. "I've been attacked by a pit bull!" He was sobbing and embarrassed that he'd wet his pants. I pulled him into the bathroom to look at his wrist, which was bleeding heavily. Once I got a good look at it, the reality of the situation finally started sinking in...

I ran back to my bedroom both to grab my cell phone and my jeans because I knew we would be leaving soon. I called 911. I sat Jamie down in the kitchen and took all of his clothes off because I didn't want to miss anything. There was a bleeding hole at the top of his chest just below his left shoulder. There were bleeding tears on his right side. His right wrist was swollen and bleeding terribly. When I hung up the phone I went to his room to get him some underwear and a towel because by then he was telling me he thought he was going to throw up and because I knew he wouldn't want the paramedics to see him without any clothes on. I noticed someone standing on my front porch and realized it was the dog's owner. The man stood there with a lit cigarette. He wanted to know if he could come in and I said no, that my son was too upset and that the ambulance was on its way. The man told me my son "swatted at the dog." My response to that was to ask his name and phone number, which he gave me.

The paramedics approached while the man was still standing there. Once inside, they could not have been any more professional or caring when dealing with both my son and me. The same goes for the police and the nurses and doctors at the emergency room. Luckily the x-ray showed that Jamie's wrist was not broken. The doctor told me he did not like to stitch dog bites and that was just fine with Jamie and me both. They sent us home with prescriptions, extra gauze and something to wash out his wounds.

That night was a long one. Jamie was sore and scared and did not want to be left alone. I stayed in bed with him until dawn, went I went to lie down in my own bed to get a little rest by myself. I laid there only a few minutes, the first I'd had alone since Jamie left the house to go look for his friends. It was then that reality--and my emotions--hit me hard. My sweet boy left on his bicycle and came home scarred for life. The night before he'd told me that his friends didn't answer when he knocked on their door so he decided to ride his bike down the hill because he likes to feel the wind in his face. Instead, a vicious animal charged at him and knocked him off his bicycle and attacked him. The owner finally--thankfully-- pulled his animal off of my son. Then, bleeding, scared and soaked in urine, my son got on his bicycle and rode home. By himself. I cannot even begin to imagine the terror and the pain that he must have felt. I am so proud of him for having the bravery and the wherewithal and the goddamn guts he did for getting himself home.

I am angry, too. Angry that the animal's owner has never once said to me or to my son that he is sorry for what happened. Angry that this man seems to think that he bears no responsibility whatsoever in this case. Angry that the law where I live allows an animal like that to still be living today. Angry that since my son was attacked that the animal once again got loose and put other innocent people in danger. Angry that these animals are allowed to exist at all. Angry that my son is afraid to ride his bicycle.

Today was a small victory in court. The man and his wife showed up to plead not guilty. They tried to tell the prosecutor that their animal didn't bite anyone, but the prosecutor had the photographs. They tried to say that their animal had been on a leash and got away, but the prosecutor didn't buy it. They tried to say that their animal was (brace yourself) going to be a search and rescue animal for the police department, and the prosecutor was just as stunned-looking as I was.

So they plead guilty. They will have to pay fines. I don't know how much, but like I say this is only a small victory until the next court date.