Hello Beautiful People! I am sorry I have been silent for the last month, there have been a few things I have been thinking about and one of them was something that happened to me when I was a little girl, to be precise 8 years and 68 days old.
This story is not like my others, but I felt it was important to share for others that may have experienced a similar trauma or may know someone who has. It is my intention to use my story to help others understand a bit about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D).
When I was 8, I was invited to my best friend’s house to celebrate her birthday. Her name is Jo and to this day she remains my longest and closest friend, anyone who knows us knows we call each other ‘sisters,’ we love each other dearly and have been in each others lives for 43 years. I love her with all my heart and this story that the two of us share will never be completely forgotten, yet we have rarely spoken of it since.
I was dropped off at Jo’s new house, her Mother had remarried and Jo was staying with her mom this weekend. It was a beautiful summer’s day in August in Southern California and I was so excited to be seeing Jo.
I was the first kid to arrive and was very interested to see where she was living. I walked in and said hello to everyone. Jo asked if I wanted to go out back and play until the rest of the kids arrived. Of course this sounded like great fun, as I started to walk towards the plate glass sliding doors I saw two full grown Saint Bernard dogs. I stopped and looked for Jo’s step dad (lets call him Doug), as I knew they didn’t belong to Jo and I had never met these dogs before.
I asked Doug, “Are your dogs ok with children?”
“Of course they are”
“Is there anything I should know about them? Or anything I shouldn’t do around them?”
“No, Tana, they are fine the older one grew up with my kids and the other is just about a year and half.”
Now, remember most kids don’t know to ask these questions, but because of how I was brought up with animals I was trained to always ask and be aware of any one’s animals as they didn’t know me.
Jo and I walked outside and went straight over to a table that had a few of her presents on it, obviously from the family, and she had permission to open some. One of the presents was the bubbles in a bottle, the one where it has a plastic loop on the end of a stick and you dip it and then blow and amazing bubbles appear and float up in to the air, they always mesmerized me.
Jo and I had blown a few times and were laughing and giggling, jumping up trying to burst them. Jo turned to me and said, “Dunk it and run around the pool.” She had this big smile and her eyes were full of happiness. I said, “Okay.”
The Saint Bernards were off to the side and walking around, they hadn’t even paid any attention to us; they were more concerned about finding a cool place to lie down.
I dunked the stick in the canister and held the stick up high in the air, I remember looking at the blue sky as the liquid slowly started to drip down the stick and on to my hand; I started to run before it all dripped down. I was laughing and calling out to Jo to watch me.
My life changed forever in this one innocent moment.
“Jo, look.” I started to make my first corner of the pool and was turning left when I heard them. I knew I couldn’t stop. The dogs were growling and barking and in full chase of me, it was not a playful gallop, their strides were determined. I started to run faster and Jo yelled, “Jump in the pool, Tana! Jump!” She knew what was happening she saw the dogs and she knew.
I chose not to jump into the pool, because I thought if they jumped in they would drown me. I had seen a gate around at the side of the house and I knew I could make it. My heart was going so fast it felt like a blur, no longer a gentle thump. I threw down my little stick and reached up for the gate lock, only to see a pad lock. I just went in to pure instinct mode from that moment on. I dropped to the ground, tucked my legs into my chest and grabbed the back of my neck. I knew I had to protect all vital organs. I held on for dear life, I knew what was coming.
Everything went quite and then the growls were no longer in the distance they were right on top of me. One grabbed my back and the other my arm, they were ripping my flesh and pulling in different directions.
A minimum weight of 350 pounds combined of dogs attacking 50 pounds of me, I was a scrawny child, but strong for my size. I felt one of dogs teeth bite down on my arm by my elbow and pull me towards her, at the same time I felt the other bite down on my back as he tried to pull me towards himself and away from the other dog, I felt my flesh rip away from my body and he bit down again this time hire up on my back, trying to get a better grip. I felt their nails digging into my body as they both tried to find their traction to win the award.
Throughout this attack I never let go of my neck or let my legs dangle I kept my body tight and compacted as possible, I remember later thinking I must have looked like a pill bug.
For one slight instant I thought this would be over soon, someone would come and pull them off and help me. But no one came to help, no one. I knew I was on my own and had to think. I had to wait till it stopped or maybe I would be given a moment to escape.
I didn’t feel any pain in the moment; I believe that was the shock of it all. I started to hear voices in the background over the deep growls, but it was faint. I don’t know how long I was being bit or torn, but as I listened to the dogs the moment I had been waiting for came.
The older of the two dogs got possessive over my body and turned on the younger one. They started to fight each other and that was when I heard Doug’s voice from the veranda, he was yelling at me at this point in time, “Tana, get up and walk to me!” I stood up, didn’t look at the dogs and walked over to Doug. He walked me into the house. Jo’s mom was quick to have towels on me and putting pressure on my open wounds, my back was the worse for wear.
I looked up and asked, “Why didn’t anyone come to help me?” She looked at me and said, “I was in the house honey.” I looked at her new husband and he turned and walked away.
In that moment my 8 year old self knew I could never trust anyone to step in and help me, I would always have to help myself. Maybe I wasn’t worth it? Maybe they were too weak? Maybe they were just too scared? I would never know.
When we were at the hospital Jackie, Jo’s mom, held me by her side while we waited for my mom to arrive. I remember seeing my mom walking with a fast gait down the hall looking for me. She couldn’t believe I was still in the waiting room and went to speak to the nearest nurse to get me treated.
Now, I can’t remember if it was later that day or the next day, but when I left the hospital I was told by my mom that I had to go by Jo’s house to talk to Animal Control. I knew who they were, we all did. Those were the bad men with the trucks that took dogs and cats off the street and then took them to the pound to be killed. Again remember I was eight!
I asked why I had to talk to them, Mom said they had to ask me questions only I could answer.
We pulled up in front of the house and they were already there parked and waiting for me. I remember being very stiff, all my muscles hurt and the stitches were tight. I rolled down my window and this very nice man walked over to the car window on my side. He leaned down and introduced himself. I asked him what he wanted from me.
“Tana, I heard what happened and it is my job to judge if these dogs are safe for this family to have or if I need to put them down.” I knew what that meant. My reaction was strong, “It was not the dogs’ fault! I asked if they were safe and Doug said they were. He is the one that should be put down, he is the one that got me hurt and he is the one who didn’t help me!” He leaned back when he heard my reaction and took a breath, then said, “Wow, I guess you thought about this?”
“Don’t you hurt those dogs, talk to him and make sure he puts them away when strangers come to visit! Okay?”
“Ok, Tana, you just saved the dogs lives” and he walked away.
I am telling this story for a couple reasons:
One – to protect your animals and friends. Put your animals in their own area if you are going to have children running around, as you never know what may trigger an attack. Always better to be safe then sorry. Humans must remember, always remember just because you love animals and/or like them, it does not mean that they love you or like you, we must all respect this truth and not take it personally. If you don’t have a place to put your dogs then stay close by and watch them interacting with the guest, do your best to stay close until you feel everyone is acquainted. Protect your animal; let people know to keep an eye on their children so that the children don’t provoke the animal in any way. Children don’t always know the proper way to treat animals… then again many adults don’t either. People also don’t always know how the family animals are being treated, so it works both ways. By no means am I implying that animals can’t be trusted and always locked up, I am simply trying to give small samples of how to judge a situation and try to protect all involved.
I never was afraid of dogs, nervous of St Bernards for a bit, but I worked through that in a couple of weeks time as my dear friend Jimmy lived across the street and he had, what? Two St. Bernards! But they had always been loving and kind to all the neighbourhood children. I knew it was not the dogs’ fault, they were acting of their own instincts, I will never know exactly what I did to trigger it, but that is ok, it just happened and I accepted that.
I know 99.9% of all animal attacks are due to human error, and that is what you accept when you choose to have them in your lives.
Two – P.T.S.D. – I never knew I had symptoms of P.T.S.D. from this attack. For one it wasn’t a word when I was 8, we had heard words like ‘shell shocked’ and ‘combat fatigue,’ but I was raised to believe you just got over it. Also it wasn’t so much the attack as the complete disbelief that no one stepped in to help me.
There are many internet sites that will help people understand the symptoms of P.T.S.D. I am not attaching any as none were about me 100% and everyone processes things differently, but there may be a site there to help yourself or others you know who do need help.
When I was young my father didn’t believe on dwelling on the negative and you never felt anxiety, as that was only excitement. It was all energy and your choice how you viewed it and channeled it. I will be calling my dad after I post this blog! LOL.
The scar on my back is the remains of the claw marks and bites! At one point it looked like a huge dog’s paw print, really a great scar though. I say this with humour, because as a child growing up with stunt men we all used to compare our scars with one another and tell the stories about them. To some this will seem crazy, but to us they were our marks of survival.