Buster had it coming, I suppose. After the way he chased the five-year-old through the neighborhood last week, he needed to be taken down a peg or two. Rest assured, my dog is a gentle twelve-pound Shi Tsu who doesn’t bite, but when the child started running and screaming, Buster couldn’t resist chasing. He’s an adorably silly-looking thing who seldom gets taken seriously, and he went a little mad with power.
This evening, it was Buster’s turn to be chased. Rather irresponsibly of me, I let my daughter and little Sophie from across the street take him for a short walk on his leash. Sophie is a nice child who loves animals, and after I went back inside, she decided it would be fun to introduce Buster to another one of her friends, a largish dog named Della who lives nearby. A few minutes later my husband pointed out that it might be unwise to leave our dog with such young children, so I headed outside to check on them. Across the street, I saw Sophie hustling my dog away from Della, who was bristling and growling at the very edge of her yard.
“Della!” Her owner walked quickly toward her. “Della, stay!” Della did not stay. Della burst through her invisible fence and zoomed toward my dog, who was frozen in fear. I pelted across the street. Everything happened too quickly. Sophie hurled herself on top of Buster like she was in the Secret Service and he was the Commander in Chief. Della lunged toward them, fangs bared. A horrible image flashed into my mind, of Sophie getting her throat ripped out while protecting my dog. Somehow, I got there first. I pulled the child off my dog and, I believe, physically threw her out of her own yard.
“Run! Get outta here!” I hollered. She ran across the street and sat on the curb next to my white-faced daughter. Buster rolled onto his back in terrified submission, Della lurched in and went for his stomach. Her owner called her off in tones of authority, and the dog hesitated oh-so-slightly. I took the opportunity to seize Buster’s leash and drag him to safety. Della lunged again, and I pulled Buster into the air by his leash, where he dangled, legs churning, like a living piñata. Della must’ve thought he was full of candy because she jumped up and snapped at him. I aimed a kick, but missed. I was about to set Buster atop a wall and kick that dog in earnest when her owner seized her and began dragging her back to her house. She was shouting about how sorry she was and I said something to the effect of “it’s okay, dogs will be dogs” as I ran across the street, wondering if the sticky wetness beneath Buster was blood and if his entrails would spill out when I turned him over.
I asked Sophie if she was all right, and she said she was. She was upset that I hadn’t let her shield Buster. Della was her friend, she told me. Della would never hurt her. My daughter gave me a start, stretched out on the grass in a very good imitation of a faint, but she was also fine. Melodramatic, with no sense of the severity of the situation, but fine. I rushed Buster inside, incoherently explained to my husband what happened, and handed the dog over. I couldn’t bear to view the damage. He carefully looked him over. Buster had been bitten two or three times, but the skin remained unbroken. Obviously, Della hadn’t tried to kill or maim him. The wetness was from him peeing his poor little pants.
Della’s owner knocked on our door, looking apprehensive. She asked after Buster, apologized profusely and offered to pay the vet bill. Her dog was very overprotective of her, she explained shakily. We told her that we didn’t blame her or Della, and to come in and see for herself that Buster was okay. She came in and apologized to Buster. He looked up at her and barked out exactly what he thought of her dog. I am quite sure he cursed. He went on for several minutes, and she did not interrupt.
She retreated, leaving a trail of apologies in her wake, and soon Sophie came by to check on Buster. Once his safety was settled, she indignantly asked, “Did you throw me?”
“Yes, I think so,” I replied. “I’m so sorry about that. I hope I didn’t hurt you; I just didn’t want the dog to bite you.”
“I’m okay. Why did you tell me to get out of there?” Her blue eyes were very reproachful. She realized the impropriety of my kicking her off her own property.
“Because I didn’t want you to see Buster get torn to shreds, and I didn’t want to risk you getting hurt trying to separate them.”
“Oh. That’s okay, then. But I could have protected him. Della would never have hurt me.”
That was my cue to launch into a long lecture about why she should never get between two fighting dogs. After I (hopefully) impressed that upon the child, I walked over to her house and apologized to her mother for my carelessness and for tossing her daughter. She was quite understanding and declared she would give her daughter another lecture about putting her own safety ahead of an animal’s. (Poor Sophie: such is your reward for acting upon noble instincts). Now Buster is curled up next to me on the couch, jumping up every so often to stare at the door, as though he’s expecting a big dog to burst through. I pat him reassuringly. He looks up at me with adoration. “You are my hero,” his eyes say. “You saved my life.” He’s forgiven me for swinging him around by the neck. I hated to do that, but it seemed the only option at the time. He is rather stiff and sore, and still shaken up, poor dear. My husband invited him to sleep in bed with us (an unheard of treat), but Buster declined. We’ll leave the door open, just in case.