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Making amends to a pit bull

by TRACEY BARNES PRIESTLEY

HAVE YOU HEARD THE ONE ABOUT the wounded dog, the singing good Samaritan, and the dedicated veterinarian? It's pretty good, especially considering it's entirely true.

On a recent winter night, a woman named Jen was driving home to Fieldbrook. Traveling up the Murray Road hill, she carefully maneuvered the first corner. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, a dog ran directly in front of her car. Hitting it was entirely unavoidable. Jen's reaction was immediate and intense: "I've never, ever, ever hit an animal before. I totally freaked out." But she had the presence of mind to slam on her brakes and throw the car into reverse so she could "check out the pooch."

Putting on her car's emergency flashers, Jen stepped out into the black night. "The dog was yelping to beat the band. It kind of hobbled over to the driver's door. It kept yelping and I just kept telling it, in a little happy puppy voice, how sorry I was." But once the dog was in the light of the car, Jen had yet another shock. "Well, I'll be dipped," she thought, "it's a pit bull." And in a flash, that dog with a bad reputation sprang into her car and settled down in the passenger seat.

Jen collected herself. From a safe distance, and still speaking in soft puppy tones, she tried to see just how wounded it was. Fortunately, there were no obvious injuries, except perhaps to the dog's mood. "It did growl with quite an attitude." Letting it rest a while seemed like the best option, so she closed the door. Too late. Jen had just locked a growling, wounded pit bull and her keys in her car.

The low rumble of the engine was a lonesome sound. What to do, what to do? Periodically, a car would drive by, although no one would stop for the frantic figure waving them down. Finally, a woman pulled over. From the safety of a locked car with closed windows, the driver strained to hear Jen's story, eventually offering her cell phone through a window. Jen called for help.

Fifteen minutes later, Tony, Jen's boyfriend, arrived with her spare keys, which pleased Jen immensely, since she had known "exactly where they were, amazingly enough." By this time, the dog had made itself a "cozy little bed on the floor of the passengers side." Jen was able to slowly open the driver's door and slide into the seat. With Tony in the backseat, she took off for the vet's office in McKinleyville.

All the while she was "keeping an eye on the little guy while it occasionally growled." But Jen quickly discovered the unexpected. "I found out that when I sang, it wouldn't growl. So I sang the `Little Brown Dog' song, and `Old McDonald' and every song I could think of that had puppy, dog, good dog, nice puppy, etc. in it." Now, it's a fact that many people have enjoyed Jen's singing for years, but who could have known the profound effect her splendid, rich voice would have on one ticked off pit bull?

Naturally, the vet's office was closed when they arrived but an emergency number was posted on the door. After walking to the nearest pay phone -- "of course, the line was busy for the longest time" -- Jen was finally able to speak to someone about her dilemma. "They told me that since I was out of city limits, it was a county problem and unless I was willing to take full financial responsibility for it, I had to call the sheriff for advice. I assured them that I would indeed take full responsibility for it. Besides, I wanted the pit bull out of the floor of my passenger seat as I was running out of songs to sing."

Next stop, the emergency veterinarian's office in Eureka. "Tony sat in the backseat with a big pillow, in case Mr. Bull decided to attack. I kept singing. Those little brown pit bullish eyes would look up at me. But every time Tony would put his hand on my shoulder to reassure me, the `Pits' would growl! I would sing even louder and Tony would slump into the safety of the back seat."

Finally arriving at the office, the on-call vet made impressive attempts to get the dog out of the car, ranging from gently calling "here doggy, doggy, doggy," to placing dog biscuits on the seat, to using stern "come mutt" commands. After all humane efforts failed, "it was down to the long stick with the noose at the end. Dragged that hound right out of the car, biting and snarling the whole way."

Ultimately, the dog checked out fine and the search is on for its owner.

Lessons learned? "Never, ever lock my keys in the car, with the engine running, and a growling pit bull on the floor of the passenger seat. And always appreciate those on-call vets who must love their jobs, especially when frantic women with growling pit bulls on the floor of passenger seats show up in emergency situations."

What I am reminded of from this story is that there are kind people out there who, in spite of dark nights, growling pit bulls, and a full comedy of errors, are determined to do the right and proper thing.


COVER STORY  |  IN THE GARDEN  |  CALENDAR

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