I cut through the alley, my hands empty and my heart full. My girls had accompanied me earlier in the afternoon to deliver the bulk of the Christmas cookies to the neighbors, but they were gone with friends now, so I dropped off the last plate of the season alone. The task accomplished, I smiled.
Tree leaves lay in damp clumps in the yards I passed. One might think it was November 1 instead of December 21, but as I strode back home, I had enough holiday cheer to fuel my day, and the stubborn grey skies and lack of snow couldn’t dampen it.
I walked on. Only a span of two more back yards and our own gate would spring into view.
A rustling to my right. Guttural noises, then quick scuffling. I darted a look over my shoulder. Two dogs I had never seen before—one tan, the other dark brown—charged toward me, the chain link fence the only thing separating us. This variety of canine surveillance always ratcheted my heart rate up a notch. At least the fence was there—
But the animals crashed through it like it was invisible, trampling the chain link like tin foil. Now loose and snarling, they hurtled toward me.
Oh no! Help me, God! Help me!
I broke eye contact with my pursuers, hurrying toward home.
But the tan beast jumped at me and chomped onto my thigh. Panic shot through my veins. How would this end? Hadn’t mail carriers been shredded to bits this way?
“No!” I hollered, but Biter stayed clamped on.
In that moment, two things tore through my mind: 1. no good deed goes unpunished, and 2. while I believed it was wrong to kick an animal, if this one ripped a hunk of flesh from my leg and kept going, I might change my thinking.
I shouted again, and this time Biter startled. He and his spectator friend barreled back onto their property, and I jogged home, my heart hammering.
And it hammered for longer than I ever thought it would.
I yanked off my pants and assessed the damage. The dog’s teeth had pierced holes in my jeans, but hadn’t torn them. The area of the bite was already puffy and red, but the skin was intact. No threat of rabies. With that welt, though, I wouldn’t be exposing my bare legs anytime soon, but in December, that was probably okay anyway.
In the following days, I watched the injury turn into an ugly three-by-six-inch piece of art, my body working dazzling reds into deep purples, smoky browns into sunny yellows.
Husband returned from a work trip on day three of my leg’s developing “masterpiece.” Impressed, he clicked a photo and strolled over to Biter’s human to show the man what his little artist had made.
When Husband returned home from his visit to the neighbor, he relayed the story. “The guy offered to pay for any medical expenses, but I told him none were needed. I said I didn’t want to get him or the dog in trouble, but what if a little kid had been in the alley? I guess he’s been meaning to install a privacy fence, so the dog can’t see people going by, but he’s putting the house on the market soon anyway.”
I narrowed my eyes and thought of future trips to the garbage and recycling bins in the alley. My heartbeat picked up its pace.
If most stories have lessons, there’s probably one here somewhere. Like maybe I need a bodyguard from this day forward. Or maybe I should avoid the alley on foot—at least as long as that dog lives across the way. Or maybe the lesson is something better, like if the world wants to take a bite out of us in 2019, let’s still deliver the cookies.
Yeah, let’s go with that one.
*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date
*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.