Happy Birthday To You
By: Robert Schierling
Most people assume they can count on those they are close to. Ask a 100 people if they have someone they trust, and undoubtedly a majority will say yes. But how does anyone know if another is truly worthy of that trust. Do you trust them with your life? If so, how can you really know for certain unless that bond is proven? My step Mom (Lottie) and I had that sort of bond. But just as rules are made to be broken, bonds are made to be tested.
Lottie became "Mom" when I was about 5 years old. Since then, I consider her to be my real Mother. She was extremely intelligent, both academically and street wise. She was also as beautiful as she was smart. Only the finest food, clothing and jewelry would suffice for her and rightly so.
It was the day of my little sisters 5th birthday. Tiffany was a feisty little girl. A large strawberry birthmark covered one side of her face and neck. Even at her young age, she was aware of the fact that she was a little different than others. She knew why people starred at her, and because of it, she had sort of charming brashness about her. This quality made her disfigurement almost un-noticeable once you got to know her though. Tiffany was at grandma's house and the whole family was supposed to meet at 3pm at Chuck-E-Cheese that day to celebrate her birthday. I love my little sister very much. The last thing I would want is to disappoint her by not showing up to her party.
At about 10am that morning, Mom started getting ready. She had asked that I give the new dog a bath. We always had dogs. All of them were attack trained and recently our neighbors had shot and killed one of our Dobermans. Back then we were living in Fallbrook California atop a big hill. We had 3 neighbors, 2 of them were Sherriff's and neither of them liked us or our dogs. The new dog had been brought home on a 2 week trial basis. He was a Boxer and he got along with our household just fine. He was even nice to the cat, but he smelled awful.
Mom helped me get started with cleaning him. Not that I didn't know how, but he was new and she wanted to see how he reacted. Without needing a leash, she told him to "stay" while we sprayed him with the hose. He never moved or acted inappropriately in any way. Mom said, "Looks like he's fine, you can take it from here. I'm gonna make some calls and get ready for your sisters party." As Mom walked to the house, I lathered him up with dog shampoo. I had him all soaped up and he was still being a perfect gentleman. As I started to rinse the soap off him, I remember thinking how well trained he was. He didn't seem to mind any part of the bathing process.
I had just done behind his ears, when he let out a small growl. I told him, "Easy boy, you're okay." He growled again and I stepped back. Before I could even think about trying to calm him down, he lunged at my throat, snapping his teeth at me and snarling; coming just inches from my face. I started running backwards to get away and yelled the command for him to stand down, "OUT!!!" That command fell on deaf ears as he jumped off the ground again. I swung my right arm as hard as I could, knocking him in the head, and he fell to the ground. No sooner than he had fallen, he was back on his feet, and he lunged at me again. He looked insane with rage, his jaws cracking together, and I punched at him again. This time I swung too early, and as my arm passed in front of him, he latched on and pulled fiercely as his body and mine went to the ground. He landed directly on top of me, my arm still in his clutches.
The pain was unbearable. I could feel his teeth grinding into the bones of my arm. All I had on at the time was a pair of swim trunks, and I had just cleaned the yard, so there was nothing nearby to hit him with. One of his claws punctured the skin of my inner thigh as he stood above me and continued to chew on my arm. I hit him a couple times with my left hand, but with no result. I tried to scream, but the pain was so intense that hardly a sound came out.
During all this, Mom was on the phone and decided to look out the living room window. It was a large, tinted and arch shaped window that overlooked the front of our property. While still on the phone, she glanced out. She saw the dog and I on the ground and assumed that we were playing. She hadn't noticed from her quick glance that I was being attacked. Her motherly instincts must have kicked in though, as a few seconds later she looked out the window a second time, to see that I was covered in blood. She threw the phone down and ran outside.
I was 12 years old at the time, and I had never been so happy to see another person. Upon witnessing my helpless condition, Mom quickly gave him the command to stop. Had I not still been being used as a chew toy, I could've told her that wasn't going to accomplish anything. After yelling "OUT" several times to no avail, she straddled the dog; placing the inside of each knee on either side of his mid-section. She squeezed with all her might in an attempt to compress the air out of him, hoping this would cause him to let go. Her efforts had no effect. She pulled his choke chain, trying to strangle him, but he may as well been wearing a kite string for a collar. All the while his grip grew stronger, and I thought for a moment that I might pass out. I could see in her eyes that she was running out of ideas and in a desperate effort, she put her 1st and middle fingers up his nose. She was still standing over him, and before she pulled up she said, "If he lets go enough, get your arm out and don't move." She yanked upward, and his grip loosened just enough for me to wiggle my arm free.
As soon as he let go, he stood next to her as if he had just done something for her to be proud of. She walked him very calmly to the steel storage shed in the yard, and locked him inside.
Immediately I noticed that I could no longer use my right hand. With the beast securely locked up, she yelled to me, "go get in the car, I've gotta get the keys and a towel for your arm." She had just walked inside and as I sat in the car I heard a loud thump. I heard it again and turned my attention toward the sound. It was that crazy ass dog. He was throwing his body against the inside of the steel shed doors, trying to bust his way out. "Oh god please hurry" I thought to myself. That thought had just enough time to process when simultaneously, Mom started to come out the front door and the shed doors burst open.
Without even looking around, he ran straight for my Mom. He was at a full run and Mom was starting to pull the front door shut; her back to him, unaware she was in danger. I struggled to open the car door from the inside passenger seat. I had to reach over with my left arm to open it; I still couldn't use my right. The car door opened and I looked up in time to see him latch on to her right arm and pull her into the house behind the large double doors. I dashed to my Mom, wondering if I would have the courage to face him again. I put fear aside and all I focused on was what to do when I got to her.
He couldn't have had her for more than 15 or 20 seconds. Immediately and without thinking, I reached out with my right arm, stuck my fingers up his nose and ripped up as hard as I could. I felt his nose rip open and she got loose. Still holding on, I held his body in place with mine against the one stationary door, and was frozen. "Come on, get the hell out of there" she said. But I was afraid that when I let him go, he would flip around and get me again. "Just let him go and jump out the door, I'll shut it behind you." I took a deep breath, rocked back and forth to work up some momentum, and went for it. I heard the door slam behind me and a wave of relief washed over me.
We got in the car and sat there for a moment to collect ourselves before we headed to the emergency room. We sat there in silence, and then we looked at each other. Without having to speak a single word, I could see that we were both thinking the same thing, "this person just saved my life." The bond between my Mother and I had most certainly been tested. If there were ever any doubt concerning trust before, it was gone now for sure. We had each other's back.
Mom and I must have been quite a site, covered head to toe in each other's blood; we made our way into the E.R. We had been there for a couple hours being treated before we got sewn up. I noticed that it was after 2 o'clock when the doctor finally came in to see us. "You gotta get us stitched up quick Doc, we need to be at Chuck-E-Cheese by 3, it's my sister's birthday." Laughing he replied, "You're not going to Chuck-E-Cheese today son." The first thing I thought of upon hearing those words was Tiffany. I could see her standing there with her little birthday hat on and the smell of pizza in the air. Even with the distraction of lights and loud buzzing/bell noises, she was already wondering where we were. All she asked for that year, was to have her party at Chuck-E-Cheese, and it was about to be ruined for her.
Later that night, Animal Control got the dog out of the house and put him down. An autopsy found large amounts of gun powder in his system. Most likely put there by the Sherriff's that had shot our Doberman. Before we could file any charges against our neighbor's, the autopsy report mysteriously disappeared.
As bad as the events of that day were, there's a part of me that is thankful it happened. My Mother and I had a connection because of that dog that never would have come to pass. I can't describe with simple words what it feels like to know that someone would put themselves in harm's way for you. To this day, every time I have to sing the happy birthday song, I'm reminded of that day.