By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES —I dedicated most of a recent Saturday to something I’d never done before: a Star Wars marathon in official order of episodes I through VI.
So maybe I had some lingering Darth Vader-Evil Empire vibes to walk off when I headed out for my usual Sunday hike. I don’t know how else to account for my first dog bite.
I love dogs and they love me. Just about every dog I’ve ever met seems to sense that I am a person who was pretty much born with a cookie bone in my outstretched hand, who grew up thinking of dogs as my brothers ... and later, as my children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, all an integral part of my tribe.
I’ve made friends with strange dogs in strange lands all over the planet. I’ve befriended feral dogs in Jamaica trained to attack intruders on site ... at night, in a jungle, no less. In Germany, I rushed in where angels fear to tread, with members of a host family that included a quaking survivor of a brutal dog attack that so traumatized him that even humans could smell his fear at the sight of a tiny terrier. I made it my mission to show his kids that dogs could be your friends.
And all went well, for more than half a century.
It was a bright spring Sunday, as I prepared to cross the street and saw a couple walking their two dogs. One was a friendly-looking blue heeler who strained at her leash and came toward me, I thought, to greet me. I stopped, stood still, and held out my hand for her to sniff. She decided to bite me instead.
The desperado dog’s vet confirmed that the dog has had all her shots.
The Blue Cross hotline nurse said I should be able to get by with antibiotic ointments and bandages, if all goes well from here. As we traversed her diagnostic Web site together, we learned that if it had been a cat, monkey or alligator bite, I could have been in real trouble. I haven’t encountered any alligator victims since my days in Florida, but I’ve known cat bite victims who dealt with arms swelling to double size and even a lengthy hospitalization.
I’m crabby from a week without swimming to wait for the wound to heal. But otherwise, the major injury could be to my confidence in what has been dubbed “the family St. Francis of Assisi genes,” by my son, whose friendly animal magnetism vibes are so compelling that hummingbirds have been known to light and linger on his chest.
What motivated the chomp? The dog’s “mom,” who was very upset by the incident, said her dog had never bitten anyone before.
I was wearing a black hat, sunglasses and camouflage pants that day. Could I have conjured memories of someone who was once mean to the dog?
I did a little research and learned from Dogster.com that “Australian George Elliott developed the blue heeler in 1840, mixing native Dingoes with Collies and other herding dogs.”
Did I somehow trigger that doggy’s inner Dingo? Or maybe she was trying to include me in a herd?
As people spotted my black-and-blue-forearm and word got around, I heard some interesting stories from other dog lovers.
“My experience with that breed is that they can be aggressive and will bite,” said Michael Lambright, who told a tale of a 40-pound blue heeler who attacked Michael’s then-150 pound English Mastiff ... and the heeler then bit his own owner who tried to break up the fight.
You never know. Michael said he was once nailed by his beloved Brutus, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, in what he called a “jealousy-pack demotion” issue involving a new human member of the pack in his household.
“It's the only time in my life that I’ve been bitten by a dog with bad intentions. Puppy nips don’t count,” Michael noted.
I know how he feels. And I am determined not to let one incident daunt my lifelong habit of meeting and greeting man’s best friends.
I got a warm reception from the next dog I met, a darling pup on the patio at Milagro, and plan to continue my policy of offering cookie bones to new and old doggy amigos at the Saturday Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market and whenever else I get the chance.
In an ideal world, I could even dream of a peaceful, companionable walk through our ‘hood with that little blue heeler. I would like to be able to someday say that I patted the hair of the dog who bit me.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org