Fiction and reality collided last week.
Avalon is a former Indio street dog. The people who found her cleaned her up and spent three weeks unsuccessfully searching for her owners. When I adopted her, Avalon had a tremendous fear of strangers, dogs, and streets without crossroads that offered no escape. Clearly, being attacked was her greatest fear. Daily walks were tortuous, but after a year, my dog Gracie and I were able to coax Avalon on walks up to two miles from home.
|Avalon in happier times.
What does Avalon have in common with Sophia, the gutsy, betrayed, kidnapped teen protagonist in Spell For Sophia? Four days ago, I would have said nothing. But then a near tragedy struck.
The sun lingered on the top of the mountains like a Christmas tree star. The desert had cooled to a comfortable seventy-nine degrees, and for once, no wind blew sand and toxins. Coyotes had been menacing the neighborhood for months, driven down from the mountains a year ago after a wildfire. I searched our cross street and seeing no coyotes, headed east. Miss Gracie, a tiny Chihuahua/Papillon/Poodle mix that resembles Yoda or a gray mop depending on the length of her hair, trotted to keep up with Avalon, a Havenese mix, and me.
We soon entered a nearby neighborhood of decent homes, so close to the airport; jet fuel often lingered in the air. We passed the house with the mesh fence where a medium-sized dog barked at us, as it does every time we pass. We turned the corner and continued our loop. We had almost ambled to the end of the block when the mesh fence dog burst from behind a parked SUV, crossed the street and stopped a couple of feet from us. One look and I knew the dog had hunted us down and planned to attack.
|Gracie post-surgery, her wounds covered by a tee shirt.
You know those police dramas where they send a cadet through an obstacle course and she faces pop-up people and has seconds to decide whether or not to shoot? That’s how it felt, when a young girl ran up crying and screaming, “Help me! That’s my dog! Catch him!”
I had maintained eye contact with the beast until the crying child popped up. The second I broke eye contact with the canine, it lunged. My dogs circled behind me tethered and vulnerable. I had once served on a jury in a pit bull attack case. My take-away had been: if an animal attacks your dogs, release your dogs if it is safe (i.e. don’t do it if your dog is in danger of running into a busy street). I frantically disentangled my hands from the leashes and poop bag. The attack dog clamped down on Gracie’s shoulder, rendering her powerless to fight back or escape. Gracie screamed and yelped. Avalon, as soon as I released her leash, bolted for safety.
Gracie needed emergency surgery. The bite went to the bone and tore several muscles and tissue. Her pain and injuries are serious and obvious. Avalon appeared unscathed. But like Gracie, she stopped eating. That’s when I realized Avalon had witnessed her worst fear. The tagline for Spell For Sophia Sometimes the worst scars are the ones you cannot see, floated into my thoughts.
© 2014 by Ariella Moon