Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bullies for You

Some people are born animal-lovers. I’m one of those people. I have early memories of knocking at our next door neighbors’ house in St. Louis Park, and waiting for that door to open - just enough for an out-stretched arm to hand me a thick leather leash. After looping the end around my wrist, the door flung wide and Judy, the exuberant Boxer wiggled and leaped into my custody. It was our time! Not so much of a “walk” as it was a “drag”, we’d travel up and down the block, until eventually it was time to go back - Judy’s energy level down .0015 % and me with skunned knees and dislocated arms, both of us grinning like fools as I reluctantly passed the leash back to the kind, grandmotherly next-door woman who said knowingly, “See you tomorrow.”

Throughout the dog-less years of my childhood I cultivated friendships with other people’s pets, grateful to anyone who would give me a few minutes of their dog’s time. Besides Judy the Boxer, there was Polly the Beagle, Pierre the Pomeranian, Jack the Collie, and Bismarck the black and tan Dachshund. I visited them all regularly. But there was one dog in the St. Louis Park neighborhood that I never approached: Karl the German Shepherd. Karl was mean. Chained out by the garage occasionally, I made sure to cross the street whenever Karl was outside. He growled angrily at any passerby, displaying his sharp the-better-to-bite-you-with teeth. Karl hopped on three legs, his right hind leg useless. His disability made him seem even more formidable, somehow. I was scared of Karl and carefully kept my distance.

One summer day there appeared some new kids on the block. They were the visiting cousins of some neighbor kid. I’d begun hanging out with them when they noticed Karl. They began to tease Karl. They yelled at him, called him names, and harassed him by running towards him, then retreating. Karl was terribly upset. He hopped back and forth, and pursued them until the end of the chain jerked him backwards. The three boys giggled hysterically at their prank. Again and again I watched them, trying to stop them, not knowing how to stop them. Things escalated. The boys began picking up rocks to hurl at the chained three-legged dog. They pelted him. Karl yelped as a big rock hit him in the head. I was horrified. Karl’s pain excited the boys. As they were grabbing more rocks to throw at the dog, Hannabelle appeared for the first time. Hannabelle stepped between the boys and the abused dog, putting her life on the line to protect Karl, knowing that she was about to be beaten up by the eleven year old and two eight year old boys who started aiming their rocks at her. There was no contest. I was just a little girl - only four years old. I accepted my fate and prepared to die.

As I foolishly took my stand against the older and larger bullies, suddenly they turned tail and ran away. It wasn’t me. Being cowards, they fled when Karl’s owner came charging out of the house meaning some business. I was so scared that I started to run too. But he called me back. He’d watched me trying to defend Karl against the big boys. He was a nice man. He explained that Karl had been crippled after being hit by a car and was terrified of strangers. Karl wasn’t mean at all. I was delighted when he introduced me to Karl and instead of biting me, Karl wagged his tail and gently licked my hand. It seemed that Karl knew I was different from the other kids. Karl and I became friends that day. Of course, I had to cross the street to avoid the visiting cousins whenever they were in town, but then I didn’t mind. They were cruel boys and I didn’t want to play with anybody like them. They were mean. Karl was a much better person than they would ever be.

And Hannabelle? She’s been defending three-legged underdogs and fighting rock-throwing bullies ever since. I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Monica C. Schreiber said...

What a nice story. If you believe that perpetually chaining a dog is a terrible form of abuse, albeit a form of abuse that is oddly tolerated in so many segments of our society, check out www.dogsdeservebetter.org and help us change minds and laws!

Hannabelle said...

Dear Monica,

Thanks for your comment.
Keep up your good work.:)