I imagine when I say what I’m going to say it will strike a chord in parents immediately:
Have you ever been afraid–not for yourself, but for your child, in a very sudden way, where one minute you’re calm, but everything changes, and the adrenaline’s pumping, and your child is making noises that make you afraid for how okay they are, and you’re running, you’re running, throwing on shoes, grabbing a bazooka, and heading out the door to face whatever unknown is out there?
I’ve always been afraid for that moment, for when my child one day slams their finger in a door, or falls off their bike, or out of a tree, or down the stairs. I’ve been afraid of the crying, the screaming, the pain they are in and how I, their parent, would be able to properly handle the situation when I may not know what to do. And fortunately, as a 24 year-old, unmarried individual, I still have a while before I feel that for my child, but that moment will come one day.
And in a way, it already has.
So if you’ve been following this section of “Puppyhood” posts, you will know that I have a Blue Heeler puppy. He’s right at about eight and a half months old and is firmly planted in what I think can be best described as an angsty, adolescent stage. He’s sweet, very much so: he cuddles, he wants to be hugged, he wants to be close and he loves to play. He listens (more so before than now. That selective hearing is starting to kick in) and has always been so whip smart at picking up new things. But on the other side of that coin–he is adopting his genetic instincts: the nipping, the herding, the barking, the digging, and sometimes it is all we can do to not just strangle the little turd. It’s tough, more so than I thought raising a puppy ever would be, but through the bad and the frustrating, he shows those glimpses of him as an adult dog, where all the hard work pays off and he is the dog we always knew he would be.
That makes it worth it.
In that way, and because of him, he is very much like my child. I’ve never known any other sort of fatherhood and being a father to him is something I’ve firmly latched onto. When he’s in pain, so am I. When he misses me, I miss him, and maybe that’s normal, or maybe it’s not, but it’s my first foray into something like this–it’s very new to me.
So flashback to last night, and naturally, you would understand where I’m coming from with this. It’s 11:30 at night, it’s raining, it’s soaking wet, and Abbie and I are finishing up an episode of Breaking Bad before I head home. Flynn’s been asleep for a couple of hours (he tends to nap very little during the day but pass out hard at night), cuddling up right against one of us, but then wakes up and has to go to the bathroom. So I let him out–he has a fenced in yard and most of the time he just goes out and comes right back to the door, but this time, I look out and call him and all I hear is him barking nonstop. Her parents’ Great Dane is standing in the middle of the yard (Abbie lives next door and the yard is connected) looking around the corner of the house toward Flynn who will not stop barking.
The fact that the other dog was flipping out too told me it wasn’t a person or a dog, but I wasn’t sure what was going on and why Flynn was barking so much. So I put on some shoes, pull up my hood, and trudge out into the dark. As I’m reaching the edge of the house, his barking gets higher pitched and right as I round the corner, he yelps.
In that moment, time stopped for a moment. All I could picture was something horrible having happened, that I would come around the corner to find him lying in a heap in the grass, to find that it had in fact been a dog and he was being torn to shreds.
And then I see him. It’s dark so I can’t see him too well, but he is whipping his head around and then he slings something in my direction that lands with a thud beside me.
A massive, portly, John Goodman-sized corpse of a rat.
He proceeds to then take it and throw it, pick it up by its lower end and slam it into the ground, over and over, all the while circling it and barking as loud as he can, right in its face.
Come to discover, it had bit him on the lip, and the events that had transpired probably went in something like this: He went out, saw it, inspected, tried to play with it the way he usually does (he tried to play with a mole he dug up about a week ago that he nearly killed) and when it bit him on the lip, he immediately murdered it, and doled out vengeance in the form of overkill.
In retrospect, it’s funny. His breed were meant originally for farm life and pests and vermin control are kind of a part of their natural job description. But for that moment, when I wasn’t sure what it was, what was happening, if Flynn would be okay when I finally set eyes on him, I was a father, with a child who seemed to be in pain and I wasn’t getting there fast enough.
Side note: he is okay. He’s up to date on his shots and we’ve monitored it, spoken to the emergency vet, and he seems to be a-okay–just now with a little red scar on his lip.