When a Dog Turns

“Jo?” I heard him call my name but I couldn’t make myself respond. “Jo, are you out here?” I knew I should say something, knew he was worrying because he couldn’t find me. The words formed in my mind, but somehow I forgot what to do after that. Then I looked to my left, and I could see him. The body that was the reason I was in this mess. The hay was poking my legs, leaving scratches all over, but I didn’t care. I looked back over to my right, and saw the horses standing, wary, not sure what to do. They weren’t relaxed. I noticed that right away - that something was wrong with them. Their posture tense, their ears sharply held at attention, eyes wide, nostrils flared. But Evan, he didn’t know horses. So he didn’t know any of those things. “Where the hell is she?” I heard him say to himself. “She’s not here with the horses…” It was then I realized that it was ok if I couldn’t remember how to speak. All I had to do was stand, and he’d see me, and then he’d know what to do. So I stood, slowly, then walked around to the front of the bale. Relief washed over his face. “Oh! There you are. You scared me! I thought maybe you were riding and came off, got hurt bad or something. What a relief!” He strode over to me, pulled me into his arms once he reached me. I didn’t hug him back. I couldn’t. My arms hung at my sides, straight and stiff. He pulled back to look at me. “Jo, what’s wrong?” A single tear, the biggest, fattest tear I’d ever shed, pushed itself out over the rim of my eye and made it’s way slowly down my cheek. I forced my left arm to raise enough that I could point in the direction where my nightmare lay, then turned my head slightly. Evan turned, looked, squinted. He didn’t see it, at first. “What is it? What’s over there?” Then, slowly, awareness dawned. His eyes grew big, then he turned back to face me, then looked past me, saw the gun laying in the hay beside the bale, close to where I’d been sitting. “God, Jo, what happened?!” He abruptly dropped my arms and went over to where the body lay, silent, still, dead. I watched as if I were in a silent movie, and not in my own life, as he bent down, touching, hoping to find a sign of life. There was none. He stood slowly, then made his way back over to me. “What happened?” He asked softly. I turned my face up to look at him and in that moment, something broke loose. Suddenly everything I was trying to hold in came bursting out. “Oh, God!” I wailed. “He… he… he was chasing the horses. I came out and he had them all soaked with sweat. They were panicking. He had them going back and forth. He wouldn’t come when I called him. I couldn’t get him to stop. I tried to go in there, but the horses were so panicked, it was like they couldn’t even see me. I tried throwing rocks, a pail - anything I could find - but even when I hit him, it all just bounced off like nothing had happened. I was screaming non-stop but he just wouldn’t listen. I ran to get the gun - I thought maybe a shot in the air would scare him enough to make him stop - but when I came back out, he had Millie cornered. He lunged at her nose, bit her. Then kept lunging for her throat. She has bites all over her chest and legs. He was so vicious, and he just wouldn’t stop! I shot into the air, but he didn’t even pause. I didn’t know what else to do.” Evan pulled me in closer, as if holding me tight enough would hold me together. He cleared his throat, and I waited for him to tell me something that would help make this ok. “I don’t know what to say.” He said instead. “I’m so sorry this happened. I wish I’d been home, then at least you wouldn’t have had to…” his voice trailed off. I nodded into his chest, then cried some more. “He was my best friend,” I whispered hoarsely. “But he would have killed that mare, and I… I just don’t know why he did that. He’s never been mean to the horses before. He never even barked at them!” Evan squeezed me again, and we both fell silent, the tears streaking down my face. Finally I pulled back, swiped angrily at the tears, and told Evan “I need to go treat Millie’s wounds, see how bad they are.” Evan nodded as he let his arms fall to his sides. “I’ll wrap the body and load it in the truck. I think we should get it tested.” I looked up at him, confused, my mind unable to make sense of what he was suggesting. “Tested for what?” “Rabies, or anything else that would have made him snap. This wasn’t something Dodger would do. We both know that. Maybe there was a reason and we just have to find it.” My mouth fell open a little. “I didn’t even think of that.” We looked into each other’s eyes a few more seconds before I turned and sprinted to my tack shed where I kept all my vet supplies. When I got there I threw open the door, and grabbed an empty bucket. Moving as fast as my shaking hands would allow, I started filling it with everything I thought I’d need. Betadine, guaze, vet-wrap, tape, scissors, Rescue Remedy. I didn’t have any tranq on hand or I would have grabbed that, too. Turning to leave, I grabbed Mille’s leather halter off the hook by the door and ran back over to where she stood, trembling, clearly in shock. “Come ‘ere, girl,” I said softly, soothingly. She shook her head, blew air out her nostrials, and a flap of skin on her nose shook back at her. “That’s going to need stitches,” I murmured. Calling as quietly as I could, I told Evan “We’re going to need to take her in. She needs stitches.” “I’ll go hook up the trailer.” He’d already wrapped Dodger in a small blue tarp. He picked him up, carefully looking away from the devastating bundle in his arms. “I’ll put him in the back of the truck.” He walked away, his shoulders slumped under the weight of this new reality.

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