Thanks a lot, Hobbes
by Beth Roberts

While working at the dog kennel, there were at least two monumentally stupid things I did, for which I suffered greatly.

The first gave me some interesting scars, and the second lost me my friends.

After I left my ex-husband, I dallied around a bit before returning home to my mother. I was lonely and felt her bristle at my presence, since she made it clear that she wanted me to get a job and find a place to live, and quick. I was still depressed and reeling and in no real position to do so, at least not yet.

So I gladly accepted the offer of a couple of friends of mine to hang out with them at their house, on the site of the dog kennel they ran, which my mother had been patronizing for years. Over time, I went from spending some time with them, to sleeping over on their couch, to basically living there and working for them at the kennel.

It was hard work - shoveling dog shit in the burning sun, washing out water buckets and refilling them, moving dogs here and there, feeding them, and the never-ending and never-succeeding efforts to keep things from falling apart, never mind passably clean.

One day, my mom dropped me off at the kennel while my friends were out running an errand. As we drove into the parking area, we saw that a little beagle had shoved its head through a gap in one of the wooden fences. He looked like he'd either hurt himself or escape eventually, so I told my mom I'd take care of it as soon as I got in, and she left.

I went to where the beagle (named Hobbes) was, and I saw that he had dug under the fence from his original enclosure to the one he was currently in (and trying his damnedest to escape from). Because the place was very "low-budget", the dog runs were of all kinds of shapes, sizes, and styles, and had been set up in a way such that quite a few of them were only reachable by going through other dog runs. They saved a lot of fencing this way, I suppose.

So, to get to where Hobbes was, I had to go through another dog run with two dogs in it. This was no big deal - they were a black German shepherd and a golden retriever, and they were a bit boisterous but nice. They'd try to jump up on me a bit whenever I came into their run to change their water or clean up after them, but it wasn't really a problem.

I went through their run, into another empty one, and finally to where Hobbes was. I admonished him for the trouble he was causing, and just on principle since he was a noisy obnoxious beagle (is there any other kind?). I picked him up, and held him under my arm as I made my way back out so I could find another run to put him in.

Nothing could prepare me for what happened next.

As soon as I opened the gate to where the other two dogs were, they jumped up and started chomping on Hobbes as he was in my arms. I freaked out - I totally panicked, I had no idea what to do. Too much was happening at once, and the next minute or so is still a blur in my memory.

I tried to hold on to Hobbes, but it wasn't working - the other dogs were too strong. At one point I remember repeatedly screaming "NOOO!!!!" as loud as I could, and trying to pry one dog's jaws off of Hobbes, then the other. Pandemonium ensued.

At one point, Hobbes was on the ground and scurried behind the dog house, snarling and biting back at the other two dogs if they got too close. I managed to take each of them by the collar, individually, and put them in separate runs. Then I grabbed Hobbes to get him into an adjacent empty run, and he was still so freaked out that he was biting at me too, though it wasn't nearly as bad as the bigger dogs had been.

The sound of barking was just insane - the other several dozens of dogs would get excited whenever anything interesting happened (such as a person walking by), and the fight between the three dogs and me put them into a veritable frenzy.

Finally, when I had the situation under control, I was able to pause and look at my hands. They were bloody, with punctures everywhere, and a big nasty gash in the side of my right hand, a couple inches long and deep enough that you could see blobs of yellowish fatty tissue at the edges. The sight of parts of my body that were never supposed to see the light of day, combined with the adrenaline rush from the dog fight, not to mention the pain, caused me to go into hysterics. I held my hand above my head to try to minimize the bleeding, and headed inside to call my mother.

I couldn't get her on her cell phone, but I got my brother, and the two of us kept trying to contact mom. We finally got through, she came back and got me, and we headed to the emergency room at the military hospital. You see, my divorce wasn't final yet, so the medical coverage I had from my husband (who was in the Army) was still in effect.

The emergency room didn't seem busy, but it still took a while for them to see me. I remember the disgusting smell of dog spit that hovered over both my hands, and that I wished I could just wash it off. Finally, they took a look at my hands and started cleaning out the biggest wound by squirting saline into it. It hurt quite a bit, but it was bearable and I knew it had to be done.

I expected to get stitches, but the doctor surprised me by telling me that they weren't appropriate for my injury. He said that because it was a dog bite, there was already a huge amount of nasty bacteria in there. If they stitched it up, it wouldn't be able to drain as my body cleansed it from the inside. It would fester and get septic.

Instead, I would just have to give my hand soaks in diluted hydrogen peroxide, and keep it clean and gently covered with gauze, until it slowly knitted itself back together and scarred. I hadn't realized that tissue would just do that - I thought it would just hang open forever unless you stitched it. The doctor was right - it healed well, without any complications, and the scar is strong and smaller than I had thought it would be. The wound was at least two inches long, but the scar is only about an inch, and it's not even very bumpy. I don't even think about it much - it's just not that noticeable. Pretty amazing when you consider that it was dog-saliva covered teeth designed for tearing flesh that caused the wound.

What's funny is that I can't remember when specifically that particular bite occurred. I don't know which dog did it - though I am sure it wasn't Hobbes. In addition to the big gash, I had many other punctures on my hands, all of which were paired. You see, for every wound, there was a top tooth and a bottom tooth that combined to force their way through my skin on opposing sides.

The worst puncture was on the palm of my right hand, and must have been from one of the long canine fangs that are so prominent on a dog's jaw. I swear, that one hurt more overall than the big gaping wound on the side of my hand - I suspect because it must have gone so deeply, and the muscles in that part of the hand are used more than those at the side. It scarred as a tiny white line. The top of my hand bore a corresponding bruise on the bone that took months to fully go away.

The only other punctures I can remember specifically are at the base of my left pinky. I think these were from Hobbes, since there were several tiny ones all in a line, on the top and bottom of the pinky. They weren't that bad, but I did have subtle nerve damage in my pinky for months and months, a slight tingly partial numbness that I noticed most when I was washing my hands. Finally, it managed to repair itself, though it took the better part of a year.

In hindsight, I wish I had handled the whole thing differently, of course. I would have kicked with my feet, not pried with my hands, if I had to intervene at all. And I probably should have just let go of Hobbes and gotten the hell out of there as fast as I could. The irony of the fact that he was able to keep his attackers at bay by himself (when he hid behind the dog house) is not lost on me. I won't make that mistake again.

Neither will I make the mistake of working for people who were clearly such cretinous bastards, nor will I consider such people my friends. I knew they were the kind of people who felt that anything they could get away with was moral, but I didn't get out of the situation before I got burned pretty badly.

After I had mostly healed from the dog bite incident, I was nice enough to take care of the whole kennel operation while they went on a vacation (that they couldn't afford) to Las Vegas. They didn't leave enough dog food, so I had to buy more with my own money or else the dogs would go hungry. After they got back, they acted as though they'd thought I did a good job.

Until I made the mistake of asking to be paid.

Then, suddenly, they determined that everything I had done was wrong - the kennel was filthy, I hadn't made the bank deposits early enough (so their checks bounced), I had fed the dogs too much food, and on and on, a whole litany of complaints. They even accused me of breaking into their house when they were gone and leaving a videotape on the floor (?! I knew that they had numerous guns, and that one of them was an ex-DEA agent - I was terrified of them, I wouldn't go *near* the place).

Eventually they agreed to give me a pittance, and I have never contacted them or gone near them since.

And so, after being bitten by dogs, I got bitten by my so-called "friends". Only the scars from the dogs are visible, though.

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