Rufus See Well

Last week (?) (seriously, I can’t keep track of days anymore), the police officer who handled the report for Rufus’ dog-attack case stopped by. Because of that letter I got from the Akita’s owners stating that Rufus had walked into their yard, I wanted to check with the officer that the report hadn’t been changed from the once I’d received. He supported the initial report and said that nothing had been changed; the Akita (King) attacked Ru outside the property.

We talked for a bit after that; it turns out that the policeman is a neighbor of ours (which answers the question of why I occasionally see a squad car parked in the driveway of a nearby house), and had seen the Akita unattended in its yard many times. Also, he was glad to see that Rufus was alright, because he last saw our boy the night of the attack, and things looked pretty bad.

Near the end of our conversation, I said, “Y’know what burns my ass? It’s been more than 3 weeks since their dog ripped the hell out of Rufus’ leg, and they haven’t asked once how he’s doing. I can understand them not wanting to come by, but not even a note?”

He said, “That tells you who they are.”

“That it does.”

Today I discovered that it was probably better that they stayed away.

I took Ru for a short (half-mile round trip) walk around 3:45, and saw a car waiting in our driveway as I approached the house. The owner of the Akita got out to greet me; he’d seen us walking while he was driving home, and decided to stop to see us. He held out his hand for me to shake, and I did. I’m polite like that.

From here on, you’re going to have to trust me when I tell you that I had a virtually blank expression on my face for this entire conversation. I find that it’s better to keep all your anger inside, especially when legal issues are involved. Really, it’s my excuse for the l’esprit de l’escalier: “I was too busy being stoic and scary to come up with a witticism!”

He told me that he was happy to see that Rufus was doing well. I stated that he’d healed better than the vet had hoped, given how little there was to work with.

“King’s got pretty big teeth,” he said.

This would not be the first time I was at a loss for words. Honestly, I hadn’t been prepping for this conversation. I was prepping for a big blow-up at work, really, and had been running through imaginary conversations in that milieu for the past few days. It’s hard to believe, but there’s a downside to working at home when you’re a paranoiac with a persecution complex.

He told me that he felt terrible about what happened, and wanted to take care of the vet bills. When I gave him a ballpark figure (within $100 or so of the tally), his eyes bugged out. He said he had [about 40% of that] and, “I got laid off a while back, but we’ll work something out where I can pay you back in installments.”

“[About 40% of that] would cover the first day and a half,” I said. “It’s been 4 weeks.”

I told him that Thursday’s vet appointment may be the final one, if we’re lucky, and that I’d send him copies of the vet bills and receipts for the bandages, gauze wrap, etc.

He told me that he’d never seen King leave the yard, and that they’d moved the electric fence back 12 feet from the original perimeter, which was about 3 feet from the street.

I said, “That’s awesome, but two weeks before he attacked Rufus, I told the police about how King came out onto the street after me, my wife and Rufus in April.”

“He did not come after you or your wife,” he said.

“. . . Okay: ‘came out after Rufus,'” I amended. “You should ask your next-door neighbor. We passed her during the walk, and I told her to watch out because King had come out in the street. She told me that she lived next door to you and gets along great with King.”

He seemed surprised by this story; I don’t think he’d heard it yet, even though the Animal Control officer has it in her report on both cases (King attacked a neighbor’s husky 3 weeks before attacking Rufus, remember. He’s doing swell, the owners tell me). As far as I know, his whole defense is that he’s never seen King leave the yard. Even though the dog was frequently left unattended in the yard.

“I wasn’t there,” he said. “I didn’t see what happened.”

“What happened is that your dog was unsupervised, ran out of the yard and tried to kill my dog.”

Now, I admit this was an inciting thing for me to say, but even my growing rage didn’t prepare me for the next words to come out of his mouth: “King did not try to kill your dog, man. If he did, Rufus would be dead.”

“. . .”

(See? I was speechless!)

“We’ve had him six years, and I swear this never happened till now. I don’t know what’s wrong.”

“What’s wrong is that you have a vicious dog that’s out of control.”

“Y’know, man, dogs bite.”

I looked down at Rufus, who was leaning against me, looking up with his usual adorable expresison.. “Not this one,” I said.

He went on to tell me about how King has suffered his share of bites, since there are dogs or coyotes in the woods behind our homes. “I’ve had to patch his ear up a couple of times,” he told me.

“Rufus had a pair of gaping wounds on his leg that had to stay open for 2 weeks. Your dog bit all the way down to the bone. If you stand over here, you can see the chunk of his haunch that’s missing, compared to the other side.”

“King’s got really big teeth.”

“. . .”

There were other back-and-forths, most of which centered around how he’d never seen King leave the yard, that “we’re neighbors” and he’d figure out some way to pay back the bills, and how “me and my wife don’t talk.” Between that and another round of “I got laid off a while back,” I felt like I was in a particularly unimaginative Springsteen song.

I told him, “I’ve spent the last 4 weeks working out of my house so I can take care of him. My bosses are pissed at me.”

It occurred to me at about this point where the fundamental disconnect was: I was talking about obsessively nursing my dog for nearly a month and he was talking as though there’d been a fender-bender, but we didn’t need to get out car insurance involved.

After the 4th or 5th time I told him that I’d get him a full set of the bills after this Thursday’s vet appointment, I gave up and started walking back into my house.

He called out, “I’m detecting some animosity.”

“Really?” I said, slamming the door.

7 Replies to “Rufus See Well”

  1. What a horrible tale. Just remember, people like that won’t change, so we can only control how we respond to them, and it sounds like you were princely…all things considered. So glad Rufus is doing better. Akitas are terrifying and way to big and unruly, as a general rule.

  2. Dear God…is this guy insane or just stupid?
    Let me tell you something…I live next door to two Akitas whose owners are very good friends of ours. We socialize constantly. They take care of our dogs, we take care of theirs. We have never, repeat never, socialized our dogs. Akitas are notoriously dog aggressive. In fact, we call their female the Land-Shark. I would trust these dogs with a 2 year old way before I would trust them with another dog!
    They have a 5 foot fence around their yard and we have a 4 foot fence around our yard, with a 15 foot wooded buffer zone between the two fences. We purposely had our fences put up that way the same summer because we didn’t want any “fence aggression”.
    They used to have an electric fence around their yard for their previous 2 Akitas. It took intensive training and constant vigilance to make sure all batteries were charged and the collars were on correctly (the metal prongs need to sit firmly on their neck skin, not on 4 inches of fur). These dogs never left the property through that fence in 5 years. They wouldn’t dare! They decided to put up the chain fence because other people’s dogs were off leash or not fenced and would travel onto their dog’s property. Then it was fair game for the Akitas… My friends know their breed and would never take a chance of anything terrible happening. Not even factoring in that aggressive dogs will be put down if they develop “a record”.
    The point I’m trying to make is…The owner of this dog is not being responsible for his dog. Yes, you idiot (King’s Owner, not you) dogs will be dogs, which is precisely why you need to be the responsible party and take charge of him! And to use the excuse that he wasn’t trying to kill him, is like telling you they were love bites.
    Sorry I went off on a tangent but irresponsible pet owners of any type are MY pet peeve.

  3. Elayne, I was thinking of the same exact response…we can’t change people, only how we react to them. You must have read The Secret. lol

    My heart wrenched when I first saw Rufus with his open wounds and sadness in his eyes, it literally brought me to tears. However, today I am elated to see that Rufus is doing well and smiling again.
    Rufus is a special guy with lots of love to give and he’s lucky to have an owner that loves him to death!

    Gil, sounds like you need to send Uncle Tony after this guy…just kidding. Continue to hold your head high and be grateful that Rufus is doing so well.

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