Extreme Breeds by Anthony Solesky
Getting around to asking Dominic what happened was not too difficult. He seemed to feel safe in the hospital and very reassured. It was the night before his second operation, or the day after it that I decided to ask Dom what happened. I know that the attack had been on the news, but reports had only spoken of their injuries as a result of the attack. I knew I needed to get Dominic’s story because I may have to testify on his behalf at the dangerous-dog hearing.
I said to Dominic, “Daddy feels really dumb, but I told the newspaper that you were playing Nerftag and I don’t even know how you play that game.” I asked Dominic to explain the game and I would ask questions about locations of the other boys and what they were doing to gain an understanding of what happened without him feeling as if he was being directly questioned about the attack. During the course of the conversation, Dominic told me that he was on the front sidewalk at the house where the lady has pretty flowers. This is four doors down from our house. Dominic said he was walking up the sidewalk toward our house when Kyle and Chris came running through Mr. Mike’s yard yelling, “Time out! Time out! Scotty’s been attacked by a dog!” Mr. Mike is my next-door neighbor. Our homes are both end-of-group so we have access to the alley between our homes. Dominic said he thought it was some kind of a tactic in the Nerf tag game and he didn’t believe them at first. Dominic said they said, “Come on, come on, follow us!” They went from the front of our home, through the yard, and into the alley. Dominic said that he was in the middle and out in front and one boy was to his left and one was to his right. At some point, one of the other boys noticed the toy Nerf gun lying in the alley and they began to move toward it. Dominic said, as they got a little closer, the other boys kind of hung back. Dominic said, “Dad, you know those cracks in the alley?” I said, “Yeah, they are called expansion joints.” He said,” Yeah, well I was near one of those and the gun was near the other one and they said don’t touch it, but Dad I knew not to touch it.” Dominic said, “I stopped and I looked to my left and I could see the dogs. I asked, “What were they doing?” Dominic said, “One was sitting down and panting real heavy and the other one was running around like a nut.” I asked, “What did you do?” He said, “I froze and just looked at them. All of the sudden the other dog saw me and it stopped running around and stared at me.”
I asked, “How long do you think it was staring?”
“About 5 seconds.” Dominic said, “I stared at him and he stared at me and then it just lunged and started to jump the fence.” He said he turned to the other boys (who were a little bit back and had no view of the dogs) and said, “Oh crap, he jumped the fence!” and he began to run up the alley toward home. Dominic said he looked back and as the dog got closer he tried to throw his gun at the dog, but he missed and the dog jumped up and tackled him to the ground. He said the dog bit him in the face and its mouth slid off. He said he got to his knees and the dog bit him in the thigh and began to drag him around the alley. He said he tried to choke the dog and it let go of his leg and bit him on the arm. Dominic said, “Then I couldn’t fight and at some point the dog let go.”
He said he lay there and the dog kept coming up and
pouncing on him and nudging him and then he saw a man
come up. He said the man was screaming, “Oh my God,
Oh my God!” and grabbed the dog out of the alley.
I asked, “Did he say anything to you?” and Dominic said, “No.” “Come on Dominic, not even ‘are you all right”? “No” he said. “Not even ‘I will be back’”? I asked. “No!” Dominic said. “Come on Dominic,” I said, “Not even ‘I am getting help’”? “No Dad. I already told you he was just screaming.” I then said, “What did you do after he grabbed the dog?” Dominic said, “I tried to get up and run home but I kept falling down. So then I tried to walk home but I kept falling so then I started to crawl home but some lady just kept yelling, “Lay down, lay down. You’re hurt!” I asked Dominic how long he thought this lasted and his words were, “Like two and a half minutes.” I almost cracked at this point, I was trying to stay matter-of-fact, but I made this sort of hiccup sound, like a reflexive suction noise you make before you go under water, or cry, or are surprised. I don’t know what to call it but it is like having the wind knocked out of you while playing sports. I was so glad we were alone because I doubted anybody else could have kept it together and not traumatized him by reacting angrily. When I made this noise, I gathered myself just as quickly, and I said calmly, “How did you get home?” I said, “Did Kyle and Chris get Mommy?” He said, “I don’t know, I just remember Mommy, Mister Eric and that Paramedic guy being over top of me when I woke up.” I said, “When you woke up?” He said, “Yeah, I was having a dream and when I woke up they were all talking to me.” I said, “Man Dom, you sure are lazy resting in the middle of the alley like that while everybody is doing all of the work.” He just laughed. I said, “So Dom, what was your dream about?” He said, “You know that tree on Mrs. Bonnie Hannigan’s lawn?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Well I was lying under that tree and Scotty was at my feet. Brenna was near my right shoulder and Ashley was at my left shoulder. I was looking up at the sky and the whole sky was real bright and the tree was kind of blocking the sun but not so much that I couldn’t see its brightness. The whole sky was lit up and bright. Then I heard Mommy calling me for dinner from our front porch. She said, ‘Come on Dom, we have to go.’ I woke up in the alley and Mommy was acting all hysterical.” I said, “Yeah Dom, women are like that,” and we laughed. Then he said,
“Dad, you know what a Spartan would do? A Spartan
would have pretended to be weak so the dog could get
closer and then just before the dog got him he would have
put his spear right down its throat.”
Dominic is so proud of his Greek heritage. I said, “Dom, so you are just like a Spartan.” Dominic said, “No I ‘m not Dad, because a Spartan wouldn’t have been afraid and I was.” I said, “Dom, after what you told me, the Spartans are a bunch of pussies compared to you. You were very courageous and I hope I grow up to be half the man you and Mommy already are.” He just said, “What?”
Because to him, he was explaining about the game and he was very matter of fact.
The other boys had not visited and no one ever brought it up to Dominic for fear of traumatizing him. Once I heard his story, not only was I numb for what he, my wife, and our neighbors went through, I knew that it would take my own death to stop me from seeing this to a systematic and proper conclusion.
The dog owner’s negligence and his landlord’s irresponsibility had injured one child and almost killed another. The dog owner attempted to cover it up with threats to the first child, when the child most needed care. He threatened the first boy and he abandoned a second child in the alley. As bad as Dominic’s experience was, at least he saw people coming to his aid. He didn’t have to suffer the despair that Scotty must have felt having to seek help, being injured and threatened, and then lead to and abandoned on a side of the street he was not allowed to be on. We are talking, a 9-year old, Scotty, and a 10-year old, Dominic.
Finally I casually said, “Dominic, that’s cool, now I know what to tell the reporters about Nerf tag.” Then as if on cue, one of his monitors went off for a new I.V. bag and a nurse came into the room. Dominic got sort of disgusted because the stupid machine was doing that noise all the time and he said, “Jesus God, I hate this thing.” He began asking a lot of frustrated questions of the nurse and she expertly steered him to a calm place. “Man, what a little fighter,” she said. He laid his head back in frustration; shut his eyes and that quick he was nodding off. I whispered, “Ok Dom, I am going to the cafeteria, the nurse will fix you up and I will be right back.”
I went down the hall to the bathroom and tried to figure out what emotion I was feeling. I wanted to throw up but I couldn’t and I wanted to cry but I couldn’t and I wanted to fist fight so bad it was incredible. I don’t mean the “I hope I come out on top” type of fighting. I mean that I am so fucking mentally miserable that either I can put you out of my misery or you can put me out of my misery, but I want out or this misery. I suspect that this is what being on the brink means. This was the second time I had no proximity to the dog owner as my only controlling issue. The first time was when I found out that my son was in critical condition and I had to divert from the neighborhood to the hospital and then now while I was with Dominic in the hospital. To this day, I am neither grateful nor disappointed that the dog owner and I didn’t cross paths while I was in such an emotional frame of mind. I remain mostly just numb.