2013: In With A Growl

2012 ended with a bang.  For some silly reason, I thought that would be it for our Camp Davis winter break adventures.

I thought maybe 2012 was cursed.  In no particular order, 2012 saw us replace the entire A/C unit in our rental property as well as the water heater at Camp Davis (both kicked the bucket).  We had our farmhouse hit by not only a car, but also by a tree during the “derecho” storm back in July.  That tree caused a power surge that killed our TV, DVD player, oven, radio, baby monitor and severely hobbled our fridge (thankfully a repairman was able to bring it back to life).  We drove to Minnesota and back, only to see our car radiator crack a few weeks later.  The final tally for all the damage has been roughly an arm and a leg.

I really thought it was a 2012 thing.


I was wrong.  

On January 2, 2013, our house was held hostage for several hours.  By a stray pit bull.

I wish I was making this up.

We rang in the new year at a friend’s wedding in Annapolis (which was absolutely awesome).  My parents stayed at Camp to watch the kids for the night (which was absolutely awesome).  We woke up the morning after the wedding, feeling the same way most other people feel every year on January 1 (which is most definitely not awesome) and drove two and a half hours back to West Virginia.  We slept and half-parented the rest of the day after my parents left us in charge of our own kids (how irresponsible of them).

We knew this is how it was going to go.  So we figured 2013 was supposed to really start for us on January 2nd – which is the first day of every new year anyone is capable of functioning at a normal human level.

We woke up chipper and ready to tackle any number of projects on our ever-growing list of things to do around Camp D.  First thing in the morning I grabbed my coat and headed down to heat up the Hytte in anticipation of working in there later that day (it takes a bit of time to get it warmed up, which is convenient, because I’m the same way when it comes to renovation projects).  I made it all the way to the Hytte door, put the key in the lock, was about to turn it when from my left I heard a substantial and deep “grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr” sound.  I look over my shoulder, and there, under our front porch (about 15 or so steps away) stood a gray and white pit bull I did not know, growling and staring me down.

Now, as I said, this was January 2nd, which means I was functioning at a normal human level by then.  If this happened January 1st I assume I would have been dog food.  But it was January 2nd, so I had my wits about me.

Also, I’ll go ahead and admit it:  I am not exactly a “dog” person.  I didn’t grow up with them.  I don’t speak their language.  I’m a lawyer by training, and if I can’t reason with something, then I have a hard time trusting it – that goes for all species, humans included.  Also, in fairness, it’s not like I don’t like dogs as a category of animal.  I’ve met plenty of perfectly wonderful dogs throughout my life, several of which left me thinking that I might one day want to have one of my own.  My oldest brother even has two wonderful pit bulls – a pair of rescues.  Actually, he’s even a real life hostage negotiator…come to think of it, looks like he could have come in very handy in this situation.  Go figure.

But I did not know this dog.   And I do not know anyone within half-mile of our house that owns a dog.  And for all I don’t know or understand about dogs, I’m fairly certain the growl is not a generally positive sign to hear during a chance encounter with one in the absence of its owner.

I also know that in such an encounter it is unwise to turn and run, lest you entice the dog to chase you.

I was fully aware of that piece of information – I somehow had this whole conversation in my head during the time it took me to make a decision on what to do – when, after I eased two steps away from the dog, I turned and ran faster than I’ve ever ran in my life.  In huge knee-high snow boots.  I retraced my path to the house at near light speed, barely touching more than two of the nine stairs I had to ascend to get back to the farmhouse.  As I was presumably flying up the stairs, I gave last minute consideration to whether I should take cover in the studio right in front of me, or whether I should run the extra twenty-five feet to the farmhouse, where Natalie and the kids were enjoying their peaceful morning.  The deciding factor was that if I should take refuge in the studio, I’d have no way of communicating my predicament with Natalie – who was theretofore oblivious to my situation – which would either put her in danger if she left the house to see what I was up to, or force me to later find clever ways of bridging the final distance without being able to see where the dog stopped for rest.

I weighed these considerations and made my conclusion to continue on to the farmhouse in, I believe, under two strides.  Adrenaline is an amazing thing.

I don’t know if the dog gave chase.  I never looked back to check.  That is another bit of information I knew in the moment as well.  In a foot race, the runner who looks back to see how far ahead he is of his opponent will lose ground to said opponent.  If this was indeed a race, I didn’t want to chance losing ground.

I burst through the door, slammed it shut behind me, and ever so calmly explained to Natalie what just happened.  I spent the next few minutes catching my breath and staring out the windows, trying to figure out where this beast was currently scheming its expected siege.  I found it outside our bedroom window, sitting beneath the dryer vent trying to stay warm.


After a while we called animal control.  And left a message.  After another while we called again, with similar responsiveness.  Later I had the bright idea to call a nearby veterinarian’s clinic, which actually proved helpful in directing me to potential resolutions.

Sadly, none of the potential avenues for relief bore fruit.  Hours passed, and the dog seemed content to take up residence on our front porch.

In the relative calm after the initial interaction (I was still uneasy for sure, but we had locked ourselves in pretty tightly) we noticed that the dog was shivering mightily (hence why it camped out under the dryer vent), its eyes were bloodshot and it looked almost emaciated in its rear half.  We debated whether feeding it would be wise – did we want it to stay until someone came to rescue it (or us), or did we want it to give up and leave?

We didn’t have proper dog food.  What do dogs even eat other than Kibbles and people?  Natalie wanted to make it a sandwich.  I had the clearly more intelligent idea of giving it a large can of chicken and sausage gumbo.  Because why not add the potential for explosive doggy diarrhea to the already uncomfortable situation?

I dumped the can in a bowl that I didn’t mind seeing eviscerated and walked to the door. I then balked long enough for Natalie to grow impatient with my pathetic excuse for masculine bravery, take the bowl from my quaking hand, open the door and slide the bowl right under the evil monster’s jaws of death.  I’ve seen Natalie give birth twice now.  I know full well that she is far tougher than I will ever have to be.  And I’m OK with that.

By now my tongue-in-cheek telling of the story should give you some idea to the reality of the situation.  The dog was lost, hungry, frightened and not really posing much of an observable threat.  It walked around with its tail tucked firmly between its legs.  From an intellectual standpoint I understood that we were probably safe in the situation, even if I had to go outside.  Our friend at the vet said our decision to feed it probably helped to gain its trust, and that so long as we didn’t corner the dog it probably wouldn’t randomly go on the aggressive.

But my intelligent side is not in coordination with my instinct side.  My instinct side was rationing food in our pantry, wondering who would outlast whom in this standoff battle of wills, or whether dogs could eat through glass as easily as they can human flesh and bones.

So Natalie gave it the bowl of chicken and sausage gumbo.  The dog housed the thing, licked the bowl clean in under a minute, and even consumed a few loose paint chips off the peeling porch that had previously caught spilled bits of rice and roux.

I went to the other room to try animal control again.  Still no luck.  I went back to the  viewing room contemplating the future of me and the dog as Turner and Hooch, the hilarity that would ensue as I “tamed” the wild beast in our apartment and the heartwarming moment I gained its respect and we became inseparable friends, solving crimes as true co-equal detective partners…

…when instead I returned to find the dog was gone.   I checked out of every window and couldn’t see her anywhere (it was a “she” so we discovered).

It was probably the worst outcome imaginable.  Instead of the tidy ending to the hostage situation that was animal control swinging by and catching our scared visitor, we chose to feed it, give it a taste for chicken (which is practically all I eat, and more or less the composition of my being as evidenced by how I handled this whole event), and then sent it off into the afternoon at full strength, where it might lie in wait until I was hungover and taking out the trash (which was surely not far away) before deciding to exploit its superior vantage point over me in my weakened state…

…duuuuh dum, duuuuh dum…

I’ve seen Jaws too many times.

(No one can see Turner and Hooch too many times, however.)

After not having seen her for a few more hours, I very carefully snooped around the property for signs of doggery.  Alas, she was gone.  I guess feeding her gave her the energy to continue on in her search for home.  I was able to work in the Hytte again the rest of the week, even played outside with Loren here and there.


But I’ve grown a pair of eyes in the back of my head.  Because obviously that is the kind of pair I needed to grow in the wake of this nonsense.

Hey, at least it didn’t cost us a large chunk of money.  And thanks to my fleetness of foot, it didn’t cost me an arm or a leg either.

Welcome to 2013.

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  1. I loved reading every word. Good story.

  2. “…and more or less the composition of my being as evidenced by how I handled this
    whole event.” Love it.

  3. Good story telling … And this is going to be a great year!

  4. Aw, I’m so bummed that it didn’t end with animal care rescuing the pup! I’m totally pittie biased (as in, I think they’re the greatest, most loving dogs on this planet), but I wish you would have kept her 🙂

  5. “And thanks to my fleetness of foot, it didn’t cost me an arm or a leg either.” We’re going to have a writers workshop for my first graders…can you teach them how to do this!?

  6. […] us.  We lost power. We lost appliances.  Our structural integrity was compromised.  My manhood sense of security was called into question.  We lived without a fridge. We managed without a kitchen sink (though washing dishes in the […]

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