When we make animals pets, we forget that they’re beasts. We forget that we are beasts. We make them part of our families of man-beasts and dog-beasts and cat-beasts. We forget.
Our dog snapped. Afraid of everything—if he were a man and not a dog, he would surely be on heavy anti-anxiety medication—and hurting no one, all bark and no bite, our dog snapped. Our dog, namesake of fair Balder, the Norse god who had premonitions of his death. Balder’s mother Frigg exacted promises from everything living and dead in this world that nothing would harm him, and the gods amused themselves cutting him with swords and shooting him with arrows that would not hurt him. But Loki, trickster god and jealous bastard, found out that the measly mistletoe had been exempted from the promise, and tricked Balder’s blind brother into shooting him with a branch, killing him. Balder the god was afraid of everything, and he was killed by a plant. Balder the dog was afraid of everything, and in the end proved his own undoing.
Our dog snapped and attacked me. Balder was not a big dog and half of him was hair. This is not a pit bull but a docile dutch herder. Still, it is no small matter to have a beast insane with rage frothing at the mouth wanting to tear you apart. I have the bite marks to prove it. Minor injuries, in the grand scheme of things: nothing as bad as realizing that your dog, man’s best friend, is a beast. And I realized that I was a beast, too: I realized that I may slay this other beast, that I might actually beat my dog to death. Not because I was angry, but because this dog was psychotic and reverting to its wolf instincts, and I was reverting to my own, fight or flight kicking in. Luckily, it did not come to that. The dog was subdued, although not before biting my hand and knee bloody.
Look at him: there is no way that dog is going to kill or maim an adult male. He might have sharper teeth, but I’m three times his size. It wasn’t, and yet: it felt like a fight for life or death. I can’t remember the last experience I had that was as intense. It’s exhilarating, but mostly sad. Sad because you never want to fight your own goddamn dog that you’ve cared for and loved the last seven years, and doubly so, perhaps, because it is also indicative of a life lived away from the edge.
After, we had to figure out what to do with him. It was a battle of life and death, in a way. We had to put the dog down. He was calmer, but still aggressive. The vet could not find anything wrong with him: might be something in the brain, they said. In hindsight, there were little signs. Whatever it was, there was no immediate cause visible. There was no cure, and we could never trust the dog again, nor in good conscience hand it over to others. Might be he would return to his old self, might as well be he’d snap again and hurt someone seriously. I’m glad it was me he bit, and not a stranger.
I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve never met a more anxious dog. Maybe it was because he was attacked by a big German Shepherd as a pup; maybe it was in his genes. But there was no aggression mixed with that anxiety, until now.
It was my parents’ dog, really: when they bought him, I still lived at home. A lot has happened since. I moved out. Right now I’m back again, until the end of summer. The dog was a constant. He was my mother’s shadow, having a severe case of separation anxiety, following her everywhere. I took him for a walk yesterday evening—everything was fine. I’m glad it wasn’t my decision, but I’m glad he’s gone. And I’m sad he’s gone.Jul 12, 2012