Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Trooper abed just after we brought him home from the animal hospital.
The big shepherd mix flashed into view under the street lights in front of our condo building, charging at us full speed, its teeth bared. Trooper, never one to back down from a threat even if it was three times his size, forged ahead against his leash.

I stepped forward to block the 50-pound shepherd and promptly fell off the curb into the street, unable to separate the two dogs. Seemingly in slow motion I rolled over, regained my footing and lunged forward, shouting at the top of my lungs, “Get outta here!”

Somehow I found myself again flat on my back, but recovered again. How many times I fell on the concrete I don’t know. Maybe three. 

I remember being back on my feet screaming as the big dog finally retreated, and looking down at Trooper, limping. I picked him up. His left hind leg flopped loosely. 

A woman in her thirties loomed in the street, gripping the big dog by the collar. I could not understand what she said, but shouted, “Get that dog the fuck out of here!” She did. 

The next thing I remember is lying on my side, up on an elbow, outside the foyer to our building, gasping for breath as a woman beckoned from a car stopped in the street. The woman with the dog had returned, presumably having put it in a safe place, and squatted by the door. She was concerned, as was the woman in the car. Both spoke to me.

I could not understand either of them, nor, I suspect, could they me. I was stunned, in a stupor, not thinking clearly, puffing like a sick locomotive. Had I had my wits about me I would have asked the dog’s handler for her name and address.

But I did not. All I could think of was getting medical help for Trooper. “I’m OK, I’m OK,” I kept saying. “I’ve got to get my dog to the vet. His leg’s broken.” The women spoke and I could not understand them. I shook my head and said, “I’m deaf.”

I fished my iPhone from my shirt pocket and texted Debby, upstairs in our apartment. “Come down. Attacked by dog.” (She did not get the message until much later.)

Somehow I found the strength to stand and scoop up Trooper, who was by now crying in pain. The two women were still there, but I said “Thanks,” and waved them away.

What happened after that I barely can remember. Somehow I got upstairs to tell Debby and we immediately drove to an emergency vet in Skokie ten minutes away.

"We’ll set the leg," said the vet, "but he’ll probably need surgical care tomorrow.”

While she was doing the job we went to the Evanston police station and were interviewed by a young cop. It was only pro forma. Filing a report wouldn’t do much good because I hadn’t obtained the name and address of the dog owner.

We returned to the emergency vet. She showed us the X-rays. Clean break of the tibia right above the joint. There was a small puncture wound in the skin of the leg at the break from the other dog’s bite. She hadn’t been able to reset the limb properly and made an appointment in the morning for a surgical vet in Northfield not far away. 

Trooper was splinted and woozy from the sedative, and we took him home, taking turns lying on the floor all night next to the pillows where we had laid him. By midmorning the veterinary surgeon had seen him and was ready to do the job. “It’s fixable,” he said.

Before noon it had been done, with a metal plate and five screws holding together Trooper’s tibia. We visited him in the animal hospital’s ICU early in the afternoon. To our astonishment he was awake and alert, struggling to stand and lick my face. The prognosis, the vet said, was good.

He’s now home, lying on pillows on the floor in my small office, its door closed so he doesn’t wander around the apartment. When we carried him outside to the parkway, he peed readily. He seems to understand that that’s his job now. Not the others.

The tasks he had been trained for as a hearing service dog are on hold. We’ve taped up a sign on our apartment door asking people not to knock. We’ve muted the telephone ringers. In short, we’ve tried to minimize all the sounds he’s trained to work. We don’t want him jumping up on me to alert me, jeopardizing his injured leg.

Recovery will take about four months. For the next two weeks we’ll have to carry him outside to do his business. For now, the distance to the grassy parkway is too long for him to walk. 

We’ve resigned ourselves to paying some $3,700 in vet bills. (The emergency vet and surgeon did give Trooper a 20 per cent discount because he’s a working dog.) Worth every penny, for Trooper is a valuable piece of medical equipment as well as a beloved companion.

As for me, I was uninjured by the tumbles in the street. My jacket and pants were scuffed a bit, but that was all.

We’re staying home for Thanksgiving instead of spending it with Conan and his family in nearby Edison Park. It’s doubtful that Trooper and I will go to to Washington to be with Colin and his crew for Christmas. Late December will just be too early for him to travel.

One irony is that I had worried about stray dogs assaulting Trooper during shore visits on Caribbean islands during our recent cruise. The actual attack came right in front of our own home. Go figure.

Trooper on his feet an hour after coming home.


  1. I am so sorry to hear about Trooper! A scary and sad story, but I am glad you are OK and that Trooper's prognosis is good.

    Please wish him well from us.

  2. I'm devastated for Trooper to suffer and out of work for four months. Hugs to him from me. I'm also glad you are ok too!

  3. So sorry to hear this. So glad he will recover. All the best to you and Trooper and family.

  4. I'm glad you're OK and Trooper is recovering. Quite scary. About 40 years ago we had a similar experience. An off-leash German shepherd attacked our terrier mix (about Trooper's size). Broke her jaw, knocked out a tooth. She survived, as did we. The shepherd's owner, who lived in the same apartment building as we did, denied all responsibility and refused to offer aid then or later. We were too young and stupid to report it to the police.

  5. Damn, Henry! All's well that ends sorta well, I guess. And there's some small consolation in knowing it could have been a great deal worse for you as well as Trooper. He almost seems like part of our family by now. Give the little guy a few gentle rubs for me, will you? And you take it easy, too. Aloha pumehana ia oe!

  6. I missed this one because of our earthquake. I'm sorry about this. Hope trooper is all fixed now