As most readers of this blog may know I endured severe abuse as a child, and at times that abuse involved dogs. Because of that I have had an intense deep fear of dogs, all dogs. I have even been brought to tears when faced with certain dogs. I had on occasion mentioned to my wife and son if I ever got a dog it would have to be a Shepherd. There are 3 occurrences in my childhood that a dog had the greatest impact.
The first occured in the summer of 1978. Doc (my seed provided) had allowed me to move to Lovington New Mexico with his 3rd wife. He did not want me around. Life in Lovington started off great for the first few days, my stepmom lived with her mom and her brother Doug lived in an atrached semi-apartment. Doug was a strange man, probably in his early 20's and very child-like, he adored me. Within 2 weeks of moving in I discovered why. Doug allowed me into his room and the sexual abuse started. Since I had been sexually abused since age 6 and I was now 11 I knew what was expected of me. The abuse continued, he skipped some days, but for the most part he had me a lot, after all I was right there. He had many other boys in his room, but I was different, I was a live in threat. With other boys he had other tatics to keep them quiet, but since I lived in the house with his mom & sister, a slip of my mouth was likely. One morning I awoke to the sounds of a puppy. When I walked outside there in a small cage was a little puppy. My stepmom & her mom were gone for the day so it was just Doug and me, and now a puppy. Doug explained right away that he got the puppy for me, I was delighted. I sat in the dirt next to the cage and poked my fingers through to touch the little puppy. I noticed he had no room to move around, so I asked Doug why was the puppy in such a tiny cage. Doug explained that the puppy had worms and before I could play with the puppy we had to de-worm him so I would not get worms. Sounded reasonable to me, I was 11 and apparently very stupid. Doug handed me a glass jar, which I could tell by the smell had gas in it. He instructed me to hold the jar. He then opened the door to the cage at the puppy's butt and rubbed it really hard with a very big grit sandpaper. The puppy started crying right away. Doug told me to soothe the puppy, as rubbing its butt with sandpaper would allow the medicine to soke in. It sounded reasonable to me, after all I was 11 and apparently very stupid. After Doug had finished he told me to pour the "medicine" in the jar on the puppy's butt. As soon as the first drop hit his raw red butt the puppy let out a cry and I stopped. Doug took the jar and dumped it all over the puppy and yelled at me, telling me the puppy will give me worms if we don't get them out. What happened next is burned in my nightmares. Doug took out a lighter and lit that little puppy on fire and at the same time opened the front of the cage. The puppy jolted out like a rocket being launched. I was on my knees and with the act of Doug setting the puppy on fire and it bolting out I fell backward and then rolled to my feet and ran after the puppy. The little puppy was very literally running from the fire. I kept hollering for it to stop, I had learned stop-drop-and roll in school. Soon the puppy ran into the ditch beside the dirt road and fell in exhaustion. I bent down next to it and was screaming at Doug, the stench from the burning hair and flesh filling my nose. Tears were flowing from my eyes and smearing the dirt on my cheeks into mud, which in turn mixed with the endless flow of snot from my nose. I continued to scream at Doug. In my own exhaustion I fell back on my butt and drew my knees to my chest and started to rock while watching the last twitches of the puppy. I heard Doug approch from behind me and refused to turn around. He plached his hand on my right shoulder and demanded that I look at him, I did. He told me that if I ever told anyone anything I would end up like that puppy. The visual lesson was effective. After he explained why he burned the puppy he told me "let's go" he wanted...
The second occurrence involved a full grown German Shepherd. It was a year later to be exact, the summer of 1979. Me and my younger sister were living with my mom and stepdad number 3 or 4 in Beggs Oklahoma. My cousin was also living with us. One summer day my sister and cousin decided to run away, to Doc's. At this time he was living in Okmulgee. A set of train tracks ran in front of the Beggs farm house and went right into Okmulgee, about 2 blocks from Doc's house. No chance of getting lost. My stepdad had the Shepherd and it was a dog I had grown to love. When my sister and cousin ran away the dog followed. They did everything they could to get the Shepherd to turn back, but it refused. Along the train track route was a bridge over a dry riverbed. Now I was 12 at the time so I can't say how high the bridge was, but it was high, Beggs was very hilly for Oklahoma. When my sister and cousin reached the bridge they simply tossed the German Shepherd over side. They continued their journey. When they arrived at Doc's he put them in the car and drove back to Beggs.They explained everything to my mom and stepdad and my stepdad took my cousin in the back room and beat him, not a spanking, but blood beating. He wanted to do the same to my sister but Doc defended her. She instead went inside and packed her clothes, she was returning to live with Doc. I saw the handwriting on the wall and also returned to live with Doc, he was the lesser of two evils at that point. With the death of his dog my stepdad would have found reason to beat me as well. When I was packing my clothes my cousin was sitting on the edge of the bed. He managed to get his underwear and pants back on, but the blood was visible. We dare not speak but I truly felt sorry for him, he had no choice but to be left behind, I knew what awaited him.
On the way back to Okmulgee Doc stopped by the bridge and we walked up to the edge.There on the rocks below was the German Shepherd that just that morning I fed and played with. His body was burst open and insides were spilled on nearby rocks that had been painted red with its blood. I remember my thoughts, the dog did nothing, he was a friend. My tears came freely and my sister said I was gay for crying.
The 3rd time. I will not write about. I told one person, my wife and she had disturbing dreams and for weeks prayed that God help her forget. She knows about the other 2, but the 3rd one is worse. I still live with it. Like the first two I was just there, an observer, but...
So now Falco. As I mentioned because of the above I was very much terrified of dogs. My youngest son lives in a major city and had gotten Falco as a pup. He trained him, loved him and took excellent care of him. Then he moved and the apartment complex would not let him keep Falco. My son reached out to us and I could not say no. My baby boy was asking me to look after something he loves. Falco was now 6 months old and big enough to cause me to pee my pants. The day arrived and my son pulled up into the driveway. I went out, took a deep breath and dropped to my right knee. As soon as my son opened the door Falco ran up to me and placed his head against my chest and on my leg and hugged me. The bond was instant and both ways. My wife and older son are still amazed to this day, as am I.
My friends are just as amazed at my bonding and I can't explain it. I worry about Falco, I try to spend as much time with him as I can and I have strong feelings for him. He has been both a reminder of many bad memories & a time of new beginnings. At the current time he is adjusting, I think he misses my youngest son, he also is super possessive of what he thinks is his, he is also super protective of me. My youngest son used only positive reinforcement training from Zak George, but it made Falco spoiled, life with us is different and he is having trouble adjusting. He was raised an inside dog, now he lives in a large fenced in back yard, he was with people all the time, now he spends hours alone. A dogs life I suppose. Falco will adjust as will I and I hope we can remain strong friends.