30: Danger in the Woods

30: Danger in the Woods

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

Danger in the Woods

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.

~Roger Caras

My daughter Kira was only eleven, just two weeks into her first year of middle school, when her dad died suddenly. Tom and I had divorced a couple of years earlier and it had not been amicable. Now he was gone and the mending I had hoped might someday occur could not happen. Given what a mess I was, I didn’t know how I could help my wonderful daughter recover from losing her dad.

I did know one thing that would help—we were going to take Tom’s dog home to live with us. Charlie was a fluffy five-year-old, white and gray Shih Tzu. Kira adored Charlie. Having lost our own beloved dog less than a year earlier, I knew having Charlie with us would be important to help her to heal. When Kira’s uncle drove up with Charlie a few days after Tom’s death, Kira was overjoyed.

From the moment he entered our home, Charlie brought light and joy. He loved everyone. He loved to play and be outside. He often attempted to play with our cats—one of whom was his size—but to no avail since they were, after all, cats.

We have a big yard and often when I was outdoors working in the garden or puttering about, Charlie would run into the woods to play and bark. The first few times, I went chasing after him, fearing he’d get lost. But after a while, I’d let him roam in the woods and swamp, from which he would come home wet and stinky. He clearly was having a great time and was never gone for long. He’d generally bark and bark, so I knew what part of the woods he was in.

On one of those gorgeous late summer New England September mornings, I decided to sit on our back porch to do my work. Charlie scampered down the stairs and took off into the woods, barking happily.

He was in the woods for a while, barking and barking as he usually did.

Suddenly, the barking changed to a cry. Something was wrong.

I started yelling Charlie’s name and went flying off the porch and into the woods. I ran to where I had last heard Charlie’s bark, just on the edge of the woods.

A coyote had Charlie in its mouth!

I ran at them, screaming and flailing my arms. Miraculously, the animal dropped the dog. Charlie had a number of wounds but was breathing and alert.

I ran back to the house with Charlie in my arms. We immediately called our vet, who told us to go to the local animal hospital only a few minutes from our house. Kira was home sick from school that day, which turned out to be a blessing because she could hold and comfort Charlie while I drove.

When we arrived at the vet’s and explained what had happened, they took us in immediately. Most people couldn’t believe a coyote had gotten hold of Charlie, since he was still alive. I didn’t want to leave him, but Dr. Pyun said, “He’s going into shock. We need to take him now.”

The next few hours were awful. I tried to keep a calm front for my daughter. My stomach was in knots, though, and I said many prayers.

We got a call a couple of hours later. Charlie not only had come through surgery fine, but we could take him home later that day. Kira and I drove back to the veterinary hospital late in the afternoon. Dr. Pyun and the team at Chase Veterinary Clinic had saved Charlie’s life.

When they brought out Charlie, he was in pretty rough shape. He had white plastic tubes sticking out of him to let the wounds drain, and he looked a bit like an alien.

Charlie was in terrible pain. That first night, when I took him outside to “do his business,” he nipped at me when I tried to lift him because he was so sore. He slept in his dog bed right next to me that night. After that, because it was so painful for him to be carried up and down the stairs, I slept with him on the pullout couch in our living room so I didn’t have to lift him as much. Kira thought I was a little crazy, but I wanted to keep a close eye on him. I wouldn’t completely believe he was healed until he could get around on his own and started eating again.

Charlie didn’t eat for almost a week, and that worried me. But finally he started to take his supper again.

I feared that after such a terrifying event, Charlie’s personality would change, that he’d be more wary and cautious, and maybe not as loving. This had happened to one of my dogs when I was a kid—he had gotten hurt and become very snippy.

Happily, this has not been the case with Charlie. He still loves everyone and everything . . . and still tries to run into the woods. He isn’t allowed to do that anymore, unless I’m right by his side. I’ve learned to never let a small dog go out alone now that there are so many coyotes out there.

When people ask me what I was thinking (doing something so idiotic as) running after a wild coyote, I tell them I had only one thought going through my head—there was no way we were going to lose that wonderful dog.

Charlie is our miracle dog, now in more ways than one, and I knew it wasn’t time for him to leave us.

~Laurie Doyle

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