I’ve already mentioned living on Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. Riding the 3-wheeler, getting bit by the same dog twice, Dad’s brand new Chevy conversion van – the one stolen/repo’d our first week in Detroit. What I didn’t mention was Fort Bliss was where my brother and I had our first run-in with a Volvo.
Wait. Did I tell you about getting bit by the same dog twice? [Quickly skims over previous posts from almost half a year ago…] Nope. Okay. Quickly, as this is a rough draft and I want to include it. (I’m trying to get back in the saddle on this memoirs project.)
Dog Bite #1
Fort Bliss had barracks, I guess, but that’s where the single soldiers probably lived. Dad being married and stationed there training for the penultimate Army non-commissioned officer (NCO) rank of Sergeant Major, we lived in an actual neighborhood on base with our own small house.
Frankly, I don’t remember much about this house. I remember nobody being allowed to put up fences in their backyards because it was Federal government property or something like that. And I remember several people leaving their dogs out back, leashed to heavy duty, auger-type stakes so they could be outside, but not run wild.
One summer evening, there was a block party going on. As usual, our parents were drinking beer and smoking cigarettes and having a good time together in the host’s backyard. We kids were running wild. It was the kind of night that might have found us taking turns screwing around—unsupervised—on a 3-wheeled kid killer, but on this night, we were just running around.
We must have been playing Tag—or my personal favorite, “Manhunt,” which is a cross between Tag and Hide & Seek—because I was, as usual, the fat kid chasing after several much faster friends.
The German Shepherd was sleeping when the first kid came screaming between the houses and across his turf. He saw the second kid crossing his turf and sprung to life. The third kid through also made it without issue. (For the life of me, I have no idea who these friends were at this point.) By the time I rounded the corner and committed to the gap, this fully grown Shepherd was already full steam on an intercept course.
I’ll never forget the way a dog looks running full speed, shoulders and hips undulating rapidly, ears, hair, and tail straight back from the wind. I’ll never forget seeing that Shepherd close the gap out of the corner of my right eye, disappearing from view the instant he sunk his teeth into my chubby, third grade calf.
I must have had enough momentum to slip his grasp—he wasn’t a bad or vicious dog, after all—and get beyond the reach of his line before collapsing to take a look at my wound, because I’m here typing this up 30-plus years later.
If you’ve ever been bit by a dog, you know how they look. Swollen, the arrangement of weeping puncture marks clearly made by teeth. And you remember how they feel. The immediate searing pain followed by a week or more of a nasty bruise and soreness.
Apparently, the Universe thought I needed a reminder.
Dog Bite #2
Later that same summer (we were only stationed at Fort Bliss six months), I was riding my bike home from somewhere. At the end of our block, the streets came together in a V rather than a right angle. The house on the end had a huge, triangular lot next to it. A perfect place to stake out your German Shepherd.
Long story short, my left shoelace came untied, got caught in the chain, I was standing there on the sidewalk trying to get my foot free so I could tie my shoe and continue riding home. I was in a hurry, because that goddamned German Shepherd considered the sidewalk his turf.
Crippled by my bike, unable to hop very quickly—or smart enough to hop quickly into the street rather than onward down the sidewalk—Shep caught me in the right calf again. And, since this was the 80s and the dog had his shots, I got a lecture on keeping my shoes tied while the dog owner was reminded his dog should not be able to access people on the sidewalk when chained outside.
So there you have it. My two dog bites—from the same dog—within six months. As I type this in my kitchen some 30 years later, there’s a German Shepherd mix puppy in the living room chewing on something I’m sure she’s not supposed to be chewing on.
At least it’s not my leg.
. . .
I’ll get back to the Volvo story next time. Which will hopefully be fairly soon. Things with Adventurist Life are getting pretty busy. If you like my style and have even a passing interest in 4WD, overlanding, camping, hiking, canoeing or kayaking, you might want to check out our Kickstarter. It’s live and I’d sure appreciate your support. Thanks!