The stupid, stupid exchange and hair-pulling with Evil Sister is just plain stupid. Like real stupid. This, however, is not.
This past weekend—the time of which is unclear, given that Mountain Time in the US is nine hours different than mine—my niece was attacked by her soon-to-be stepfather’s dog. The doctors are using words like “skin grafts” and “reconstructive surgery” for her face, and are going to look into these options on Thursday. Her mother is getting married on Wednesday.
The dog isn’t evil—dogs really aren’t. In fact, Almost Stepfather rescued this formerly abused one from a kill shelter and gave him a loving home. He’s really skittish, but overall pretty sweet. But I’ve seen it before; if a dog with this kind of history feels cornered, he or she will lash out. And that dog, regardless of how sweet he or she is, needs to go.
For one, the dog is clearly broken and suffering. There is no therapy for canine PTSD, and it is hurting. For another, many homeowner’s insurance companies will drop your coverage if there is a dog attack on your property and the dog remains there; at the very least, they will not cover a lawsuit based on a subsequent attack. And if a dog lashes out at an owner who loves it (and make no mistake, my niece really loved that dog), imagine what it would do to a stranger. And that brings to focus the most important problem—my niece is in danger.
Which is why what’s going on is so upsetting. Almost Stepfather and Evil Sister have decided that, now that my niece is home from the hospital, bandaged and traumatized, that it is her decision as to whether or not the dog stays. A thirteen-year-old girl’s decision. A thirteen-year-old who loves her Almost Stepfather. A thirteen-year-old girl with a passive-aggressive bully for a mother.
My parents are not happy, and they are talking to them about it. That’s all they feel they can do, and that’s all I feel I can do.
Currently my wife and I aren’t speaking to each other, because she doesn’t agree. She thinks that I am “not doing everything in my power to protect this girl that I love.” And by that she means that I should call local animal control and have them deal with the situation. She doesn’t trust my parents to handle it. She understandably doesn’t trust Evil Sister. And she doesn’t trust that my niece will feel safe saying no to her mother and Almost Stepfather. My wife fears the worst, and she’s angry at me that I won’t act on it.
I’m really frightened and upset. I’m frustrated that my niece has been put in this unfair situation. I’m furious that I don’t feel safe enough to discuss it with my own spouse, because she thinks that I am failing my family. Am I failing my family? I don’t know. I don’t know what to do.
I feel so alone right now.
After consulting with friends about the dog attack on my niece that caused her to have skin grafts, I did some homework. Some of the stuff took digging and involved legalese and PDFs galore, but I did find some useful information, such as New Mexico’s definition of a dangerous dog. I also discovered that any hospital treating a dog bite must report it to Animal Control within twenty-four hours. I phoned their headquarters and asked them about the their procedure about dealing with dangerous dogs, and they told me that, if there is no history, then the dog’s fate is at the discretion of the owner.
As you know, my niece, who has to have skin grafts (I can’t get over this) was given the decision regarding the fate of the dog. She has decided that it stays. I am not happy. Both of my parents are not happy. My other sister, who is in town for my Evil Sister’s wedding is not happy (in her words, “When you can see the whites of a dog’s eyes all the time, that dog needs to be put down for his own good”). But it’s not our decision. It’s theirs.