I used to walk between two houses on my way to school. The house on the left was the Williams house and the house on the right was the Shaidas’s house. There was an alley way between the two that I had to walk down to reach Anna Avenue and Lenox Street to get to Silver Lake School.
The Williams family had a huge beast of a dog they called Toby. Toby would sit out on the front porch behind a plate glass window. Every time I walked past Toby, I would talk to myself and say,” Nice Toby! Be a good dog to me!” I swear he could sense that I was petrified by his presence on his porch. I was afraid to even look at him so I never made eye contact with the beast.
One day, I was walking through the alley wearing my bombardier leather jacket. It probably was a fall day and very cool in the morning. As I walked by, I looked up eye to eye to Toby right at the window watching me looking at him. It worried me especially because his ears were up as he followed my every step.
I saw him back up the length of the porch and begin running toward the glass storm window. I didn’t wait to see what happened but when I heard the glass window break, I took off toward safety, I thought.
I was wrong.
The crazy thing was I never did anything to Toby but he wanted to do me bodily harm, that was certain.
I ran as fast as I could, jumped up on a stone wall in front of Dale Lougee’s house, and shinnied up the street pole at the corner of Fredette Street and Anna Avenue. I thought I had outsmarted Toby and I was safe. But Toby wanted my rear end—literally. He realized I was higher than street level, backed up for the second time, and with a running start, jumped up to the street pole, right over the stone wall.
He got hold of the right sleeve of my leather jacket with his huge teeth and tugged and tugged on my shoulder. He tore off my right sleeve while I held on for my life, yelling for help at the top of my lungs.
About that time, Mrs. Williams came out holding a broom. I prayed she heard my yelling. She called to Toby,” Bad dog, Toby!”
Thank goodness I shinnied up the street pole or he would have taken of the left sleeve too. I was shaking in my engineer boots. Toby kept jumping up. He wasn’t listening to Mrs. Williams.
Mrs. Williams walked over to Toby and whacked him on the nose with the broom and yelled at him, “Get back on the porch!”
I was surprised that one whack from a tiny thin old lady made Toby as docile as a house cat. He tucked his tail between his legs, lowered his head and walked quickly back to the porch.
Mrs. Williams yelled to me, “Marty you can come down now. He won’t bother you anymore.”
I did not believe her. I yelled, “Mrs. Williams, I’m never coming down until Toby is dead and in his grave.”
She laughed and told me Toby’s bark was worse than his bite. I looked at my right sleeve lying on the ground which five minutes ago was torn from my jacket.
Eventually, I did come down from the street sign, cautiously, gathered my right sleeve, and ran home to tell my parents what happened.
I told the story as clearly and honestly as I am retelling this horrifying experience.
I have been afraid of dogs to this day, but I force myself to make a fist and let the dog smell my hand. I work at getting rid of my fear of dogs. But I still carry the traumatization of my experience with Toby, the beast, from ten years old to my seventy years.
Some people have cats. Other people have dogs. I am happy to have no pets. They would scare me too much. I probably could handle it, but I don’t want to deal with ownership of a pet. When I visit with friends and cousins, cats seem to know I am a kind, gentle person. Every cat eventually comes to me and rubs my leg. When I pat their heads and stroke their backs, they rub my leg again and put their noses in my hand. Cats recognize a sucker!
My brother-in-law Kenny and Lenore’s twin sister Ellen have a brown lab named Cooper. Cooper is well trained and likes to play with his red ball. He also likes to catch a ball that Ellen or Kenny throws into the pool. Cooper will wait until the command is given, then he jumps in the pool after the ball. Cooper only swims to fetch a ball thrown into the pool.
Cooper comes to me and I pat him on the head and back and he stays with me. I got to like to be with him and some of the fear lessened.
That fear comes back every now and then when I remember the day Toby ripped off my jacket sleeve. I know I’m not supposed to show fear, but after Toby, that’s a tall order.