I was out of breath by the time I reached our front door. Thankfully my pursuers hadn’t dared to set foot on our property, but I ran at full speed down our driveway anyway and didn’t rest until I was safely locked indoors. Heaving with exhaustion and fear, my hands shook from the rapid release of adrenaline as I bolted the top lock.
I had been chased.
Just like in a bad dream, I’d felt like I was moving in slow motion and my pursuers were on my heels threatening to close the distance which separated me from safety. The good news was they hadn’t gotten to me this time, but there would be other opportunities and what would happen then? Would I be so lucky?
Having regained my breath, I raced to my mother’s bedroom and knocked at the door. A minute or two later she unlocked it and stood in the doorway in her night gown and slippers, “Oh, hey honey,” she said in a raspy, tired voice, “I didn’t know you were back from school yet.”
“Mom, I was chased and I barely made it home alive!”
“What?! Are you alright?” her voice suddenly more awake.
“Yes, but I..”
Before I knew it my mother had disappeared back into her room and was yelling back to me as she walked in a hurried fashion, “Hold on a sec, I’ve got a cigarette burning. Let me just grab it.”
I paced back and forth in the living room, trying to expel the left over energy the adrenaline had created. A moment later my mother returned and settled herself on the sofa, flicking her cigarette in the ashtray on the coffee table. “So what happened? Who was it?” and then as it suddenly occurred to her she blew out a large stream of smoke and stood up anxiously, “Are they still here?”
I shook my head, “No they’re gone now…l think.” I took a seat in the arm chair and tried to relax, “I had just gotten off the bus. I was halfway down the road when this pack of dogs began circling at a distance.”
Suddenly my mother let out a burst of laughter, “Wait, it was dogs!? You were chased by dogs?!”
Embarrassed and slightly pissed off I snapped, “Can I finish?”
Getting control over her laughter my mother shook her head, obviously bursting to laugh uncontrollably.
“Well it was really bad. At first I didn’t know they were after me. I just thought that they were strays, but then I figured out they were working together. You know, like a pack of wolves.”
My mother nodded her head, blowing smoke through her nose before snuffing out the cigarette in the ashtray.
“When I figured out that they were aggressive, because they were growling at me and stuff, I threw my lunch kit in the ditch. They all went after it and probably tore it to shreds and I took off running. They almost got me!”
I expected my mother to go grab the gun and go after these beasts who had inflicted emotional damages on her child. I even expected that she might get on the phone with people from the Humane Society and have them come over and round up these rabid animals. She didn’t do any of these things. Apparently, a gun wasn’t customary in these situations and the Humane Society was under staffed and had too many animal cruelty cases to deal with.
What my mother did was get up and instruct me to follow her. I trailed behind her, a bit reluctantly, outside to the yard. There lying against the house were a couple of walking sticks that no one ever really used for walking or anything else. My mother picked up one of the sticks and held it out, “Anna, this is what you’re going to do from now on: Carry this stick with you and the next time that pack of dogs harasses you, I want you to hold this stick up and shake it at them like this.” She shook the stick wildly like she was doing some Native American dance, “And then you say ‘GET OUT OF HERE!’ in your meanest voice with your meanest face. You got it!”
My mouth hung wide open as I tried to understand how this was the solution I was being presented with for my problem. “Can’t you just take me to school?” I begged.
“No!” my mother said firmly as she thrust the stick in my hand, “You stand up to those dogs and don’t let them smell your fear or otherwise they will get you.”
I held back the tears of frustration and fear as I took the stick and retreated back into the safety of my home. The next day I exited the house, fearfully looking all around as I approached the end of the driveway. I had my stick in one hand and my backpack on my shoulder. Holding the stick awkwardly out in front of me like it was cursed I scanned the neighborhood for signs of the pack. My stomach grew tighter as each step took me further away from the safety of my home and more into the dog’s territory. The five minute walk seemed to last an hour. As I neared the bus stop an elderly woman turned the corner, apparently on her morning walk. She waved and I waved my stick back at her. She must have thought I was taking it to school for show-and-tell. That’s probably why she looked so confused when I set the stick down, leaning it against the stop sign, when my bus arrived.
That afternoon when I got off the bus, my trusty stick was still there waiting for me at the stop sign. I grabbed it, drenched in anxiety and took the long march home. The neighborhood was strangely quiet on that particular day. I kept wishing a truck would blaze by or a family would be outside in a yard playing. Any sign of civilization would distract me from my lonely walk and potential encounter with the untamed beasts that were stalking me.
I was 30 yards away from my driveway when what I guess was the pack’s leader ran up behind me growling fiercely with his canines bared aggressively. There were three distinct voices shouting in my head simultaneously. The first told me to run. The second told me to drop and curl into a tight little ball. And the third told me to face the fear. Since this experience these three voices have offered their varied advice on multiply occasions. Sadly, I have only taken the latter advice a few times, but hindsight tells me that it is truly the only correct choice in all situations. On this occasion, I listened to voice number three.
In one quick movement I whipped around and thrust my large stick out waving it like a large baton. “GET OUT OF A HERE!!!” I screamed with my face screwed up like a crazy person’s. My voice seemed to come from a deeper part of me and it echoed in my head seconds later. I continued to shake the stick from side to side, cutting the thick air with each movement. To my complete amazement the alpha dog whipped around and shot off in the opposite direction, and I noticed a few dashes of color from my peripheral as his doggie mates ran off too. I stood completely still for a few seconds before waving the stick around a few more times, just for good measure. “Get out of here,” I whispered with my teeth clenched and my heart racing. When I was completely sure that my pursuers were indeed gone I turned back around and continued my walk home. There was a sense of pride in my chest that felt so foreign, and there was this other emotion which later I would come to know as empowerment. Once I got to the house I leaned my ferocious weapon against the side of the house and walked in calmly, knowing I was truly the alpha dog in my neck of the woods.