I Owe my Diagnosis to a Dog Named Babs4.29.11
I was bitten by a dog. Obviously dog bites do not cause cancer. But this seemingly unmiraculous event is now what I and my more or less religious family members consider to be the “little miracle” that led to it’s discovery. At the time, it seemed anything but sacrosanct. In fact, it felt a lot like one of those moments when you’ve already lost your keys and gotten a speeding ticket and torn a hole in your favorite jeans and so you look up at the heavens and shake your head disapprovingly at God, silently chastising him with bit film phrases like “Come on, really?” and “What next?” Only, in my case it was a few months of majorly shitty events like experiencing my first two significant family deaths (that of a most beloved grandfather and a grandmother-in-law) and having no job during a horrible recession. In light of these things, the dog bite didn’t seem so bad, just the food-poisoning inducing icing on the cake.
It went like this: After work, I go to Bedford Boys Ranch, which I have recently rediscovered as a beautiful refuge from life, complete with ducks, small children, sunsets, and the unmatchable rippling cadence of wind lapping the water. It has been the inspiration of many poems. I complete a short jog around the pond and head towards my favorite bench, notebook in hand, with high hopes of resting my legs and finding the inspiration for yet another bird-and-water themed poem. I am passing a couple walking two dogs, my eyes on the prize, no thought in my head but to beat any fool pedestrians ignorant of my prior claims on that seat, when I suddenly find myself on the ground, in pain, and crying without really understanding why.
After a few seconds I put together what had happened from the context clues of 1) me lying on the ground with a bleeding leg, 2) the previously nondescript couple standing near me and talking about me and 3) a maniacal beast cavalierly sitting a few feet away with a chunk of my leg in its jaws. Okay, so no bloody stump or jaws or anything that grotesque, but there was definitely a cruelly grinning dog and lots of blood coming from my leg. And suddenly I am in my own version of the infamous Monty Python "Dead Parrot" skit:
MAN: Oh shit! Oh SHIT!
WOMAN: Did she nip her?
MAN: Yeah, yeah. She nipped her all right.
ME: Nip? Nip? Doesn’t feel like a bloody nip!
WOMAN: Well are you sure? Maybe she just knocked her over.
MAN: No, she definitely bit her. Oh shit! We’re going to have to take her to the hospital.
WOMAN: Dammit. Not again.
ME: No, no. Again?! No, I don’t think that’s necessary.
WOMAN: Well ask her if she’s okay. See if she’s bleeding.
MAN: Are you okay? Are you bleeding?
ME: Um, yes. Yes, I’m definitely bleeding. But I don’t think I need to go to the hospital.
MAN: (To wife) She’s bleeding. (To me) Well, she’s a blue heeler, you know. They like to nip people.
WOMAN: We’ll take you to the hospital.
ME: No, no, I don’t think I need to go to the hospital. But, I need to stop the bleeding. Do you have anything I can use?
(Man looks at woman.)
WOMAN: I don’t have anything.
(Man pats his pockets.)
MAN: I don’t have anything either.
ME: Okay then. (I take off my shirt and tie it around my leg. I am now on the ground, bleeding through my favorite shirt and wearing nothing but a sports bra in a public park.)
MAN: Let’s take her to a clinic. I think there is a clinic nearby.
ME. No, no. I’ll be fine. (Nightmarish images of sitting in a waiting room in my sports bra flash through my mind).
WOMAN: We’ll take her to Primacare. There’s a Primacare down the street.
MAN: We’ll take you to Primacare.
ME: No, no. I’ll be fine. I live close by. It’s a very short drive. I’ll be fine. It doesn’t hurt that bad anymore. I think it was the shock of it. (Wiping away tears.)
WOMAN: Our vet is Deborah.
ME: (A blank look.)
WOMAN: She’s right down the street. Off Pipeline. She’s Babs' vet. ("Babs" being the vicious beast who bit me.) (To man) Give her our information and Deborah’s.
MAN: Here, let me give you our information. (Pats pockets.) Honey, I don’t have anything to write with. Or on.
WOMAN: Well I don’t have anything.
(Both look at me.)
I dig my notebook and pen out of my purse and reach to hand it to the man.
MAN: You’d better write this down for me. I’m too shaky.
And so on, until we had exchanged info and Babs' vet records and determined that it was unlikely that I had rabies or anything more serious than a leg that bled for three days and a nasty scar that is still purplish. Against the advice of my doctor-phobic husband, I also called my mother-in-law (a doctor) and acquired a next-morning appointment for a tetanus shot.