The Critters

For Nice Critters

Literally, It’s a Dog Eat Dog World

Literally, It’s a Dog Eat Dog World

More specifically: A Pit Bull Eat Chihuahua World

On February 22, 2010, at sunrise, I decided I wanted to go on a walk before I did anything else. So I put on my running shoes, put Little Nai’a’s (pronounced Ni-ah) leash and harness on her and out we went. I had Nai’a by the leash as we walked down the driveway out to the road. We had almost gotten as far as the neighbor’s driveway when all of a sudden, a monster dog was trying to rip into Nai’a from the rear. I didn’t know where the dog came from. I spun around when I realized what was happening and I screamed for help. Around and around we went. I didn’t know at the time it was a purebred Pit Bull. I only knew it wanted to kill my dog and I had no idea how to help Nai’a. I’d learned by trial and error months ago that to pick up a little dog puts the little dog in a worse position. She can’t get away and the other dog can reach her easily, but when I learned that lesson months ago, the other dog wasn’t trying to actually hurt Nai’a. He was only sniffing a little too boisterously.

I couldn’t think what to do and no one was coming to my aid. I tried to think as I screamed and screamed, dragging Nai’a in circles with me. I finally had one productive thought. I kicked the attacking dog in the stomach with all the strength I could muster. The dog didn’t even pause for a millisecond. He wanted only to kill my nine-pound white dog. Everything was a blur, but I knew when the huge dog locked its jaw onto my little dog and I knew when he started to shake Nai’a violently from side to side. I couldn’t let go of the leash and let Nai’a be chewed up like hamburger. I felt such guilt about not being able to rescue my dear little companion. I cannot adequately explain how bad I felt about that. After an eternity seemed to elapse — with me still yelling for help — a young man came running out of the house next door. He ran up to us, yanked the dark, violent dog by the collar and away from Nai’a. Thank goodness for strong, brave young men. When he yanked the dog up and away, the dog released Nai’a. Immediately, I scooped Nai’a up into my left arm. She had been crying and yelping the whole time, but when I scooped her up, she let out a dog kind of scream and a moment later — due to her state of shock — she clomped onto my left hand with her teeth as I tried to hold her steady in my left arm. I was going in and out of consciousness once the other dog had been led away. I was trying so hard not to faint, crash my head onto the pavement and fail my dog once again.

Another man, Rick, came running out of his house about this time. He told me to put a towel on Nai’a to keep her warm. I made my way through the side gate with Nai’a biting into my left hand. She was too terrified to let go. She didn’t know if that dog was coming back. When I tried to ease my hand out of Nai’a’s mouth, she bit harder. I heard a man out on the street yell at Rick that it was the blond lady’s fault. I heard the man shout something about getting a gun and shooting people. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. This was a nice residential neighborhood. I felt like I might be dreaming and needed to wake up.

Finally, Nai’a let go of my hand with her jaw as I laid her on the backyard lawn with a towel covering her. I felt lucky there had been a towel lying on the lawnchair. I talked to Nai’a quietly while I gently patted her forehead and front paws. She was terrified. I stayed with her. Rick had come into the backyard to say he was phoning around to see if there was a vet open this early in the morning. He reached Urgent Care at the Central Maui Animal Clinic and told them we were bringing Nai’a in.

I left Nai’a just for three seconds to get my cell phone from inside the sliding door. I wanted to see if Priscilla, my daughter, could meet me at the vet’s. Nai’a used that moment to get into the house and try to find safety in the bedroom. She bled all over the floor and the carpet. Her intestines were beginning to seep out of the wounds in her abdomen. I covered her again with the towel and let her lie there in the bedroom. Rick was ready to take us, so I tried to pick Nai’a up again. She yelped in pain. Rick said, “Put a big towel over her head and body.” That worked. I got her into the car and Rick drove us the seven miles to Nai’a’s vet with Nai’a looking up at me the whole time.

When we arrived at the animal clinic, Rick ran in to tell them we were there. A confident veterinarian technician came out. She placed a fabric muzzle over Nai’a’s face and then she picked her up gently and carried her into the building for immediate pain medication. I was so thankful.

The veterinarian came out to talk to me. She asked me to sign a consent for an X-ray. When the lady doctor came out a few minutes later, she had the list of injuries and costs on a printed sheet. She explained she probably could repair the damage as long as the bladder was not involved. She said they would not know that until she begins the surgery. The cost for the surgery and care was going to be very high — and that was if the bladder was not involved and if no infection set in.

I went out to the empty parking lot to cry. The sun had risen over the ridge of Haleakala. I tried to phone Bob at work, but there was no answer. I cried and cried.

The vet technician’s assistant came out and said the doctor asked her to tell me that whatever I decide is not wrong. She said that Nai’a’s spirit might be broken. I had never heard that expression with regard to an animal, but, in essence, that is what I had been feeling and crying about. I knew Nai’a would be too scared now to go anywhere. She would be afraid to go out the door to the backyard by herself. She would not want to go on walks. After that horrible attack, she KNEW I couldn’t protect her. She knew it was a dog eat dog world and now I knew it, too. I could get pepper spray, but she wouldn’t know she had any added protection. She would spend her life being afraid — and that was assuming she could be mended by the doctor and have no complications.

I decided to let the doctor give Nai’a the fatal injection that would, I hope with all my heart, send her to a beautiful place where I would see her again — one day. I believe it is so — for good people. I trust it must be so for animals.

Priscilla, and two of my grandchildren, Jesse and Kalisi — and Tika, Nai’a’s dog pal — all were there with me when the doctor came in to give the injection. By then, I had had 20 minutes in the room alone with Nai’a before Priscilla and the children arrived. I had stroked Nai’a’s forehead and paws and told her that she is a very good dog. She had a small towel over her chest and stomach where her insides were hanging outside. She continually looked into my eyes. And even with the heavy-duty pain medicine, if I walked 10 inches out of her view to get another Kleenex tissue, she whimpered and yelped with fear.

I miss her so much. I miss her presence. I miss her patience. When we were at home, she always watched me quietly, waiting for some indication that we were about to go out in the car or out for a walk. She loved to jump up on the back seat of the car while I fed the chickens on Piikea Street or the feral cats all around the town. Nai’a had enjoyed her walks on the beach, down the avenues, around the parks. She had especially loved life when we were at the Kenolio dog park on evenings when only her best canine friends were there. Then I would let her off her leash to run. She was the fastest. She would run so fast that she seemed to bounce and skim the surface of the grass just like a dolphin bounces and skims the surface of the water. That’s why Priscilla had named her Nai’a. Nai’a means dolphin in Hawaiian.

To their credit, the people who owned the pit bull took him to the Maui Humane Society an hour after the attack and requested that he be put down. They admitted it was not the first time their dog had attacked a small dog. Later, I learned from the lady who had owned him that they had kept him chained up during his two years of life. The lady and her husband went out to work all day, five days a week. On a couple of days, February 22nd being one of them, their dog had managed to get loose.

I’m not angry. I’m sure pit bull lovers would like me to be sad for that poor pit bull who, through no fault of his own, had not been properly socialized. I’m not quite to that point yet: maybe one day. For now, I’m sad that Nai’a isn’t here anymore. I can only find solace in the thought that none of the little children on this street were attacked instead.

I do have two suggestions for anyone who might be thinking of getting a dog — if it’s not a pit bull or a pit bull mix. I suggest you all stay in your houses with your dogs and never take them out for walks. That’s the safest solution. No? Well, my second suggestion then is this. If a person has a dog that they truly want to protect, they need to have an individual plan for the type of emergency that can come up so fast like it did for Nai’a. If I had had a can of pepper spray in my free hand, I could have sprayed the pit bull in the eyes and gotten away safely with my dog. Certainly, yes, Nai’a might have gotten some in her eyes inadvertently, but she would have survived it. There are other products out there besides pepper spray that will not kill the aggressive dog, but will cause them enough pain that they will stumble around forgetting about the desire to kill your dog. Pepper spray would be one option.

If there is a better solution out there, I would like to learn of it. I won’t be getting another dog. Even if I bought the biggest, most well-trained dog on the island and even if I took lessons to become the best owner and trainer of a big dog, I don’t believe the dog would stand a chance against a pit bull who has not been socialized properly and who is running full-on towards my dog, intent on one thing: the kill.

There are hundreds of pit bulls and pit-bull-mix dogs here on Maui. Supposedly, the dogs are bred here for hunting the wild boar upcountry, but for the most part, the people here who buy purebred or mixed pit bulls — and those who breed them here — do it as an ego-booster. They think it’s something — I don’t know what — but some kind of a special feeling to have this pit bull in one’s family dwelling or on the property.

I believe the real solution lies in mandatory certificate obedience classes for the pit bulls and half-mixes of pit bulls on a once-a-year basis. I believe there should also be a checklist of socializing skills the dog is progressing through the first year and is being tested on — every year — for his social behavior. If the pit bull or pit-bull-half-mix dog can’t pass the obedience training and the socialized behavior sessions, the dog is not safe to have around and needs to be put down. Chaining them up is not the solution. Just ask Nai’a.