(This post is rated R for violence.)
I like dogs. Always have. Still do. But when a strange one walks by these days, I keep my eye on 'em.
In March of this year I was leading a group of Johnson University students down a path in the Tel Dan Nature Reserve in Israel. We were doing the usual stuff--flipping rocks, looking for freshwater crabs, trying to identify plants, appreciating the whitewater, talking archaeology--when suddenly a dog came barreling down the trail. He was a medium-sized mutt, matted and gnarly, reddish-blonde in color. It was odd to see a loose dog in the park and it got even odder when I saw a man from the National Parks Authority (Reshut) come over the rise in hot pursuit. I stepped to one side. The canine flew by.
The dog collided with our group and immediately started snapping. Everybody danced.
There was no time to think. I hollered and charged the situation with my hands in the air. I hoped he would think I was a angry mama bear and run away.
"Yaaah! Get out of here!" I roared.
The dog clearly didn't understand English.
Instead of respecting my clever bear impersonation, he reversed course and charged me.
As he came on I said to myself, Self, he is going to bite you. Oddly enough there was no panic or fear involved. I could have said, Self, the sky is blue and it would have carried the same emotional impact. It is odd how the brain processes such moments.
He was missile-fast. We met midflight.
Chomp! His fangs connected deeply with the top of my thigh. My pants ripped. Blood spattered.
There, I thought. That wasn't as painful as I thought it would be.
With his teeth so engaged, it seemed like the appropriate moment to grab him by the throat. So I did.
Now whether it was his momentum, my back-peddling, or some combination of two, I don't know. We went to the ground in what would become an embrace of death for one of us. Maybe both.
There was much snarling, snapping of teeth, and scratching of claws. That was just me. The dog fought too.
He released my thigh. But I didn't release his throat. I pushed his head to the ground. He responded in fury and tried to shred my wrists with his yellow teeth. He managed to draw more blood. But by this time I had the angle. I inched my grip upward under his whirling jaw. His red eyes met my blue ones. I could feel the heat of his breath. The stench was terrible.
I had the proverbial tiger by the tail, only it was more like a Tasmanian Devil by the throat. How can this possibly end? I pondered this question and others.
Can I outlast him? Do I have the strength?
The Reshut man was screaming in the background, "Get back! Get back!" Our group retreated, stunned. Paralyzed.
An eternity passed. I lay on my side, elbows locked, holding the dog by the throat. We both panted. Hope began to slip away. If he launches a sudden counter I don't think I can contain it.
A thin wire still held my microphone near my head even though the dog's teeth had sheared off the lanyard from around my neck.
I hoarsely whispered, "Help!"
Our group heard my prayer in their headsets. They were forced to suffer with me.
At least I wasn't cussing.
To be continued . . .