It is only about 18 hours since the fire, but time seems to have expanded. I leave my son’s room; he’s already sinking back into a doped-up, pain-free state. In the car, I look at my phone for the first time in hours and see that a colleague has called. I’m guessing it’s Sandy, who often organizes our birthday cards and many of the holiday potlucks at work. Sure enough, her voicemail lets me know that the news has spread at work, they are thinking of me, and I should let them know what I need. Unfortunately, I have no idea what I need. My life feels surreal and not fully focused. Good thing the ex is driving. Still, I’m comforted that other people are reaching out to me.
The next call is not comforting. My neighbor has called to tell me that Rosie, my nervous dog, has bitten the nanny’s little girl and they need to know if Rosie is up to date on her shots. I’m horrified, almost disbelieving. Both my dogs are rescue dogs, each with their own issues. Rosie has always been timid, but she’s come a long way in the six years with me and the kids. Yes, she’s current on all shots. She’s never even attempted to snap at anyone. If she’s scared, she just runs away. I’m so sorry. I feel terrible. Later, the nanny reassures me it was her little girl’s fault. Rosie was in my room, under the table, cowering in a corner, still unnerved by recent events. She had told her daughter not to go near Rosie because of everything the dog had been through the last 12 hours. Rosie felt trapped and snapped. I’m grateful that the nanny is so understanding of the situation, but I realize that I need to find a quieter place for Rosie to stay. I call my ex and ask if he’ll take the dogs once Jacob is at his house. The dogs know him and there are no small children around. He and his wife agree, thankfully.
The ramifications of this incident will go on for weeks. Monday I get a call from the city’s animal control agency, who investigates all canine bites. I give them my vet’s name and then my ex’s address, where the dogs are staying until my insurance finds a rental house for us. The animal control people show up at my ex’s house 3 hours later than promised, put Rosie under house quarantine for 10 days, and then make their grand exit by driving into his mailbox. This is no ordinary mailbox teetering on a thin pole. No, it’s built into a sturdy stack of limestone bricks. The estimate will show $400 for repairs, but in the end, the city refuses to take responsibility. Thanks a lot, bureaucrats! The ex calls every few days to mention some annoyance about the dogs, who exploit every loose slat in his fence to escape. Buddy is the ringleader, and Rosie follows. Even Jacob complains about them as dad makes him search and chase the dogs all over the neighborhood, only to discover they’ve made their way back to the house on their own. This happens a couple of times until he has fixed all the questionable fence slats. I visit them all frequently, but I may be doing more harm than good when it comes to the dogs. They report that Rosie whines and whimpers pitifully for several hours after I leave. I had no idea she was bonded to me that strongly. My long-held hope of having the kids take over the dogs in a few years is squashed for good. I know now that the dogs, originally acquired for my son and daughter, are definitely mine – for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad.