I Had to Use My Gun Today

competitive marksmanshipAlways at the ready, I never thought I would ever have to actually use my gun. Then came the day, three weeks ago, now, when I called my friends to say, “I had to  use my gun, today.”

The circumstances presented textbook case study. My response left the police reassuring me that I did not do anything wrong. But the aftermath leaves me with a sense that knowing what it feels like to kill will never ever dissipate, will never fade into any background. It now defines me.

While walking my dogs through my highly colorful neighborhood, I always notice my surroundings. Like the big city I come from, I think of myself as remaining nonplussed by the subdivisions which sport different socioeconomic strata every other street. This definitely describes my area. Not that people don’t have money, it is how they choose to spend it. Pride in ownership of one’s home does not top anyone’s list of necessary expenditures. I always walk my dog on a variety of routes through my neighborhood, knowing every house and every dog behind every gate. I say “hello” to all, creating good neighbor relations. I say “hi, pup” to all the dogs, as this might be the only human interaction they get. The dogs show very agitated behavior from behind their gates ranging from anxious and frightened to aggressive and vicious. I always have a plan in case of dogs breaking loose or already being loose. I can say I call Animal Control more times than I can remember. I can lay claim to encountering loose dogs, me and mine have been charged or corralled, and I have even had to physically submit dogs. It is annoying. But, knowing I can handle myself breeds confidence. Knowing I am within my rights to employ deadly force breeds strength of character. All my calls to Animal Control, my Concealed Handgun License classes and federal law enforcement office training confirms this. Three weeks ago, the baby boxers I observed from the past several months became the address in question. Upon first seeing these pups, I thought “devil dogs”. I assessed they were completely without human companionship and, as per this set up, the dogs turn on each other. I wondered why the little devils didn’t just walk right through their gate slats. I planned on stepping on them in such event and bringing them to their front door, hoping someone would answer the door. Over time, I never saw any people at that house, but I did see the meeker baby boxer replaced by an even milder Husky. Did they eat the baby boxer? And, over time, the remaining boxer grew as did his aggression. For awhile, the owners put up a wooden board, as if that would stop the dog from breaking out of their gate. However, on September 24, 2014, I walked down the street, crossed at the end and proceeded up the street, my norm for this dog walk route. Across the street from The House, the boxer growled and barked and snarled. As usual and as a bigger dog than a couple months ago. On his side of the street, in front of his house, the unthinkable unfolded. This baby boxer, now 4-6 months old, maybe 20-25 pounds of filling out aggression, consciously squeezed out from between the slats of his gates (Husky not seen for awhile, he probably got eaten, too?) and makes a beeline for my black lab’s neck. This is fight stance. I knew better than to run as I would incite the boxer’s prey drive. He’s 4WD, I’m disabled and about 1/2 wheel drive. I stood my ground. The boxer went right for my dog’s jugular. Not the nose to nose greet, not the butt sniff, but straight for the kill zone. Shit, the owners were working on building a fight dog. I got angry in my heart: “NO ONE hurts Goofy!” He can do that all by himself, fully living up to his name. I ran through my options in my brain: Grab the dog by his neck, press him into the ground into a submission hold. Wait, boxers don’t have necks. I could grab him… where? And, boxers have no snout. The instant he turns his face, to my body reaching for his, his teeth are on my arm, my face, my neck, my vitals. He growls, snarls, holds his aggressive stance, challenging my dog. My dog looks at me helplessly, not a fighter. Boxer’s hackles stand upright from head to tail. I think of the NRA magazine article I recently read on how a clean shoot can still result in repercussions unforeseen. The court cases, the attorney’s fees, the months and years of drawn out court dates and trials. I thought about seeing Zero Options other than resorting  to deadly force. As I held the dogs’ leashes in my left hand, my little dog standing behind the labrador in question, I did what I trained 20 years for: I kept my eye on the target, accessing the zipper to my pouch I always carry on the dog walks. Keys in front pouch pocket. Pistol and poop scoop bags in back pocket. The accessed pouch, where I practiced a million times how to grip my pistol and only my pistol amongst the poop bags, my right hand gripped the gun, index finger off the trigger, other fingers wrapping around the grip in a most familiar if not comforting feeling. I would be OK. I knew what I was doing. I knew what to do. Drawing, finger now on the trigger,  I double tapped the aggressor, affecting a clean kill. My dogs never moved. My dogs never winced. I trained for this moment of Life or Death for 20 years, but they had not. The boxer fell with a final helpless expression to his no longer angry puppy face. Upon his final exhale, he issued a scream. I will have to live with this memory the rest of my life. I did not stick around to collect cartridges, I did not inspect for bullet holes. I zoned out at this point. In shock, now, I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. No one came to help. No one came out of a single house. I stood all along in the world. Like any self respecting woman, I peed my pants. They never tell you this in training. I’ve heard of barfing, but never of the bladder letting loose. All I could think was I needed to get home to shower and change. I marched home 1/2 a mile in record time, my clock reporting the hour of 911, 0911. I will always remember that, too. That sense of Twilight Zone left me wondering who I was supposed to call first. Animal Control,? The Police Department? My agency I retired from? Confounded that all this had to happen, I only could put together needing to call my FFL. Go figure? He set me straight as to calling Animal Control first. From there, they patched me over to 911 where reports of shots fired had been called in. Before the police officers arrived, I showered and changed. I even told them about peeing pants, but they were very kind by not putting that part in the official report. I identified myself on the phone and again in person as being a retired officer, as being disabled, as holding a CHL. I could articulate NOT “I feared for my life”, but the dog charged, the dog went for my dog’s neck, the dog growled and barked viciously AND my ongoing observations including seeing the other dogs at that residence and then not seeing them there. A clean shot can not be validated with “I feared for my life”, but with listed features of the aggressor’s behavior. This can include a person twice your size waving a club screaming, “I’m going to kill you.’ That calls for deadly force. The boxer charging me and mine with articulable behavior as intending to kill constituting a deadly force response. The officers examined my gun and wanted to know if I’d discharged it. The magazine did not contain enough bullets for a double tap from a fully loaded magazine. What was I to tell them? I’m too lazy to fully load? If I need more than 6 rounds in the mag I should not be carrying? But my shocky brain cleared up as I told them I loaded revolver friendly, as a former competitor, we only loaded for six. That fully explained the remaining 4 rounds from my magazine. And that was it. The police left with reassuring me I’d done nothing wrong. I did what I trained for. I shot accurately, cleanly, without question. But now what? The training never goes beyond this moment. So, I went to the range with my friendly neighborhood FFL to make sure I “got back on the horse’ right away. No problems there. I sought counsel with an agency peer counselor. Talking to a fellow office evens out the playing field, we all face on the job dilemmas and traumas. I sought private counseling sessions to make sure I stay grounded. I have to put my dogs in the car, now and walk them elsewhere. I have to change my routines. Instead of being pissed off- my norm- I have to see the gratitude in the moment. I didn’t get arrested, I did not shoot my own dogs, PETA or the SPCA did not picket my front yard or graffiti my garage door. The Devil Dog owners did not retaliate. I must, though, remain vigilant, vengeance can be patient. Oh, and the other baby boxer? It already went to Animal Control. When the police visited my house, they got the radio call saying the owner got notified of my actions and the other boxer was already in Animal Control. Hmmm.

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"I worked as a Federal Law Enforcement Officer for over 14 years, in a firearms carrying capacity. First assigned to LAX (1994), then to the Los Angeles/ Long Beach Seaport (1997-2007), I took an early retirement from my final duty station of El Paso, TX (2007-2008). Never having handled firearms prior to this job, I give full credit for my initial shooting lessons and safe firearms handling skills to the government. As I began to compete, I gleaned tips and coaching lessons from the best law enforcement instructors across the nation, turning myself into one of the best, too. I was a firearms instructor in Los Angeles and a national level competitor on a formally sponsored team from 1999 through 2003, being sent all over the nation for pistol match competitions. As a result of this gift of an experience, I went on to set five national records in the law enforcement shooting sports. Check in regularly to read about those and other adventures and misadventures!"
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