August 23, 2017 I incurred another canine incident resulting in the use of my firearm. I find this discouraging as there is nothing proud or powerful in shooting a dog. However, the sense of pride and power derived from recognizing the situation at hand, responding quickly and fluidly, knowing this as the culmination of all that training we do, makes for an undeniable sense of competency. I can protect and defend even in the face of discouragement, frustration, terror, moving targets, multiple decisions to be made simultaneously.
Hurricane Harvey readying to make landfall on the other side of my state, El Paso enjoyed a cool (below 90 degrees) evening with a light breeze and some cloud cover. I walked my dogs without wearing a hat. On the next street over from mine, heading home, my three dogs maintained proper heel position- alongside me or slightly behind me, all on my left side. I looked back to check what foolishness they endeavored as I felt the leashes do a slight scrambling motion. To my horror, there stood a boxer, right up to my two biggest dogs, challenging them.
“Not again! “ my brain screams.
I did not know this dog. Looking across to his posture, he looked like a boxer/ bulldog mix. His short stocky body with shorter than usual for a boxer’s leg length made me say, “Sherman Tank”. This guy was a powerhouse. Not smiling, not batting playfully with his front paws at my dogs’ faces, not sniffing noses or behinds, not bowing down on the forelegs in a play posture, this dog challenged. He had come out of nowhere, he had neither a leash, nor a person. He growled and snapped at my 80 pound male and my 45 pound female. He baited them to fight. Standing at a 6 foot plus distance ( length of leashes plus length of dogs), I could not physically reach this intruder. If I could, my options for handling him were slim to none. He wore a collar, but did his tags give any salient information. With that flat face, wide jawed build, barely a turn of his head would allow for his jaws to clamp down on me. Just like before.
I wondered where all the people were, this was a pleasant evening. Usually, people are outside and now no person could be seen. I’m in the Twilight Zone. Just like before. My initial, “hey!” soon enough turned into, “HEY!!HEY!!HEY!!” Startle the dog, stop the dog, create witnesses. Someone has to come out. My deepest, strongest bellowing only served to make me lose my voice within the hour. No one came out, the dog would not stop with his challenging, snapping, growling. My dogs stood in that basic stock still posture of dogs who are saying, “get away from me, you are crowding me,” while they shuffled their paws nervously.
I ran down the list in my head: dog charges from no where, I never heard him or saw where he came from; I first become aware of a skirmish by way of my dogs’ leashes creating a disturbance in my hold of them; I turn to see an unleashed, unpersoned dog who growls, snaps and challenges my two bigger dogs; this is a bull baiting breed, wired to fight; this same dog will neither cease nor desist. By remaining calm, I affect officer presence. My verbals are strong and specific, but to no avail in the presence of my assailant. I cannot engage in soft techniques like pepper spray, the breeze would make for the great likelihood I would hose myself down. I cannot engage in hard techniques, the dog is too far away and I am disabled, I cannot physically wrestle with this powerful, aggressively inclined dog. My littlest dog successfully hides behind the two bigger ones, but I could see this four dog ring around the rosie circling for I don’t know how long before the boxer mix lunges and bites. I am left with the final level on the use of force continuum: deadly force. I must employ use of a firearm.
On this walk, I carried my Bauer International .25 caliber, 1 1/2” barrel, pocket pistol in my jeans pocket. In my back pockets I carried my phone and my credentials which also include my concealed handgun license. In my left hand I held three leashes, in my right a filled poop bag. Some tease me about my teeny tiny pistol, but it brings me confidence and I am allowed. If we do not exercise our rights, we stand to lose them. But, this time, more than confidence, I needed to possess my wits. Thank God for training, I knew what to do, even in in the midst of four moving targets.
Having fired this pistol at the range only two times since acquiring this gun just over a year ago, I drew, and with a point shooting formation, fired. I believe I hit my target, training pays off, once again. This big powerful dog winced, curled up a little, then scuttled off across the street to the front yard of a house that left me to consider that was his home. I did not need to fire more rounds, the threat had been neutralized. I could not, would not fire more rounds, my gun would not be accurate at that distance.
Still, no people, I really am in the Twilight Zone. I get out my phone to call the incident in and I then realized that the indescribable intensity of the situation left me in shock. I dialed 411, information. Watching myself make this error, I then corrected myself and redialed to reach 911. The call began so strangled and tangled. My voice stuck in my throat from the atrocity of the event, bellowing and bellowing to no avail, as well as the shock of the circumstances. Once I pulled my sentences together and announced, “shots fired, I’m a retired federal law enforcement officer, I have my credentials on me and my CHL”, I kicked into gear and gave the full report.
NOW a lady comes out of the house on the side of the street where I stood and she went across the street to the dog. Was it her dog? Did she live there or the house she came out of? I did not know. I don’t know my neighbors other than to exchange a pleasant, “Hello,” if I see folks out. While I am on the phone, while she is now across the street, she yells at me, “Did you shoot this dog?” I said, “yes, and I am calling it in.” Another couple men come out of houses and all go to the dog. No one asks me if I am ok. No one asks me what happened, if I knew what happened.
The 911 dispatch asks me to stay there until a unit arrives. But, when a man in a small blue hatchback comes around the corner, stops in front of me and threatens my life, I need to leave. This man tells me, first, the dog in question, would not hurt a flea. Well, I was not walking my fleas, so I would not know about that. Then, he gets really hostile with, “I’m going to FUCKING get a gun and I’m going to FUCKING shoot YOU!” I’m terrified. The circumstances are bad enough without receiving this sort of reception. At present I await the 911 tapes to see if this verbal interchange picked up. Still connected with the dispatch, I say how things are getting hostile, I would like to walk home. I’m asked if they laid hands on me, I relate a negatory on that, the threats are verbal. I don’t want to stick around for more. The irony of this interchange did not strike me until an hour later. This man threatens me my life with a gun his is going to get although I am the one standing right there with a gun able to take him out, on the spot. I do not need to go get anything. I’m right there, at the ready. But, this is what training does: prepares us for the worst case scenario and keeps us collected and able to carry on.
I walked home and waited and waited and waited. Two police officers and one animal control officer finally arrive. I’d unloaded the weapon and placed it on a table with my credentials. They never want to see any of it. They let me know they went to the other house first. That is why I waited. The officers told me the first level of discussion with these people, the dog did go back to its house, was that the dog gets out almost every day. WHAT?!? How had I never seen this before? Did they recently get this dog? The good news is, the police officers tell me they instantly issued a citation to the man for a loose dog. Our city has leash laws. With that, I am completely exonerated.
The police visited with my dogs to see that they were not the instigators of any shenanigans, that they were unharmed. The police told me the dog was hit on the left shoulder. To that moment the dog lived. The animal control officer wanted to see my dogs’ shot records. Turns out one of my quilt guild friends is an animal control officer whom this man knows, I love El Paso.
In the end, I was told I did nothing wrong, just like before. I was told I am allowed to protect myself and my dogs. God Bless Texas. In the end, they did not want to see my credentials or my CHL or the weapon fired. They just wanted to take down my driver’s license number. I never went into my firearms instructor/ competitive marksman/ national champion background. It did not seem necessary. It will come out in the court hearing, though, the boxer’s owner wants to sue me for his vet bill. For his dog that gets out. He must not know who I am. I checked his name on the internet and many came up. So I am not sure who this neighbor man is. If he checked me, my training and firearms background would come up as well as my current involvement in dog training. I know my shoot/ don’t shoot scenarios. I know my dog breeds and behaviors. Do you? Just don’t stop training.