Opinion Columns & Blogs

Faith in mankind wounded, restored

Bill Morem with his dog Buster.
Photo by Joe Johnston 05-19-10
Bill Morem with his dog Buster. Photo by Joe Johnston 05-19-10 Tribune

You just never know when a cosmic curveball is going to come barreling at you from out of the blue, giving your butt a fine dusting in the proverbial batter’s box of life. But (without further torturing the baseball metaphor), that’s what recently happened to the Morem clan.

The story starts with Buster, our Woods Humane Society rescue dog. We got Buster 12 years ago after we read that our pug, Bailey, needed a companion in the home while we worked during the day. Fair enough.

Upon adoption, we found that besides having a pedigree, Buster loved scraps, got car sick and could sit up like a circus dog on his hind legs, his front legs hanging down like expectant meerkat or prairie dog arms.

We were smitten — as was Bailey.

Buster, an AKC-registered lemon beagle, is one of the sweetest dogs in the world. In fact, he’s blessed with one of those mouths that has a dolphin’s perpetual grin on it, and he’s never raised a hackle in his life. He’s a honey.

• • •

Mother’s Day this year was warm and partly cloudy in our Baywood Park neck of the woods.

I’d finally gotten around to spring-cleaning our garage, which meant going through boxes of old family photos, marveling yet again at the young, middle-aged and older couple who had been my parents.

The Lovely Sharita and I were further tickled that daughter Cait (who may be in the running for the title of World’s Greatest Mother) was over with our grandson Madden (aka The Crouton, who is without a doubt the World’s Greatest Grandson). All in all, take a little sepia, a little Norman Rockwell, and we were as happy as any Cleavers in “Leave it to Beaver” land.

The late afternoon and early evening were warm and without too much breeze when I decided to take the dogs for a walk at our local dog-friendly beach as sort of a maraschino on that Sunday’s banana split of life.

After a stop at the Mutt Mitt dispensary, we headed down the beach, which was deserted with the exception of a couple of kids running in and out of the bay and a man with three large dogs on individual leather leashes.

As we approached, I called out, “You’ve got quite a handful there.” He replied that they could be unpredictable, so I tried to keep Buster and Bailey as close as possible. And then the cosmic curveball came bolting out of the blue.

One of the dogs, a malamute, slipped its collar and went at Buster, who was rolled within the leash-length territory of the other two dogs (with body types and heads of American bulldogs), who figured it was fair game to join the fight.

With the guy straining so hard to pull the bulldogs off Buster, he fell on his back in the sand, digging in his heels to get more traction as he strained at their leashes and screamed their names.

With one bulldog fully clamped down on Buster’s right hind leg, the other was intent on eviscerating him by going after his fully exposed belly.

In hindsight, it was a miracle I didn’t have my fingers bitten off. I jumped into the fray and grabbed the belly-ripping bulldog’s upper lip and nose with my right hand and yanked backward. That startled him enough to then let me grab his lower jaw with my left hand and release his hold on Buster.

As Buster, screaming and bloodied, scooted on his back away from them, the malamute came in for a second round and took the attack into the bay. Wading in after them, I got Buster and found Bailey out of harm’s way up the beach. We got away, but not before the malamute made several other attacks on Buster during our retreat.

Screaming at the dog, I yelled, “What kind of (expletives) brings such dogs to the beach?” only to see one of the kids behind me, crying, trying to capture the malamute.

I can’t remember when I felt so bad. It wasn’t the little boy’s fault. Yet the adrenaline rush of fear and anger raging through me at that moment was probably well within being Stage 3 poisonous to mind, body and soul.

• • •

Our vet X-rayed Buster for fear of internal injuries and a collapsed lung, stitched him for punctures and put him on pain pills and antibiotics. The worst part of the ordeal looks like he may lose the use of his right hind leg due to nerve damage. Pretty miserable scenario, wouldn’t you say?

Yet, here’s what gives me faith in mankind: The guy who owns the dogs that attacked Buster called various veterinarians until he happened upon ours. He left his name and phone number and asked that we get in touch with him. We did.

Todd was simply crushed by the turn of events. We asked him if he could help with the vet bill — and he did. He asked if he could come over to see Buster, and we let him.

He was devastated. He told us the circumstances around the dogs and that he’d bought muzzles. And, in addition to helping with the vet bill, he gave us a card, which reads:

“There are no words to express how I feel about this traumatic event. I feel grateful you are as understanding and compassionate as you’ve been. This tragic event did not happen in vain. I have learned numerous life lessons about myself, my pets, my own intuition and my part and responsibility. I hope Buster recovers well. Good luck and thank you. Todd.”

Thank you, Todd; you’re a standup guy who did the right thing, the honorable thing. Personal responsibility has become an all-too rare character quality, and I’m glad to see it’s alive and well — even if revealed through a painful cosmic curveball.

Reach Bill Morem at morem@thetribunenews.com or 781-7852.