In Dog vs. Toddler, nobody wins

The other day I told Pat that we should have gotten holiday card pictures out of the way before all the chapping set in.

For the last month, our family has been playing a perpetual game of hot potato with a nasty head cold. Consequently, the kids take turns sporting chapped noses and chins brought on by runny noses and drooly mouth breathing. Add to that Rory’s assortment of cuts and scrapes caused by his near daily face plants, and they are looking far from portrait ready. (Unless we are trying to recreate this¬†–¬†particularly Walter Smith.)

Then on Thursday, Banjo bit Rory in the face.

The saddest little face waiting for the doctor.

The good news: he’s okay. Thankfully, he escaped with a small cut on his eyelid, and one on his scalp. He bounced back quickly emotionally, too. Less than an hour after it happened, even as his right eye swelled up, he was demanding a second helping of grapes and flashing his crooked “You know you love it when I’m feisty” smile.

To be safe, I took him to the pediatrician. Pointing out his injuries, I found myself unsure of which marks were from the dog bite and which were from Rory’s numerous skirmishes with steps and sidewalks. After the initial intake, the nurse assigned us to an exam room where we waited. And waited. And waited. I started to wonder if the staff took one look at Rory’s face, called social services and were now just waiting for them to arrive. Was that exam room mirror actually a two-way mirror? If so, my case wasn’t being helped by Rory standing tip-toe on a tiny chair, stretching precariously to flip the light switch on and off.

I can make light of it now, three days after the fact, when I know he’s fine. But as you can imagine, it was awful. Rory was hysterical: hurt, yes. Scared. But also….betrayed. My hands were shaking so hard I could barely clean his cuts. But I didn’t start crying until later. When I finally allowed myself to think of how bad it could have been. Then all the guilt rolled in.

The guilt has made it hard for me to write about it. It’s made it hard to write about anything, really. I feel guilty because my son was hurt, and could have been hurt much worse. And I feel ashamed. Embarrassed. How could I let this happen? I knew better. But I let Rory get too cozy with Banjo, who we’ve had problems with before.

I love Banjo, but he is kind of a jerk. He’s cranky by nature, and the cantaloupe-sized tumor he’s been carrying around for the last three years (thyroid cancer) has not helped his attitude. He gets snappy when someone tries to take food away from him. He gets snarly when he’s startled. I know those triggers, and I know better than to risk letting a small child set one of them off. Just because Banjo was being docile and letting Rory stick his finger in his eye didn’t mean he wasn’t going to snap if Rory crashed on top of him. Which he did.

Pat and I have been concerned about Banjo since the first time he snapped at Noah. Noah, jumping on the bed, went flying off and landed on Banjo, frightening – and probably hurting – both of them. Banjo barely touched Noah, but I saw one drop of blood and was ready to send him to his doggy maker in the sky. I called the vet immediately, assuming and secretly hoping they would say “Bring that mangy scoundrel in immediately!” They didn’t. But I was ready to get rid of him. Because protecting my kids is my number one responsibility.

But I’m conflicted. When we adopted Banjo, we signed up to take care of him to the end. Where do we draw the line? Do I want to risk getting anywhere close to that line? Or has he already crossed it? And if he has, what are we supposed to do with him?

We’ve been trying to find a middle ground. The dogs aren’t even living with us right now. They’re staying with my parents-in-law, who have fled the Chicago winters and are currently renting our old house. The dogs staying with them was going to be a short-term arrangement, but after Thursday, I’m not so sure.

Combating side effects of antibiotics with yogurt. Rory
apparently thought it needed to be applied topically.

In the meantime, Rory is being treated with an antibacterial ointment and an oral antibiotic. Well, he was. For two days, I dutifully applied the ointment and gave him medicine with one of those plungers (which always makes me feel like I’m feeding a goat or baby bird). And then last night I forgot to put the medicine back in the fridge. So I’ll need a new prescription from the pediatrician, though I can barely see the scrapes anymore. But because this dog bite was on my watch, I can’t risk it. I feel like I let my little Rooster down. I can’t do it again.

Rory’s cuts are healing, but there’s never a shortage of injuries with this guy. Today, chasing Noah, he went face first into the driveway. A purple goose egg has formed right in the middle of his forehead. I put some of the antibacterial ointment on it tonight for good measure. And I’ve started to look back at photos from earlier this year to use for the Christmas card. I’m not going to arrange a photo shoot. We’ve had enough drama for this month.