Growing up, my siblings and I were never allowed to have a dog. My mom just wasn’t a fan of pets and thought it would be too dirty, too much work…the list goes on! But when my aunt tragically passed away in September 2005, we took in her Shetland sheep dog, Harley, who was only a few months old. My family fell in love with her. She was a sweet, beautiful dog.
On February 15, 2007, my Mom’s birthday, and only days before her 2nd birthday, Harley was very sick. My parents had to take her to the vet, where they learned that she had swallowed a penny. They said that it may have been when she was very young and it was trapped inside of her. The penny was deteriorating in her, causing her to have blood poisoning. To make matters worse, they discovered that she had a rare organ disorder that would make surgery impossible. It was one of the worst days when my parents had to make the decision to put Harley to sleep.
We were all devastated. Our first and only puppy was tragically gone. Months later, on April 2007, I went to my grandmothers for dinner. Before going to dinner I gave my sister a jacket that I had had for several years. It was one of those puffy jackets with a fur hood and I was just sick of it. When we got back from dinner I was going to a friend’s house and it was a cold night so my sister told me that I should wear the jacket. I begrudgingly wore it and went to my friends. While I was at my friend’s house all of my guy friends were teasing me about the coat because it was bright yellow and puffy. I had worn this coat around them SO many times but they decided to tease me about it that night. For some odd reason I kept it on.
Later, Jay called me and I met him at his house. I remember driving around for a little before going to his house because we hadn’t been dating that long and I didn’t want to seem desperate. When I got to his house I walked in and saw his dog, Angel, on the couch. She was sleeping so she lifted her head and put it back down. I had been around Angel plenty of times before and I had even played with her. Jay’s family had gotten her at a shelter and before they had her, she was abused. She was always a little schizy, but a sweet dog.
I plopped down next to Angel and put my arm around her neck to give her a hug. I was sad about Harley and needed some dog companionship. But Angel must have thought that I was trying to hurt her. She immediately began attacking me. I don’t remember much about the attack. I remember her barking really loud and that I stood up. I could feel pain and blood dripping but I thought that she had just scratched my chin. I know that I was using my arms to deter her and that the puffy jacket protected my arms. That must have been why I wore the jacket. I was also wearing a pair of angel wing earrings that night. I found this ironic because the dog’s name was angel and because I could have been hurt way worse than I was, so I feel like I had someone looking out for me. One of my earrings also went missing, so I assumed that she must have bitten one, instead of my ear.
Shortly after the attack I ran downstairs to the bathroom. Jay hadn’t rushed in the room until he realized that Angel wasn’t playing. He ran down to see what had happened as I cupped my hands over my mouth and starred at my gaping lip. She had bit my lip almost off as well as my cheek. My eyes and neck were scratched. I remember not being able to sit down and Jay panicking. He drove me to the hospital where I was met by my mom, sister, brother and Jay’s mom.
I had to go to 3 different hospitals in order to get the right treatment. They numbed my lip to sew it back on but the pain is something I will never forget. Injection after injection, and stitch after stitch. I remember writhing and shaking. We didn’t leave the hospital until around 6 in the morning.
Since the attack I’ve had 2 plastic surgeries and 2 laser treatment procedures. I’ve endured numerous injections in my lip. I’ve hated the way I look.
It has been a long, frustrating journey. My lip has improved tremendously and I am almost ok with how it looks. My plastic surgeon is an amazing man. He is not only great at what he does but he has such a great personality. I owe my face to him!
That May we got Sandy. Some might think that I would be afraid of dogs but she has helped ease any fears I had. I do not hate dogs and I’m not afraid of them. Instead, I feel a deeper connection with them because I know they are misunderstood. I know that Angel was not trying to hurt me, she was protecting herself.
I could wallow in self-pity and be upset that I do not have the same lips that I loved so much. But then I think about other people who are born with diseases or deformities that are a million times worse than mine. Most people who I meet now say that they can’t even tell that I have a scar. I may continue with treatments, my insurance willing!, but healing from something like that is more than skin deep. It is an acceptance that needs to come from within. I’ve learned that I need to accept that this is who I am, and I’m still the same me. And the most important lesson of all… let sleeping dogs lie!