There’s a lot of different phobias out there, and more than likely everyone can point to at least one specific thing that gives them the willies. Whether it’s spiders, snakes, heights, closed spaces or any number of other things.
One you don’t hear about too often however is dogs. Dogs are great after all, loving, playful and more loyal than even most people. I’m myself am terrified of dogs though, or at least bigger dogs. Chihuahuas and beagles are fine with me, but anything larger than a golden retriever and I can’t help but feel a bit uneasy.
Most people look at me like I just admitted to a murder when I tell them this, hence the reason why I don’t tell many people. Honestly, for the longest time I couldn’t even pinpoint why I was so afraid. The memory was lost to me, but the large scar on the back of my thigh serves as a constant reminder of something which my mind refuses to acknowledge.
It’s gone on this way for years, but recently I had a conversation with my mother that reignited my interest. She was hesitant to say anything, but eventually she told me about the incident at my grandparent’s house. I was six at the time, and spending a week there with my sister as my parents gallivanted off to some tropical getaway.
About three days into their trip, and my mother suddenly received a frantic phone call from my grandma. She was sobbing and apologizing profusely, mentioning that I had been taken to the hospital.
That pretty much put an end to my parent’s vacation, and within hours they were on a flight back home. When they arrived, I was already in the hospital bed, and under close medical supervision. Apparently, I was outside playing at my grandparents, when an animal suddenly ventured into their yard and attacked me.
Their house was pretty remote, a property of about a dozen acres of mostly unkempt woodlands. Their nearest neighbor was probably at least a quarter mile away.
No one really knows what exactly happened; and I had no memory of it. But apparently this animal attacked me, tore a chunk of flesh off of the back of my thigh. Had it not been for my grandpa hearing my screams outside, and coming out to fire potshots at the rabid beast, then I might not be able to tell this story.
Mom said they tried asking me what exactly had happened, but in my delirious haze of painkillers and aftershock, I only really told them two words.
The police searched my grandparent’s land, and the surrounding properties as well. They issued a warning to the town about the apparent vicious canine, but no one ever reported seeing it.
Luckily for me, I eventually made a full recovery. The attack mostly just tore off a patch of flesh and left some residual muscle damage as well as the gnarly scar that I mentioned earlier. I get a glimpse of it every once in awhile on the back of my thigh, but for some reason I never really thought much of it.
My grandparents on the other hand, took the incident very seriously. I don’t think they ever really forgave themselves for it. My grandma was especially horrified by the attack, so much so that she and grandpa would only ever visit us from that point on, and never let us visit them. She wanted to sell the house after that, but my grandfather refused.
He passed away a few years ago, and from what my mom said, he was never really the same after the event. My grandma told my mom that my grandfather set dozens of traps around their property. He’d post up on the porch at night with his shotgun and 44 magnum, hoping the hound would return. He caught some racoons, a few rabbits and even a young cougar at one point, but never any dogs.
So that’s it, right? Case closed. I was mauled by a large dog when I was younger, and the trauma led me to developing my phobia. That should have been all I needed to know, but it wasn’t.
The repressed memories I had really started to bother me. I knew they were somewhere in my brain, because I remember the trip, but not the actual attack. I just had to find a way to extract them. I wanted to conquer my phobia, and to do that, I had to face the memories.
So, I began to dig. I looked into methods of recovering repressed memories and procedures to better understand my fear. After a lot of failed prescriptions and other tactics I was eventually led to regressive hypnotic therapy. It was a bit of a radical step, and honestly, I didn’t believe it would work, but it did.
I remember now.
Grandpa and I spent the day fishing at a local river. We didn’t catch anything, and eventually turned back to the house for dinner. On the way back we talked about baseball, and he asked me what position I liked to play. I told him I liked to be the catcher because I didn’t have to run as much. He chuckled at that, and before long we arrived back at their house.
Grandma had begun dinner, while my sister was in the living room reading magazines. My grandpa went inside to help my grandma, but I elected to stay outside and play a little longer.
Grandpa was hesitant, and warned me not to go into the woods. I nodded back to him, and he went into the house. For the next few minutes I went on to mess around with my bow and arrow, and engage in the imaginary war I was a part of. I wasn’t very good with the bow, and most my arrows flew well wide of my targets.
At one point I got rather sick of my terrible marksmanship, and pointed my bow skyward. I drew the string back, and let the arrow fly. I watched it arc over the trees, before coming down with a gentle smack somewhere in the woods.
Immediately a sense of remorse struck, as I realized I now had one less arrow to practice with. I was about to give up and go inside, when a rustling noise drew my attention. Down the dirt path of my grandparent’s driveway, something emerged from the woods.
I couldn’t tell what it was exactly, but it’s silhouette was more than enough to convey it’s formidable size. It slowly meandered out into the center of the driveway, and uttered a sort of growl that to me sounded like a dog. It’s back was hunched, and it’s face was covered in fur which seemed to confirm my thought. I saw no tail though, and it’s head didn’t seem to have a snout like a coyote or wolf.
I thought maybe it was a Pitbull or English bulldog based on it’s shape and size. I took a step back, and it’s head darted towards me. I felt it’s eyes fall on me, and the two of us stared silent at each other. It then grunted, and slowly sauntered back into the woods where it had come from.
Grandpa called me in for dinner a minute later, and I went inside. I had been so busy playing I hadn’t realized how hungry I was. I scarfed down the plate in record time, not mentioning anything about the dog to the rest of them. Once we’d all finished, grandma requested that I take the trash out to the bin outside. I happily agreed, and quickly snagged the bag to fulfill her request.
The sun had fallen by that point, and the surrounding trees were shrouded in darkness. I heard crickets chirping as a cool autumn breeze rolled off my skin. Despite the serene evening, the area surrounding my grandparent’s house suddenly seemed a lot more intimidating without the sunlight illuminating it.
I wasn’t easily deterred though, and took a deep breath before slinging the trash bag over my shoulder and hoisting it onto my back. I marched onward towards the trash can which stood just at the edge of the woods.
In a few seconds I undid the latch and tossed in the bag. I let the cage lid slam back down before locking it in place so no animals could get into it. As I was turning back towards the house, the rustling of branches nearby made me pause.
I turned, and saw the dog from earlier poking it’s head out from the brush. It’s eyes glowed like candles in the light of the house, and slobber dribbled from it’s jagged teeth. It was still mostly hidden in darkness, but I saw it’s face. It was… a very strange looking dog. It was missing a lot of fur, and it’s mouth seemed much wider than any dog I’d ever seen, almost like it was grinning. I felt a cold chill roll down my spine, but I was determined to not be afraid.
“Hi puppy…” I spoke softly, lifting a hand outward. The dog hunched down lower, and a low grumble began emanating from it’s throat. I almost thought it was purring at first, but quickly it turned into a snarl. It growled loudly, causing me to stumble backwards. I knew then it was not a friendly dog.
I was a deer in headlights for a moment, frozen as the beast began to slowly begin to shuffle around in the bushes. Suddenly, all the wits in my brain screamed all at once for me to run. I shrieked and turned around while dashing as fast as I could back towards the safety of my grandparent’s house. I took maybe five steps before I felt something slam into me from behind.
I fell down face first into the damp grass, and felt a pair of jaws clamp down onto my leg. I screamed as loud and desperate as I could. The beast shook it’s head around, and I could feel the flesh tearing away from my leg. The pain was immense, and I felt blood pooling all around, and being flung about as if it were a sprinkler. In my panicked state, I didn’t realize how strange it was that one of it’s paws was somehow holding onto my other ankle.
Dogs can’t do that.
Seconds after the attack began the front door burst open. Out stepped grandpa, shotgun in hand and a bewildered look on his face. He bellowed in a deep voice at the hound, and raised his shotgun as he charged at us. I then felt the jaws release my leg, and heard the beast dash away. Grandpa pulled the trigger, and a deafening boom thundered throughout the night. The muzzle flare lit up the sight of the bloody hound as it was struck. It whined as it was struck, but despite the hit, it galloped back into the woods.
I must’ve lost consciousness after that, because next thing I knew I was in a small metal room. There was a man and woman in blue uniforms that I didn’t recognize. There were all sorts of tubes and wires running around my body. The room seemed to sway to and frow, and the woman then noticed I was awake.
“Hang in there buddy, you’re gonna be okay.” She smiled at me, but I felt too weak to respond. I wanted to get up, but my body wouldn’t react. I faded out again, and sometime later I awoke in a bed.
There were a bunch of people around me, asking me questions and saying things I couldn’t understand. I saw mom and dad there, my sister too as well as my grandparents. My parents comforted me as best they could, and explained that I had to go in for plastic surgery to repair my leg.
Before that, I was given a rabies vaccine via a massive needle straight into my stomach. It hurt like hell, and the hospital staff had to basically tie me down to ensure I wouldn’t struggle. I cried all the way up until the point that they administered the anesthesia.
I don’t know how long I was out for, but when I finally woke up, I saw my grandpa sitting beside me. He suddenly perked up as I adjusted myself.
“Hey buddy, easy… easy just try to stay still for now, okay?” He lay his hand on my shoulder and I met his eyes.
“Grandpa… what happened?” I saw tears beginning to well in his eyes as he sniffled.
“Well buddy, you were attacked by an animal. He got your leg, but the doctor’s said you are going to be just fine okay?” He put his hand on my head and brushed my hair gently. Suddenly my memory came back in full force.
“That dog…” Grandpa paused, and I saw his eyes swirl with uncertainty. I’d never seen him make that expression before. It was like he wasn’t even certain of what he had seen.
“It wasn’t a dog…” Grandpa stared at me with sad eyes. A second later mom stirred from her sleep on the chair, and quickly rushed to my side. The rest of the family was there as well, and I was greeted by each of them.
I was in that stupid hospital for at least a month before I could finally walk again. I had to receive three more of those shots during that time too. The only good thing about being there was the fact I got ice cream pretty much every day. After some physical therapy and tons of medication my wounds eventually healed and I was allowed to return home.
Like I said in the beginning, we never went back to grandpa and grandma’s house after that day. My mother said that grandpa took it especially hard on himself, and for the longest time I didn’t understand why. I mean it wasn’t his fault, it could’ve happened to anybody.
It wasn’t until after I underwent the hypnotic therapy and regained my memory that I found out the real truth of the matter from my mom.
“So, you remember it all now?” Mom asked and I nodded.
“Yeah, that hypnosis stuff actually really works.” Mom nodded, but her smile quivered.
“Mom why didn’t you tell me the truth?” I saw her recoil slightly at the question, as if she had wondered the same thing many times before.
“I wanted to when you were ready. It was just such a traumatic experience for everyone, and I didn’t want to cause you any more pain.” She wiped a tear from her eye as she said it, and part of me regretted asking.
“Grandpa… I don’t think he ever forgave himself.” She said.
“But why? He couldn’t have known that would happen.” Mom nodded.
“I know and I told him that many times, but I think there was something else that really bothered him. He never spoke about it, but…” Mom sighed deep, and I felt my heart hanging by a thread.
“When you were still in the hospital, they ran a lot of tests. You know, bloodwork, x-rays and all that stuff. They also examined the bite marks, and they found that the tooth patterns didn’t really appear to match that of a dog’s. They said they looked more like a human’s dental imprint.”