by Teresa C. Miñambres
With Halloween coming up I was asked to write about a frightening thing. I started by delving up scary moments from my past. (I was almost gored by a bull in a bull run in Spain. However, that was more exciting than scary.) (I pulled a 60° bank in a Cherokee 6 single engine plane and almost ripped the wings off. That too was merely exciting and helped to discourage a mild mannered gentleman from asking me out a second time. He was in the back seat turning green during my lesson.) What does scare me? The answer was right there behind me at Bed Bath and Beyond on the cashier line. The man had pulled his cart up behind me and in the middle of the cart was a dog. I am terrified of dogs.
I have been known to jump in front of an 18 wheeler to avoid being on the same sidewalk with a Bichon Frise. (This really happened and the driver of that truck jumped out of his cab to confront me and yell at me. I explained that there was a dog on the side walk and he looked over and screamed, “You are afraid of that!” With as much dignity as I could muster, I answered in the affirmative and walked in the street, against the traffic, to my home rather than share the side walk with the dog.)
When I see my neighbors walking their dogs, I break out in a cold sweat, my heat starts palpitating like crazy, my vision field narrows and I find it hard to breath. To me all dogs are Cujo and they are all waiting to take a bite out of me. How can I react this way?
Let me take you back to my childhood. I was eight years old and staying at my friends house in Astoria, Queens for a week. She and her family had lived in Chelsea before the great Greek migration from railroad room apartments to three family private houses.
My friend’s brother was much older and us. He has served his tour of duty in Viet Nam and was married and had children and had Cindy, the pregnant German shepherd from hell. At this point in time he co-owned the house with his older sister, her husband and his parents and my girlfriend (the baby of the family).
Cindy had always made me uncomfortable. She was very aggressive and always growled. I had never had pets; had never wanted pets. I had no points of reference to judge her behavior.
One day, I was brushing my hair with a silver handled brush and I heard Cindy growling behind me. I still remember freezing and looking in the mirror at her reflection. Cindy’s gums were pulled back and her teeth were bared. She was looking at me with an intent to kill me. I was not imagining this. As I turned to leave the room, she lunged at me and knocked me onto the bed. To this day I still remember her breath on my face, her saliva on my face and arm and her weight on me.
I also still do not know how I managed to save myself. Some instinct made me shove the brush which I was still clinging to down her throat. I screamed and held the brush in place. How? I do not know. My friend’s brother and her brother-in-law came running in and pulled the snarling animal off me.
I ran into the bathroom and locked the door. I am told that it took them over four hours to convince me to come out. All I still feel is the fear of that moment. As I write this, my heart is palpitating and my palms are moist.
I have a very very good memory and I remember things like a movie was recorded in my brain. I see the room, the sun coming in the window; I feel the heat of summer. I will never forget that moment in time.
Time has marched on. My friend and I grew apart. I have often wondered what happened to her. Mutual friends, with whom we both keep in touch, tell me that she is doing well and I am happy for her.
I found out that Cindy was finally shot when she jumped a fence and threatened two small boys playing in their yard. The father was a policeman and when he saw the dog attacking, he got his service revolver and the rest was history.
I was told years later that Cindy had been a point dog in the Viet Nam jungles and trained to attack and kill. Maybe she thought I had a knife in my hand and was a danger? This will always be a mystery. What I do know is that I learned never to trust dogs and never to go near them. I have faced guns, lawyers, landlords, drunkards, drug sellers and officers of the law. None of those have ever made me blanch and run the way a dog can.
I was standing at the front of 2 World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 as the plane attacked. I was covered in ashes. Not even that frightens me as much as a Bichon Frise.
One thing this has taught me is to respect other people’s fears. . .
Teresa C. Miñambres works for New York City Transit currently and, in her former life, she graduated with a Masters Degree in Spanish European History. She is currently working on two historical romances, one set in Texas and one set in Colorado. Both involve Spanish land grants which the heroines had inherited. Both my heroines and heroes are strong, opinionated and very sensual.