the incident- the day of

August 31, 2012

I took a lot of time deciding how I should write this post, and I deliberated about if I really even wanted to.  Both Dan and I have told the story a number of times, and although I know each time the complete story rings true, it still concerns me that the full issue is sometimes lost in the dramatics of the situation.

My intent is to write this as a chronicle of my own experience and feelings on the issue.  I will refrain from listing names (the exceptions being Dan and the dogs, Cooper and Molly, etc.)- if you are resourceful enough, and curious enough, then that information is readily available through local authorities and media.  My choice to write this on my own blog, rather than as a letter to the editor, or whatever, is this- it’s bound to be a really, really stinkin’ long version of the story (you know, the kind I’m best at), it’s guaranteed to be full of opinion (which you know I have plenty of), and (sorry mom) it’s pretty much a guarantee that I’ll swear at least a little bit (and newspapers don’t take kindly to cuss words.)

**Mid-post writing amendment** There is no way this whole thing will make it into one post.  I’ll break this up into multiple posts, for my sanity and yours.

I will also note here, and at the end, that I hope this story moves you.  Should it move you along the same lines and convictions as me?  I’d hope so, that’d be great.  Are there some bound to disagree?  Certainly- that’s their right.  However, I pay real-world monies for this here little corner of the interwebs, and therefore I am granted the gift of comment mediation.  I have no plans to go all FCC censor crazy, but if you feel like being an asshat then you may go do it elsewhere.  Comments (directed at me, at others involved in the incident, or at fellow commenters), that are vicious, malicious, inappropriate, or generally deemed by me to be unfriendly will not be approved.  Also, anonymous comments will not be permitted.  If you’ve got somethin’ to say, be a big kid and own up to it.  Okee doke?

Good.  Let’s get to the story.

Ahem.  This feels strange to type.

Sunday, July 15th.  Come home from long day at the Finger Lakes Drunkfest (ahem) the Finger Lakes Wine Festival at Watkins Glen International.  Our plan is to pile the puppies into the back of the jeep and head up the road to get a bite to eat on a deck, where we can sit and look at a lake and tease the doggies with tasty treats.  The first step, as any good dog owner knows, is to get said canines to potty before putting them in a vehicle, because vehicle rides excite dogs to no end, which makes for messy vehicles… and…

I’m realizing I can’t tell this story with a certain silliness I’ve demonstrated with other stories in the past… so please excuse me while I stick to the bare-bones for this part.  Again, note that there may be some details missing that you might be expecting to hear- this is solely what I experienced.


Dan takes both dogs out back, I stay inside.  I hear him yell “Cooper, no!”, which is a common phrase in our house, so I don’t think much of it- until I hear it repeatedly and realize something is not right.  As I come out the back gated area into the lawn I see Dan one house away to my left, in the street, on top of Cooper; I run in that direction.  There is a woman standing next to them and screaming, because Cooper has her beagle by the back of the neck.  Molly has just arrived at the scene and is curious- she is sticking her nose in and shuffling around (as a 12 year old doggies with arthritis will do) to get a better look.

I grab Molly by the collar to pull her out of the way- Dan is basically laying on top Cooper, trying to get his mouth open, and the woman continues to yell for help.  I try pulling on Coopers tail and pounding on his backside, yelling at him to let go.  I realize at the same time as Dan suggests it- it would be better to get Molly back to the house and out of the way, then I can come back and help.

I secure Molly inside the gated area behind the house and return to the street to see that a car is now parked in the road, and a stranger is involved in the situation.  Getting closer, I realize the stranger-man is pounding on top of Coopers’ head with what looks like his fist- my assumption is that he is simply trying to help get Cooper to release.  I’m there barely a moment when the man steps back and drops his arm to the side, at which point I realize he has a something in his hand… and my stomach nearly turns inside out when I recognize it as a gun.

I will interject here, briefly (because it’s my damn story and my damn blog).  I’ve been to a shooting range, once, by my own choice.  I’ve never been enamored by guns, but I was eager to have the opportunity to learn the basics of shooting, and develop a (general) comfort in the presence of a gun.  This situation, however, is the only interaction I’ve had with a gun “in real life”… and god damn, that first sight of the gun in his hand not only shocked the shit out of me- it definitely scared me.  A lot.

Returning to the incident, all my attention is focused on Dan, Cooper, and the man with the gun- the shrieking woman has become background noise.  The man with the gun says to Dan, “I’m gonna shoot the dog”, to which Dan replies, “I’m sitting on him.”  This exchange happens again, with Dan emphasizing even more, “I’m SITTING.ON.THE.DOG.”

It was instantaneous- Dan shifts barely… and the guy leans in and fires the gun.  I blinked or turned my head or something- the bullet-firing part of that scene is missing from my brain, but the immediately pre-and-post gunfire images are there.  With no other actions to try and free the beagle’s neck from Cooper’s bite, aside from beating on Coop’s head (with the butt of the gun, I realized after the fact), this stranger fired a gun, barely 2 feet in front of Dan’s face, into the top of Coopers skull.

Now, he- the crazy shooter guy- turns to me and starts shouting.  This is a blur.  I’m in shock, I’m appalled, and I’m freaked the fuck out- but this demented man is now yelling at me about “…you people and your big dogs…”, and “…the police will be here soon…”, and a bunch of other hooey that is melded into a muddled shouting fog in my head, and I’m yelling back at him to GO HOME.  My brain is railing with thoughts of JUST LET THE DOG DIE IN PEACE FUCKER, YOU DID WHAT YOU WANTED TO DO, STOP YELLING AT ME, GET IN YOUR CAR AND DRIVE THE 3 HOUSES BACK DOWN THE STREET TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM YOU FUCKHEAD, YOU SHOT OUR DOG… but all I can really yell at him is “JUST GO HOME!!!”  And so he does.  He gets into his car, and pulls away.

I don’t notice until I revisit the entire incident in my head later that at this point I’ve lost track of the woman and the beagle- they are no longer present.

I look at Dan, he’s still on top of Cooper, who now has a bloody hole in his head, and I’m shocked.  I don’t know what to do, I expected Coop to be dead instantly, and the fact that he is not is more than I can deal with.  I come back to the house and sit with Molly for a minute.  Eventually I pull myself together and head back out, fully expecting to find Dan sitting with his dead dog.

Instead, I see that Coop is still laying there, looking around, and Dan is still on top of him, talking to him and soothing him.  Our neighbor is now outside, explaining that the police have been called… I feel awkward, like we’re just standing around waiting for Cooper to die.  I call the vet, knowing I’ll get the emergency service since it’s now 8pm on a Sunday night, but it’s the only action I can take, waiting for what clearly seems to be the inevitable.

An amazing amount of almost silent time passes, pacing back and forth, watching Cooper lay on the ground under Dan, and finally the sheriff arrives- only to say exactly what we’ve all been thinking… “Is that the dog that was shot in the head?  What are you still doing here??  Did you call the vet?  You need to go.  I can’t believe you waited.  Get the dog up there.”

I pull Dan’s Jeep around, and to our shock and amazement Cooper gets up- wobbily, but on his own feet- and jumps into the back of the Jeep.  All secured in, we head on up to the vet’s.  For the entire ride Dan and I are amazed to see that Coop, despite being unstable and not as boisterous as he normally would be on the road, is attempting to hang his head out the back of the jeep and enjoy being out for a car ride.

Arriving at the vet, Cooper jumps out of the jeep and walks into the clinic, prompting the vet to ask if he was actually the dog with the gunshot wound to the head.  She shares our astonishment in the fact that he’s walking and aware and… well… not dead.  Her first step is to wrap his head in a bandage, and then take x-rays.  As she takes us in to see the photos, we are unable to contain our laughter.  We explain the joke to the vet- we’ve always known Cooper to have a thick skull… but this…

The bullet entered and fractured his skull, but changed direction and went down the back of his neck.  It was a hollow point bullet, which split into 3 different pieces and lodged along his spine, but not dangerously close.

While the vet tends to Cooper, the sheriff investigator arrives and takes statements from both Dan and myself.  It all seems pretty straightforward- until he mentions to us that the shooter made some disturbing remarks when he was questioned by police.  (At this point, well after the fact, we’ve gotten 2 melded versions verbally from the sheriff, and the actual police report has more specific wording, but none-the-less, the overall intent and impression is the same.)  We’re told that the shooter has said something along the lines of how he’s sick of these “…neo-nazi skinheads and their pit-bulls…” (the other version was “…bald tattooed gorillas and their big dogs…”- without a copy of the police report in front of me I can’t give you the exact version, but you get the point).

Learning that the shooter has made clear (unfounded) hate-based remarks, and that he knows he’s in trouble, and that we live in the same neighborhood, makes me question the sheriff about if it’s actually safe to return home.  I’m not excited to spend the night right up the road from him… but we leave Coop at the clinic to be tended to overnight, and make our way home to Molly who is still confused and worked up. (I will note that the vet was the most compassionate and caring person- when she learned that Cooper suffers from some rather significant separation anxiety, she went home and got a sleeping bag and slept at the clinic that night- something that was above and beyond what she was expected to do- and we greatly appreciate the connection she made with Cooper and her concern for him.)

And at this point, the evening of the incident draws to a close.  Mind you, there were a number of beers consumed toot sweet upon our arrival home, and a bit of scavenging for food, as it was only at this point which we realized our dinner plans had been severely interrupted.  But we tried (unsuccessfully) to get some rest and prepare for whatever the rest of this situation brought on…

Of course there’s more to the story… we’ll continue the drama details in the next post.  But that night, we reflected on a lot of stuff when we got home… including: 1. The shooter could have (but chose not to) exhaust other options first, including (but not limited to!) shooting the gun in the air, or in the ground, or even in the dog’s leg.  The choice of going straight for the head speaks volumes to his intention-in my opinion, which is what the blogpost is all about- to simply kill the dog, and not necessarily get the dog to release.  2. He clearly didn’t care about either dog, because he very well could have hit the beagle when he shot Cooper in the head.  3. He brought himself into a situation that he was previously uninvolved in- presumably to help.  However, in truth (by display of his actions,) he came along and threatened 3 human lives that night.  One, the woman walking the beagle, because while he was pounding on Coopers head with the butt of the gun, the barrel was pointing in her direction; Two, Dan, because when the gun was fired there were a multitude of scenarios that could have resulted in his injury or death (along with the other two humans present, or even the shooter); and Three, Me, because immediately after firing the gun into Coopers head, with adrenaline from the situation pumping through his veins, he turned to me and wanted to do nothing but argue and yell and shout and blame.

And with that, I leave more of the story for another time.  Because, trust me, it doesn’t end here (and, at the time I’m writing this, over a month and a half later, there’s still a bunch of bullshit that’s unfinished.)

I’ll remind you again, like I promised earlier, that unkindness will not be tolerated in the comments section.

  • Lisakthrives

    Whoa. I know you already told me this story, but yes, it moved me–because the permanence of messing with guns far outreaches the potential harm of dog-teeth-inflicted harm. I can’t help but reflect on the human/life aspect—that most people I know have never encountered a gun in real life (in the manner you’re talking about), and there really aren’t many situations where our lives flash before us.
    Clearly there has been drama surrounding this, I’ll just say that for me it’s a reminder that life is valuable and can be (1) dramatic (or not), (2) short (or not), (3) noticed (or not)….but it’s always meaningful. And if this can happen, then it’s more evidence supporting that it makes a difference what you do and how you feel everyday.

    …and I’ve always loved your wordy stories.

  • Jenn

    Christ. So glad everyone and the dog are all okay. I hope this asshat gets all of his guns taken away and goes to jail. So scarily irrational, he doesn’t deserve to have them and shouldn’t.

    Also, did Coop always hate this beagle? Have they seen each other since?

  • Kyle

    Jen, the guns being taken away are part of the “more to the story”. I’ll elaborate in the next post. As for Cooper, he’s a mutt- boxer, german shorthaired pointer (maybe mastiff) mix- the pointer hunting instincts are probably what drove him to the beagle, not any hatred. We’ve walked by the house that the beagle lives in hundreds of times without incident. As to why this particular time he caught Coop’s eye, we’ll never have any idea. Cooper has not had any interaction with anyone (human or otherwise) out in the neighborhood since the incident- again, this is more of the story that I just couldn’t fit all into one post.

  • Sudsy

    “(3) noticed or not”. Poetic beyond this application.

  • Jo-Hannah

    I am moved nearly to tears, and have a lump in my throat. I am truly speechless, both by the story and your telling of it. I am thankful in the darkness of this that the vet offers a redemptive aspect…kind of saving us all in proving that there is still good, and that some people still go above and beyond when the time is right. I can’t wait to hear the rest of it.

  • Ashley

    Most importantly, I am so glad all of the people involved and Cooper are okay. I’m also glad that the vet Cooper went to was so invested in him that she chose to sleep over. It serves to remind us all that even in our darkest moments, beauty can and does let itself shine.

    Also, I couldn’t then, still can’t and am not sure I will ever truly understand how someone can purposely and intentionally harm others, canine and human alike. It baffles me why he even showed up with a gun let alone why he chose to fire it. It’s heartbreaking that you even have to deal with such stupidity and heartlessness and it’s shitty that you have to continue to deal with this. I truly hope that the shooter gets serious jail time & all of his guns taken away.

  • Emilysweetpea

    Oh my goodness Kyle! Holy Sh!t I would have been terrified, I am so glad your dog survived. Not being local I never heard about this, and am really curious to hear the rest. Love, Em

  • Beth

    We heard the story from Chuck and Melissa (my cousin) and were horrified then – still am.  Scary people out there in the world.  Let’s give those folks guns – really !? Crazy

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