Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Don't Look Back

Something may be gaining on you.
- Satchel Paige (1906-1982)

On day about two weeks ago when my husband came home from hunting he told me that he thought Duke had been hit with a belt before we got him. He and Duke had been hunting a large field which turned out to have at least nine pheasants in it. Duke had run around in a frenzy because he could not decide which scent to follow and so he ended up trying to follow them all. Duke was so crazed he would not come when my husband called him and my husband finally had to grab hold of his collar as he ran by. Once he was caught Duke still did not want to quit hunting so my husband took his belt off to use as a leash. When Duke saw the belt he became even more frantic in his struggle to get away. My husband had to spend a few minutes calming him down before Duke would allow him to lead him back to the truck.

After my husband told me this I remembered I had the same experience when we were in Pagosa. I had to use my belt as a leash to keep Duke away from an animal carcass that we had found while out walking. Duke had struggled as I looped the belt through his collar and then had reacted like a fish on the line when I tried to lead him away. At the time I just thought I had spooked him when I accidentally dropped the end of the belt too close to his head. Now I realized it was because he thought I was going to hit him.

Someone had hit Duke with a belt and the thought of that made me furious and at the same time sick. What kind of a bastard would hit a defenseless dog with a belt? I called Duke to me. When he came I crouched down and put my arms around him. I felt like crying and I laid the side of my head on his shoulder. At first I thought I was trying to comfort Duke but then I realized I was actually using him like a child would a teddy bear to comfort myself. Then another question popped into my head, what kind of a bastard would hit a defenseless child with a belt? Well, my father for one.

Sometimes Satchel Paige's advice to not look back just doesn't work for me and what is back there catches up to me when I least expect it. This time the thought of someone beating Duke brought up the anger and fear I felt whenever my father beat me or my siblings. Thirteen or fourteen years ago my reaction to this long ago trauma was even more visceral.

It was summertime and I was at my sister's apartment. I was sitting on the couch talking to her when her then husband, who was a police officer, came home from work. He went into the bedroom to change his clothes and, since it was a very warm day, he left the bedroom door open. I had my back to the bedroom door when the whooshing, slap, slap, sound of a belt being quickly pulled though belt loops shattered my sense of well being.

I was so tuned to that sound as a child, my ears seemed to magnify it that day. SLAP-SLAP-SLAP-SLAP-SLAP. An adrenaline rush of fear shot though my body causing it to jerk and my heart to race. I could not believe it, a sound I had not heard or thought about in over thirty years made my body react the same way it did when I was a child. If that wasn't a Post Traumatic Stress symptom, well, then fish can breath air.

I know my reaction to Duke being beaten is also a PTS symptom and I can only do what I did that day at my sister's house; acknowledge it, let it go, and be prepared for it to happen again.

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