If you look at any photo of me before I was 16 years old, I could likely be spotted fawning over a dog. Not my dog — any dog would do, as I thought they were all perfect angels and much better than humans. This all changed when I was 16 years old, not because I randomly became a cat person, but because of trauma. I had a traumatic experience with a dog that has left me feeling like I have been drowning for the past four years. It also made me afraid of meeting many new dogs, particularly big dogs.

On Halloween in 2014, my friends and I had decided to go Trick-or-Treating for the last time ever. Sure, we may have been too old, but this was still a fun tradition. I would have done anything to go back in time and decide not to go out. I dressed up as a Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, and my dog Terry was Toto. We, my dog and I, had this group costume for five years. It was perfect, as she was the same breed, a Cairn Terrier, as the dog that played Toto. These two dogs looked like carbon copies of each other.

We walked up to a house, which must have been located less than 10 minutes away from where I lived at the time. It seemed like a normal house with, what I thought then, a Newfoundland who wanted to play with my dog. I asked the owner if the dog was friendly, and I let my dog walk up. Terry was the friendliest dog ever. This is not an exaggeration at all. Terry, on more than one occasion, had jumped into cars when she had the chance to meet “new friends.”

Terry ran up, excited to meet this new friend. I would be lying if I tried to tell you the precise details of what happened next because I can’t. I remember the bigger dog grabbing Terry, her screams, my friends and I pulling her away, and us running away. What I can remember next is me being drenched in her blood. I remember telling Terry, my best friend that she was such a good dog. Then she passed away less than a minute after I told her this.

To be blatant, I was a wreck for the next six months. I couldn’t sleep. Well, for more than three hours a night, which felt like nothing. My nightmares were terrible, but the flashbacks I had when I was awake were just as bad. At the same time, I had somewhat of an identity crisis. Before this experience, I was a proud believer of the idea that dogs were better than humans, and anyone who said anything different was wrong. Well, that dog that killed my best friend was capable of being violent like any human. I still love dogs after losing my dog at the hands of a  violent one, and I even have a dog now, but I’m afraid of meeting new dogs.

I should not have had to deal with this experience. But, on the only bright side, it made me understand what trauma can do to a person better. I should never have judged people for not liking dogs, as I don’t know what others have been through. By looking at me, people don’t know what I’ve been through either.

Roughly five months after losing Terry, my family got a Havanese named Lucky. Yes, he’s the light of my life, but he’s also a replacement for Terry, and I can’t detach my relationship with Lucky from that. One thing is for sure, I won’t let Lucky play with bigger dogs, as I’m so afraid to lose him too. I see the look that owners give me, trying to assure me that their dog is friendly, but I can’t trust them. I was told that once before, and then I was covered in my dying dog’s blood. I love dogs, I always will, but my relationship with them is different. I don’t like this, but I shouldn’t judge myself for trauma has changed me as a person, as it changes everyone.

  • Julia Métraux

    Julia Métraux is a journalist whose work has appeared in Narratively, The Tempest, BUST, and Briarpatch Magazine.