No More Rabies Shots

No More Rabies ShotsByOscar ElizondoI remember when I was about eight years old and going to visit my grandfather in La Joya, Texas. He didn’t really live there, his place was in Reynosa Diaz, Mexico, but he would often visit his sister in this small ranch like community. Since traveling back and forth across the bridge in the old buses that only took you to the major cities, it was hard to get to the ranches. He was born here in the United States, but when his wife (my grandmother) died after giving birth to my mother here in this country, he knew it was going to be hard to raise her. He had his parents in Reynosa so he took her back to be raised by them.When his parents died he brought my mother back to La Joya to have my aunt help out raising the now fourteen-year-old girl. She grew up, met my father and they got married. My brother was born and then I came into the picture. Here is where my story begins about no more rabies shots. It was a summer time that my grandfather was staying at the ranch here in Texas and we were visiting.The main house was separated from the kitchen and we had to walk about a third of a block to reach the cooking area. Since raising cattle and bulls was about making a living, the kitchen served many purposes. If people were sleeping early in the morning, it was a convenient way of not waking everybody with the noise of cooking in the kitchen. Ranch hands that came over could eat without disturbing the kids or guest sleeping in the main part of the house.On one of these early days when I had gotten up to eat and with the energy of a young lad, I was ready for some exploring the woods around us. I enjoyed the great outdoors, and very often I would loose myself for the whole day out there. Nature provided for a wonderful experience of watching wild animals in their habitat. I didn’t bother too much with taking a sack lunch because there were many wild berries, cactus fruit, mesquite fruit and many other plants to eat from.The first thing I wanted to do was to get a good breakfast since I knew that if I got caught in the moment of observing the wonders of the woods, who knows what time I would get back home. The weapon of choice was the slingshot because small pebbles were plentiful and it was all the ammunition I needed.I said my good mornings to anybody within ear range and I headed to the detached kitchen from where I could smell the odor of bacon and fresh flour tortillas.

Before I could get in the doorway I took notice of my grandfather’s loyal, obedient German Shepard dog. He knew how to herd cattle, defend him from wild animals, and he was his companion whenever he spent his time out in the woods. However, he was eating a flour tortilla right in front of the door and he was blocking my path.
As the dog was eating I found it easy to just take the tortilla and throw it across and away from the doorway with the intentions that he would just go get it and eat over there. This would allow anybody else to enter the kitchen without bothering him. I had never considered what was inside a dog’s mind when someone takes his food away. Especially if the dog is not yours, and I hardly ever saw him but maybe two or three times a year when we visited.
The dog had no idea of what I was attempting to do. His concern was finishing his food and I had just taken it from him. His reaction was to get the food back at all cost and so he reacted. He lounged towards me and took a bite off me. His big mouth opened up wide enough where as part of the teeth tore at my nose while the other half was embedded at the top of my head.
Soon as my grandfather saw what was taking place he called out to him and he let go, but the damage had already been done. My nose had been cut open and the skin from the top of my head to the bridge of the nose was exposed. This skin had been pulled off and was hanging to one side. Part of the nose was missing and blood was splattered all over the ground.
I was knocked unconscious and the rest of the story is by word of mouth from my mother’s accounts. She said that even the dog was very concerned. He really was an obedient animal, but the instincts did what they were born to do. When my grandfather picked me up and carried me to the main house, he knew I was friendly
and he knew he had done wrong.
While the woman attended to my wounds my grandfather took the dog to the back of the house where an old cotton trailer was located. He was sure that the dog had taken my life after watching my face covered in the red blood that wouldn’t stop. He had intentions of killing the dog because he didn’t know if the attack had come from maybe the dog coming in contact to a rabid animal. In those times any animal with rabies had to be put down.
The nearest hospital was in Harlingen, Texas where we live at, and that was over forty miles away. To get there from the ranch we had to go through 10 miles of dirt roads that led to a main highway and then the next 30 miles of pavement. The only means of fast transportation was an old pick-up truck that my uncle used to drive.
The truth was that he was almost blind, but driving in ranches didn’t require much. My aunt was always with him and would tell him what to do. He was the only person who knew how to drive a motor vehicle, and so it was going to be impossible for him to drive me all the way to the hospital. They knew that if he could get to the highway a bus would be making a stop around that area. The plan was to load me up on the bus and let it take me to the hospital.
When they went out to tell my grandfather the news that I was alive it was too late for his obedient companion. He had already shot him and had cut his head off to send it to be examined. That was the only way they would know for sure if the animal had rabies. There were many animals on the ranch and there was a possibility that an outbreak could occur.
As I was told, the bus did take me after the woman had cleaned me up and applied whatever medicine they had available. I do remember waking up while on the bus and with still about ten miles to get to the hospital. My head was tilted back on the bench seat of the bus. My eyes couldn’t see very far because the skin had been placed back on top of the bridge of my nose. It was swollen and I was in a lot of pain. I blacked out again until we were in the hospital.
I was lying down of the bed and they were about to inject the first needle of many to come. There were fourteen shots of a rabies dosage that needed to be injected around the bellybutton. I screamed after the first one as they held me tight for the others to come. The needles seemed like there were a foot long. I guess it was because the swelling was impairing my vision.
After the twelve shot my screaming had already scared my mother and her heart was hurting for her child as I pleaded with her to make them stop. She couldn’t stand it anymore either as she made them stop. The results of the test on the dog would take over two months to complete, but she had seen enough.
I was told that my grandfather stood on the cotton trailer and pointed the weapon at the dog. His eyes were full of tears because he cared for his faithful companion, but his grandson’s death was more than he could bare. The dog knew what a rifle was for, and he begged him not to shoot him. I don’t know what he would have done if he had been told earlier that I was still alive. In those days the head of the animal was needed, so I don’t know if the dog’s faith would have changed anyway.

Copyright 2008 Oscarelizondo

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