We continued to take him on walks with us after Naomi was born and did our best to keep him occupied, but it was not ideal. Just before Naomi was seven months old, I thought I would help Chelsea get some rest, so I took Naomi and Ruger for a walk around the lake. I usually never kept Ruger on a leash, but the park ranger had been hounding people who didn’t, so I did that day. Naomi was sleeping on my chest, her little legs dangling out of the baby carrier, happy as she could be. We finished our first lap around the lake, and I heard in my spirit that I needed to turn back and head home. I tried to dismiss the thought and justify it away. I thought to myself, “Naomi never lets Chelsea rest and she deserves a longer nap than this,” so I walked on. Again, I felt a troubling in my spirit, but I shoved it down.

The trail around the lake is about twenty feet above the shoreline and fifty feet from the water. I saw up ahead a woman and two well-muscled men standing by the water, throwing sticks for their three pit-bulls to retrieve. The dogs were enjoying the game and just as we went to pass by, one of them looked up and saw us. I felt the intent of his gaze turn from curious to aggressive all at once. He let out a guttural bark and growl as he tore up the embankment towards us. I reached for my weapon but it was buried under Naomi, and I could not get my backups. The owner suddenly saw us and screamed “NO!!!” This alerted the other dogs, who begin thrashing their way out of the water and towards their pack mate.

The pit-bull was on us in less than two seconds. I did my best to turn Naomi away as the dog plowed into the three of us. Snarling teeth began to chop at the air as Ruger swung on his harness between the pit-bull and me. Soon his legs got entangled in his leash, and he couldn’t fight back. I pulled Ruger off the ground, trying to release his strap, but I couldn’t get my hands on it. The dog’s teeth clacked together as I heard the owners screaming, “OH, GOD, NO, STOP IT”!! Naomi was awake now, and her screams rose above the chaos. For a brief moment, I feared her dangling legs had been bitten, but then she went silent and still.

I did my best to keep my body between the attacking dogs but all of a sudden the second pit-bull – teeth barred – slammed into us, and we began to stumble around. I saw Ruger step in between us and the dog’s teeth tore into his leg. The smell of animal secretions, fear, and blood was now in the air. The woman on the shoreline just kept screaming, “God, no!!!” A frenzy of chaos ensued.

I used the only weapons I could and began to deliver strikes to the dog with boots, elbows, and leash handles crashing into ribs, skulls, and spines of the attackers. But then what sent icy tendrils down my neck was that the dogs didn’t seem to mind a bit. Suddenly, I saw one of the pit-bull go flying off the ground as its owner grabbed onto it and threw it back down the embankment. Just then Ruger broke off his fight with the second pit-bull, and we tried to run down the other side of the embankment and away from the attack. Before we got a few feet down the side, the third pit-bull came barreling down after us. I was finally about to get Ruger’s tangled harness released when the second man jumped down and slammed onto his dog, smothering him to the ground. “RUN!” he screamed at us, and we did.

Sprinting back towards our house, I began to examine Naomi, who was still silent, and miraculously, she was unharmed. There were streaks of blood and hair all over my legs, and I didn’t think any of it came from me. I could see flesh missing from Ruger’s leg and hair missing from spots on his chest and back and face. I left him in the backyard briefly and ran into the house, where I woke Chelsea up with one of the worst feelings of her life.

Veterinary care was out of the question as we could hardly afford to eat. Though Ruger’s leg took the brunt of the damage, I knew with our care it would eventually heal. By the time I went back to try to confront the owners, they were long gone. It’s probably best I didn’t find them.

I learned a lot from the excruciating experience, and none of it was pleasant. I learned how dangerous it is to ignore those promptings in our spirit; that gut check out of nowhere should not be overlooked. Since then we have learned to pay attention and obey the promptings in our spirit any time our peace is taken. Ruger may have saved our lives but it came at a terrible cost.

He would never recover from the attack. Physically, he did as the puncture wounds closed up and scars took the places of bloody wounds like they do. After the morning around the lake, Ruger was more aggressive with other dogs, and he got to a point where I had to keep him on a leash on our walks. He was anxious, and the pain from his hip was worse than ever. There were still glimpses of Chicken Wing, my best friend, but they became fewer and fewer still. That is when Death came to betray a man and his best friend.