He was tall, thin, and walked through the neighborhood like he was looking for someone to beat to a pulp. He had two slits for eyes and stringy hair the color of watered down hay. Whenever I saw him coming, I immediately hooked the leash to Buster’s collar and tugged him toward the opposite side of the street.
Buster followed but never without tension on the leash and a thick line of hair down his back standing straight up. From the get go, Buster had his number and my dog's open display of that fact gave The Tall Man something to feed on, like an egg frying on a gas stove.
I’d been out of town on a film scouting job and was returning home when I saw a white truck with a large metal box in the back parked in our driveway. I pulled in and a man stepped out as if he’d been there waiting to greet me. He wore a blue uniform with “City of Houston” across the front. He was quick to identify himself and his mission.
“It’s the law,” the man said, “whether your dog actually bit the guy or not, we gotta quarantine him for two weeks.”
In addition to that, he told me, Buster would be tattooed and registered on a watch list.
I felt my stomach turn over. I quickly explained to the man that I’d been out of town but that first of all, I wanted to talk with our housekeeper. “I’ll wait,” the man replied. “Sir,” I said, trying to at least show respect, “I know you have a job to do and I know you’re just trying to do it, but you can wait out here till midnight ... I’m not givin’ you my dog.”
He shook his head and handed me a fist full of papers to fill out, with the promise that he would return in an hour to pick them up along with Buster.
It only took “Tita,” our beloved housekeeper, less than a minute to explain (with passion) what had happened. She and Buster had just reached the bottom of the front steps of our townhouse when The Tall Man came walking right in front of it, crossing over from the opposite side of the street. She’d not had time to clip the leash to Buster’s collar before he took off.
Buster had rushed at him all right, “barking and showing his teeth,” she said, but she was certain that there had never been contact of any kind. Luckily, she’d been able to get to Buster and attach the leash before that could happen. But immediately afterwards she said, The Tall Man went into a tirade, “yelling things” and threatening the both of them.
Typed on the paper before me was quite a different story. The Tall Man reported that Buster had attacked him on his right leg and caused “bleeding.” Attached to that was a medical report stating that The Tall Man had been treated for “two puncture wounds,” then released. I felt a sinking feeling. With words like these, how was I going to go to bat for Buster?
I called my attorney husband and just upon hearing his voice, I burst into tears.
As it turned out, by law I did have to quarantine Buster but the place was of our choosing. The next morning, I boarded Buster at our veterinarian’s where all the employees fussed over him for 14 days and I was allowed to pay daily visits with a variety of his favorite treats. Before Dr. Shaw released Buster back to us, I signed a two-page document, which stated that Buster had not been tattooed and that the veterinarian was free and clear of “any and all future liability.”
The Tall Man continued walking the neighborhood and I often thought when I saw him, “If there was ever a more perfect answer to the question, ‘Why do dogs bite?’, there it is.”
Hell … I almost wanted to bite him myself!