by César De León Ph.D LMFT, Ministerial Director for the North Pacific Union Conference
When my younger son was about five years old, we bought him a beautiful, tiny, white Maltese puppy that we named Pearly. She was so tiny that when we traveled, we placed her in one of our backpacks and no one knew we had a dog with us. She was obedient, potty-trained and very well-behaved. Pearly became very attached to me. At one point, when I was bed-ridden for several months, Pearly would lay next to me all day long and would only leave my side to go out for her biological needs, eat and then she would jump right back into my bed. Pearly was the perfect dog that brought so much joy to the whole family, except for one “mental health issue” . . . she had a self-perception problem. In her deluded mindset, she was also a victim to self-deception. She truly believed she was infinitely bigger and stronger than her 4.5 pound, petite frame reflected.
One day, one of my neighbors was walking by our house with his stately Doberman, who just happened to be going through end-stage colon cancer (the dog, not my neighbor). When Pearly saw the dog and his owner walking by her territory, she bolted after him, forgetting she was aggressively barking at a dog who was 20 x her size and weight. The unthreatened but annoyed Doberman reacted impulsively and dug his teeth into Pearly’s back (as he routinely did with his favorite fluffy, white stuffed toy… her owner later told us) and shook her violently many times. We all stood there aghast and thought this could be the end of Pearly. After the owner had belted out, “Put her down, boy” several times, the Doberman finally let her go. Pearly scurried back to the house with her tail between her legs, possibly ashamed she’d been defeated despite her valiant fight, and yelping in distress. During next 24 hours, we noticed that besides the surface tooth bites that weren’t too deep, Pearly wasn’t feeling well. Later the next day she began to quiver and mostly stayed in her bed. It was then than we realized that she must have sustained internal damage and might be going into shock. We rushed her to the veterinarian just to have our worse fears confirmed. She had sustained so much internal damage during that severe shaking episode that the most humane thing to do was to put her to sleep.