Tears clouded my vision as my four-year-old daughter was wheeled into emergency surgery. I fell against the wall and slid to the floor. Closing my eyes, I saw her cherub face. Her porcelain cheeks and throat ripped open, red hair matted with blood, and blue eyes wide with terror. How had this happened?
A nurse helped me to a chair and patted my arm. “Can I call anyone for you?”
I shook my head as she handed me a form to fill out. My ex-husband, Howard, was away on business. I had already called him three times. Where was he? Why had I agreed to watch his dog? My phone began to vibrate, sending a jolt up my spine. I grabbed for my purse.
I struggled to grip my phone as my hand shook. The words on the paper blurred before me. “Emily?”
“I’m so sorry Mrs. Warrner. I didn’t know the dog was dangerous.”
“You didn’t know her at all! I trusted you with Maddie. Why did you leave her?”
“I only left the yard for a few seconds to get a snack for Maddie.” Her sobs ceased her words. She took a deep breath. “I heard this awful growling and her scream. I ran back and Rosie had her by the throat and was shaking her. I grabbed a rock and hit the dog as hard I could.”
“Why did you call me before 911? What were you thinking?”
“There was so much blood. I panicked. Please tell me Maddie’s going to be okay.” Sobs again stopped her words.
Would she be okay? I felt nauseated as I thought of other possibilities. My heart began to ache. “I don’t know.” I wiped my eyes. “Did someone catch the dog?”
“Your neighbor found her at the playground and she’s being taken to the pound.” She hesitated. “May I come and wait with you? Please, I have to be there.”
I said she could. As I dropped the phone into my lap and steadied my hand enough to write, I shook my head. Howard had adopted the dog two weeks ago. Hadn’t he seen she could be dangerous?
“Ma’am?” A nurse touched my shoulder. “Do you know if the dog that bit your daughter was current on its shots?”
I shook my head. Why hadn’t the shelter warned him?
“Do you have a way to get that information?”
“Maybe.” Picking up my phone, I tried to remember the shelter Howard had named and searched online for any close by. When I found it I hit the phone number and waited for the call to connect. Wiping my eyes, I took a deep breath.
“Coldwater Animal Shelter, Shirley speaking.”
“My daughter,” my voice cracked, “was attacked by a dog adopted from your shelter—”
“Oh my gosh!”
“I need to know if the dog was up on its shots.”
“Ma’am it’s against our policy to—”
“Is it against your policy to adopt out dangerous animals?” I begin to shake. “Please, I need to know what my baby is facing.”
“Our dogs are always brought up on their shots before being homed.”
“Forgive me if your word isn’t enough.”
After a moment of silence she sighed. “I need the full name of the pet’s owner.”
“Howard Albert Warrner. The dog is a German Shepherd and Chow mix.” My heart pounded in unison with her keystrokes. “Well?”
“I’m sorry Ma’am, but there’s no information for him in our system.”
How could the shelter not have any records? “Thank you.” I tried Howard’s cell number again, leaving another message. I looked toward the nurse’s station and found the woman staring at me, her gaze asking a thousand questions. Getting up, I stepped around the corner. How was this happening?
“Mrs. Warrner!” Emily ran down the hall.
I began to fight for air, the world around me spinning as I saw her bloodied shirt and hands.
“Have you heard anything about Maddie?”
I braced myself against the wall. “No.”
She sniffed. “This is my fault.”
Seeing Emily’s lip quiver, I suddenly saw her as the girl I had babysat for so many years ago. I hugged her. “Do you have any idea where Rosie came from?”
Emily looked at the ground. “Mr. Warrner said he found her wandering the East side of town, but not to tell you.”
I sank to the floor. “I—Are you certain?”
I dug my fingers into my hair. What if the dog had rabies? Why hadn’t I been there to protect Maddie? “Emily!” I said, my heart leaping with hope at a sudden idea. “What pound was Rosie taken to?”
“Coldwater Rover, I think.” She sniffled.
I found the pound’s number and waited with a racing heart as the phone rang. “Hello! My names is Elisa Warner. A dog was just brought in. She bit my daughter.”
“Yes ma’am, I know the dog.” The man said.
I pulled myself up. “Have you checked her for a microchip? If—when my daughter survives,” I fought the lump in my throat, “I need to know what health risks she’s facing.”
The chatter from the waiting room faded away.
After what seemed an eternity, he returned. “She is micro chipped. I can’t give you the registered owner’s name, but I can try to find more information for you if you’d like. What number can I reach you at?”
I gave him my cellphone number and thanked him. Emily sat in the waiting room while I paced the hall for what seemed to be fifty miles. When would someone tell me something, anything, about my Maddie?
“Mrs. Warrner?” A nurse came up behind me. “They’ve been paging you. Your daughter is stable. She’s waiting for you in recovery.”
I ran and pulled Emily from her seat. As we stepped toward the elevator my phone rang. My heart began to race and I offered up a silent prayer. “Did you find anything?”
“Mrs. Warrner?” He cleared his throat. “I have some bad news.”
To read my follow up character interview with Elisa Warrner, click here: https://justinaluther.wordpress.com/2014/06/23/ten-questions-for-a-fictional-character-elisa-warrner-of-bitten/