Below are the details of what happened to us yesterday [December 9, 2016] here at Alderman Farms. I apologize if the photos are "too much." I've posted them as a testimony to God's kindness and the skill of the surgeon's, and to illustrate the remarkable amount of healing that took place within the first ten days or so. I certainly have no intention of posting the pre-treatment photos.
This story might be too long, but that’s on purpose – it’s part of my critical incident stress debriefing process, so please bear with me:
I was feeding the critters after having repaired some fencing, and drove the Polaris over by MawMaw’s house in order to feed the cows and the few pigs housed in that area. As I approached, I noticed that Duke, our 1.5 year old 120 lb. Anatolian Shepherd dog, [EDIT: according to our vet, who handled the disposal, Duke weighed "every bit of 140 lbs"] had taken possession of a newly born piglet that had wandered out from beneath the electrified fence, and I noticed that the piglet was still alive. I parked the Polaris, left it running, and exited to approach Duke. I knew better than to just march up to him, so from a distance of 12-15 feet, I firmly scolded him telling him “No,” and directing him to come away from the piglet. He was growling, but also wagging his tail and his ears were in a submissive position.
Before I continue, let me tell you a little more about Duke. Duke looked to me for guidance, and was extremely obedient, especially to me. [I've edited that previous sentence to remove the term "alpha," the implications of which I apparently did not understand. It seems to have implied that I exerted "dominance" over him and was harsh toward him. Nothing of the sort. All I meant was that Duke seemed to look at me as his owner. I don't know how to better state it.] If he was about to slip out of the front gate, all I had to do was say “No,” and he would return. He was also a very affectionate animal, who would roll onto his back often, pawing at me with a front paw, asking for a belly rub. He walked right next to me most of the time, so close that I could rest my hand on his head while walking. When Duke was eating dog food, I could pet him all about his head and neck and handle his food, without a hint of protest from him. [I have since learned that there are experts in the field who consider what I described in the previous sentence as "bullying" my dog. That makes no sense to me, as I never TOOK food from him, never reached into his bowl just to show him I could, or anything like that. On the contrary, when I would reach into his bowl, I would take some of his food into my hand, and feed it to him and he would gently eat it from my hand. I didn't do this often, either, but only "occasionally." It breaks my heart, though, to think that Duke may very well have interpreted my actions as bullying.] Several friends and acquaintances that have interacted with Duke have expressed shock that he would behave in any other way. In other words, his behavior yesterday was unusual and unexpected [edited to add: I am beginning to believe that there were signals and cues coming from Duke that I grossly misinterpreted and misunderstood], and I believe a result of what I’m describing as a “perfect storm” of circumstances, which storm includes at least two monumental errors on my part. That’s not to excuse him – he should never have attacked me no matter the circumstances – my examination of my errors is just a part of the process of deciphering not only what happened, exactly, but also WHY it happened.
I continued to express disapproval and encourage him to come away from the piglet and toward me, which he eventually did. He was in a submissive posture as he approached me, though he was still growling slightly, and he was wagging his tail as I backed away from the area in which the piglet was located, so it was “so far, so good” at that point. My first crucial mistake was that I didn’t put enough distance between the piglet and us. I knew better than that. [EDIT: Of course, I now understand that my actual "first" mistake was thinking of Duke as a family pet, rather than the working dog he was intended to be].
My second crucial mistake, and definitely the more serious mistake of the two, was that for some unknown reason I squatted down in front of him to praise him for his obedience. That was an enormous blunder, especially in light of the fact that almost at the same exact time, another of the dogs approached us. I’m pretty sure it was “Blue,” the one puppy of Duke’s that we kept...a beautiful blue-eyed fella that is a cross between an Anatolian Shepherd and a Border Collie. Whichever dog it was, it's presence in close proximity perhaps sealed my fate. I knew immediately, as I squatted there in front of Duke, that I was in serious trouble. I knew that I needed to stand up, but I also knew that as soon as I did, the fight would be on. I was right.
I stood as smoothly and slowly as I could without doing it too slowly, and as soon as I was upright, Duke attacked. He first bit my left hand, through thick insulated work gloves (I know where he bit me first and last, but the order of the bites between those two are a blur to me). I tried to restrain him as I walked backward, I suppose looking for an escape (I don’t know, really, it just happened that I was backing up). Thankfully, due to the grace and mercy of God, I managed to back up beyond the running Polaris, before I stumbled and fell to the ground. I immediately knew that I was in even more serious trouble being on the ground beneath such a huge and powerful dog, but I was thankful I hadn’t fallen next to the Polaris, because had that happened, it’s a certainty that neither Patti nor Cory would’ve heard my screams – the sound of the Polaris would’ve swallowed my voice completely.
As Duke and I wrestled on the ground, I continually called for Patti as loud as I could for what seemed to be half an hour (it was probably a minute or two), and with no response from the house, I was on the verge of losing any hope of rescue. That was a deeply disheartening moment: I knew I couldn’t quit trying to restrain him, but I was at the point despair, “knowing,” I thought, that no one was coming to my aid and that I would eventually lose enough strength or stamina or blood that I would have nothing left with which to fend off the dog, and my family would later find my lifeless body in the yard. I’m sorry to sound so dramatic. I promise you those were the thoughts with which I was wrestling, in addition to having to wrestle with the dog. I prayed that the Lord would intervene, give me strength, calm the dog, protect Patti’s and Cory’s heart were I to succumb. It was surreal. I found myself pleading with the dog, actually asking him to “Please stop. Please stop, Duke. It’s Daddy.” That seems so silly now, but at the time, it felt perfectly reasonable.
I used to love the song “He’s an on-time God,” especially when sung by our sweet friend Becky. He was certainly an on-time God yesterday, as just when I was in danger of losing my resolve, when I found myself trying to reason with and plead with a dog, I saw Cory and Patti coming around the corner of the house toward me, and I could see that Cory was armed with a handgun. Hope returned.
Allow me to digress here to explain what was happening inside the house as I was in the midst of my struggle with Duke. Patti’s mom has developed another urinary tract infection, and is being moved to a “swing bed” again for a while, to help her recover and rehabilitate. Patti knew that yesterday before Cory had to leave for work, he needed to help me load Maw Maw’s electric lift chair into my truck to bring to the facility. As Cory was watching a show on the TV, Patti said something to the effect of “let me go find your Daddy and get him to go ahead and move the truck over to Mama’s house so y’all can load the chair.” When she opened the door to walk outside, they both heard me. Thank God.
On his way out the door, Cory grabbed my Glock .40 caliber handgun, which was on the kitchen table. “Why was it on the kitchen table,” you ask? I’m typically armed at all times. I had come inside a little earlier that morning in order to use the restroom, and I removed the weapon from its holster and laid it on the table, fully intending to pick it up on my way out the door. I failed to do so, which was a terrible thing, as the damage I was suffering could’ve been avoided had I armed myself as I exited the residence. [Edit: I'm no longer convinced that I would've successfully deployed the weapon. I now believe that it was the Hand of Providence that caused me to place the weapon on the table for the first time ever, and to leave it there in plain view for Cory to grab it on the way out the door. Incidentally, Cory initially thought he was coming to dispatch an injured pig. Sometime during his run out the door, Patti either corrected him, or he realized what was happening as my situation came into focus for him. Neither Patti nor Cory can recall for certain.]
I felt a real sense of relief as I saw Cory running toward me, but I knew I was still in the midst of battle. At some point during the struggle, Duke bit me on top of the head, and had bitten my right ear. I thought he’d torn my ear completely off, but he hadn’t. I was so convinced he had, though, that once the fight was over, I later instructed Patti to have Cory look for my ear. That’s something a son should never have to hear from his father.
Also at about the same time, I was horrified that Fly, our Border Collie, had joined Duke in the attack and had bitten my left ear and the left side of my face. She was later dispatched by a dear friend who agreed to do that for us and to deal with Duke’s remains, a portion of which was to be sent off to ensure there was no sign of rabies [test results revealed that both Duke and Fly were clear of rabies].
As I looked to Cory, now perhaps 10-15 feet away from us, I told him to “shoot him now.” Having turned my attention to Cory, even though only for a second, I guess I loosened my grip on Duke and he took what I’m pretty sure was his final bite, right in the middle of my face, getting my upper lip and nose. He ripped my nose in half, and the right half was fairly detached from my face. I could see it with my right eye. It may sound odd to think that such thoughts enter the mind in the midst of such a crisis, but I remember thinking “that looks so strange,” considering the normal symmetry of the left eye view and the right eye view of one’s own nose.
Immediately upon my telling Cory to shoot, he did so with expert precision, and he continued to do so until the threat was neutralized. Fly fled as soon as the first round was fired, thankfully.
[Edit: I later learned about the thought processes through which Cory progressed, in mere milliseconds of time: he thought to himself immediately following my instruction to shoot, "Dad's left leg is in my line of fire, behind Duke. I'm very likely to shoot my father in the leg - but that will not kill him...Duke will. BAM, he fired the first shot. Again, Cory processed those thoughts in a blink of an eye, like a seasoned combat veteran. I couldn't be prouder of him, or more thankful for him. In fact, I later told him that if he had hit me, I'd be no less proud because he did as I asked him to do.]
Cory fired three shots, hitting the dog in vital areas with all three rounds, while the dog was on top of his father actively attacking. Amazingly, after the first round struck home, Duke recoiled, then immediately lunged back toward my face and head - his adrenaline was pumping, too...assuming dogs have adrenal glands. This was no “hit the paper silhouette that’s hanging perfectly still.” Cory’s response and reaction was flawless. It was heroic, and there is not a shadow of a doubt in my mind that he saved my life. If it hadn’t been for his quick and precise action, I believe with a high level of certainty that I would be dead today. As a pleasant aside, it was very gratifying to hear Cory say last night that he instantly remembered lessons we’d taught him, such as “in a crisis situation, obey without question or hesitation.” He did just that (PS – situations like this one are exactly WHY we taught our kids that lesson). He also said he remembered my saying “shoot until the threat is neutralized.” He did that, too, like a seasoned pro with ice water in his veins.
Cory’s command of the situation didn’t stop there: as soon as Duke was dead and off of me, Cory grabbed me by the arm and helped me to my feet saying “we have to go NOW.” As he was helping me, he yelled to Patti “Go get your keys.”
I could not possibly be more proud or thankful for my baby boy.
As Cory was leading me to the car (Patti’s brand new heretofore blood-free car!), Cory once again took charge by grabbing my iPhone, dialing 911, handing my phone to Patti and telling her "just talk." Patti looked at Cory and said "THE GATE," meaning that the gate at the end of our long driveway had to be opened. Cory, who's adrenaline had to have been pumping as much as mine, sprinted to the gate and stood there with it wide open as we passed right through. Patti spoke with the wonderful and amazing Lincoln County Sheriff’s dispatcher as the dispatcher sent an ambulance to meet us on the way. By the way, Patti could pass a police driving course right this minute. She demonstrated driving skills that have been dormant due to lack of need, but they were manifest on this day, and she was a pro. We met the ambulance at the funeral home on Natchez (and yes, we recognized the humorous irony of such rendezvous point under the circumstances), and as soon as the medics got a look at my face, they notified dispatch to send a helicopter to KDMC in order to airlift me to Jackson. I had been obscuring my face from Patti because I didn't want her to see, unaware that she'd already seen my displaced nose.
I certainly would’ve preferred that my first copter ride had been under different circumstances, but I had the best seat in the house, right up front in the “shotgun” area, facing forward. I had a great view the whole way. I felt a little faint at one point, and later learned that my blood pressure had dropped to 70/40 I think. By the way, I never lost consciousness throughout the whole experience, though I did lose an alarming amount of blood.
We arrived at UMMC about 25 minutes or so after takeoff, and to make an already long story a little bit shorter, my visit resulted in two surgeons filling my face and head with stitches for approximately 6.5 hours.
My family has been overwhelmed with the outreach we’ve received from so many. The love and concern that has been expressed has meant so much to us, and we cannot thank you sufficiently.
I am expected to recover fully, and to look “mostly” like I did before the incident. Although I requested from the surgeons “early Tom Selleck,” I just had to settle for “late Me.” ;-)
Though I am, of course, saddened about having to kill Duke and Fly in order to protect our family, I am a man who is blessed beyond measure, and quite happy today, knowing that in an instant I could've lost one or both eyes, one or both ears, or my very life.
I may edit this piece as I remember things, and I’m happy to answer questions in the comments below.
Here is a link to a post with photos of my rescuers (we'll add a photo of the wonderful dispatcher who was Patti's lifeline):https://www.facebook.com/tommy.alderman/posts/10210372366599473