When you devote yourself to the same intention and action for seemingly forever, for what feels like a lifetime; when you have groomed your existence to be effective at one single purpose, you can’t help but just KNOW things without having to go through the motions to get there. When you learn by doing, you learn life lessons that never go away, even if you want them to. These lessons learned are remembered forever, like a muscle memory, like a nervous tick, recalled before you even try to. Life lessons that cut deep stay rooted that deep in your mind. Pain in whatever form, affects, just as it does the dogs that I have rescued away from that hurt, also have I brought some on to myself. I say, brought on myself as, every instance where I was bit by a dog happened due to an interaction between myself and the dog, without the addition of any outside pressures or stressors, in my home at the time. When I worked at a vet, I was constantly with owners and their dogs, often scared poorly behaved dogs that I was there to handle, manipulate and restrain in as calm and reassuring a manner that I could. Behind the scenes, I was there to physically restrain animals while doctors did things that physically hurt them and made them uncomfortable. In all that, “bites” are battle wounds you sort of asked for. Even if they drew blood and required vaccinations, you didn’t hang onto the instance, or even the name or image of the dog as they walked out the door until their next unfortunate vet visit. However, the bites that I have taken in rescue, have all occurred, up until the other day, on my own with a dog in my yard or home.
My first real dog bite came in our first small home together when we were doing rehabilitation with a client’s pack of rescued Rottweilers. We were working specifically with two female Rottweilers who were mortal enemies in their home among a larger pack that was suffering from their imbalance and animosity. We were attempting to quell their hostility in our neutral and balanced pack environment – which – despite our efforts – quickly failed. We were having an outdoor exercise with the two of them and having some success but were also well aware of the underlying tension between them. Not wanting to push too hard, knowing when to accept the progress we had made, having successfully had the two dogs off leash together without a fight, we decided to end the social exercise. Eric, myself, the two Rottweilers among other dogs from our pack were all standing on the back deck a mere split second from entering the house with one of the two girls. Before the slider door opened though - one of the Rottweilers attacked the other - grabbing onto the other’s chest in a firm and unrelenting grip. It was not a bite and release situation – she was locked on and inflicting a lot of pain to the other dog. As Eric worked with the aggressor from behind, I foolishly extended an arm into the fray and it was the victim dog in the scenario mistook it for a possible place for her to retaliate. Her mouth clamped around me wrist and she punctured through and began to release her own tension onto my arm. Having assumed my arm was the other dog and also being in a panicked state from her own physical pain – she remained locked for more than a moment. But the fight was broken up and it only left a small puncture hole in my wrist. There was shock and blood and pain and fear – the likes of which I had not ever experienced before that, but it was not a terrifying scenario. This bite perhaps made me more cautious – but it was essentially an accident – was not premeditated – was rather explainable and wasn’t a major wound. I received no stitches and I was left without any lasting damage. I have a small white circle of a scar the size of a bean on my right wrist but no residual emotional or mental scarring from the unfortunate event. Rather – I was embarrassed as before that I always bragged that I “had never been bit before”, not counting any vet defensive retaliation actions from years past. No dog had ever drawn my blood and I was proud of that as I had put in over a decade of service in their presence already. It felt like a freshman mistake as I had broken up many dog fights before and always knew how to do it without getting bit. She took me by surprise and I suffered the consequence. After all – as evidence of my lack of emotional scarring - we even kept my ‘attacker’, in lieu of returning her to her already bewildered owner and risk such a repeat incident occurring in her own home. So she became another cherished and social pack member in our growing family. She got along famously with our other dogs and made a spot for herself on our bed and lived out her days by our side in peace and harmony in her new pack. I have to say, this was not too bad for a first bad dog bite. They would get worse.
Years later, after our move to a bigger house and property to accommodate our need to keep up with the rehabilitation we were doing for various rescues, we acquired a Shepherd mix that was very recently pulled from a shelter and had already displayed behavior that was bad enough to convince his rescue to relinquish the dog. The full nature of what the dog had done was never disclosed and instead he was passed along. This was a very large dog – at least 125 lbs. His back was easily up to my waist and his head was the size of a large German Shepherd. We postulated that he could even be a wolf hybrid. When he arrived, he was wild and squirrelly like a wild stallion or feral dog. He would leap up, climb the walls, paw you, claw at you and whine in nervous anxiety. He was clearly very unstable, but was willing to participate and initially showed no outward aggression. As I usually bonded with the more insecure dogs, as opposed to the confident, dominant types - I liked him immediately. After a short time after he arrived, I brought him out to a yard one morning with my sister and let him off the leash to run around. I was enamored by his free spirit and wild exuberance. Later when I would learn to appreciate the willingness to follow more than what was essentially simple excitement – so easy to illicit from an animal – I would understand that this was not the right decision so early on. After some time in the yard, I even then laid on the ground and let him crawl over me and get excited and hug my neck and kiss my face. Again – prostrating myself for a new dog so soon out of the shelter and so unknowing of his true temperament was an error I would not make again. I gave him a tennis ball. He ran with it and threw it in the air and batted at it with his paws. He was in pure ecstasy. It made me smile. It was seemingly rewarding. It was like he had never run free and I had given that to him. I had no interaction with him and his ball though and instead let him do as he pleased. I allowed him to possess the ball and made no effort to control the sport. Eventually, when it had gone on long enough and I felt that it was time to go back inside, I approached him to bring him inside. Although I had removed the leash, he did have a collar on. I was feeling so good about the situation and confident in myself that I gently grabbed his collar and turned to walk away. I didn’t ask for his ball. I figured that he could keep it. I never presented myself as any kind of control in this dog’s life in this first interaction with him and yet I believed that he would drop his toy and willingly follow me inside. In my defense though – he had never shown aggression, we had no knowledge of past aggression and he had shared affection with me – which I had misinterpreted as trust. It was in a split second that everything I had thought was obliterated and I was in a fight for my arm with a dog. I had grabbed hold of his collar and completely turned around and was taking my first step away when he struck. With my back to him – not even seeing him move - he released his ball and exchanged it for my arm. I never saw it happen – just suddenly felt his power. My sister was in the yard with me. She too was walking away. She was in front of me. She didn’t see him move either. All I remember is that I turned around in that instinctual state that you are forced into in a real fight and proceeded to work out how I was going to retrieve my arm from this giant dog. He was clamped. He had bit through my coat, through my sweatshirt and through my wrist. I didn’t even feel any pain. He was clamped down so hard it was like he was stopping all the blood from flowing back up my arm and my heart was undoubtedly racing so fast that it was pumping all the blood back down through it. My whole arm, held tight at the wrist was in the mouth of this dog and he was thrashing back and forth – ragging it like it was an inanimate rope toy. The only thing I remember clearly is the expression on his face. He was back in the ecstatic state that I had seen him in with his ball. My arm was just another toy. The human who had asked nothing of him and who had allowed him to be primal was now just an object for him to exert his aggression on. I truly belonged to him - through and through, and I did not have the strength to escape him or subdue him. I was powerless. My sister had no idea that he had even bitten me. After all, I was coaxing him gently for what seemed like an eternity. She probably thought I was trying to retrieve the ball. “Drop it…drop it….give it…drop it…” I just kept asking him like I would to a stubborn three month old puppy with a sock that he shouldn’t have. I wanted to get the “sock” out without him destroying it completely. I wanted to retrieve my arm before he decided to grab something else. Soon enough my sister picked up on that fact that it was my arm that he had – probably from the intense look in my eye and the fact that I was following him so close as he ragged my arm – so as not to pull it away and cause more damage. She had a shovel nearby. She picked it up. She didn’t move – thankfully. She just quietly asked in a panicked but still soft tone – as if she too didn’t want to provoke the wild predator, “what do you want me to do?” I answered her calmly but assertively as I continued to follow him and beg for my arm back. “Don’t do anything, I don’t want to agitate him”. The scariest part, after all, was that he was doing so much damage and he wasn’t even tense. It was sport for him. It was like a cat playing with a mouse before it finally kills it. I was lucky it was only my arm. I knew what was coming if I gave him what he wanted. I wasn’t going to panic or scream or fight back. He was just going to have to give up the game and give me my arm back. Lucky for me…he finally did. My wrist was opened up on one side all of the way across. It was deep and the sight of the white muscled flesh inside made me sick to my stomach. It was garish – black and blue and swollen and bloody, but it did not go through on the other side. I still had my hand. The scar is significant. The event was traumatizing and I had almost lost my faith in dogs. The only thing that saved me is that I did not see it coming so there was never any fear. Once attacked, the fear for my life was immediately replaced by my survival instinct. Thankfully my instincts were honed enough to get away without lasting injuries. I might be little, but I am tough, so bite number two felt more like an accomplishment. I had won the game, retrieved the ‘object’. I was not a victim. I just kept going over how much worse it could have been…and it made me feel better about what had transpired. It was a life lesson – a challenge – but I had survived.
I definitely was not as confident as I was before it had happened. I now did not assume that because a dog likes me, it means that they will be trustworthy. If nothing else, this bite made me a little more respectful of an animal’s primal and physical potential.
I had a growing respect for the need to be more diligent in my assessment of dogs – now seeing that the ways in which humans can misuse and mistreat them can leave them with some seriously dangerous behaviors. I understood better the need for humans to be a presence in every dog's life in order to create trust and respect, for their safety and everyone else’s around them. No action should ever be taken for granted when you are handling dogs with issues. Every moment counts.
However, the next bite I took made me understand the true need for structure, discipline and consistency to create trust and respect before any amount of reward or affection is considered. We offered our home and time to a Bull Terrier that we knew came with human aggression to the point of a veterinarian wanting to put the dog to sleep. He was so bad that he had to be heavily tranquilized to even be transported and he was the first dog that we had to intake in his crate and wait until the next day to get him out. Despite this, he would still get the same chance that every dog we deal with gets in our home. And, in the very beginning, there was success. I have photos of him and me running through the yard and him jumping up on me, me holding him in my arms, him giving me kisses. Maybe he was high on his transport drug hangover or maybe high on life to be wild and free in the country after life in a city. And then, on another day, the situation changed and his true issues arose. It was a cold winter day and he was out in the yard on a long fifty foot lead. He suddenly slipped his collar and, free from his lead, came crashing through the door, which wasn’t fully shut, which to him was his ultimate power gain. Following him inside, I thought to myself comically, “So, you think you’re a smart guy huh?” and, inside, with little trouble, my sister leashed him up with a slip lead and returned him to his crate. She then reached into his crate to remove his leash, but he was fed up with us taking back the control that he had so quickly gained by breaking his multiple boundaries of a slipped lead and a door left unlatched. Now he wasn’t going to accept the show of restraint and he spun in the crate and lunged out, striking fast and hard. How my sister managed to get out of the way of his mouth is still beyond me, but now in a state of panic, she stood up and backed up and he immediately flew out of his crate. His full freedom was yet another power gain for him and so - he immediately continued his attack. He was not going to lose the power this time. He was quickly leaping and jumping and biting at her again and she reeled backward to avoid his snapping jaws. Being the older protective sister that I am, I stepped in between and pushed her back. He jumped once and clamped on my forearm. He bit through my skin and left a full circle of bloody teeth punctures – like a dental impression on my soft flesh. But it was not over yet. When he jumped again my hand was there this time as I was trying to grab some part of him to stop his launching attacks. He clamped on the tip of my middle finger and broke it in his powerful jaws. I felt the tip bend over inside my winter glove and it was the most unnatural feeling. It was reminiscent of frost bite – when you can feel something hard and cold but it doesn’t feel like it is attached. And yet it was still not over. I made my way to the door, drawing him over and I picked up a broom or mop or something that was near to stave off his ongoing leaping, lunging bites in lieu of another limb. Somehow then with my other hand I managed to reach around him and scruff him from the back of his neck - a superhuman moment brought on by injury and threat of more bodily damage. I already knew this feeling and I was in it until it was over. I picked him up and went out the door and it was here on the steps holding him in mid air – debating where to throw him that Eric found me – having heard the unnatural dog noises of an attack and thankfully showing up just at this helpless moment. I passed off the dog to him yelling something like, “take him from me!” After addressing my injuries, I would go over the series of events in my mind like a flapping film projector reel of action stuck on a loop, to try to discover the motivation, the triggers, the signals, and the blame, and regardless of what the trigger was, it was not a snap reaction to a common trigger. It was not a warning. It was not communication. It was power, it was aggression, and it was an all out attack on two people who had moments before been his only trustworthy humans in the world. It was difficult to watch the transformation following the attack as Eric attempted to find any good that may still be lurking in him. This dog had now burned every human who had ever tried to give him life. He was unwilling to be in our presence without malicious intent. We did not do this to him. We did not bring him into this world. We did not abuse or neglect him. We did not even ever judge him poorly for what he had already done or even after inflicting bites on me. We were here for him and in the end, the best we could say about him is that he was honest with us.
So, needless to say, my cherry has been popped on the whole dog bite scenario at this point. I’ve seen some nasty stuff and each time it taught me something major and made me better at reading and assessing dogs and made me better at doing what is necessary in every moment to truly earn trust and respect with every dog I meet. I do not regret the painful parts in my past but instead am glad that they made me tougher for today, and besides, it’s a life with dogs…I’ll take the drawbacks for these rewards. However, that being said, the latest bite, the one still fresh and trying to heal was one without the silver lining of a life lesson. Instead, the situation could have been avoided and did not show me anything new about dogs and isn’t even representative of the dog that lives here with me today. Jersey arrived and bit me before I ever even got a chance to know him at all. I think I’ll put this one on the vet list under dogs who bit defensively out of fear and try to wash it away like those.
After a decade in rescue of accepting surrendered dogs from their owners, we know how ideal this situation is NOT. There is no easy way to take a dog away from their owner. However, I have been doing it practically my whole life. When I worked at boarding facilities for a decade and owners would bring in their dogs to be dropped off for a stay, I had to win every dog over with my love and affection and gently but excitedly encourage that dog to leave their main resource in life and trust that I will bring them somewhere just as good, or even better. Practice makes perfect and in order to be successful you just had to be for whatever dog was in front of you, exactly what they needed or wanted in the moment. To be every dog’s best friend and main resource was a task I was willing to devote my life to, who wouldn’t want that, right? However, in kennels, there was always so much preamble for the owner to this separation that the act was not so difficult, ever. After all, the anxious owners got to receive guided tours of the facility to “ see where they are going to be” and then there would even be trial run exercises to gradually acclimate the dog to the new environment. The dog might come just for daycare first or even an overnight before their longer stay. There were all the necessary promises made of letting them bring whatever luggage with them, beds and toys, food and treats. The dogs would receive ample playtime outside in fenced in yards, with other dogs if applicable. The dogs would have someone on the premises 24/7. Every bit of minutia describing the dog’s individual needs will be recorded and conveyed to all staff and every need of every dog will be met everyday. I’ve witnessed first hand the overwhelming and never ending barrage of requests and concerns and worries and demands that come from a loving owner leaving their four legged child at a kennel. It always seemed unnecessary, but that was easy for me to stay because I was working 50 hour weeks managing every aspect of the lives of every dog in the place and every person doing the job with me. The anxious owners were a nuisance to the happy willing dogs who ran with us behind the doors and enjoyed a vacation that their owners would never understand. Surely, the places that I worked were the good places where everyone who worked there loved their job and were good at their jobs and it was a positive experience for the dogs to be there. So, while I never enjoyed anxious owners, I always empathized. I got it. I worked at a kennel after all, where I could bring my dogs to work everyday so I didn’t have to leave them. I worked at one kennel for 5 years and never once left my own dogs overnight, not because I didn’t trust the system I worked in everyday, but, because, I get it…who wants to leave this seemingly helpless creature that shows you unwavering loyalty and unconditional love everyday? That’s a resource that I would protect with my life, and I did, everyday that I went to work and treated every single dog as my own.
So, transition to a decade later in rescue, when my craft is still the same but now the dogs come to stay forever, or until I can find them a forever home and someone else to care as much as I do about what needs to be done everyday for this or that dog. What I’ve learned in this new chapter is that the people leaving their dogs have no balance in that moment. It is impossible for them to leave their emotion aside, which is sadness, depression, anxiety and worry. These emotions are a natural reaction to losing your furry child. I get it and do not expect any less. However, my number one priority when a dog is being surrendered is that dog. At one time in my life I may have had to smile and cater and pander to a customer that was entrusting their possession to me temporarily until they return to retrieve it, now I was trying to save the life of a dog that for whatever reason is in danger of losing it. The owner would not be returning, the dog would become my own and everything I do with this dog will determine who they are to me, who I am to them and what we can do together. Furthermore I am bringing them into my home, not a kennel facility so the guided tours and warm office welcome is not an option for everyone’s safety and above all, for the new dog’s benefit so that the environment he is coming into is the stability he needs. I want to be this new dog’s future and likewise, I want nothing to do with the dog’s past. If the surrender situation is circumstantial and the dog has no issues and the owners are resigned to the inevitability and can drop off their dog without guilt and regret because they are happy not to have their dog expire, there is not a whole lot of issue. We are here to assuage the sadness with our promises of safety forever for this dog and the people move on and life stays in balance. Our numbers go up but everything else is just another day in the neighborhood. However, when a dog comes with history, with trauma and suffering and then instability, it changes the whole game. Then, the simple act of taking a dog from their owner can be a difficult and dangerous task.
So, enter Jersesy. Jersey is a Pit bull that was rescued from a case of serious neglect and abuse. Jersey was part of the Black Rock Vet case of animal cruelty. Jersey was locked up and left to starve. His tail was amputated in the aftermath of his severe medical issues got from his neglect. Jersey had enough reason after that to never trust another human being ever again in his life. But, thanks to rescue, the spirit of dog was revived in Jersey and in his rehabilitation and then long term foster home, Jersey came back to life. Jersey found a safe place where he could be loved and have every one of his needs met everyday. Jersey recovered his spirit, but for obvious reasons, his behaviors remained touched. He was not without his insecurities still and he did acquire a bite history. As the years went by, the situation in the home shifted and the possibility of babies in their future forced Jersey’s people to make a difficult but educated decision about him. He could not be trusted and should not be challenged with the addition of children into his home. Jersey needed another miracle. After five years with this one family, Jersey would lose everything he knew. It was not ideal. It could easily mean the end of his life. Obviously owning a dog for five years and rehabilitating him back from such an extreme situation, losing Jersey would not be easy.
We did not hesitate in understanding the situation and wanting to offer Jersey a chance at forever. His only safety would be with experienced people who can deal with issues and who can see every Pit bull as having the ability to be nothing less than a stable, happy, friendly dog and loving house pet. We knew we were ready for him. Our request was that someone, anyone else be the person to transport the dog. The ‘clean slate’ that we give every new dog is much easier to attain when the experience of arrival remains positive. The emotions that come from a grieving owner is not positive. Even if the sadness can be replaced for hope, the worry always translates to anxious excitement for a dog. But, sometimes life gives you lemons anyway, even if you have no taste for lemonade. Jersey was going to be dropped off by his foster mother. We would take it as it comes. You plan, god laughs. You rarely get what you want, but you always create what you need. And after all, don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff. But sometimes, the seeming minutia can change the coarse of a day in an instant.
Jersey arrived and, as we have learned to do, Eric mans the transition from owner to him and from within the safety of the yards or the house, I meet and interact with the new dog for the first time. I get to be the first friendly face in a new space for the first day of the rest of their life. This works wonderfully. Eric gets to be the strong unafraid hands that can physically bring in the new dog to his territory, no matter what the state that dog is in. After years of transports arriving, Eric knows that the only sure thing is that there is no telling who is showing up. Pictures and videos and training assessments and opinions aside, every moment is new. But, once they arrive in their transport crate they have entered the safety of our bubble we create for them. They become part of our home, our sanctuary for animals away from the stressors of the world they came from. We get to be something entirely new and, if we do everything right, we get to be complete balance in every moment for every dog. It is a lot to ask for, but without requiring that from ourselves, we cannot purport to be offering true safety. If I am afraid or weak or absent, unwilling or angry or frustrated, I am not whole for you. We want dogs that come in to be honest with us about everything that they have going on inside and we have to react correctly in order to show them what works and what does not. So, with every new dog I meet here, I get to greet them with the blissful ignorance of a life without the ugly history that these animals leave behind. I don’t want to know the dog they were, I want to be here now with the dog that exists in this moment, and the next moment and so on in order to build a new existence without the baggage they get to leave behind forever. Of course, ingrained behavioral issues exist and need time and effort to work around and to rehabilitate, but every dog that arrives exists without the labels they acquire. Progress is made one successful moment at a time. The moment in time of Jersey arriving at the end of his mother’s leash, amped up, excited and reeling from the unrest of his human and this strange tense long car ride with everything he owns in the back seat was filled with tension. The interaction was fixed tight to the past and unwilling to be part of this new future. Jersey was very aware of what was going on and our ability to spin it into something other than what it was decreased in every second that Jersey remained at the end of that leash. When a new social dog did not break the ice and the state of purgatory only served to breed more insecurity, I was eventually called in from the wings for the crucial transaction that was necessary for this dog to move on with the rest of his life. I had to take the leash.
So I entered the scene as the unknowing third party, willingly oblivious to everything and everyone other than Jersey and his needs. I approached with soft tones and soothing energy and removed the leash from the owners hands and coaxed and encouraged Jersey to go for a walk. The transaction was a success. The owner assisted in her ability to let go of the leash and then offer an encouraging energy, “He is great at walks” And so we strolled away, without a struggle and started to make our way down the driveway. The next 90 seconds transpired in an instant. We were walking and then he put on the breaks. I paused, short strong pulls and with a slight change in speed, I got him to go through his mental block and we jogged for a few more paces before he stopped again and this time he turned and was pulling frantically to get back to his mother, who was at the car, unloading his luggage. I turned around and held fast to the leash, but didn’t let him pull me in that direction. Instead, I continued to encourage him to come to me. I appealed to the excited dog at the end of my leash, without considering that in reality, this was an animal that had been through extreme neglect and abuse and then had stability for five years with two humans and now, in this terrifying moment, all of that was being ripped away from him and right before his eyes. He was not a depressed but resigned, unsure but willing to find a new face to trust dog. He saw right in front of him what he wanted and needed and furthermore, today especially SHE needed HIM more than ever because something was distressing her…and now she was leaving in the car! For whatever reason, possibly years of practice, my appeals to the simply excited dog worked for a second and Jersey came back to me, but instead of relaxing into my space and touch, his attention immediately returned to his owner and he attempted to get away by using every dog’s #1 weapon – his mouth. Jersey bit into my hand and released. It was a good puncture and it was shocking and the blood was dripping, but I hadn’t released the leash. I had stood up and by instinct I was holding the leash away from my body to keep Jersey at a distance, but he wasn’t interested in me at all. It was a quick defensive move by an insecure dog that was having his every resource ripped away from him. I waited for Eric to come take the leash and I went inside to clean my wounds. While I knew I had seen way worse when it came to physical injuries, the turmoil I felt inside was all new.
Here was this dog that, if his arrival had been handled differently, would have a shiny clean slate for me to write my name all over with what I can offer him everyday. Instead, now this new dog that I haven’t even known for five consecutive minutes is on a short list of dogs that have bit me. I now had my own sack of baggage with Jersey – a handbag stuffed full of fear and anxiety and on my shoulder in an instant. I don’t carry purses. I don’t keep much stuff around. I value my ability to move through life influenced only by the needs and wants of the animals around me. I pride myself on being able to provide in every moment stability and balance for every animal in my care. When you get bit in this lifestyle it isn’t surprising – it’s an occupational hazard. However, when the bite seems like it could have been avoided and by something out of my control, it twists a little deeper like a thorn in my side. I want to go back and meet him again, not because it has changed how I feel about Jersey and his potential to find complete peace and stability here with us, but so I don’t have this annoying hurdle of letting go of that moment in time that shouldn’t have happened. Thankfully, dogs have taught me, above all else, to live in the moment. So the past is where it should be and the annoyance of the wound and the pain in the coming days will subside.. The next morning Jersey looked at me like I was his mother and I knew exactly where his heart was. I couldn’t help but get a little angry that I bet I would have been able to shower Jersey with affection in that moment if the incident hadn’t happened. But two days later, while I was standing at the sink and doing the dishes, he jumped up next to me and I bowed my head, offering him my face and I got kisses. It’s clearly not about Jersey letting it go and all about me getting past it. Luckily, I am in the right place for that to happen. Everyday I see Jersey all day. He eats when I come into the kitchen to do some work, showing me he is comforted by my presence. He wiggles and gets a squeaky tennis ball in his mouth and plays like a puppy. He let’s Eric put his hands all over him, sharing unchecked affection and love and Jersey bathes him with sloppy kisses. Jersey is in the right place for his forever and I see the dog in him that made his owners love him so deeply for five years. I wish I never felt the pressure and sting of his mouth, but I know now that it was the situation that had me beat before I entered the game and that while I was hurt, it was nowhere near a knock out blow. Jersey was completely honest with me about how badly he needs to feel safe and I can reassure Jersey everyday that I can do that for him and also that this too shall pass…or with his smiling face and grateful wiggle, maybe it is him reassuring me.