A Terrible Day For Yoga

Close up of Blue
This is Blue

What Happened …

So, yesterday our family had a very bad day. It started out pretty OK. Yes, it was cold and raining, but I still popped my two dogs in the car and grabbed my umbrella. Rain doesn’t change their needs for a walk, afterall.

First stop, tai chi. Our teacher was back after an absence of a week due to his partner being unwell. We all celebrated the fact she had come home from hospital. We worked the Qi Gong technique of the 8 Brocade in detail. I found lots of little bits and pieces fell into place for me and I acquired a better level of understanding. Class was followed by cups of tea around a table and a chat. I love our tai chi classes.

Next up, we visited a potential venue for yoga classes in town for runners. After that, grabbed supermarket supplies, just a top up shop. Last thing before home, walk at the dog park.

As we arrived the dogs started whining. They enjoy this park: there are open fields to run in, the river to paddle and patches of bush to snuffle. They often meet friends here to play with. It’s a good wet day option as the paths are paved and my shoes don’t get muddy. I stay reasonably dry under my umbrella.

This dog park is a favorite

We had been walking for about 20 minutes, when we turned up a set of stairs. We always go up here to make our circuit. Blue lingered at the bottom sniffing, checking the pee-mail, as all the dogs do at certain landmark locations. I was up the first maybe 20 stairs and on a landing, when behind me I heard a deep growl and a scream.

Before I had time to react to the sound, Blue was beside me on the bush bank and a large white and tan dog was on top of her back biting. It happened very fast, as I approached the handrail between the stairs and the bush and went to go under, Blue managed to partially free herself and the two of them fell down the bank onto the lower track we had just been walking on.

From there on the stairs, I saw my dog on her back and her much larger attacker – at least 3 times her weight holding her by the throat. Shaking. I saw the dog’s owner for the first time approaching from the other side of the stair entrance. My dog is screaming and screaming. I screamed “your dog’s killing my dog”. She began to run along the path.

We both arrived at the attack site at the same time. The white dog owner says to me “she’s never done that before” as she grabbed her dog by the collar and pulled. I was vaguely aware this was not a recommended thing to do – it causes more tearing from the bite and puts the human hand at risk of being bitten. Both, as it happens, occurred. I beat the attacking dog across the back with my umbrella. All the while, poor little Blue, lying on her back, screamed. Finally, the jaws loosened for a moment and my dog disappeared up into the bush.

I asked the woman for her details to help with the vets bill. She demanded to see my dog, who had scarpered. After a moment, in a moment of shrewd cunning she said, “I think it was your dog at fault.” I started taking photos of her and her dogs. She pulled the hood of her jacket over her face and took off as fast as she could.

I began the hunt for my dogs. Neither one was in sight nor coming to my calls. As the adrenaline seeped away, terror replaced it. I couldn’t breathe. I called and searched. I recruited a couple of other walkers to help me. They did. Bless them.

I tried to run back to my vehicle in case that’s where my dogs had gone. Fall shock had set in. I couldn’t draw breath. I couldn’t run. I’m a runner, but right then I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other.

There, beside my van, a lovely young man had my other dog – who had fled in fear at the start- by the collar and was looking for an owner. Thank you whoever you were, you probably saved a member of my family from going under a car. He wasn’t wet and wasn’t wearing a jacket so likely came out of his vehicle or home to help. Bless him.

My other dog secured in the vehicle, I went back into the park to search. I texted my husband “braithwaite park now emergency”. It took a long time for my shaking fingers to input the message. The rain didn’t help.

I remembered Blue on her back, her neck in the big dog’s jaws. I imagined Blue bleeding out quietly, alone under a bush. I went back to the van and got my other dog on lead, in the hope she might help me locate Blue.

I rang Animal Control, in case someone else picked Blue up. While I was speaking with them, their call centre received a report of a found dog matching Blue’s description. Blue had run back to the hall where we do Tai Chi. The people there brought her inside, made her comfortable, rang Council. Bless them.

I used Facebook to put out the word to help find Blue when she was missing and to help locate the white dog – who needs to be in a muzzle in public. The response was huge. So many people responded and shared and sent best wishes. Bless them.

Now, Blue’s story is less dramatic (although more expensive) – vets, medication, snugs on her beanbag under her blankie. She has had surgery and with the expert and professional care from the vets she will be OK. Bless them.

Where was Yoga? Everywhere

Even in the moments of extreme trauma and stress, yoga increased my resilience to help my dog in the fight and to stay calm when interacting with the other owner, enabling me to get some photographs.

When shock hit, yoga helped me recognise what was happening in my body. I was breathing in the upper part of my chest only – causing hyperventilation. I was grasping forward to where I thought I needed to be – down the road at my car – instead of focusing on where I was and what I needed to do – on the path, putting one foot in front of the other.

Yoga helped me when my hands were shaking so much I struggled to operate my phone. As I hit the wrong letters and rain splotched the screen, self talk emerged “I can’t do this” “It’s too hard” “What if …” Yoga helped me recognise this self talk as unhelpful. Yoga helped me take a breath, wipe the screen, try again. Take a breath. Try again.

Yoga helped me remember the embodied experience of the attack clearly and concisely when recounting it to my husband, to the Council Inspectors, to the vet.

Yoga helped me recognise the good beautiful people all around me, who I didn’t even know, who’s first instinct was to help a stranger and an animal in distress. Yoga helped me have the presence of mind to articulate the problem and to thank them. To bless them.

Where Was Yoga? On the Mat

Through the two hours or so of action, it was the mental element of yoga – built through a combination of physical and mental techniques – that I drew upon. Once we got home and tucked poor wee Blue up cosy and warm, and after I had had a warm shower (I’d spent two shivery hours soaked to the bone), I got on the mat and unpacked some very gentle restorative techniques for self care. This short practice is set out, here.

So, Where Was Yoga?

Yoga helps you to approach difficulty from a place of compassion, understanding and pragmatism.

Yoga is difficult, so it helps you when you need to do difficult things.

Yoga is mindfulness, so it helps you when you need presence of mind.

Yoga is equanimity. Coming to this situation from a place of empathy, meant that my adrenalin filled body was not angry with the dog or the owner. Anger in those moments would have robbed me of the ability to focus on what was important. Nor am I angry today. The other dog owner will be afraid for her family member, I wish her no ill will. I would like preventive measures to be taken to protect everyone, including her, such as use of a muzzle.

Yoga is compassion. As we pour love and compassion into our little dog, it will not only heal her, but me and my family also.

Yoga is gratitude. I am grateful for all the people that helped. I am grateful Blue is OK. I am grateful for vets with knowledge, kindness and expertise to ease suffering. I am grateful for Council and the Inspector for helping us achieve a speedy, just and fair resolution. I am grateful for a community on social media, some of whom I know and some of whom I don’t and all of whom tried to help.

There have been many good days for yoga. The yoga from those good days wrapped me in its arms when I needed it. And it was there when I needed it on my terrible day for yoga.

I teach yoga with Namaste Yoga NZ and provide yoga mini-breaks via Yoga-2-Go.

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