Saturday, January 8, 2011

Andy Hit In His Eye

Joe Frazier After the Thrilla in Manilla
Andy with his bally
My mom often went to the beach leaving me to housesit for her. In my first summer back on one of her trips, I was playing with the babies in the front yard. Andy was still young and energetic, so I played fetch with him several times a day. During each session, I’d throw the ball thirty or forty yards at a time several times an outing. Andy would sprint to get it and come back. However, after throwing the ball a couple of dozen times in a session, my shoulder that I dislocated as a teen would start to hurt. On days when my throwing arm would hurt, I’d use a tennis racket to hit the ball across the yard. But the racket broke so I used a mini baseball bat. The bat worked well and I’d hit the ball most of the times. Let’s face it, I’m no Ted Williams.

On this particular weekend, I made a terrible mistake. Andy was standing a few feet from me when I hit a tennis ball and it went straight to his eye. He immediately yelped. I had never heard Andy cry in pain before nor would I ever again. He would be stricken with arthritis and a paralyzing back problem. He would have several operations. Not once did he cry unlike Abby who was a big damn crybaby. Thinking about the pain he felt when I hit him in the eye bothers me to this day.

I dropped the bat and immediately went to comfort him. I hugged him and petted him. He went to the back and sat in the pool. I made an ice pack and put it on Andy’s already swollen eye. He sat there for a couple of minutes, then he turned around and swam to the deep end, climbed out by the ladder and sat quietly by himself.

I knew Andy had neurotic tendencies, so I had to do some major damage control. I didn’t want him to think I was being malicious. If he associated me with that awful day, he could be emotionally scarred for life. For the rest of the weekend, I gave him as much attention as I could. I played with him, gave him his favorite treats and loved him. I focused all of my attention on him.

Andy seemed to accept my ‘apology’ well. He didn’t act scared or skittish around me or like a whipped dog. There was one main repercussion from this event. For a year or two later, he would never play fetch with a tennis ball again. When I would pick up a tennis ball, he would act excited at first, but then he would droop his ears down, sit and have a long face. He was scared and wouldn’t participate. This behavior started immediately that day and would continue for a year or two afterwards.

We didn’t stop playing fetch. Instead, Andy enjoyed playing fetch with the cloth squeaky toys. I couldn’t throw them as far or as hard but I couldn’t put his eye out with one of them either. Instinctively, Andy probably knew this too. Now I’d play with him using those toys instead. Andy still had fun and it was a great substitute.

Had I to do things over, I should have bought a cheapo racket. I knew I wasn’t a good baseball player. It was foreseeable that I could have hit a dog with a ball since I had little control over the bat. I made a poor judgment using a baseball bat to hit the ball.

Another long term consequence of that event was Andy’s behavior around me. I tried so hard to make-up with him that he thought I really loved him and he started to love me. Before that weekend, I was that guy who would play with him and nothing more to him. If I wasn’t playing with him, he didn’t pay me much attention. After the incident, he viewed me as a companion. I didn’t love him yet. I felt guilty and sorry for what I did. I needed to comfort him and did what I could to make things better. That weekend changed things in a way I never imagined. Andy began to think I belonged to him.

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