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Dogs, Coaches, And Rabbits
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Ever have one of those days? The kind of day where you just want to go back to bed and pull the sheets over your head?

I've found that when I'm in the midst of such a day, I simply have to think of my wife, Donnelle.

Sure, the thought of her makes me smile. But what really brightens my mood is realizing I'm not having the sort of day she experienced a few years ago. The kind of day that causes me to wince and laugh out loud, both at once.

It started with Donnelle getting both our kids off to school one morning. My son, Kevin, was in middle school and my daughter, Rachel, was a high school student at the time.

I had left earlier in the morning with my police dog, Cimbo, to attend training in the Bay Area for my department. We also had a second shepherd, Roxy, who was the family pet, as well as a couple of rabbits we kept in a large pen in our back yard.

As Donnelle was fixing breakfast, she heard an awful screaming sound from the backyard. When she ran back there, kids on her heels, she discovered one of the rabbits had escaped the pen, and had been cornered by Roxy. We're still not sure what happened, as the rabbit didn't have a mark on its body, but it was obviously in distress. Donnelle took the rabbit to the local veterinarian, who examined the rabbit and suggested it be euthanized. He said he thought the rabbit might have stroked out, or Roxy might have given it a shake. Either way, it needed to be put to sleep.

This, of course, would be a bad start to any day. But Donnelle's adventures were just beginning.

I called shortly after, leaving her a message.

"I'm OK," I told her, "But I'm calling from the ER. Cimbo accidentally bit me during training, and they have to go in and clean it out, so I'm going to be awhile."

During K9 training, we strived to make the training as realistic as possible. This included wrestling with dog trainers wearing bite suits, where we would call our dog to assist us as if we were being assaulted by a suspect. During training, we would separate from the trainer - and the bite suit - to allow the dog access to the bad guy, and to avoid accidental bites.

Trying to simulate a real life brawl with a suspect, I stayed entangled with the trainer a bit too long, and when Cimbo launched himself, he inadvertently grabbed me by the forearm, biting as he spun me around.

As soon as he realized it was me, he let go. But these are strong dogs, and when we couldn't get the bleeding to stop, it was apparent I would need medical attention.

Thus, my message to Donnelle.

Keep in mind, this is pre-cell phone. We had to communicate the old fashioned way for the most part, calling home or work phones and leaving messages.

I, being a guy, didn't tell Donnelle much in my message. She wasn't sure what kind of medical attention I required, what 'going in' meant, but assumed I would need a ride home. She called the police department and the hospital, but wasn't able to gather any more information.

I had regaled Donnelle in the past with stories of Cimbo reducing violent felons to whimpering sissies after trashing them, so she had visions of me lying in a hospital bed leaking intestines or something. And I usually downplayed those events involving my safety that occurred at work - which she usually saw right through - so my phone message didn't help.

Being a woman of action, she started making plans. She called a friend to pick up Kevin from school, called Kevin's basketball coach, Coach Pease, to let him know Kev might miss or be late to a game scheduled for that evening, and decided to pick up Rachel out of school a couple of hours early to help bring me home.

As our friend Bonnie told us later, the confusion started when she picked up Kev. As he walked with Bonnie's son, Robby, Bonnie got their attention and waved them over to her car.

"Kev, I need to pick you up because your dad got bit by a dog," she told him.

Kevin looked perplexed, and informed her no, the dog bit a rabbit.

Bonnie tried again.

"No, hon, the German shepherd bit your dad."

Kevin looked at Robby, looked at Bonnie, and repeated, with the patience of a middle schooler, "Nooo, the German shepherd bit the rabbit."

Robby, who had heard the story about Roxy and the rabbit that morning - it had become quite the topic of discussion among the boys in their class - came to Kev's defense.

"Mom, the dog bit the rabbit!"

Both boys looked at each other as if Bonnie had a screw loose.

In the meantime, Donnelle picked up Rachel, who was a little miffed about being pulled out of school early.

"You DID NOT pick me up because the rabbit died?" She knew her mom had taken the rabbit to the vet.

"No, dad was bit," Donnelle told her.

Rachel looked at her, puzzled how the rabbit being bit by Roxy involved her dad.

She then asked Donnelle if she had called Coach Pease.

"Yes, I called Coach Pease," Donnelle said.

"Really?" Rachel asked. "You told her about practice?"

"No, I told him about the game," Donnelle said.

As Donnelle told it later, they looked at each other as if they both had lost their minds.

Donnelle had momentarily forgotten Rachel's softball coach also had the same last name as Kevin's basketball coach (and the two weren't related; wonder about the odds of that?)

At least the kids both didn't have games that day; the confusion might have gone on for hours.

Donnelle explained on the way home how I had been accidentally bit by Cimbo, and would need a ride home from the hospital.

Bonnie, Robby, and Kevin, meanwhile, wrangled all the way home; I think the boys might have even convinced Bonnie that she had misunderstood Donnelle.

Once everyone arrived at our home, as Donnelle spent a few moments trying to get more information before leaving for the long drive to pick me up, I strolled in with Cimbo, bandage on my arm, everyone looking at me as if I had been the one to kill the rabbit.

But all in all, everyone was glad I was OK. And the whole affair taught us we - which means me - could do better communicating with each other.

And when the events of the day became my one of my father-in-law's favorite yarns of all time, it was even worth it, in a way...

Craig Macho is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.