I Can’t Explain To My Kids Why Halloween Is Cancelled

The dog won’t shut up. He’s out front, barking his head off in the yard. All of the neighborhood dogs are going wild. It’s been like this all day.

I’ve been having terrible trouble keeping the kids away from the door as well. They don’t understand why we can’t go outside. Why they can’t go trick-or-treating tonight.

I feel like our dog barking out in the yard alone might not have been enough to make me so fearful. Maybe I wouldn’t have lost it even with all the dogs on the whole block going wild. Let’s acknowledge that possibility for a moment. The idea that I might have been able to deal with that…

When I saw what happened to Taylor Roberts, my neighbor across the street, that was more than enough to stay inside. He went out to try to calm down his own dog. He seemed almost excited at the idea of doing it…but that changed very quickly. I watched it rip him open. It took him down with a bite to his Achilles tendon. Even from across the street I could see the tendon snap and spring back into his calf like a dark rubber band. Then the dog was on him, driving its snout into his stomach, tearing into his intestines. It ripped them out and dragged him across the yard by them like they were bundles of knotted ropes. The dog shook his head wildly, its mottled and matted fur became splattered further, like a Jackson Pollock painting. A gray furry background with a fresh splatter of dark crimson.

Matthew comes slowly back downstairs.

I sigh.

“But what if we can just go out the backdoor, Daddy? We can still make trick-or-treating then, right? Then we’ll be safe.” He asks.

He’s been dressed in his skeleton costume since he woke up this morning. He’s been crying for the last three hours. Every time the crying stops, I know he’s come up with another way to try to convince me to change my mind. When I say no, he just starts to cry again.

“Goddammit, Matthew, for the last time we are staying inside.” I say.

I didn’t mean to yell or be so harsh, but this is the fifth time he’s asked since eleven this morning. He isn’t listening. We aren’t going trick-or-treating. We can’t go out there. I don’t know if we can ever go out there again.

I can’t stop looking through the blinds at the neighbor’s dogs, barking wildly. Some have cats pawing at the doors, mewing to be let inside. Scratching with disjointed, broken limbs, begging for their milk.

I understand why Taylor was so excited to see his dog come home. Baxter only ran away last week. They never could find him and here he was, at long last, finally home. It looks like a car drove over Baxter. His skull is collapsed and at least one of his legs is broken.

I want to get away from the windows. To stop staring, but it’s too unnerving. I have to look. It’s like watching a trainwreck. I can’t stop looking at my own dog.

His fur is gone in patches. His eyes are gray and cloudy. He stares back at me inside, snarling and barking his head off. He’s caked from snout to tail in mud and what looks like blood.

Julie looks out of the window next to the door. “Daddy, it’s Rocket.” Julie says, “he must have found his way all the way back from that farm he moved to. Can’t we just bring him in?”

Of course that’s what I told them. I couldn’t tell them that Rocket was very sick. How do you explain euthanasia to a four or six year old? Even if I could explain about Rocket, how am I going to explain to them how every dead pet on the block has come back when I can’t even explain it myself?

“No,” I said a bit more calmly, “for the last time, get away from the door.”

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