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Sunday, July 14, 2024

The Way I See It – Summer of ‘66

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As a five-year-old living on an idyllic, tree-shaded road, with no care in the world, and kids in just about every house on my block, summer in Naperville was paradise! In hindsight, though, the summer of ’66 may have had a few hiccups.

We were a family with pets: dogs, cats, parakeets, canaries, fish and even a couple of turtles. So when I saw the dog in my neighbor’s yard, I didn’t hesitate to walk toward it. It stopped in its tracks and made a low, growling sound. I wasn’t deterred. As I approached, I noticed that she had what appeared to be water running from her nose and mouth. Only her head appeared to be wet, and I immediately had my suspicions. I had previously seen Mr. Olsen, who lived a few doors down from us, spray neighborhood dogs with his hose if they happened to wander into his yard. He would smirk as the dogs ran away, frightened by the burst of water. I thought Mr. Olsen was a bully.

I asked the dog, “Did Mr. Olsen spray you?” I leaned into to rub her ears, but she growled again and lowered her head, and bit my left calf. She made four puncture wounds: two with her outside canines and two with her inner incisors. I saw blood begin to drip from each wound. The dog turned tail and ran.

About that time my Mom called out that dinner was ready. When I put weight on my left foot, the calf burned painfully. I limped home. I went straight to the bathroom and tried my best to clean the blood from my hands and leg.

My Mom immediately knew something was wrong. After some prodding, my Dad asked, “What happened?”

I was afraid that they would be mad at me for petting a strange dog, so I denied as long as I could. But my Dad had been a detective for about 13 years before moving to Naperville, and my Mom was a school teacher – two professions that can sniff out a lie in seconds. I broke down and through sobs and tears explained what had happened.

I can still see their look of fear coupled with exasperation, when my Dad had me describe for the third time, what the dog’s mouth had looked like. I think it was when I said, “Bubbles, like soap,” that they gave each other a very serious look.

The next day my Dad took me to visit Dr. Carducci. My Dad worked at the Edward laboratory and he knew many of the doctors that practiced there. Dr. Carducci and he were on a very friendly basis, and so after the doctor examined my leg, and asked me a few questions, the two of them had what I thought was a friendly chat in the corner of the examination room. But the drive home was mostly in silence. When we arrived at the house, my Mom was anxiously waiting. After he spoke to her, they turned to me and Dad said, “We have to find that dog, and we only have a few days.”

For the next couple of nights, after dinner, the family would fan out and look for a white, short-haired dog with light brown spots.

After a few days without spotting her, my parents had made their decision. Unbeknownst to me, there was a possibility that I had been bitten by a rabid dog. I had no idea what that meant. My older sister explained it to me like only a big sister can, “You’ll die if you don’t get the shots! Only one human has ever survived rabies!” My entire family was big on practical jokes, so I looked at my parents. Apparently it was no joke.

The following day I began the protocol for rabies which consisted of 25 injections of the rabies vaccine: 3 on the first day, 2 on the second and third day, and one each day after for 18 days. These were administered by what to me looked like a 12” needle, all in my abdomen. The shots were excruciatingly painful. So much so, that my parents would think up creative lies to lure me into the car. “You want to go to Dairy Queen?” Of course I did!

But then we’d pull in to the Martin Avenue Medical Center, I would begin to scream and cry. They fooled me for 21 days; I guess I wasn’t a very bright kid.

But when we pulled in the driveway at home after my last shot, there, waiting for me was a brand new, cherry red, Schwinn Stingray bicycle. There were several neighbors and friends lining the driveway all congratulating me for being “so brave.”

Apparently, they hadn’t spoken to the doctors and nurses at Martin Avenue!

Two days later I removed the training wheels on the bike and promptly crashed in front of Mr. Olsen’s house. My tibia and fibula, (left leg again), suffered compound fractures. I was back at Martin Avenue, this time under Dr. Kupke’s capable hands. I spent the rest of the summer in a cast.

Like I said, that summer had a few hiccups.

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P. Araya
P. Araya
Pablo Araya grew up in Naperville and enjoys writing about his experiences in the Navy, the FBI and growing up in the best town around. Contact Pablo at boblow9913@gmail.com.
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