I Shot My Dog in the Eye and All He did was Love Me More

I Shot My Dog in the Eye and All He did was Love Me More

By David Himmel

Today would have been my dog’s 11th birthday. He died on Oct. 29 from prostate cancer. I had his likeness tattooed on my arm in February.

The plan was to leave early in the morning. That would get us out of the city ahead of the holiday traffic and down to central Illinois to Katie’s parents’ house where we would spend three days leading up to Christmas Day.

Pals looking up.

Pals looking up.

The night before, Katie and I hosted our first annual Holiday Party. We called it a “holiday party” because we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas in our home, and calling it a Christmakkah Party is a stupid thing to do. The party followed the closing night performance of Christmas in Chicago, a comedic musical year-in-review show I co-wrote for the Fine Print Theatre. The party, like the show, was a success. People laughed. People got drunk. We’re 99 percent sure one friend fucked her extremely drunk boyfriend in our bathroom in between bouts of him vomiting in our toilet. Around 3 a.m., we had to politely kick people out.

Because we wouldn’t be home together for Christmas, Katie and I started a tradition that night of opening our gifts to each other and our dog, Eddie, the night before leaving for Christmas with her family. Everyone has a Best Gift of Christmas each year. In 2013, mine was the Retaliator, a totally awesome NERF gun that I think more school shooters should consider using. I was overcome with excitement upon unwrapping it, and immediately took to ripping it out of the box, loading the spring-action clip and blasting Eddie’s stuffed animal toys like the love child of Lee Harvey Oswald and John Rambo.

“Please be careful,” Katie warned. “Don’t shoot Eddie.”

“I’m not an idiot. I’ve handled real guns safely* before, I can handle a NERF gun.”
After a few minutes of childish violence with my new toy, we called it a night. We had an early morning and a three-hour drive ahead of us.

When we woke, we were half-way between still drunk and hungover, but we knew we had to get a move on. I took the first shower, then Katie. While she rinsed, I grabbed my new gun. I set up more dog toys around the apartment. Eddie, always the willing playmate, was by my side. He snorted and barked at the toys, and me as they held their positions and I took my aim.

POP! *cock* POP! *cock* POP! *cock* POP! *cock* POP! *cock*

I knocked down every insurgent with extreme prejudice and Wilkes Booth-accuracy. Eddie barked at each shot fired. I cocked the gun one last time and took off down the hallway from our living room — where the carnage occurred — toward our bedroom — where a different kind of carnage occurred (See what I did there?). Eddie was on my heels.

The dopest present ever! Until that dopeness and your dopiness shoots a dog's eye loose.

The dopest present ever! Until that dopeness and your dopiness shoots a dog's eye loose.

And then he yelped. Screamed, really. You know that horrific sound dogs make when they’re hurt? That’s what Eddie did. I stopped dead in my tracks and turned back to him. He leaped into my arms as I knelt down. Eddie was only 18 pounds but he nearly knocked me over from the force of his jump, then nearly tipped me over from how hard he was leaning into me. As immediately as it happened, Katie, who had been in bliss inside her steamy shower, whipped open the bathroom door and bounded out into the hallway naked as the day she was born, dripping with steamy water and soap suds. Her motherly instinct in full Hulk Mode.

“What happened?!” she shrieked.

“I don’t know,” I said. He just—”

“What happened to his eye?!”

I didn’t see it at first because of the way he tucked himself into me but his left eye was alarmingly red and swollen shut.

“Oh God!” I said.

I didn’t mean to do it. Really. It’s not like I took aim at his face and pulled the trigger. Here’s what must have happened: We had slaughtered all the insurgents — me the sniper, Eddie the spotter. We fled our nest and while running down the hallway I accidentally fired off a shot. It either ricocheted off the floor and into his eye or struck him directly from the barrel. Either way, I had shot my dog in the eye and all three of us were in a panic.

Katie grabbed him from my arms. As she carried him into the bedroom, I could see how bad the redness and swelling had become. His right eye — the good one — conveyed his emotions: Scared, hurt, but comforted in mommy’s arms.

Babies training babies. Katie and Eddie, circa 2007.

Babies training babies. Katie and Eddie, circa 2007.

Eddie had been through traumatic experiences before. As a puppy, he broke his leg chasing a tennis ball. While living in the South Loop, he got caught in an elevator going up, leash still attached with Katie not in the elevator. Katie would budget one big injury in the vet column of her annual spending spreadsheet for an Eddie mishap.

During the latest incident, Katie was calm, cool, collected. She had me get a cold compress — I soaked a washcloth under the kitchen sink faucet. She held it to his face. She and Eddie crawled back into bed. She spooned him with the compress on his eye. She lifted it every few minutes to gauge its progress. When it became clear there was none, she called the vet.

Our instructions were to keep the cold compress on his eye. If the swelling and redness did not go down in an hour, call again, bring him in. It was the longest hour of my life.

Eddie didn’t let out any more yelps. Didn’t cry at all. Katie kept her cool, too, though she was understandably upset with me for accidentally shooting her dog in the eyeball with a NERF gun. I say “her” dog because at that point, Katie and I had been dating 16 months and we had only lived together four months. Eddie and I always got along. But he and Katie had been mom and pup for five years before I came into the picture. We had spent a lot of time together while his mom and I dated but neither of us had become comfortable with him being considered my dog or me his dad.

I didn’t like him much. That’s probably because Eddie was exactly like me.

When Eddie and I first met, I thought he was the strangest looking thing I’d ever seen. He had these long, skinny legs, a pointed snout and, was neurotic and clingy to his human-mother. I didn’t like him much. That’s probably because Eddie was exactly like me. The first time Katie brought him to my apartment, she cooked me dinner while he and I played fetch with the tennis ball. Eddie loved only Katie above his tennis balls. I learned that night that he could play fetch for hours. And part of the game for him was not giving you the ball so you could throw it again. Fetch meets tug of war was how Eddie rolled. He would bring it right to you then sit there with it in his mouth, not letting you take it. I told him to “drop it.”

"You woke me from my nap. OK. Let's play tennis ball, Ed."

"You woke me from my nap. OK. Let's play tennis ball, Ed."

“He won’t do that,” Katie called from the kitchen, down the long hallway of my bachelor’s apartment to my living room where Eddie and I negotiated. “It’s part of the game for him.”

“I’ll get him to drop it,” I said with a new boyfriend’s confidence.

A half-an-hour or so went by of this struggle of will between Eddie and I. Him withholding the tennis ball, me telling him to “drop it.” Katie brought dinner — a personalized version of my favorite dish from the restaurant where I worked in high school. As we enjoyed it, Eddie and I kept playing the game.

“You have to tell him ‘Night Night’ and just stop playing with him, or he’ll never stop,” she said.

He shoved his tennis ball-stuffed mouth into my hand. “Drop it,” I said. Eddie dropped the ball, took a few steps away from me and sat down. He looked at me with confident eyes and waited for me to make my move.

Katie’s eyes bulged from her head. “What?” she said.

“I told you,” I said with proven new boyfriend’s confidence.

I tossed the ball down the hallway toward the kitchen, and he ran after it, scooped it up off the bounce against the cabinet where I kept my pots and pans then ran it back to me. “Drop it, Eddie.” Dropped. And again, we played our game. Eddie and I were pals from that point on. He was less strange looking, cute even. Handsome. And though still a mama’s boy and neurotic, it was the kind of neurotic I could appreciate.

Katie and Eddie would stay at my place. She’d get up and go to her agency job, Eddie and I would hang back and work from home. He’d sleep on the couch. I felt weird the first time I kissed him on the head. He didn’t seem to mind. We were, after all, pals. At first, I made Eddie sleep in a makeshift dog bed I had fashioned out of an Amazon delivery box, and an old blanket and pillow. I didn’t want him in my bed because I didn’t want dog hair in my bed. What I didn’t know at the time was that Katie was sneaking him into the bed after I’d dozed off then sneaking hi out before I woke up. He was small enough that he didn’t crowd us so I never knew. Eventually, of course, I lifted my dog ban, but I still lint rolled and vacuumed the sheets each morning. They both thought I was crazy, and rightfully so. They should have run for the hills. What kind of man doesn’t let a sweet dog sleep in the bed?

But they didn’t run. They stuck around, housebroke me and convinced me to move in with them. Katie found us a great apartment. My half of the rent was less than what I was paying on my bachelor pad, and I was getting a parking spot, in-unit washer and dryer, garbage disposal, separate bath and shower with jets in both, and so much more than my other place — though I loved it — had to offer. And how did I repay them? I shot Eddie in the eye with a NERF gun.

An hour later, Katie pulled the compress away from Eddie’s eye. What I saw horrified me. The redness and swelling had gone down but the eye itself was a fucking mess. A creamy whiteness filled the area, his pupil was off to the left and it looked like a half moon. I had shot his eye loose in his head. It was floating around like the answers in a magic eight ball at best, a cheap, plastic googly eye at worst. I broke the dog. I began to panic.

I leaped out of the bed where we had all been relaxing and nursing each other. Pacing at the foot of the bed, I spewed fear and regret. Tears filled my eyes.

“I broke him. I broke Eddie. His eye is loose in his head. He’ll never be able to take a cute photo again. He’s a freak! He’s broken! He’s probably blind. This is why… Do you see? This is why I can’t be a father. I’m going to break my kids and I… I can’t handle that. I can’t handle this. OH GOD! Eddie! I’m so sorry! Katie! I’m so sorry! I’m SO SORRY!”

Katie laughed at me.

“Why are you laughing?!”

“Because it’s cute. You love him. And he’ll be fine.”

“How do you know he’ll be fine? Look at him!”

She called the vet again. Katie was concerned about the floating eyeball in her dog’s head, too, but had to keep cool during my meltdown. Nothing good comes from absolute panic. Someone must always be in control despite the madness and fear. This was her time at the helm. Vet told us to come in. I pulled myself together and held Eddie on my lap in the back of Katie’s car as she drove.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I love you, boy, I love you. I’m sorry,” I whispered to him along the way.

The vet examined Eddie. Light in the eye, and all things that you’d expect from an eye exam. “It’s just irritated,” she said. “A little red and swollen but he’ll be OK. Just to be safe, let’s give him some antibiotics. Two drops daily for a week. If it gets worse or doesn’t get better, call us.”

“Wait,” I said. “What about his loose eye?”

“His what?” the vet said, severely confused.

“His loose eye.” She looked at me like I’d just shot heroin through my dick hole. “Look at him. It’s like his pupil is rolled back into his head. Look at all that whiteness in front.”

She looked again. “I don’t see what you mean.”

“How can you not see it? His eye is all… googly. Look! All that white, that white, creamy area, and his pupil is only like showing a quarter as much. What about that?!”

She used the light and reexamined him. She concluded something and stood back for a moment, processing my madness. “Do you mean his third eyelid?”

Katie and I pulled our breaths in. “I don’t know,” I said sternly. “Do I mean his third eyelid?

The vet pulled Eddie’s eye open for us. “This milky area here? That’s what you’re asking about?”


“That’s his third eyelid.”

“Dogs have a third eyelid?”

Yes. It comes out when they’re fighting or when distressed. Think of when you have something in your eye and you squint. That’s what their third eyelid does. His eyeball isn’t loose. He’s fine.”

So apparently, dogs have three eyelids. Take note, y’all.

We, of course, didn’t leave for central Illinois as planned. This was my second Christmas with Katie’s family and I didn’t think I was setting a good example of the kind of person I was. Or, perhaps I was setting a highly accurate example: an immature, emotional lunatic who knew fuck all about dogs’ eyeballs. Christ, Katie’s sister-in-law was a vet tech. I was a fool.

Look closely to see the author's broken dog.

Look closely to see the author's broken dog.

After the vet, we returned home and continued resting. Katie and I began a three-week long binge of The Wire. By that evening, Eddie was feeling much better and his third eyelid had receded back into his head, wherever the fuck third eyelids live. We managed to take a photo of the three of us with our Christmas tree. If you look closely at it, you can see Eddie in a half-wink. That’s because his left eye was still a little sore and swollen.

I was careful not to claim Eddie as my dog. He and Katie had been together five years. I was the new guy. But Katie, by the time we moved in together, was OK with it. I mean, we did split his vet bills and his food bills and his toy bills. And I was the father figure in his life. Katie will tell you that he even started playing differently after my influence took hold. He growled more. Good or bad, that’s my doing. Thing is, Eddie saw me as his dad — or owner, if you want to avoid the personification of animals.

Before heading off for a week-long road trip to Toronto, Katie and I attempted to leave Eddie in the care of a dogsitter. We stopped by a few days before takeoff to test the waters. While Katie was talking to the sitter, I hung back and watched Eddie engage with the other dogs. One big bastard started fucking with him. Eddie was a tough dude in his own territory — our living room, yard and local dog park. No fear. Total badass. But he was, like his human mother, in new situations shy at first, sometimes unsure. And this dog rubbed Eddie the wrong way. Usually, Eddie would bolt to mommy because he was, through and through, a mama’s boy. Instead, he ran to me. He saw me as his defender, the guy who would keep him safe, even after I shot him the eyeball with a NERF gun.

We didn’t leave him there. He spent the week with friends who had a dog Eddie appreciated and vice versa.

Eddie and I became best pals. My grandfather had this thing with us grandkids called the Pals Club. It was created as a way to form a behavioral alliance, and it worked. I have carried on the tradition, though I’ve turned it into less a controlling club of exclusivity and more a club of true friendship. Eddie was my best pal and VP of our two-person/dog Pals Club chapter. There were times when Katie would get jealous of our time together. She was always number one in his world, but I was a close third, behind the tennis balls, of course. Eddie joined me on walks when I was stressed. He came to (dog-friendly) bars with me to drink. He watched Marvel movies and PBS documentaries with me. He snuggled with me in bed and on the couch in my office. A couch that was my grandfather’s and smelled of his pipes that Eddie loved — a couch that has become just as much Eddie’s as it was my grandfather’s. I’ll bury my nose in that couch now and smell both my grandfather and my dog, and it’s wonderful.

Eddie was there when I married his mom. Unrelated, Eddie was there when I hit a terrible turd of depression and wept into his neck and back for at least 45 minutes before I could come up for air. And he just sat there, hugging me, not moving, just being there. He was exactly what was needed. Eddie helped me come to terms with being domesticated and was always a moral compass when Katie and I would have a fight. Eddie was absolute righteousness.

That’s the thing about dogs; they are both your babies and your best friends. And you are both their parent and their best friend. You don’t have that with anything else. It’s a complicated but inherently simple relationship.

I had a dog growing up, and I loved, and still love, that dog incredibly. But Eddie was different. Where Max was my brother dog, and lived among a family with parents and three idiot boys, Eddie was my responsibility. He was my child. And yes, I know how annoying that sounds. Keep in mind that I’d never, ever call him a “furbaby.” That kind of shit is awful. But he was more than my child, and I was more than his dad. He was my dog and I was his person.

That’s the thing about dogs; they are both your babies and your best friends. And you are both their parent and their best friend. You don’t have that with anything else. It’s a complicated but inherently simple relationship.

Cute, right? Can you blame the author for giving in?

Cute, right? Can you blame the author for giving in?

When I met Katie and Eddie, I did not want love or domestication or marriage or children or responsibility. They broke me. I don’t know that Katie could have done it alone. Maybe, but it would have been a lot harder for her, which is saying something because I did not make it easy.

I realize it’s a stupid thought, but whenever I imagined mine and Katie’s future, Eddie was always a part of it. Through the birth of our kids to their graduation from journalism school to my disappointment that they followed in their father’s footsteps to the birth of our grandkids… Eddie was always in the picture. Of course, dogs die. But Eddie was such an integral part of Katie that to consider her without him was to deny Katie’s existence in those imaginations. Katie and Eddie were E.T. and Elliot. Sympatico. Beautifully co-dependent.

That’s part of what remains so special about Eddie; he was Katie’s heart. My god, the two of them… The universe rose and set for them both around the other. If you ever saw them together, you know just want I mean. Since Eddie died, this house, as much fun as we might have, as much joy as Harry has brought to it, it’s not the same. Eddie is always missing.

Dogs are something special… All of them. Always. Eddie was more to me. More to us. Some might laugh. I don’t care. Fuck ’em. They never played tennis ball fetch with Eddie or taught Eddie to dig or made him into a boat dog or snuggled with him or watched how he gazed at Katie or tried to insert himself in human activities like gin rummy card games. Anyone who thinks I’m silly never knew Eddie.

And they certainly never saw how I shot him in the eye and only then did both of us realize that we were best pals, trusted confidants, human-father and dog-son.

The tattoo. Illustrated by Katie Himmel, the author's wife, half a decade before the author knew Katie and Eddie. It's now the spirit/emotional support animal permanently engraved into his being.

The tattoo. Illustrated by Katie Himmel, the author's wife, half a decade before the author knew Katie and Eddie. It's now the spirit/emotional support animal permanently engraved into his being.

My first — and currently only — tattoo is of Eddie. An illustration Katie made 10+ years ago when he was just a puppy. When I miss him, I look at my forearm and I see his face. And I see all our times together. I can hear him and feel him and smell him. Sometimes I smile. Sometimes I cry. Because I miss Eddie.

I miss his silliness. I miss his companionship. I miss him and Katie. I am sad that Katie is without her heart. And yes, I’m comfortable knowing that I’ll always be second chair in her heart. It goes Eddie; Harry, our son; me. As more kids come along, maybe they bump me. I doubt any dogs will, but maybe. And when those new dogs come, they’ll be loved. But they won’t be loved like Eddie. Not any less, just different. Because those dogs will have Katie and I from the start. They’ll have Harry. Harry… You better believe we have photos of Eddie in Harry’s room. He needs to know who Eddie is/was just as much as he needs to know his great grandfathers and his aunt Jenny and his dad’s best friend Mike who are also gone from this mortal world.

Eddie and Harry did know each other, sort of. One night, the two of them had a kicking match against Katie’s belly. Eddie on the outside, Harry on the in. It was hell for Katie but a riot for me. I like to think there was serious conversation happening. Yeah, it’s silly to think that way, but it makes us feel better, so blow me.

Eddie would have been 11 years old today. He shares a birthday with two really good friends. Today was the same day my first book was published. It’s my brother’s birthday. It’s four days before my birthday. Eddie and I shared a birthday celebration. I liked that about us. It was perfectly Himmel as this time of the year is busy with Himmel birthdays.

Our days are filled with threats and bad news and confusion. Among all that, if you can get your hands on an Eddie, you might not feel so bad. I wish everyone could have an Eddie. The world would be a better place with more Eddies. In my experience, Eddies are heart warmers. Heart healers. And my Eddie was my best pal. And I miss him terribly. Eddie loved with his entire being. He was sometimes choosey about who got it, but when he gave it, he gave it all, otherwise, he was perfectly polite and charming. Eddie remains my emotional support animal. And because he’s tattooed on my arm, I have no trouble bringing him with me wherever I go. 

And because he’s tattooed in my heart, well, that just makes everything easier. Eddie was special not because he was a dog, but because of the dog he was.

Still, I miss my boy everyday in terrible ways and am so grateful I got to know a dog like Eddie and that Katie brought him to me and that he let me fall in love with Katie. And that he let me fall in love with him. And so grateful that he fell in love with me, too.

*Never mind that one time I almost shot my grandfather in the back with a .410 shotgun.

Watch Eddie in an episode of the award-winning webseries, Greetings! From Prison.

Ep. 5 - A Collar of a Different Color — Greetings! From Prison
Gerald, a white-collar inmate with all the perks, gets nagged by Denise, his trophy wife, who spends the appeal money on trans-continental door buster sales. Starring Niccole Thurmann, Gregory Hollimon, Rico Palomino, and Eddie the Dog

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What’s Really Bothering Me About These School Shootings

I Believe… [Let People Enjoy the Goddamn Wedding, Already!]

I Believe… [Let People Enjoy the Goddamn Wedding, Already!]