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Soul Existence

Soul Existence

Attacked by a dog, a young girl starts questioning reality.


At seven, I was a tiny thing, short and scrawny. Yet what I lacked in size, I made up in attitude. One tranquil day when my younger siblings and I were in our yard, a pack of dogs invaded it. Grabbing a stick, I raced toward the pack, out to punish them for daring to enter my domain. The leader of the pack was a huge black shaggy mutt. He pounced, tackling me to the ground, ripping my face with his claws as his pack yipped and yapped about my prone body.

I was in such shock I couldn't utter even a whimper. My siblings, on the other hand, raised hue and cry, heard up and down to the very hills around our property. "A dog is eating up Goldy!!" Within moments my mother was out there, beating at the dogs and pulling me into her safe embrace.

Half of my face was torn with a huge gaping chasm right near my eye. I remember the ambulance arriving, the police, and the lights in the emergency room. Bandaged, woozy and sleepy I arrived home, the wounded warrior who had been vanquished by a stray dog.

Maybe the dog ate me and I was just dreaming that I was safe?

As I tried drifting off to sleep, a sudden thought struck me. Maybe the dog ate me and I was just dreaming that I was safe? How would I know otherwise?

Not every person to whom I retell this dilemma gets the angst of that moment. Not everyone is blessed with Technicolor daydreams like I am. Those of us who are vivid dreamers know how real a dream can be, especially when you're seven years old.

Nights were particularly bad. My arm bore pinch marks as I experimented whether pain brings us to realize we're alive. The pain of the pinch didn't convince little me. I reasoned that pain, too, can be materialized by our imagination, and I still might not have survived the dog attack. Fear pervaded and to stave it off, some nights I would specifically conjure up other unrealities to misplace the image of me in that dog's stomach. I became convinced I had blond hair and would one day dance on a golden coach in a light blue gown.

Psychologists call it disassociation, when our mind cannot grasp a reality and therefore disconnects and goes elsewhere, far away from the here and now. I mastered disassociation to avoid what I thought might be reality. A dream to displace a nightmare.

There was no instant epiphany that cured me, sorry to say. For a few years I grappled with my questions about reality, alone in my dark. The trauma started fading as life went on and other experiences crowded out the memory of the attack. I began to realize I was able to do things, to accomplish, and I knew that affecting the world would not have been possible from the innards of a dog's digestive tract.

Some years later I chanced upon the great metropolis called Manhattan. Riding a subway train with me was a group of toughs from a public school. I couldn't help but hear their conversation, which amazed me -- they were arguing whether they had a soul or not. In retrospect I realize now that one shouldn't jump into conversations with gang members, but back then I didn't know better and soon enough I was debating these inner city kids.

It was right near my stop when I pulled out the clincher. I turned to the toughest kid and said, "You have no personality."

He blinked and stared down at me. "Are you dissin' me?" he sneered, as his friends high-fived each other with cackles.

"Show me your personality," I challenged.

More high-fives and cackles. The toughs got it. They were excited by the discovery. Souls could not be seen, but they could be experienced by their output.

"God bless," my new friends said as I made my exit off the train.

Question Returns

My soul was yearning for expression of its existence and when I was asked to visit the Jewish children in the Children's Hospital, I jumped at the chance. In the facility for medically-fragile children, I met a little girl, with ebony hair, alabaster skin and fine delicate features. She lay inert, her sightless blue eyes fixed permanently on nothing. She seemed lifeless, except for some keening sound coming from the back of her throat. There was no way to play with her, no conversing, no way to have our souls connect. Did she even have a soul? I wondered on some days. Is she a person in existence or just flesh and blood created by a fluke? I was back to my existential queries.

With a lack of anything else to do and feeling quite helpless, I lifted her light body out of her gated crib and cradled her close. I closed my eyes, trying to figure out a way to connect, to have her soul hear mine. There seemed to be only one thing for me to do -- sing. Each time I came to visit her I sang soft Jewish songs, non-stop, as her body lay rigid and awkwardly angled in my arms. She didn't make a movement at any time.

I knew that this was reality. Two souls, expressing their existence in the outpouring of their love.

After being away a few weeks I headed back to the girl's room in the hospital, reached over and lifted her again into my arms. I sat myself down in the chair and began to sing. My eyes were closed so I didn't see the movement, but a sudden spasm shook the girl, and her arm, the one that usually dangled limply, suddenly clutched me. I thought I imagined it, thought I imagined the small tear trickling from the sightless eye. And I knew that this was reality. Two souls, mine and hers, expressing their existence in the outpouring of their love.

I knew, beyond any shred of doubt, how very real our existence is.

July 5, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 13

(13) , February 2, 2011 9:45 AM

Caution with dogs

Dogs are not for every one and only responsible people should be allowed to own them or any other animal for that matter. I myself have in the 1980,s been bitten on two occasion. It must never be forgotten that animals can on the one hand be traumatised and also like humans can also become mentaly ill and become insane as well. When confronted by a viscious dog/s, one must keep dead still, not stare at them and in most cases they will walk away. Please refer to Daniel in the Lions' Den in the Tanach. When one shows lack of faith and panics, then the animals will have a go at one.

(12) sheila bray, March 1, 2010 10:12 PM

I was attacked by a rabid dog at age 2.

I too question reality. You see I was attacked by a rabid dog when I was only two years old. I remember in vivid detail how the dog ripped out its own guts when my daddy shot it in its side. I can still see him as he cut the dogs head off and put it in a plastic bag and threw it into the back seat and raced off to the hospital. Reality for me is an illusion. I am the only one on the planet that is aware of my insanity, and no one will ever understand that day has dictated the course of my life. Nothing has ever, nor will ever make sense.

(11) Iona Ben Abraham, July 9, 2009 2:40 PM


It is very rewarding to realize that our jewish soul always wishes to experiment the inner layers of one's (and other living creatures) being. This is definetely a big hope in a world so troubled with several material bindings and worries that may interfere with people´s contact with the soul (self and others) and with G-d. Toda Raba, Goldy.

(10) Janet Lesser, July 9, 2009 7:52 AM

Basic knowledge of dogs could have prevented the attack.

Young Goldy's response to a group of dogs entering her yard was to grab a stick and race toward the pack. The huge black shaggy leader took action to protect himself and his packmates from clear threat of agression. The tiniest bit of education and common sense taught to this child would have prevented this attack, as she was the one that started it. Obviously, you never run at a dog with a club in your hand with clear intention to attack when the dog has shown no threat or agression to you, for if you do so, you give the animal only two primal choices: fight or flight. The black dog chose fight. Children must be taught to act safely and responsibly around animals. Clearly, little Goldy had not been taught what to do (or in this case what 'not' to do) when a strange dog or group of dog approaches. "Punishing [the dogs] for daring to enter [her] domain" was a receipt for disaster: She proceeded to confrontation, and brandishing a stick, she got one. Children, from the earliest of ages, must be taught how to act around dogs, especially in America, where there are 60 million dogs in a population of 300 million humans- the ratio of one in five makes it very likely that your children will encounter many dogs. Prepare your children for these encounters- common sense and a bit of basic knowledge about dogs goes a long way, starting with the fact that an unattended child should never approach a dog that they do not know. If a dog is with its owner, which is much more the case than in the pre-leash law days that Goldy has written about, then you can ask the owner if the dog is friendly and then meet the animal that way. The vast majority of dogs with responsible owners are very, very, very friendly and happy to meet you.

(9) Anonymous, July 8, 2009 4:06 PM

Sometimes its the unreal things that are real

I know its not so spiritual but in Harry Potter - the last one, He is meeting with the Headmaster (Dumbledore) and everything is so clear and makes sense and he's able to realize his purpose in life and what his job is. As he's leaving this "meeting", which is really just a dream (sort of), he asks - is this real or just happening in my head? The Headmaster says something like: Of course its happening in your head, but why in the world would that mean its not real? I think the main point of that to me was that our head puts things in order and creates a certain reality for us even if we don't understand it. Sometimes its the wrong things or bad things that seems so bad or annoying that end up sending us in the proper direction and at the end of the day or month or year(s) we end exactly where we were supposed to be. Best of Luck figuring out things!

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