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My stepmom is one of those people who’s into alternative medicines. My mom too, for that matter. Growing up, I got a lot of homeopathic treatments for colds, my parents fought with the school over getting us vaccinated, and they did muscle testing to determine what foods we shouldn’t eat (my younger brother and younger sister weren’t allowed dairy because muscle testing showed they were allergic to it, I guess). But when things were serious, we did go to the Doctor. When my dad was stung by a bee and had an anaphylactic reaction, my stepmom did take him to the hospital.

She’s firmly against vaccines now, and it’s a topic we don’t discuss because I disagree with her stance. She had a root canal recently and I had to convince her to take the antibiotics by telling her a true story of my mom’s friend who had a toothache, didn’t get it treated, it was actually an infection, and it moved into her brain and she died.

Yesterday, I was training my stepmom on how to update her website. We were in some meditation/yoga/natural health center sitting on a long bench with cushions. She kept shifting around, and then apologized for moving so much. She said her leg hurt from the dog bite she got a week ago. I said, “Um, dog bite? Are you ok?”


“Yes, but it was a pretty bad bite,” she says.

“Did it break the skin?”

“Yeah! And I have a huge bruise,” she tells me. She then rolls up her leg and I see a 1-1/2 inch long wound, about 1/4 inch wide the whole length. It’s scabbed over, and a very ragged scab, but the skin is red with white edges in areas that I’m assuming are pus or infection (I didn’t look super closely). There’s a bruise below that looks bad, too. “The bruise was all the way up to my knee right after it happened,” she adds helpfully.

Cue all the whats.

“Did you go to the doctor?!” I ask.

“No, I’ve just been treating it at home with arnica and some other remedies.” By this I assume she means the usual suspects of homeopathy, poultices made of herbs, drinking lemon water, and lots of good intentions.


“You need to go to the doctor for dog bites!” I insist.

“Well, I mean, it’s healing. It was much worse last week,” she says, and I’m absolutely sure that it was much worse last week. It’s still not looking great. It’s also going to leave a very nasty scar. “It’s still pretty sore, though.”


“Who’s dog?” I ask.

“My landlord’s daughter’s,” she says. “And (landlord) and I had it out because after it happened, she said she didn’t want to see it, didn’t want to hear about it, nothing. I felt like she was being dismissive of my feelings and so I had to really address that with her.”


My stepmom lives for free in this woman’s add-on apartment. She takes care of the landlord because she’s 80 and lives on the side of a mountain at least a half mile from the nearest neighbor. The family of the woman has been telling her for years to have someone live there to be a caretaker, at least someone to check on her daily. So that’s what my stepmom does. She doesn’t make the woman’s meals—the woman is pretty self-sufficient—but she will run into town for her, help her with paperwork and things online, and generally helps make sure she doesn’t fall and die alone in a mountain home when her kids all live in different parts of the country.

When I asked if stepmom had reported the dog, she said no. She doesn’t want to make waves with her landlord or the family because she gets free housing. This dog, stepmom said, has bit 5 other people! And the landlord just didn’t want to deal with it, so she told my stepmom not to talk to her about it. And my stepmom was upset, not because a dog bit her leg and broke the skin, but because the landlord was dismissive!


I didn’t convince stepmom to do anything differently than what she’s doing now: treating the wound with alternative medicine (she was headed to acupuncture afterwards to help with the bite); not reporting it to any authorities; not pressing the family to pay for her medical treatments. I just had to walk away incredulous at the situation.

But damn, I really hope she doesn’t end up in the hospital with some wicked infection.

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