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Friday, December 9, 2011

Why I don't get along with dogs

As you know, I have a thing for cats. 
they are independent, don't need to be walked, clean themselves
and in some cases, ring door bells, use a laptop or play guitar
But some of you may ask, "Didn't you have a dog for a bit?"
Yes, I did.
But it didn't work out.
not since that fateful day in 1986
My stepfather loved dogs
we had a little one-eyed mutt named Petey, he was a great dog
went everywhere with me, used to chase tadpoles in puddles and would never bark
unfortunately, Petey had some dog sickness, probably DAIDs
and he passed away while I was at school
my stepfather was at work
he received a call about Petey and knew how heartbroken I would be and decided to 
"fix" the issue
so Dad went out to a friend’s house and picked up his dog that he was trying to give away
now for context, I was 7 years old
i was big for my age and Petey was part lab/part heeler, not a small dog but didn't
scare me either
we would wrestle in the yard, in fact it was wrestling with Petey that gave me 
two scars on my leg, I'll show you if you want, four inch crescent shaped scars
he loved chicken bones
but didn't clean up after himself
and chicken bones hurt when you fall on them
Twice.
so I was used to this, my buddy
my pal
My only friend.
so rushing to get finished before I came home, Dad buried Petey in the alley 
and put this new dog in the yard
unfortunately, we didn't have a real good fence and our new dog got out
*got out
he was very big
in fact, he was a Tawny boxer, you can see a similar animal here
My stepfather didn't know his name, just that he only responded to Spanish instructions
so we decided to call him "Rocoso"
and since he was such a big dog and would get out there was only one solution
god forbid we fix the fence
Dad chained the dog out
now, as you can imagine, 7 years old introvert more comfortable with books 
than people, I was intimidated
Here I go, walking outside to play with my new dog, chained and confined to a 20 foot circle
at first it's fine, he licks my hand
then rolls over
I’m laughing because even though my heart is broken, I can see the future, a bright 
future, me and Rocoso
now, time goes on, me standing at the edge of a well-worn circle, petting, playing 
with Rocoso, but still vigilant
looking back now, I can tell, I was standing at the edge of manhood, deciding if 
it was time to venture forth, to take a risk, to open my heart again
one day I decide it's time
unfortunately it was the day after a large rain
and any of you familiar with Texas know that rain makes mud and mud makes 
the ground soft and soft ground means that posts and poles don't always stay in
but I was young, I never thought about it
I finished my Count Chocula cereal, drank the milk and ran outside, pausing to 
only change from my batman pajamas to jean shorts
i edge up to Rocoso
he's lying down, not at the edge of the circle like always
but in the center
inviting me in
daring me in
i look into his dark, tejano eyes and see nothing
no fear, no anger, no anticipation
I take a step inside the circle
and it seems as if the world has stopped
there are no birds singing, the wind dies, no sounds
my heart hammering in my chest the only thing in the world
another step, and he moves
twitching his stub of a tail
just a fraction of an inch but I see it
What does it mean?
is he wagging his tail to play
is he warning me off
resolved, I know that if I'm ever going to get back to the love I had for Petey, 
I have to do this
two steps, an ear wiggle
another step, his leg twitches
he's not steadying himself to pounce
he's not steeling himself to attack
I convince myself
he's cold
it rained
he's on the ground
*ground
i would be cold
there is a quilt next to him
dirty, matted with leaves
and since he's not on it
yet cold, I assumed there is only one plausible solution
Rocoso wants to be covered up with the quilt
What a novel idea.
I will be his hero, his guardian, the bringer of warmth
how could he not love me
grasping this golden truth, I rush forward, in my haste I notice his chain
it barely registers that the pole in the ground, isn't
I grab the quilt and twirl it around my head like a magician!
ABRA-CADABRA
I know this will work
he raises up on his front paws
and the dirty, wet, stinking quilt
lands on his back
covering him from head to tail
It looks like a pillow under there, how warm he must be!
but then
then I heard it
the growl
the growl that I have heard in my dreams for the last 25 years
the growl that even now, reminds me of cold, still death
the pillow moves
towards me
i take a step back
it moves again, two steps back
then it happens
Rocoso comes flying out from under the quilt
and the only thing I remember about his face is the absurd leaves stuck to his jowls
i laugh
knowing it's the laugh of the dead
I turn and run yet the ground is wet
I know that if I reach the edge of the circle I'm OK
that circle of worn earth that has been my haven for these many months
my protector, my only hope
I fall to one knee
i hear the chain jingling, I'm eight feet from the circle
i jump up
and fall again
face first in the mud I know I have one shot left, the ground is pounding
i hear him
the heavy growl, the breathing, the slap of his paws in the mud
summoning strength and speed I never knew existed I scrambled away
I feel his hot breath on my legs
no no no no no no no no no
a snap
he misses
by the slimmest of margins I make it
I’m lying just over the circle, crying now, unabashedly
somehow the rest of my life will never be this intense
I will never feel as alive and dead at the same time
i roll over, unable to see the clouds for the tears in my eyes
and then
that's when a shadow crossed over my face, blotting out the sky
DAD!
he's come to save me
i wipe my eyes, look up and all I see is bared fangs of a dog intent on never 
being subjected to my cruelty again
there is no hope
but I have to try
if I can get to the swing set, I can climb the slide
rolling over like a soldier in a bullet ridden trench, I roll over the chain, 
tangling myself in it
the stake pole digging into my back
it's all I can do to bring myself to my knees
and then he hits me
jumping on me from behind, driving me to the ground, the fury of 100lbs of 
canine is no match
I’m screaming, who cares who hears me
I’m dying, who cares who saves me
I am undone
then silence
overshadowed by the sounds of my screams and the blood pounding in my ears, 
was the gunshot
Rocoso lies at my side
staring into my eyes
I see his life draining from him, his vigor disappearing
Why not me!
why this beautiful animal
my stepfather comes quickly to my side
and pries my arms from around this cold dead killer
he gathers me up, a muddy, bloody, crying heap of a boy
and takes me instead
he's gone for a while this time, while I rock myself to sleep
I don't venture outside for days, waiting I suppose for all the dogs in the 
world to leave me alone
And then. Dad
my Dad, the man sworn to protect me,
asks me to go outside
tells me he has something for me
i shake my head
no no
not again
but come on, Tommy, it's OK, no one is going to hurt you
remembering the strength it took to step inside the circle, I know I have to
i step out the door
and there
in the yard
with no chain
nothing between him and me
my dad bought me a goat

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