Monday, August 30, 2010

Cop Shoots Dog at Dog Park Revisited.

Since I learned of this story several days ago, I've thought a lot about it. I talked with my wife about it. Certainly I am all for law enforcement officers defending themselves, but there is something really disturbing here. Let me see if I can hash it out on The Dog Chronicles in a manner that makes some sense.

First, when anyone goes to a dog park there is an assumed risk involved. While one may argue that dogs in dog parks should always be under control, that's certainly not always the case-- in fact, that sort of the point of taking your dog there.

So there may be a tussle or two between animals. While such doggish behavior should be foreseen, it can't always be expected. In other words, who knows when it might happen. Unlike the Dog Whisperer, we can't always read the signals our dogs put out. So we're back to the assumed risk.

If your dog gets into it with another dog at the dog park, it is a civil matter unless the dog owners are fully aware of their animals' aggressive natures. In other words, if your dog has harmed other animals at the dog park before, or at any other time, then you shouldn't have your dog in the park. That doesn't seem to be the case here. Bear-Bear was well-behaved at this park in the past, and I would imagine the press or the cop's lawyers would have been all over the story of an out-of-control Bear-Bear.

Now, the cop in this story is apparently pleading self-defense, but that just doesn't wash. In this situation, he is a private citizen, even if he is a full-time police officer who carries a gun off-duty to protect the public and himself. A dog bite is a civil matter. This is not the story of a dog run amok at the dog park, biting children and other dogs. It is a story of rough play, and at most a civil matter, even if this officer were to be bit in the fight or rough play. A dog bite while breaking up a tussle is usually not a life-threatening situation. It is a risk always, but not a matter of life and death.

Let's take this a step further. Suppose this same cop attends a major league baseball game, armed as usual as is his right and duty as an officer of the law. Now suppose he arrives early, and during warm ups one of the ball players tosses a ball up into the stands. Let's say this cop gets hit with the baseball. Let's even say he gets hit with a foul ball during the course of the game. Can this cop pull out his gun and shoot the player who threw the baseball or who hit him with a foul ball? Of course not. Now, the player who tossed the ball into the stands may face civil liability for throwing a ball into the stands, and certainly the player at bat did not mean to hit this cop with the baseball. The cop assumed the risk when he attended the game that he might be hit by a foul ball. He is not allowed to shoot the batter or even the player who threw the ball into the stands in order to either protect the public or himself. I think it's much the same at the dog park.

Who draws a gun and kills an animal at a dog park? A child could have been shot, or another adult, or another dog. And who says you can protect your dog with deadly force? The attack of Bear-Bear, if you choose to deem it an attack can't be considered a deliberate or deadly matter. Would this same officer, off-duty, be allowed to shoot the owner of Bear-Bear if the owner punched him?

Nothing makes sense about all this.

Deadly force used by anyone when there is very little chance of a lethal injury occurring is an extreme over-reaction.

There was no crime that day, only a potential civil injury. This was no organized dog fight. It was not deliberate. And no one was threatening the cop. Why the gun?

This cop was trigger happy. If he is willing to pull a gun in a dog park, he might over-react in the line of duty and then a human will get shot. There's just no justification for his actions. He should face at least a long suspension and a lawsuit.

"There are a lot of risks associated with dog parks: your dog may get into a fight, pick up a disease from another dog or eat something he shouldn't. But one thing no one expects to happen at the dog park is for their dog to get shot.

Monday evening, Rachel Rettaliata's brother took her 3-year-old rescued Siberian Husky, Bear-Bear, to the Quail Run Community Dog Park in Severn, Maryland. Bear-Bear was well-known and loved around the park. A federal police officer (who has not been identified due to internet threats against him) showed up with his German Shepherd on a leash and the two dogs started playing. Apparently the play turned rough and the officer asked Bear-Bear's guardian to call him off. But before he could get to Bear-Bear, the officer pulled out a gun and shot the dog. Bear-Bear died a few hours later."

The shooting death of a Siberian Husky in a dog park Monday by a an off-duty federal cop is sparking all sorts of outrage.

In addition to calls and letters to public officials, someone has started a Facebook protest page. Here is the link to the page.

Friday, August 27, 2010

What Is Going On? Who Gets to Carry a Gun These Days? Check Out Justice for Bear-Bear FB page.

There are a lot of risks associated with dog parks: your dog may get into a fight, pick up a disease from another dog or eat something he shouldn't. But one thing no one expects to happen at the dog park is for their dog to get shot.

Monday evening, Rachel Rettaliata's brother took her 3-year-old rescued Siberian Husky, Bear-Bear, to the Quail Run Community Dog Park in Severn, Maryland. Bear-Bear was well-known and loved around the park. A federal police officer (who has not been identified due to internet threats against him) showed up with his German Shepherd on a leash and the two dogs started playing. Apparently the play turned rough and the officer asked Bear-Bear's guardian to call him off. But before he could get to Bear-Bear, the officer pulled out a gun and shot the dog. Bear-Bear died a few hours later.

The shooting death of a Siberian Husky in a dog park Monday by a an off-duty federal cop is sparking all sorts of outrage.

In addition to calls and letters to public officials, someone has started a Facebook protest page. Here is the link to the page.

The page was created by Rachel, a Baltimore resident and recent college grad.

Here's what she told me about her reasons for starting the Justice for Bear-Bear page:

It's "[a]n overall frustration with the lack of reaction and control over police power, as well as the overwhelming under-reaction to the mistreatment of the defenseless public -- especially defenseless, harmless animals! It has finally driven me to the breaking point. It's obvious to me that the only reason this man is not being I feel that if authorities aren't going to act on this, then it's the duty of the public to get justice for ourselves. "

Thanks to the original story writers for their info.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Coyote Singing-- New Short-short Fiction. I Swear It Is Fiction.

I haven't long to write this. I don't know when I will lose the power to think in words. Already I cannot talk. I tried, but cannot.

They say I am depressed. A year ago I lost my job. I feel deeper and deeper into an abyss of nothing. I would not rise from my bed. My appetite, always hearty, left me. My wife worried for my safety while she was away at work.

The psychiatrist gave me pills. I am to take two each day. Or is it three? Or five? Whatever the number, I am diligent in this pursuit.

It was after the pills started that my wife failed to speak to me. Not that she didn't try. Oh, she did. But the sounds that came from her after this were the sounds of bagpipes dropped. She squeaked and whined. I understood nothing. I nodded in response to the movements of her mouth.

The television people spoke the same. Bagpipes, nothing but the sound of bagpipes. I could not read their lips.

I live near an open space area. There are miles and miles of trails there. After the pills began, I felt quite restless. I took a hike in the park. I sat on the side of a trail. It is in this spot that I saw the coyotes.

Two of them, one old and ragged-looking, and one young, jumped not twenty yards from me after grasshoppers. It looked like a dance. I heard the music. They jumped after grasshoppers and the pipes, not bagpipes, but some sort of Irish piping, not unpleasant, sounded as I watched them. They danced for what seemed like hours before they noticed me. But when they did the singing began.

The coyotes stopped dancing and stood and looked at me. The older one sang, "I eat bugs, and the bugs eat me. At the end of our days we shall all be free."

She sang these words over and over and it is the only words spoken-- sung to me this day, that I understood.

"I eat bugs, and the bugs eat me. At the end of our days we shall all be free." Over and over and over again.

That day I wandered home just before my wife returned from work. I hurried into bed and feigned sleep. Later in the evening she tried to feed me something. I could tell because she held a plate of food in her hands. But I wanted no food. I only wanted her sounds-- those sounds to stop. I sat up, nodded and smiled and then fell back into the pillow. She left me alone until she came to bed much, much later.

I never slept though. Barely could I stand to lie there, with the crickets calling me outside. I awaited her alarm in the morning. The alarm I heard clearly. I feigned sleep until my wife went for her shower. When I heard the water falling, I arose and threw on some clothing and my hiking shoes. I wrote her a note.

"I couldn't sleep. Went to the park for a hike. Have a nice day."

I worked quite hard to manage this note. The words came to me with great difficulty.

In the moonlight before the dawn, I was off to the park. I hiked back to the spot where I saw the coyotes. Then I sat. A few minutes later the angel came. At first I thought it was just a runner with a miner's lamp on his head, but then I saw that it was an angel. The man/angel ran toward me on the path where I sat. He glanced in my direction as he passed. I tried to rise and speak to this angel before he'd gone to far, but I could not. I heard the song of his footfalls as he ran away from me. I saw the halo fade away in the darkness.

I tried to scream at him to stop, but could not speak words. The sound that came to my voice was the sound of unutterable anguish I fear.

"Wait!" I wanted to scream. "Wait, what have you to tell me? What is it I should do now?"

But the words did not come. Just the sound-- the screech perhaps, or maybe I just imagined I made sound.

Oh, the ability to make myself understood in any manner will leave me soon. I will not be able to write or speak or sing in any manner.

I returned home, in great confusion I found the way. Took my pills. Is it one or two or four I am to take? I read the bottle but can't understand what it says. The words seem to go around in circles and I can't find my glasses. Surely my regular glasses will not stop the spinning anyway. Surely I need the special glasses that stop spinning.

My dog came up to me then. "Follow me," she said. "Follow me, hurry."

I followed her. She led me to her dog house.

"The angel will meet you here," my dog said.

I crawled inside. It is such a tight fit I fear I will be unable to leave this spot ever again, but the angel is coming. The angel will take me away.

My dog lies outside her house and we await the angel. There is music in the air. The bees and birds sing. The breeze sings through the leaves of the trees. It is all harps and Irish pipes and the smell of lavender.

We await the angel and the singing of coyotes.


Photo courtesy of Flickr and Red-Star.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

How Much Is That Innocence Worth Now? How Much Is That Doggie In The Window - Patti Page

Corny? Yes. But this was a really popular song when I was a kid. And I loved it. I guess I was four or five, and when this came on the car radio I was thrilled. Okay, I was maybe a bit light in the loafers at four or five.

What's interesting about this, other than being funny and out-dated, is how innocent we were, or a least how innocent we imagined we were. It is like being on a different planet to see it now.

Hope you enjoy this video and share it with your friends.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

This Old Dog Can't Learn New Tricks-- My One Day Return to College

Okay, I'm an old dog. In order to spend some time wisely, I enrolled in a college course over the summer, and yesterday was the first day of class-- and yesterday was the last day of class.

I tried. I took a regular daytime class in Macro-economics. (All the courses I really wanted were closed.) I have taken evening courses from time to time. It's a different vibe, especially in French and Italian class. I've taken night courses in creative writing. But this return to real college started badly and ended worse.

First parking was a nightmare. Okay, no problem, I got a space in the dirt lot and meandered up the hill. I should have known just from the look of the students I passed on the way to my building of matriculation that there was a problem. Everyone at this community college looked like babies. I am 59. I have a granddaughter of 14.

Well, I find the classroom. There is one other geezer in there. Maybe my age. The rest are these children. The professor comes in. He's okay. Cool enough. The class seems interesting, if not scintillating. Then the rules begin. No more than five unexcused absences. No food in class. Book cost $165. Computer access costs another $80. Not that there weren't ways around the cost. He was cool about that and gave alternatives-- but still. No more than two late arrivals. No audible yawning. Yes, you heard me right. No sleeping. That's a real bummer. It is my hobby these days.

We are going to break into groups. Discuss economics. Well, I immediately flashed back to dissecting an egg at old Hoover High School in San Diego. I remember getting into a group where one of the guys scrambled the egg for fun. What a moron! I tried to imagine hanging with a bunch of kiddies. I have absolutely no interest in 18-year-old girls, so that's no fun.

I have visions of smart-ass kids like I was. Kids who can't stop wisecracking. (God, Jackie L.-- I'm so happy you didn't have any classes with me at Hoover cause you wouldn't be talking to me now.) Since I am not working right now, I have begun to dread actually making new acquaintances. I want to huddle up under the covers and be left alone instead of having to actually work at being remotely charming. I fail miserably at charming in person.

On top of the no audible yawning clause in the class rules, I already have homework due over the weekend. How do these kids do it? It's not like I mind the reading, or the homework. But the homework has to be posted onto this internet site. I can't find it. I mean I can find the site, but not the homework. My computer literacy stops at the end of my nose. If I'm not interested in something, then I am not willing to learn a new computer mindset. I know how to look up Mel Gibson and Sarah Palin for my blogs. I know how to download photos. I can use a spreadsheet a little. Use a word processing program. But I don't want to search for homework online on a site I am eventually going to have to pay $80 to use. Already I see a flunking grade appearing on my transcript. There goes my transfer to Yale!

Well, you can teach some old dogs new tricks. Maybe I learned one just today. I dropped my class online. Welcome back $104 in class fees. Welcome back reading what I want to read. I am audibly yawning right now and eating cereal loudly. I am avoiding any human communication that does not involve a keyboard. My dog would like a walk, but I might just encounter a lizard out there in the real world and the threat of interaction scares me silly. Forget it. I still have the last volume of Churchill's "History of the English Speaking Peoples" awaiting me. The only time crunch I have is in my Grapenuts.

Photo Flickr and ocx2ky.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Return of the Black Dog-- A New Short Story.

Georgie Mathis leaned back against the Macy's building. It wasn't hot-- nothing like hot but he was sweating and weak. He spread out his legs and nearly kicked over his can.
"Help a brother out," he said to a passing black man.
Nothing. The man never even acknowledged him.
Georgie hadn't even the energy to curse.
His dog sat next to him. Black dog. Nice dog. Nicest dog Georgie ever saw. Didn't steal his food like the pigeons or the passing mutts.
Black dog, Georgie called him Porgie, he didn't know why, Porgie never stared at him when he ate. Didn't beg food and act hungry. With Porgie, Georgie came first. Georgie ate, then the dog. It seemed like the only reason Porgie ate when his master fed him was to please his master. A little food. A little water. Porgie was good to go.
But not Georgie. He couldn't even budge today. Wasn't for the old white lady with the sandwich and the five, Georgie likely would've starved.
He let his hand rest on the dog. Dog couldn't weigh more than 15 pounds, but his hand sunk into the fur and he stroked. "Best dog I ever had," he said. "Only dog I ever had."
Georgie closed his eyes and pulled in the warmth. Nothing like hot today, and not cold, but the sweat rolled down his face and Georgie shivered. San Francisco weather, cold and hot at the same time.
He spoke to the dog. "Wish you could hook me up, Porgie. I could use a little something you know. Lord knows, I can't even get up off my butt."

The man closed his eyes. He remembered the days in the projects. He remembered the mean-ass dogs all over and the mean-ass people. He tried to see his grandmother's face. If his grandma wouldn't have died so long ago, Georgie would've been okay. He hummed aloud to the church music he heard inside his head. Grandma took him to church. Lotta good it did him, or her. Old woman passed when she was 50, and he was just 13. No more church. That was it for him. His mama living anywhere she found a man. His dad who knew where.

Wait, Georgie stopped humming. He knew where the old man had been. He met him first time in the joint. When Georgie did five for drugs, he met the old man. Father hooked him up in the joint.
"You my boy," he said. "I'll take care of you."
Later the old man beat him up over a debt.
"I'll take care of you," the old man said.
Georgie came out of the joint worse than ever.

The dog stirred.
His master came around. "You're the softest thing," he said. "You're like the only one who sees me."
The dog stared into his master's eyes. "Man, it's like you read my mind," Georgie said.
The legs kept passing him by. He listened for the sound of coins dropping.

He'd owned the dog for a couple of weeks. The dog adopted him. Came up to him right at the very spot he sat, right up against the back of the Macy's building and sat down.
Georgie tried to shoo the dog off. Even tried once or twice to kick the mutt. But Porgie dodged the blows, not so much for himself, but seemingly so his new owner wouldn't feel bad about hurting him.
So George put up with him. Then he saw that people paid just a little more attention to him when the dog was there. The extra money in his can more than made up for the dog food. Porgie didn't eat much. It seemed as if he could've lived on air for all he asked.
The black dog crawled onto his master's lap.
"I'm so cold," Georgie said. "You be my blanket, dog."

The man felt a tap on his shoulder. He looked up. It was Blowfly, the dealer. Everyone hated Blowfly.
"Hey there Georgie, long time. Where you been?" Blowfly said.
The dealer's nose was running. That's why the name.
"You need something Georgie boy?"
The old man thought of the five in his pocket. "I don't have much," he said. "I been off the stuff for a couple of weeks. But I'm suffering. What can you do for five?"
Blowfly scowled, then grinned. "Man, we old friends, you know. I fix you up with something. Let's see the color of your money."
Georgie dug into his pocket. Nothing. He dug into the other. Still nothing. He looked into the can, and around him. He shooed the dog off his lap, got up on his aching knees and searched the ground. Nothing. The five was gone.
"I had it," he said. "I think I got some holes in my pockets. I know it's here somewhere."
But the money couldn't be found.
Blowfly scowled again and wiped his nose with his shirt.
"How 'bout I pay you tomorrow?" Georgie asked.
"How 'bout you get hit by a car today then I don't see you again. This ain't the charity ward my man. I can't go around giving it away. I got expenses. Overhead."
Georgie grabbed the man's hand. He'd always hated to touch Blowfly or anything Blowfly touched, but he felt desperate. "I been a good customer in my time," he said.
"Let go of me!" Blowfly snatched his hand away and made as if he were going to club Georgie. "You're a shaky bag of bones. Look at you and that damn dog. Neither one of you worth a damn."
Then Blowfly smiled again. "Tell you what," he said, "You give me your dog and I'll fix you up."
Georgie closed his eyes and thought. Nobody ever loved him like that dog. Nobody.
"Come on," said Blowfly. "I ain't gonna hurt him."
"You're gonna feed him to a pit, aren't you."
Blowfly would make some points by handing over the dog to some gangster so the gangster could watch his pit tear Porgie apart.
"Nah, would I do that? I'd give it to my girlfriend."
Blowfly had no girlfriend Georgie bet.
"You'd feed him to a pit. I know it. Feed him to a pit for fun."

The dog nosed into Georgie. It didn't seem like a plea for mercy, he thought. It seemed like the dog would accept whatever was most important to Georgie. What he needed, the dog would give, even in sacrifice. The dog nosed him so he would make up his mind. So he wouldn't suffer over the decision.
"I'll find my five and take care of business later."
Blowfly smiled. "Whatever you say, Georgie. But the offer stands. I take the dog and fix you up."

Georgie sighed and waved the dealer off. He watched him stroll down the block, turn and go out of sight.
He pulled the dog close to him. Man, nothing ever felt as nice as his dog, except maybe a pipe. But the black dog warmed him almost as well.
Porgie rose, and the five dollar bill was on the ground where he'd sat.
Georgie felt a surge of anger and wanted to throw the dog into the traffic. But it quickly subsided and he laughed. Then collapsed on the ground, unconscious.

He awoke, shivering.

It was almost dark, apparently no one had thought him anything but drunk. He'd been there hours. Porgie lay across his stomach. Georgie's hand dropped onto the dog, and stroked.
The lights flashed. The black dog was the one fixed point in Georgie's life for those moments.
"Can you sit up?" someone asked.
He felt the dog pulled away from him. They pulled Georgie onto the stretcher.
"My dog!" Georgie said.
Porgie licked his hand. The old man let his hand rest onto the dog's neck. "What's going on, dog?" he said. "What are they doing to me?"
The last thing he felt was the warmth of the black dog. His hand sunk into the fur, into the warmth. The world about him swirled. The lights. The warmth. The sounds off in a distance now. And the lights in his head dimming. His hand clutched at Porgie.Then Georgie passed. His hand dropped, and the dog took off, avoiding any attempts to hold him.

The black dog ran down the street. He ran through the Tenderloin, avoiding traffic. Ran without stopping. Dodged the cars that never seemed to notice him. He ran and then turned on Van Ness. He kept running. Maybe two miles. Then he turned on Jackson. Past a couple of the foreign embassies. Then the black dog slipped through the metal bars of a gate and under a shrub in the well-kept yard. The black dog closed his eyes and waited.

In the morning the black dog heard a door open and close.
Voices. Female voices.
He stretched then shook off the dew off his fur.
The dog ran to the old woman with the cane and her Filipina helper.
He shook his tail so his whole back end swayed. The dog smiled.
"What's this?" The old white lady with the cane said.
"Stay away," said the Filipina, standing between the dog and the old woman. She threatened a kick.
The old lady smiled. "No, no. It's okay Consuelo. The dog isn't a threat."
Consuelo eyed the dog without easing back.
"Mrs. Connell, you don't know anything about this dog," she said. "Let's go inside and I'll call the pound."
Mrs. Connell waved her caretaker off. "This dog is just lost and hungry," she said. "I can tell."
Mrs. Connell never actually had a dog in her life. She grew up in San Francisco, born into a large family who lived modestly and without dogs.
When she married young, her husband hated dogs, so she never owned one ever. But something about this animal gave her confidence. It's friendliness seemed obvious to her.
The dog made its way around Consuelo and licked the old woman's hand.
"You are so sweet," said the old woman.
"Look out the dog doesn't knock you down," the younger Consuelo said.
"No, no. This dog understands. It is very well-behaved. It doesn't seem to have a collar."
"A runaway. Probably infested with bugs."
"No. It has been cared for. It seems healthy."
"Until your house is filled with fleas. I should call the pound."
The dog looked up at the old woman. It seemed to her as if the dog had an uncanny sort of knowledge of her. As if the dog knew more about her than most people.

The old woman, Mrs. Maria Connell had been beautiful once. She'd been an only child of a fine Spanish family-- devoutly Catholic. She married at 19. A man 20 years older than her. An Irishman-- very rich-- very ruthless. She quickly became pregnant. Her husband at first berated her, then he began to slap her.
Mrs. Connell took it. Even to the day of the birth, she took it. After the birth, she took the slapping. Even as it got more violent, she allowed it.

She prayed. When praying didn't stop the beatings, she went to see her priest. Mr. Connell hit her and hit her almost daily.
He hit her when the baby cried.
He hit her when she cried.
He hit her even though she prayed, and even though she visited the priest. Maria went to mass on Wednesdays and lit a candle, not for herself, but for her husband. She went to mass on Sundays and lit a candle. Sometimes she lit a candle for all of them, herself, her husband, and William, the baby.

When William began to toddle about the house, Mr. Connell screamed at the child and slapped him for knocking over a vase.

Maria came dashing out from the kitchen with a six-inch kitchen knife. She plowed into her husband and knocked him to the ground. With the knife at her husband's throat, she told him, "You need to leave here and never come back. I will kill you if you do. Do you understand? I will kill you. If you ever hurt my son again I will gouge out your eyes and leave you in the street to die. Now go."
Mr. Connell left. He never entered the house again. And, like a good Catholic, he remained married to Maria.
After ten years, he died, leaving his wife and son with his fortune.
Though Mr. Connell never hit his son again, he did find fault with every thing the boy attempted. William Connell grew up disappointed and unsure of himself.

The dog lapped at the water Mrs. Connell set out in a bowl for him. She watched. This black dog seemed very well-behaved. She knew nothing about dogs, but could tell this one had arrived at her home for some reason. No dog had picked her before.
She wondered, would William have come out better if he'd had a dog. He always seemed afraid of them.
Ah, William, she sighed. Her only child and a troubled soul. Divorced since last year. A suicide attempt at college. A failed business. Loans and gifts from his mother never seemed to make a difference. He never could get over the hump.
Mrs. Connell seldom saw him now. If he called, he seemed preoccupied.
Could it be that he needed a dog as a child?
Mrs. Connell smiled as the dog ate some fish leftovers from a few days ago.
Consuelo hovered at the kitchen door, distrustful.
"I will call the pound now Mrs. Connell. You can't have a dog under your feet. What if he knocks you over?"
The dog finished the fish and looked up at Mrs. Connell.
"I like this dog," she said. "He'll be careful of me."
The dog wagged his tail.

At night, Mrs. Connell sat in her living room with the dog at her feet. She sat there humming. Ave Maria. Why that song, she wondered. Yet it would not leave her head.
The dog slept.
Consuelo was in Mrs. Connell's bedroom, preparing to leave for the night.
Mrs. Connell hummed and thought. She should call William. He never seemed to be home when she called, but she should call him.
She leaned over, grabbed the phone, then dialed.
It rang three times before he answered.
"Hello Mother," he said.
"William," she said and paused. "William, you know I haven't seen you in two months?"
"Has it been that long?"
"Yes, dear. And you know, I miss you terribly."
For 30 seconds, he did not respond.
"Is something wrong? Are you okay?"
"Of course. But I miss you. You have always been such a good son."
"What's going on?" He sounded frantic.
"Nothing, William. Nothing. Come home son. You need to come home."
Mrs. Connell hung up the phone and hummed the song.

"I will put the animal out now," she said.
"Where?" Asked Mrs. Connell.
"Where it's come from," said Consuelo.
"No, you won't put it out. I want him to stay."
Consuelo tried to lock the black dog out of the bedroom when she put Mrs. Connell in her bed. Mrs. Connell would have none of it.
The dog lay on the floor next to the bed.
The Filipina shook her head. "I don't like this dog."
The old woman waved her away.
After her helper left, Mrs. Connell let her hand fall over the bedside. The black dog licked her hand. "You are so sweet," she said. "What shall we call you? Sweetie? I like that, do you?"
The dog put it's paws on the bed and nuzzled the old woman. "So sweet," she said again.
Her eyes began to close. The dog lay on the floor again.
Some music played on the radio that Consuelo left on for Mrs. Connell every night before she left. Schubert's Unfinished Symphony played softly. Mrs. Connell drifted in and out of sleep, awaking now and again as the piece played. Once she sighed. Always the dog seemed in just the right place to touch its fur if the hand fell over the bed. Perhaps she imagined it. Perhaps the dog really was there to comfort her almost like a nurse, even in a manner that a lover might. She'd never had a real lover.

William came to the house in San Francisco the next morning. He came even before the mist had cleared. Mrs. Connell knew he'd never been an early riser, even as a child on Christmas morning. His face looked even redder than the last time she'd seen him-- his hair looked thinner. He fought to catch his breath after only a one block walk from his parking spot.

"Don't let me forget to move my car," he said to Consuelo.

His mother pretended she hadn't noticed his unhealthy demeanor. The black dog went immediately to William.

"Who is this?" he asked.

"Sweetie," she said, sitting at the dining room table.

William pretended to disapprove of the animal even though he immediately rubbed its head. "Just what you need," he said.

The dog licked his hand.

Consuelo poured him coffee. She shook her head for his benefit at the mention of the dog. "I told her she doesn't need any dog."

He shrugged. His hand sunk into the animal's fur. It comforted him. He'd never owned a dog. William closed his eyes. His heart jumped a beat. He gasped for breath.

"William?" his mother said. "Are you all right?"

Such softness. Such warmth. He missed the comfort of other creatures in his solitary existence.


He tried to refocus on his mother. He lifted his hand with great effort to indicate he was okay, though he wasn't.

"I'm-- all-- right," he said. "I'm all right."

The black dog sat next to him then leaned against his leg.

"I'd forgotten," William said more to himself than to the women. His thoughts went to his wife. What had he accomplished? What would they say about him after he'd left his life behind? Would they say he'd given comfort to others?

Reflexively his hand fell onto the dog's head. Surely he was supposed to outlive his mother, but he knew he would not. And he'd never felt anything so soft. Never ever in his life.

The End

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Episode 2-- Sgt. Prestleton of the Yukon and Prince the Wonder Dog-- Prince Ponders


Sergeant Prestleton and Prince the wonder dog sat around the campfire one night eating beans. A frost covered the pine needles. The campfire crackled.

"I think we should return to White Horse Prince. What do you think boy?"

Prince looked up from his plate of beans. What did he think? As a wonder dog, Prince could think, but if he were not. What if he were not a wonder dog? Would his language of barks and yaps constitute thought. Without language, could he think? He stared off into the distance.

Damn Prestleton and his damn leading questions. How could one ponder the imponderable? The sergeant's horse whinnied. Could the horse think?

Prince preferred action. A good bite out of the hind end of an outlaw suited him better than philosophy. A fight with a bear, now there was a good time. He'd saved the sergeant's bacon so many times. Ah, bacon... Ah Bacon? Did Bacon really write those plays?

And so he decided. Prince knew bacon. He knew bacon when he smelled it and he liked bacon. Liking constituted thought in his mind. Real thought, not a mere Pavlovian response to a pellet. He decided he'd like bacon even if there'd never been a Bacon. Language was what one spoke, even if it were mere guttural noises.

Sergeant Prestleton sat back against his boulder and let out a satisfied sigh. Even Prestleton could think, Prince decided. Even that simple-minded, naive Canadian could think.

Prince put his head down and took another bite of his beans. He thought, "I like bacon, but I sure as hell hate these beans."

Thanks to Ellen Joe and Flickr for bacon.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Sergeant Prestleson and His Dog Prince-- Prince Speaks English Poorly-- A Very Short Work of Fiction

Sergeant Prestleson of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and his wonder dog Prince sat around the campfire one night in the wilds of the Yukon. A cold fog clung to the tops of the pines. Sergeant Prestleton ate the remains of a can of beans. His dog Prince also had beans in his bowl. They had been on the trail of the outlaw Frenchie Maurice Noir for six days. Frenchie had robbed an old miner and his granddaughter Kelly of their life savings. Prestleton meant to get it back.

The howl of wolves pierced the still night.

"I'm glad I have you nearby boy," said Prestleton to his wonder dog Prince. "I can count on you to protect me."

Prince looked up from his beans. Prince said, "Protect you from what?"

The sergeant started. "You spoke!" he said.

"What do you expect?" Prince said. "I'm a wonder dog."

"I just never knew," said Prestleton.

"Yeah, well, get back to the point. What do you expect me to protect you from?"

"That's not speaking English well," said the man. "One shouldn't end a sentence with a preposition."

A snarl curled on the dog's lips. "I'm a wonder dog," he said. "Not an English professor. Nonetheless, I suppose you think I will save you from the jaws of my brethren, the wolves."

"Well of course," said the sergeant. "You are my dog. My bosom companion. Mon ami. Pal. Buddy."

"Despite my wonder status," said Prince, "I am still a dog. A canine, but one step removed from the wild. I may join the wolves and have you for dinner. After all, beans are not very dignified fare for a wonder dog."

Prestleton frowned at this. A tear formed in the corner of his left eye. "But you have been my friend for years. My compadre. My mate. My..."

"Cut the crap!" said Prince. "How is it that you see predatory humans all the time-- that you view their inability to rise above the savage, and yet a dog, wonder or no, is expected to ignore his beastly instincts and save you, naive young fool that you are."

The man stared at his dog with disbelief. "But your acts of bravery... Your kindness... How do you explain these things if you are not my friend? My partner?"

"So now I am your partner, huh?" said the dog.

"For all these years," said Prestleton.

The dog stared at the man for nearly a minute. Then a smile came onto his muzzle. "I'm just messing with you Sarge," the dog said. "Would I let you be eaten by a pack of wolves?"

The Mountie sunk back onto the boulder at his back. "You really got me," he said. "You really, really got me. I thought you were serious."

"Don't be silly," said Prince. "You're my buddy. Besides, wolves are a bunch of Philistines."

"That's my boy," said the sergeant. "But all this time you could talk. Why didn't you let me know sooner? Think of the conversations we could've had on lonely nights such as these."

"Who can talk?" said the dog, and he went back to his beans and never spoke another word.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My Life in Dog Years-- I'm Not Such an Old Dog, But Not Quite a Young Man.

I am roughly the same age as my dog Lulu. That is, in dog years, she is roughly the same age as me. This is not so bad. At eight, Lulu is quite active. She's smart and intuitive. A good dog all around, especially when you consider her overwhelming fear of humans (more men than women) when we first got her from the shelter.

Now this may not be the best segue going, but I'm extremely lazy lately. A recent burst of melancholy and ennui has been replaced with another bout of sloth. There are reasons for this.

I don't sleep well. I am a living science experiment. I've had two major back surgeries. One of my spinal disks has been replaced with a titanium one. I was the first person in San Francisco to have this procedure done. For awhile, I was a popular subject with the doctors around the area. My neighbor, a nurse at Stanford, had overheard a conversation about me even though I'd had the procedure done elsewhere. Though I have been poked, prodded, jacked up (literally they kind of jack up your spinal column for a replacement procedure,) injected, had my disk fried, my nerves cut, bone in my spine removed, etc., etc. I still suffer a lot of pain. I have a numb foot. Sometimes I can't keep my balance. I nearly walked into a ditch the other day due to lack of feeling. And every once in a while, my doc who sees me every six weeks for my back, throws me another curve I have to deal with.

A couple of years ago, because of weight gain, I decided to stop taking a nerve medication that wasn't helping much. I thought I would die. Withdrawal is a terrible thing. My doctor is a great guy, but he doesn't know everything. He didn't know that I needed to cut back on the drug very gradually. I thought I was going crazy. I felt like I'd swallowed a million Mexican jumping beans. I couldn't cope. I wanted to crawl out of my skin. I was so tired I couldn't sleep. I know, sounds weird. Oh, I slept in snatches, five minutes here, ten minutes there, but for a few weeks it was awful.

Now my doctor has, I believe inadvertently, switched my medication again. It's a little easier this time. I simply am not getting the pain med I'd been taking before. I think the doc just made a mistake. Again, I'm often too tired to sleep well. My legs kick. I move to the floor at night so I don't wake my wife.

What's this got to do with dogs? I'll tell you. I have a lot of time to think in those hours I spend awaiting sleep. I think how old I am. I think how my dog, with luck may live another eight years. I think I have maybe another twenty years give or take a few. I think how lucky I am. I think how wonderful my family is. I think how miserable I am. I feel young. I feel ancient. I wonder how people work into their seventies or eighties. I don't know.

You know, The Who, in the song "My Generation" said "I hope I die before I get old." Growing up in the sixties, I think a lot of us thought that way. I don't now. But damn, no one told me this ageing thing was gonna be hard.

You know what else I think while I lie awake at night? I think that I wish I could age as gracefully as my dog.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Dog Toy Circles. Are they UFO's. Send me your stories.

Okay, nothing earth-shaking today, but my dog Lulu sometimes arranges her toys in geometric shapes. She is especially fond of squares and rectangles. Weird? She's got a ton of toys. The deal is in my house that when she gets a new toy, we're supposed to throw one old one out. But I never have the heart to do that. The only toys that get the heave-ho, are the destroyed stuffies. I mean they have to be totally destroyed, not just unstuffed. My dog is a real toy-hound. I suppose she gets a ton of toys because she reacts so actively and happily to each new one. Of course, she is not content until she strangles the squeaker out of anything squeaky.

Does your dog form dog-toy circles? If so, let me know. Actually, any weird behavior is appreciated in this forum. I have told this story before, but the neatest thing I ever saw a dog do was to ride the Funicula on the Isle of Capri. The dog, without a master or any help, jumped in to the Funicula, without a ticket of course, and rode to the top of the isle. Strange.

My daughter and son-in-law, also in Italy had a dog follow them all about the town. It adopted them in its way, but it wouldn't go into churches. I expect it got kicked out vigorously a time too many.