The Story of “Dog”
I never did bother naming him, I called him “Dog” from the day we met and it just stuck. He was estimated to be about 4 or 5 years old when we crossed paths.
I was working for the counties of Gilmer and Fannin in north Georgia in the Blue Ridge Mountains as the first ever Animal Control Officer there and in charge of cruelty investigation. The occasional stray pick-up, some court appearances where the judge addressed the plaintiff as “cousin Billy” or Bob, or Billy-Bob (I’m not remotely joking nor even exaggerating with that comment), and told him not to leave his horse in a stall for the weekend with no food or water again and to get on out of there, and as those of you that are in my age range and have a deep familiarity with the south back then, you know what I’m saying when I say I wasn’t well received and me not being from “around here” sure didn’t help. You could be 5th generation born there and still be told “you’re not from around here”.
It was the early 80’s and I “wasn’t from around there” at all. I was a bothersome outsider from the north looking to stick my nose where it didn’t belong. Looking back it’s about the most unlikely scenario I could have imaged finding myself in, especially when it wasn’t “planned” nor even ever a glancing thought through my head and and a great tale in its on right as to how this all came about, but this blog page is about dogs, so….”Dog”.
I was working as a ACO when I “acquired” him, he was a stray pick up, old style Staffie (not the mutants they are producing now a days), that when I finally got to the pound to drop off they told me to just take him to the “back room”, something I’d been directed to do and done many times prior.
I can’t honestly tell you what made me not want to do that and take him home instead, especially given that I had to spend near on 20 minutes to catch him with a catch pole to get him in the vehicle and crated. On the ride back I had a couple of other stops to make and during that “down time” he literally ate his way out of the cage and when I glanced in my rear view mirror at one point and saw him standing with his front feet on the back of my seat, I calmly told him “if you even think about biting me I’ll throw your ass right out this window” (while I rolled the window down), and I meant it, I got to the pound and opened my door, he hopped over the seat tail wagging and trotted right along with me through the door of the pound. He walked happily through the door at my side and began introducing himself to Jill, the pounds manager and the person in charge of the “back room”. Jill was immune, and needed to be all things considered, but Dog wasn’t the least put off by it.
Something happened, I don’t know what, but something did and I couldn’t take him to the “back room”; it was never easy for me to take that walk with any of them, nearly all of them were happy dogs with no idea of what fate was in the “back room” where I caged them and left, but this one ended up with me until the day he died at about 11, leaving him there was just an instant “no-go” for me.
I first tried “well there’s plenty of space available” to be met with “No one is ever going to adopt that old, ugly, scarred up dog and you know it”. My next attempt was to suggest that I keep him until there was more room and surely someone would take him to be met with “there will never be enough room for him”. No real quandary there, I took him with me when I left and the next time they saw him at the pound, he had a collar and a name tag that said “Licensed Deputy “Dog””.
Dog was a wonderful friend and companion who instantly took to all of my other five dogs and easily made himself at home. He rode with me everyday after that to work. I tried leaving him at home once, and again, checking my rear view mirror, saw him running down the road after my car for all he was worth. I thought for about a 1/2 a mile that he’d give up and go back, when it became obvious that wasn’t going to happen I backed up the hill and picked him up. He wasn’t a dog who much believed in confinement and had the missing teeth and paw sores to show for it, so I gave in and decided he was to be my duly deputized ride along officer, something I was empowered by the county to do.
It was some 3 years later that the “incident” took place and during all of that time I never had the least indication that he would respond in such a manner.
Summer evening, me and Dog, he was riding lose in the back of the vehicle, drivers window was down. I was going to a friends house to drop something off, I got out of the car to run in leaving Dog in the car, decent neighborhood – quick stop; I came back out got into the car and as I began to start the car an arm reached in, grabbed my arm (the one starting the car) and then I hear a groan followed by “can you get your dog to let go of my arm”.
There was no barking nor growling to preempt this, I never even noticed the movement of Dog reaching between the seat and the door column, just a nice firm set of jaws clamped down on this man, this wantabe car jackers, bicep. At the time, being human, I had momentarily forgotten that Dog was even in the car, I was thinking about my own immediate safety – car jackings where single women are involved don’t typically end well.
As some are prone to doing when under stress or having stress relieved, (and I’m one of them) I giggled, I didn’t try to giggle or think giggling was the thing to do, it just came out – I followed the giggle with “well, he’s never been taught a command for that, only thing I can think of is that you remove your arm from my car very slowly and don’t touch me.”
He resisted the urge to try and run (I could see in his eyes how badly he wanted to) and began backing away from my car with my dog still attached. Dog stayed attached to his arm until he was barely hanging onto the car with his hind legs, then he let go and just stood there with his front paws on my window edge staring at this “man” not making a sound.
Sweetest, most social, loving dog you could imagine, who would have typically gone into my friends house with me had I been staying longer than a minute, and weighed in at about 40#, so not a large dog either, but boy he had some jaws!
I don’t think for one second he was trying to “protect” the car, he didn’t have ‘property protection drive’ or needs, never barked at anyone approaching my vehicle ever, friend or stranger; what he had was a bond, a loyalty and a love for me that resulted in his response, a response I would not in a million years have expected from that particular dog despite his unwavering trust and loyalty to me. A response that I have been forever grateful for. Some have suggested he was put with me to save my life at that point in time, this may well be the case, the powers of the universe are not within my understanding; regardless of the reasons, I’m glad he was there. So I invited him on to the front seat and took him to McDonald’s and bought him a cheeseburger and told him what a good boy he was for the next half hour.
He didn’t change in any way after that incident, it didn’t faze him at all and once it was done he never repeated the behavior or acted any differently towards anyone, even people approaching the car. He was still just “Dog”.
Dog was with me for about 5 or 6 years I’d gather before he died. He was a kind and happy dog, a good canine ambassador. I trusted him but more importantly he trusted me, which given the condition I found him in is pretty amazing in itself. He was malnourished as is common with street dogs, and had once been burned with a long wide object so deeply on his shoulder and side that there was a very thick, 4 inch long, ½ inch wide area of coal black scar tissue (his normal skin color was cream, no black on him but for that scar). This was a deep, sustained and intentional burn that could only have happened by the hand of one species. A wound that was also obviously left to heal on its own with no help or assistance or care. To have been given trust from a dog who had experienced obvious horrors especially given how we met – well the reasons for that trust are still outside of my understanding and likely always will be – but it’s not something that happens often in life, that much I do know.
I remember all of my dogs, some have had a bigger impact on me than others for various reasons, but I’ve discovered it’s usually the ones you’re not looking for, the ones you don’t expect, that seem to find themselves in your lives, be it for a reason or a season, they are there for a purpose and in most cases that purpose is to teach us something about ourselves.
I learned a few things about myself through Dog and reaffirmed a couple of other things. I’m fortunate to have had time with him, brief as it was, he has become part of the tapestry that is me and for all I know one of the reasons I’m still here.