Posted by: morrowsl | August 13, 2013

A Man’s Best Friend

There was a boot print on the sheet.  I didn’t see it until much later, but somehow that perfectly formed pointed toe and flat heel just about unhinged me.

Someone had broken into our house.  They came through the window and stepped in the center of my unmade bed.  If they’d looked to their left, they knew what my children’s faces looked like.  Family photos sat on my chest of drawers in matching gold frames.  The very idea of that haunted me for weeks.  The police came, but nothing was found to give them any ideas aside from what they’d already pieced together from other such incidents in our neighborhood.  Someone, some unknown someone, was breaking into homes on the interstate side of our block and taking anything of value that wasn’t nailed down.
We didn’t need the police to tell us that part.  Clues were strewn through our house like fallen leaves.  The open bedroom window.  The empty closet where my husband’s gun ownership history had been cataloged.  The open drawer of the nightstand where a switchblade knife had been hidden, my panties trailing down one side…  I washed every pair after that and moved them to another drawer, the idea of a stranger’s hands on clothing so intimate to me was somehow unrealistically disgusting.  In the living room, tell tale dust shadows outlined the spaces where electronics once sat.  We had a moment’s relief and laughter knowing they’d taken useless goods that would bring no cash reward.  The reel-to-reel hadn’t worked in years, the small tape recorder’s stop button was stuck.  It took days to properly list everything we’d lost.
Mike wasted no time resolving the problem as best he knew how.  There was an add in the newspaper for a dog.  A male Doberman with a pedigree.  I thought it would be a better idea if he came with a firearm, but felt it wisest not to say as much.  An hour later I realized he wasn’t going to need it.

He was black and tan, with a regal look that gave credence to his name, Czar.  Ninety pounds of muscle and teeth, he had me up and onto the kitchen counter within seconds of entering the house.  Our relationship would not improve and I would spend the next few years terrified of him.  I don’t remember why his previous owners were giving him up.  Not that it mattered.  He was Mike’s from first sniff.  In the years that followed they developed a friendship that would leave me feeling like the worst of all human beings when it ended.  I made Mike choose between us.  Me or the dog.
It wasn’t a snap decision on my part.  I gave that dog every opportunity to prove that he would never hurt my kids or me.  But when it got right down to it, he had a pecking order and I was at the bottom of the list.
Mike took Czar everywhere he possibly could.  The truck would pull away from the house with man and dog both riding in the cab, Czar seated closer than a new girlfriend, to run errands and cruise the streets being admired.  Czar would stick his little nubbin tail into Mike’s lower jacket pocket and pull down until they appeared to be propping each other up like a pair of drunks.
Back home, Czar would come into the house, walk directly to the loveseat, hike his leg and piss a stream across the back panel.  Then, satisfied that he’d properly marked my territory as his own, he’d trot outside with my husband fanning a ball cap after him, secretly amused that the dog was so determined to bring me to fury.  The one and only time I ever tried to shoo him out the door this way, he snatched the cap from my hand and took it with him.  My attempt to retrieve it had me cleaning dog crap off my bare feet as Czar looked on.  He seemed to be thinking it really wasn’t his fault I’d knocked into him and stepped in the still-warm pile.

But my kids adored him and he kept the neighbors (who we all secretly despised) on pins and pitchforks, so he became a part of the family.  My son would stretch out on the floor to watch cartoons using the dog as his headrest.  The girls weren’t as wild about him, but he offered them every protection and I know he made them feel safe.
Eventually we acquired another dog, a female named Bandit, who was foisted off on us as a Dalmatian, but was very likely a Border Collie mix.  Czar gave her his dog house and started sleeping on the patio near the fence where he could jump up on the workbench and scare the hell out of people jogging down the alley by resting his chin on the fence rail and growling low in his chest as they passed.
There was an incident with the neighbor kids who claimed Czar jumped the fence and came after them, chasing them up into a tree near their driveway.  Eventually the truth came out.  The boys had tugged and pulled until the fence was loosed just enough to allow the extremely pissed off dog to crawl under, albeit slowly, giving them enough time to seek shelter and make up a pretty good lie.

But as time marched on, Czar became less tolerant of Bandit and eventually took a pretty good chunk out of her side.  It was all I needed.  If the neighbors had seen this or found out about it, we’d be forced to have Czar put down.  I gave Mike as much time as he needed to find another home and get rid of his beloved dog.  It broke my heart to feel so mean, but my head said it was the best possible solution.
Eventually a man was located who had a business needing security and Czar rode in the truck next to Mike to meet him.  An agreement was struck.  My husband came home alone, sad and silent.  Czar’s short leather lead was taken to the shop in the garage and is still hanging on its nail today.

A few weeks went by and Mike began to rally somewhat.  We’d found a home for Bandit and were in the process of replanting the grass along the fence where Czar had patrolled his yard.  One afternoon the phone rang and the man with the business said Czar had stopped eating.  All he would do was lay in the kennel.  Mike suggested the man might want to take him for a little ride to cheer him up.  A second phone call a few days later brought better news.  When the man had opened his truck door that night, Czar had bolted for the cab.

And lived the rest of his days sleeping at the foot of the man’s bed.


Responses

  1. Such a sad story, until the end. I enjoyed it.


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