I’m a dog and doggone proud of it. I was held in captivity by humans and against my will until I escaped. This is my story told to Jerry Barksdale, a real journalist.
I was born out of wedlock beneath a farmhouse near Elkmont, Alabama. I don’t know the date since dogs don’t have calendars – and don’t need them. Nor do I know my Daddy. I suspect that he was the basset hound that often chased rabbits through the neighborhood. Mama was the prettiest, ugly, bulldog I ever saw. She was quite a looker. I have long ears and droopy eyes which I inherited from Daddy and very short legs which I got from Mama. I was a happy, well-adjusted pup. I have six siblings. All of us look the same, except for me. I’m the runt of the litter. I didn’t have a name at the time. Dogs aren’t required to have a name. Nor do I have a birth certificate – don’t need one since I know who I am.
One day, Mama took us from the beneath the old house, and we ran and romped in the yard, played in the cow pasture and woodland, and lived a life of freedom. I was happy doing what a dog is born to do. I especially loved to chase cats, and Mama taught us later how to chase rabbits and squirrels and the mailman. But my favorite sport was chasing cyclists, joggers, and cars. Now that was fun! I didn’t go to school, attend church, pay taxes, or work. I lay in the shade most of the time and took long, restful naps. Later, I developed an interest in girl dogs and copulated regularly with them, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Boy! That was fun.
Big Daddy – he was our master – lived in the big house and wore overalls. He called me “hey dog,” which made me feel special. Later, he started calling me Shorty, I suppose because of my short legs. He let our little family live in the barn, which was warm in the winter time. When he whistled and hollered, “Heah, heah, heah!” fun was about to begin. We’d jump into the back of his old Chevy pick-up and he’d take us rabbit hunting. There is nothing tastier than fresh caught raw rabbit, except for seasoned road kills. Occasionally, I ate pig poop, which is a delicacy. When we got fleas and ticks, Big Daddy knew exactly what to do. He poured a mixture of used motor oil and tractor fuel down our spine. You should've seen fleas and ticks jumping off and running for their lives! I loved Big Daddy, especially when he tugged my long ears. Big Mama wore an apron and was always whistling and singing. She threw out table scraps for us to eat and even cooked cornbread for us and soaked it in water. Now, that was delicious but not as satisfying as road kill and pig poop. I loved Big Mama, too.
Like I said, I was a happy, well- adjusted dog living a dog’s life. Then one day my life changed. A huge black SUV came down the gravel road, kicking up a cloud of dust. We ran out and gave chase. Lil’ Sis who could catch a rabbit and bite a jogger, had no experience catching cars. She was crushed to death. Mama went over and sniffed her body and walked away, her tail drooped. I knew she was sad. The monster car stopped and a small woman got out and ran over to where Sis lay. “Poor pitiful little doggie,” she said and began crying. Big Daddy walked over to see what the commotion was about. He told her not to worry, that we had it coming to us. The woman saw me standing there with my little tail drooping. She stroked my head. That’s when I should have bit her hand off. She picked me up and began speaking baby babble. “Ohhh, he’s so precious, isn’t he darling?” She nuzzled me, then kissed me on the mouth. “Peew whew!” She jerked back. I guess she smelled pig poop on my breath.
The woman -- I called her Bad Woman – lived in a brickhouse in Athens that looked exactly like the dozens of houses that surrounded her. There was no pasture, no woodland, and no rabbits and squirrels to chase. I couldn’t run and play. She gave me a bath in a big white tub instead of letting me lick myself clean like Mama had taught me. She even brushed my teeth. Yuck! I had to pee on a pad and poop on command. When I didn’t conform, she made me wear a diaper. Humiliating! She even made me sleep with her. Disgusting! How would she feel if she had to sleep in the barn with my siblings? She dressed me in a sweater and sometimes pushed me down the sidewalk in a dog stroller. She locked me inside her house all day and made me watch “Animal Planet” and gave me a rubber bone to gnaw on. How crazy is that? Instead of feeding me road kill and an occasional helping of pig poop, she fed me horrible tasting stuff out of a sack. I couldn’t go outside and run and fornicate like a dog is supposed to do. She led me around on a leash like I was a slave. When I rode in her monster car, she strapped me in a dog seat. How demeaning! She tried to make me into something that I wasn’t. She even entered me in a 5K foot race and made me chase after nothing -- no mailman, no jogger, no nothing. Now that is crazy.
Then one day I overhead her say she was going to clip my tail and ears. “No, doggoneit, no!” That’s when I rebelled. She enrolled me in obedience school where a bad man made me walk on a treadmill and tried to squeeze all the dog out of me and make me into a human. I didn’t want to be a human. They argue and fight about skin color, which politician lies less, and constantly stoke discord between men and women, and even argue and fight about who is the true God. They work themselves into a lather and make war and kill each other. Dogs don’t do these things. We aren’t filled with guilt, greed, hate, jealously, and malice and, we don’t hold grudges.
I began acting out! I pooped on the neighbor’s lawnmower seat and peed on his geraniums. Whoa, doggie! Talk about upset. He shook his fist at Bad Woman and told her to keep me out of his yard. He-he-he. I loved it. Then he yelled at me. “Get outta here! You ugly mongrel.” That really hurt my feelings. I chewed the leg of Bad Woman’s expensive antique table. She sobbed and took pills and poured tall glasses of wine and began mumbling and babbling. “Why don’t he love me?”
I hatched a plan to escape this hellish life. One day, while tethered outside, I chewed through the rope and ran like the wind. “Free! Free at last!” I was so happy -- and so free. I hummed,” Born free, as free as the wind blows, as free as the grass grows…” Oh yeah, baby. I chased the neighbor’s cat, patrolled for girl dogs, but didnt’ see any. They were all in captivity, too.
Two men dressed in blue jumped out of a pick-up. “There’s the little varmint. Catch ‘im!” one yelled. My short legs were no match for the net. I was locked inside a cage and hauled to dog jail. No reading my rights, no lawyer, no nothing. Bad Woman never came to bail me out. I was scared. My cellmates kept disappearing. A Doberman said it was part of the “final solution.” “What’s that?” I asked. “The needle dude -- the needle.” He said it was a crime for dogs to be free. That really scared me. My only crime was wanting to act like a dog and not a human.
One day, I looked up and there stood Big Daddy in his overalls. He pointed at me and the jailer let me out. Oh, how happy I was! I rode in the back of his old pick-up to Elkmont where he turned me loose to run free. Mama and my siblings were overjoyed to see me. Before long I was chasing squirrels, rabbits, joggers, and cyclists, but not cars. I had learned my lesson. Big Mama cooked me cornbread. That night I scrunched up against Mama in the barn and slept like a rock, dreaming of cats, rabbits, and squirrels --- and, yes, girl dogs. “Free, free at last.”
By: Jerry Barksdale