I regret that I have to go back to filtering comments with one of those maddening "copy this" gizmos. I was getting too much spam. I suppose when I have time, I ought to figure out where it's coming from. In the meantime, if you really need to talk to me, do it the old-fashioned way: landline telephone. Information has my listing.

SOCIAL MEDIA

My name shows up on google+ and twitter, but I only monitor and will not add you. I do NOT do Facebook though someone with the same name does. Please use plain email. My phone landline is in the phone book. I have no cell phone.

Other Blogs by me

IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THE ART OF BOB SCRIVER, PLEASE GO TO: www.scriverart.blogspot.com.

Notes from Alvina Krause between 1957-1961 are posted at www.Krausenotes.blogspot.com


TWO REBLOGS:
Fiction about Indians at www.willowsticks.blogspot.com
Essays about Indians at www.siksikaskinitsiman.blogspot.com



Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Big Black Dog Stories

The biggest blackest dogs in Portland were two Newfoundlands who lived in a hippie block in the elegant Laurelhurst neighborhood. I was working an early Sunday morning, basically on call for emergencies since it would be a lapse of tact to knock on doors right then, and I pretended I was keeping an eye out for strays but I was actually dozing. Parked alongside Laurelhurst Park, which was rainy and misty as usual, I was amazed to see two dogs the size of bears come out of the shrubbery and trot across the street in front of me. By the time I fired up the engine and turned the truck around, they were gone. But they accounted for the complaints about big black dogs who ate out of garbage cans without even knocking them over.

Eventually I tracked them down -- their names were Moishe and Donovan, a male and female -- and talked to their owners. The male owner had a thing about how dogs were natural and should take precedence over cars or anything else mechanical. I assured him that I agreed, but that the practical way to go about it would be to get the neighbors together, vacate the street, and fence both ends of the block so there would be a giant yard for the kids and dogs. Sounded like too much work to him. He said he couldn’t talk to an arm of the law standing there with a badge flashing in his face, so I took it off and put it in my pocket. Then he had some other excuse, but he began to laugh.

I caught the dogs a couple of times. They were so big and heavy that I could only lift their front into the truck, then go around and try to boost the rear in. They were very patient and just stood there weighing as much as possible. If they saw me coming, they simply stepped into the nearest bar where the diligent occupants at once stood up for the rights of dogs in bars. Finally the hippie couple split up, each taking a dog away with him or her, but not before Donovan was hit by a car and had serious damage. The situation was not helped by the fact that it was the woman who was the breadwinner and she was now gone. I felt badly for all four of them.

The other biggest dog in my district was black and white, a harlequin Great Dane which customarily wore a red farmer’s bandana around his neck. The owner liked to let him roam in the historic pioneer cemetary because it had a high iron fence around it so the dog didn’t go too far before he came back. The owner was a young man, very aggressive but rather charming, and he promised to get a license soon. Next time I saw the dog it was with a little kid, towing the urchin all over the cemetary. The third time it was by itself and I nabbed him for a trip to the shelter.

That evening, they told me, the young man came flying in a jeep, driving right up the front walkway and stopping so close to the front door that he had to climb over the hood to get in. The attendants thought he was coming through the glass entryway and ducked behind the counter. He went roaring on foot out to the kennels, tearing down the aisles yelling for his dog, which barked with joy as soon as it heard him. When the guy located his dog, he bailed in over the top of the kennel and threw his arms around his buddy. Unfortunately, the springer spaniel in with the harlequin interpreted this as an attack and bit him.

No hard feelings. He paid all his fines, bought a license, loaded up the dog, and went off to get his bite looked at while the attendants quarantined the spaniel. The next time I saw the pair, they were up at Timberline Lodge, an historic ski lodge on the shoulder of Mt. Hood, each occupying a stool in the bar. The dog looked jaunty in his usual bandana. The young man offered to buy me a drink but I declined. I wondered afterwards if that were the right decision, since I was very curious, but they seemed a little too impulsive to me. Well, the human did anyway.

Then there was a big black dog accompanied by a little black dog on the Banfield freeway at a particularly bad curve. Unfortunately they were both dead. A doberman and a dachshund. The problem was how to get them from the inside of the inner lane over to my truck which was parked as far over to the curb as I could get it -- not far enough. I called for PPD to cover. No use joining the dogs.

When the officer got there, he parked behind me, so dumbfounded that I had to prompt him to put his cherry lights on. But he was a nice guy. “If you can get them over to the truck, I’ll help you load ‘em,” he offered. With enough adrenaline, a person can do anything -- but it took two trips, a fast one with the little dog and a slow one with the big dog.

They were pretty bloody so the officer went back on his offer, explaining that his uniform was wool and had to be dry-cleaned but mine was wash ’n wear. I wrestled the bodies into the truck while he looked as though he might get sick. Both dogs were wearing licenses.

When I got to the shelter and went to call the owners, I was feeling a little sick myself that anyone would let two such nice dogs run loose on a freeway -- maybe fallen out the back of a pickup. When a lady answered, I was brusque. “I’ve got two dead dogs here, a doberman and a dachshund, and I think they’re yours.”

THUMP. She’d fainted. She hadn’t even known they were out of the yard. After that I was more careful about asking people if they had someone with them and hinting that there was bad news.

One big black dog was actually a bit green. He was a black lab who had discovered that the duck pond at Laurelhurst Park was shallow enough that he could run in the water and give those ducks and geese a good scattering. Early on the foreman had asked me to just drive through the park now and then, so one day I spotted this big black dog in the act and followed him home.

His owner was out in the driveway washing his car. He claimed the dog had never left his side. “Look at him!” he said, gesturing at the dog panting flat on the lawn with pond slime and duck feathers stuck all over him.

I laughed. “Do you see what I see? Better look closer!” After a double-take, the owner sheepishly accepted a ticket and when I left he was hosing down the dog.

But the final big black dog story was the weirdest of all. An old couple had called to say that a Demon Dog broke into their house, killed some of their cats and then left, its eyes flaming with fire. The old couple was in real trouble. The man had had surgery and was recuperating at home in a hospital bed with a catheter and many meds. The woman was nearly blind with cataracts which she had been treating by ingesting whiskey -- the kitchen had a big metal garbage can full to the top with empty bottles. Many cats roamed the house, leaving messes. The back door wouldn’t latch securely. It had been a sweet little dream house once, like a 1930's cover on Better Home & Gardens and photos showed the couple was once young and handsome.

So I went around the neighborhood asking about big black dogs with no luck. Finally I saw a big lab looking out an open window with paw prints showing that he’d been jumping in and out. It took a couple of days to raise an occupant. She was a heroin addict. She was frank about saying so, but she was on probation and in a methadone program. She must have been beautiful once. Extremely thin, long hair, dull eyes. Her dog didn’t get enough to eat and she assumed he’d been rustling somewhere.

Somehow she talked me into driving her to her addiction counselor, in spite of insurance rules about riders, and when she got out, she dropped her paper bag. In it were her hypodermics, a spoon, etc. and a full douche kit. The place she assured me was the counselor’s didn’t look like it to me. I didn’t see her again. She and her dog moved on -- they weren’t supposed to be in that house anyway. There was nothing in it but a ragged old mattress on the floor.

The problem that remained was the old couple with all the cats. Their social worker wanted me to remove the cats. Easier said than done -- they were mostly wild. I caught the easy ones. “Danny,” the man, decided to help me against all pleas -- or maybe he was trying to save the cats. He came rushing down the hall with the urine bottle bouncing along behind him, still attached to his anatomy with tubing. Just then a small gray cat made a dash past me and reflexively I moved my foot to pin it against the wall. Unfortunately, I was wearing heavy boots and broke its neck. Mindful of Danny, I pretended it was fine and put it in the cat carrier, but Danny was suspicious. “You’ve killed that cat!” he shouted. He had an Irish accent and so did his wife, who was opening a new whiskey bottle when I left.

As usual, I never found out what happened in the end. This particular story haunts me more than any of the others. How is it that wonderful people with everything going for them end up sinking so low without any intervention except from the animal control officer and some social worker? And why isn't there some easy way to catch feral cats?

5 comments:

Genevieve said...

Great stories, Mary. I enjoyed them.

Matt Mullenix said...

Yes--wonderful and well told!

You've got 12 Blackfeet Stories. Now you need to give us 12 Black Dog Stories.

Don't tell me you haven't already thought of it.

Cowtown Pattie said...

Mary, these are wonderful (if somewhat sad and bittersweet) stories! Thanks for sharing.

Great stuff.

The combination of animal and human is a just right mixture.

Anonymous said...

8/27/06 Sunday
Hello, Mary. I stumbled upon your
"Prairie Mary" site while looking
for information on Adolof Hungry
Wolf and his work. I just "happened" to find a worn out
paperback of his, 34 years old,
in the recreation room of the
apartment house where I live ---
the pages are all falling out
and held in by variouis clips and
prayer! Ha, ha. Fascinating!
And since I am a poet and have
heritage with, and love for the
native peoples, I wanted to know
about this "author." There was
nothing about him within the book.
I love your web site! I have
lived in Montana for 37 years,
and am 64 years old. I would
like to know more about you,
your work, and Adolf and his
work. Another thing is that I
have in my possession the
book by Beverly Hungry Wolf,
"The Ways of Our Grandmothers."
I took several courses on the
native peoples at the University
of Montana, and that book was
required reading in a course about
native women given by a professor
named Roger Dunsmore. There is
much more about all this.
I'd like to
communicate with you if you would
like to communicate with me.
Thank you for your beautiful work,
Marjorie Lowe Allen Garner
thetreeswelove@yahoo.com
Butte, Montana

Anonymous said...

So we lived in the country and had young children. The youngest, a little girl, would sleep in a portable crib in the yard while I worked.

The coyotes were so thick that at one point they circled and were about to attack a 6'2 man. A little springer went after them and ran them off. A few days later, I heard them at dusk between the garden and the house. I was still at the garden....
So the next day we went to get the biggest dog known to (wo)mankind. We drove up to the Buffalo animal shelter and found our dog. The springer could run under him without touching his belly. He was supposedly Great Dane and Black Lab. Maybe throw in a little Rottweiler for good looks. He had a huge underbite and a floppy face. We loved him. He was funny and sweet and the kids rode him bareback. We watched the coyotes criss cross the neighbors' fields, but Mike and Molly did their job. He was a great dog. I cried the day we had to say goodbye.