Bury the Dog

dog-dark-howl-moonlight-66231Before we get started there’s two things you should know. Number one dogs are pack animals. Deep inside their DNA they’re still wild beasts, meant to hunt in packs and kill what they find.

We have turned them into something else; Fido and Lucky our trusted friends. But make no mistake the beast still lives with it.

Number two. I grew up in a different time in a different place. Things were much different then.

I was a city kid in a farm town. Actually, I was sort of in the middle. My house was in town, but my father, who was a mechanic, had a shop right on the edge of town. If you stood in front of the shop and looked to the Southwest all you saw were houses. From the backside of the shop, to the Northeast, the view was all corn, a small patch of woods, a winding river and some railroad tracks.

Behind the shop we had about 5 acres fenced in land. All we grew there were thistles and weeds. To keep them short we had about 25 sheep. No one really knows where the sheep came from. One story I heard as a child was that my grandfather, who is a police officer, found a collection of sheep grazing in the ditch on the side of country road while out on patrol. Having a few acres fenced in real estate, he collected the sheep, brought them home, and waited for somebody to claim them. No one ever did..

Anyway, the sheep spent their days wandering around the pasture chewing on grass, wandering around the pasture chewing on grass and wandering around the pasture chewing on grass. Every now and then, however,  there was a huge disruption to their tranquil lives.

Remember what I mentioned about your dog Fido.

It was not uncommon in on Saturday morning to have a collection of my dads friends hanging around the shop drinking coffee, shooting the breeze and tinkering with their cars.

Some background on the shop. It was constructed by my grandfather and made entirely out of scraps that he collected from old barns around the county. He tore them down by hand and reused the boards and nails. In this patchwork shop was a very large collection of guns. Every corner had a shotgun loaded and ready.

Did I mention that I lived in a different time

Anyway, on Saturdays, one of my jobs was to make sure that the trough was filled with freshwater for the sheep and, if there was a drought or snow, make sure that there was hay laid out for the sheep to eat.

One morning I went out the back door to do my chores and as I walked around the edge of the barn and looked across the pasture I noticed the sheep running for their lives. Close behind them was a pack of four dogs, frothing at the mouth and barking like crazy in pursuit of their prey.

The sheep were desperately running. They hung together as a flock, but the dogs pursued knowing at some point the flock would turn right and one poor soul he would turn left. Then it happened, and they pursued that one unfortunate creature until they had him pinned in the corner of the pasture

I ran inside and quickly yelled for my father. “Dad! Dad! There’re some dogs out in the field attacking the sheep.”

Like a trained army my father and all of his friends quickly set down there cups and tools, grabbed a gun and ran out into that the back door.

Running toward the corner of the pasture where the dogs had the sheep penned up, my dad fired one shot of warning into the air. Three of the dogs took off. One dog, however, ravenous in its attack continued gnawing at the side of the sheep, who was bloody and wailing.

As my dad approached he realized he only had one choice. He came to a stop, leveled his gun and shot the dog. It fell over leaving the sheep groaning and agony. My dad shot the sheep.

With the excitement all over the men walked back to the shop. My dad told my brother and me to dig a hole and bury the sheep. “What about the dog?” we asked. “Throw it over the fence,” he responded.

Side note. One of our favorite pastimes was watching animals decay. Whenever we had lambs that didn’t make it we would throw them over the fence, then watch as their bodies decayed and were eaten by other animals.

A few days later we were in the office of the shop watching through the picture window as a car drove down the long gravel drive. In a cloud of dust a car pulled in front of the office and a small boy got out of the passenger side door. In his arm was a stack of papers. He came into the office a little scared nervous and teary-eyed and handed my dad one of the fliers. On it was a picture of a dog. I don’t remember the name but it said something to the effect of “have you seen my dog,” with a name and phone number to call.

The boy spoke up, “mister, have you seen this dog he’s been missing for a couple days?” My dad looked slowly at the photo, then at the boy, then back to the photo. He immediately realized it was dog he shot.

In a slow calm voice he told the boy, “Nope, haven’t seen your dog but I’d be happy to put a flyer up on the bulletin board here in the office, maybe somebody else has seen it.” The boy thanked him and walked out.

We held our breath and watched the car as it backed out and drove down the driveway toward the neighborhood. When it was out of sight, we looked at my dad and waited. Without taking his eyes off the the space in the window where the car was a moment before, my dad said in a very low voice “bury the dog.”

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