Throughout my youth, I would hike the dense swampland behind our farm, intentionally getting myself lost, knowing that sooner or later I would hit a road. One sweltering summer day when I was about eight years old, I escaped into the cool shade of the woods. I was exploring, finding discarded refuse among the trees. I climbed up a hill, and found a pit. A small car could have easily fit into this dusty pit, but instead it was filled with dead dogs. The pit was behind the dog officer’s house, who was also the town sheriff. What stood out to me, besides the blank eyes and contorted corpses, was the fact that many of the dogs had collars with tags. My first thought as a naïve boy was, why have these dogs been killed and dumped here when they have dog tags?
I don’t remember the long walk home, where I then told my parents what I had
seen. They assured me that the pit would be filled, as if that would stop my
nightmares. This dog horror story is just one from my youth. Being on a farm, animals came
and went. There were a string of dogs, including collies, beagles and various
mutts. Some got sick and walked into the woods never to return. There were a
few hit-by-cars, a runaway Beagle and one suicide (unintentional, I’m sure.)
One of our family dogs, named Hobo, was with us quite a while and sometimes I
would bring him along on my walks; but Hobo was always more interested in
chasing my sheep and devouring rabbits. There no was chance of wildlife
sightings with him around, unless he was about to ingest it. There was a Weimaraner
named Loki, but he was my mom’s dog; to the point that he would sulk and get
teary-eyed when she left for work. Sometimes the dogs would warn my father off when
he started to tickle me, thinking he was hurting me.
Shorty after I joined the air force at age seventeen, my father bought my
brother a pure breed Springer Spaniel. They named him Hank and had high hopes
of turning him into a hunting dog. I had failed my father as budding
outdoorsman, so he was having another go at it with my brother. Unfortunately, the
dog was hit by a car and had to have his leg amputated. This was not a not a
death sentence, but, according to my dad, he would never be a hunting dog, so
it was better to put him down.
I’ve never had a dog to call my own and these morbid experiences have made me a little hesitant to adopt one. Maybe I’m not dog worthy and worthiness is something I’ve always striven for in my life. I'm at the age where I feel the need for a dog by my side. You know . . . man's best friend. Dogs specialize in unconditional love. Spouses are wonderful and stick with us through some tough times, but a canine friend is different. With a dog there are no judgments or conditions. I could complain about anything and he would never say, "Mark, you’re full of shit." If anything he would say, "I hear ya bro. Tell me about it." And then he would go piss on a tree.