mugsy's book, page elevensigns of a killer
September 26, 2011 at 3:17 pm (a singular dog, books)
Tags: book, the dog copied from wordpress
I went back to see him again a week later, on October 30th. The control-freak amazon had left her histrionic marks.
The back wall of each dog cage was wooden, the wall of the building itself. Small doors had been cut into each cage so the dogs could be let out into their little fenced-in patios. Kennels are made this way. The other three sides of the cage were cage; cyclone fencing, or something very like it. On each of these three sides, Mugsy now possessed signs. At least one on each section of fencing, if not more. Memory tells me that his cage was covered with these signs, but that may not be so. It may only have been one on each side. The shock I got when I saw them hurt me so much that my memory may be creating more signs than there actually were.
The signs were written in blood-red magic marker on yellow photocopy paper. In capital letters. DO NOT TOUCH THIS DOG. And THIS DOG BITES. And maybe there were other phrases too that are no longer in the memory banks. My dog’s cage looked like the cage of a pitbull who had been ruthlessly and cruelly trained to tear flesh on sight, to go for the throat, to go for the guts.
In his whole eight years of living, at that time, Mugsy’s bites had left behind, I repeat, a little scraped skin and a bruise. No puncture, no penetration. He had never gone for face or throat or guts. Always the arms and legs. The bite he had given me on the fingertip the previous week was the worst bite he’d ever made, and he’d done it to me, and he’d done it on the fingertip. He’d been in that yuppie monstrosity for nearly a month, and had never bitten anyone there.
Yet there were these signs. Alarmist, silly messages designed to strike terror into the hearts of anyone who saw them. Man-eating beast. Forty-five pounds of shaggy-haired man-eating beast. Mugsy had spent that summer working part-time in Elizabeth’s bookstore with me. I’d kept his leash on him so that when customers came in I could hold him, in case he had any nerves. Never a single attempt to grab anyone: Elizabeth or customers or me. He loved hanging out in the bookstore, loved being with me all day long wherever I went, loved seeing new people and places. Even if he wasn’t allowed to go close to the new people, he loved the stimulation and he loved being allowed to see them from ten feet away and smell them and hear many of them say Hi there, boy to him. My parents had loved him, at least for about seven years, but they had handled his nerves in all the wrong ways. Mugsy had never been allowed within ten feet of another human being while he belonged to them. Understandable on one level. But this constant imprisonment in life with only my parents and their yard and their car, which might have been fine for some dogs, made Mugsy the busy dog, the herd dog, the dog who wanted work to do, only more frustrated and neurotic. I’d once asked my mother why they didn’t get him a second dog, that a dog companion might help him. Oh no! was the exclamation. He’d tear any other dog to pieces with his jealousy. He’s the prince here. He’d never accept another dog. I accepted this for the time being. Figured she knew her dog better than I did. I’d once asked my father why they didn’t get him a muzzle. Then he could meet the relatives and the neighbors and there would be no torn pantlegs and scraped skin. Muzzles are cruel, said my father, and in general I agreed with him. But in Mugsy’s case I thought a muzzle might actually make his life better. I didn’t say this to Dad. I knew his mind was made up on this issue, and there was no point trying to change it.
With a painful lump in my throat, anger in my chest, and water coming in my eyes, I took Mugsy out of his now warning-covered cage and took him into the yard. I think at one point I sat down on the ground beside him, petted, cried, and said things like: Don’t worry Mugs, I know you’re not mean. I know you’re scared. I know how much you love people.
I got him back into his cage without incident. As it turned out, I would never visit him there in yuppie Valhalla again.
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