Friday, March 30, 2012

Nurse the Hate: The Dog Story

Be forewarned, this is the most awful pet story I have ever heard. It is so awful, it is almost beyond comprehension. Because of this very reason, I would often put a friend of mine into a position of telling the story in the most improper settings humanly possible. I would like to say this was as a way to make him serve some kind of vigilante penance for the actions I am about to describe, but frankly it was more because I liked to see the awkwardness of the moment roll out in front of me like a wave. It goes like this…

I had a roommate that lived in a more rural environment that I was raised. His father was an avid outdoorsman. He used to hunt, trap, fish, the whole bit. The family had a dog that was more than a family pet; he served a purpose when Dad went hunting flushing game and fetching downed birds. Eventually the dog became old and lame and the time had come to put him down. The problem was that no one in the family could bring themselves to drive the dog to the vet to do the deed. The conversation within the family turned to putting the dog’s life to an end in a way that was humane without having to make that drive to the vet.

It was never made clear to my friend Brian, and hence to myself either, as to why the family just didn’t have the vet come out to them and inject the dog. Instead, they decided to handle it themselves. This is where some rather questionable decision making began to happen. It was decided to put the dog in the garage with the car running, where it was believed the dog would then quietly fall into eternal sleep. The car was started, the dog put in the garage, and they waited. They opened the door to collect the dog’s body, when out walked the dog. Hmmm….. Maybe put him in there longer? They tried again, waiting longer for the fumes to do their work. Once again, the dog hobbled out of the cloud of exhaust none the wiser.

This had become a real problem. No one agreed on what to do next. The issue was briefly tabled, weighing heavily on the family’s mind. Dad went to work. Mom went to work. The kids went to school. My friend Brian was about 8 years old at this time. He had older brothers, they eldest was about 16. Being the eldest son, he decided to step up and handle the problem for the family. While it would be difficult, he was sure that everyone’s gratitude would be showered on him after they recognized how he had “manned up” and done the dirty work.

Perhaps inspired by tearjerker “Old Yeller”, Brian’s brother decided he would take one of the hunting rifles and take the dog out to the field behind their house and end the dog’s life. He walked the dog out back and put the rifle down. He used a pick and shovel to dig a grave for the dog. When he had dug the hole far enough down, he placed the dog in the hole. He lifted the rifle and took aim at the dog’s skull. He pulled the trigger. CLICK. Misfire. While he tried to see what was wrong with the gun, the dog had by this time wandered out of the hole and was hobbling around the field. He got the dog back in the hole and tried again. CLICK. Misfire again.

Brian at this part of the story usually mentions that there must have been a half dozen excellent hunting rifles in the house, yet his brother for some reason chose to use the oldest and least reliable. It was a decision that would prove to be a bad one. The third time was the charm. Brian’s brother took aim at the dog in the hole and the gun went off. Somehow, someway he had hit the dog but not put him down. The dog was howling in pain. Panic set in on Brian’s brother. He knew he had to put the dog out of its misery, but couldn’t risk another couple misfires. That’s when he grabbed the pick and killed the dog.

The only reason that eight year old Brian knew that his brother grabbed the pick was that he had been watching the entire horrific event unfold from the family room window. Even now he can recall with startling clarity the final images of his brother and the beloved family dog. I like to think of one of those teenage slasher films, or The Shining when Nicholson has the axe. How he ever looked at his brother the same way, I can’t tell you. I would have been shaking in a closet for six or seven years after witnessing that, but people that grow up in the country the way he did are a little more matter of fact. Let’s be honest though, that was brutal even for them.

Terrible story, right? Might as well turn lemons into lemonade… I would wait for the opportunity when Brian and I would be with civilized company, like at a dinner or a party with really uptight people. I would pray for the opening when someone would mention their dog, so I could casually say, “Didn’t you used to have a dog Brian?” Without fail, the next thing that would happen would be someone would say, “What happened to your dog?” Everyone would then become quiet and look to Brian to explain. That meant it was on. I would always make sure he would have to tell the complete story. The look of horror on people’s faces as I would force him to tell what might be the most devastating animal story ever told was astonishing. Women especially would look at him like he was Nazi war criminal Dr. Joseph Mengle. All throughout NE Ohio, many people think of Brian and his family as horrible monsters.

Placing him in that uncomfortable situation was how I kept myself entertained for approximately seven years at parties. I gotta go to a dinner party with that guy again soon.


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