The Tail End
I wasn't always a Good Dog. You have to know that right off—it's not something I'm proud of either. But I figure it's been long enough that I can face facts and the fact is, I started out a Bad Dog.
I was the only male in my litter. Lotta sisters, a whole lotta sisters and none of them showed me any respect. I mean when you're nipping and biting and playing around, you do NOT go for your only brother's um, brotherhood, if you know what I mean. But I can't blame them, not really. There were six of us, and things were crowded in the basket. Mom was pretty patient, but even so, she had her growly moments, especially when I'd yelp about being nipped.
"Get used to it, son," she'd tell me, and then she'd nose my sisters away with a little warning. Mom was great.
The People were pretty nice too, and early on Mom told us how to get them sorted out by smell. Good People smelled like soap and/or nice things: kibble, food, other dogs or sweat. All of those are grrrreat smells, and our People here had all of them. I could smell them before I could see them, and the first time I got picked up, I was so excited I peed.
That was the start of my being a Bad Dog, sigh.
Anyway, after a while, when other food besides Mom started looking good, I remember getting taken to a place where People looked at me. Everywhere—that was embarrassing! They checked my head and my teeth and my feet and poked me back there with something called temperature that I really, REALLY hated. Man, I'd rather have my sisters chew on me nonstop than get that temperature thing again!
And they talked. I didn't know the lingo yet, but I knew the tone, and it wasn't really a happy one. I tried be nice, and licked every hand that came near me, but apparently I didn't quite make the grade on whatever they were looking for. So my sisters went off, one at a time, and finally, when it was just me, mom and one sister left, I was picked out of the basket and put into a box with holes in it.
Not good. I don't like being in boxes, not even if they have holes in them, so I whined and made a lot of noise. I peed, too, but heck, I was still just a little guy, so I'm not going to feel too bad about that one. I mean come on--you try getting shoved into a dark old box with maybe three holes in it and see if you can handle the feeling, huh?
Anyway, it wasn't for long, and when the lid came off, I was outta there. But it wasn't my house anymore. This place had fake grass that was all soft and a really tall spicy-smelling thing with flashes and weird sounds and lots of paper and string and stuff.
And there was Paul. Ooooh did he smell GOOD. He was a Little People, and the first time I smelled him I knew he was gonna be my pal, oh yeah. He smelled like bacon and pancakes, and tasted a little like them too. I washed ALL his fingers and his hands and his face real good, even though one of the Big People kept telling him to 'stop letting the dog lick you on the mouth, Paul'.
He was a little scared of me, but I kept kissing him until he giggled and then we played a little tug of war with one of the pieces of ribbon.
Paul was a Good People. He was My People and I loved him right from the start, from every giggle and hug and race around the yard. He brought me food and let me sleep next to him up on this high-up, soft place (I'd stay on the floor until his alpha mom left the room and THEN jump up) and hang around with him.
I learned about Good People. Good People let you sit under the table, and if you were very quiet, they'd give you stuff to eat. Sometimes it was weird stuff, but there was some good stuff too. Good People let you sit next to them and clean them up—their hands and faces and necks mostly.
Ooh, ooh, and Good People could do FetchitFetchit too. Something would go fast and far and you could bring it back to them, and it would happen again and again! FetchitFetchit with Paul was really fun. Sometimes it was a stick, and sometimes it was a ball, and sometimes it was a flat thing, but I could get them and bring them back every time.
Good People also took you for Walks, which were really important. Walks were really a good time to look for Danger and Check out Stuff and Do Your Business. And that last one is real important, because if you Do Your Business in the house, even Good People get mad at you. I learned pretty fast that Business is for Outside.
So things were good for a long time, until the Loud started.
AlphaMom and AlphaDad started smelling different around each other. A not good smell. They didn't smell like each other after a while. They did Loud a lot, sometimes at Paul and sometimes at me, but a lot of time at each other. Not play Loud, either. And they slammed doors too. It made me feel small and scared, so I would get close to Paul and he'd hug me.
Then AlphaDad left.
AlphaMom and Paul and I just went on for a while. I tried to be good and not get in the way. I waited for Paul to come home from a place he called stupidoldschool like he always did in the afternoons and I'd stick with him. In the morning I'd watch him go off to stupidoldschool and then slink under the coffee table to sleep and wait for him.
One afternoon he didn't come. I went to the door and the window when it was time. The big yellow thing came but Paul didn't get out, and I whined. I went back to the window and the door and the window and the door and the window and finally AlphaMom put me in the back yard. She said Paul was on DadWeekend.
She didn't let me in the house when it got dark, so I found a place under the bushes to sleep. In the morning, I barked and she remembered me. I don't think she wanted to let me in, but I wagged and made myself crawl on my belly, so AlphaMom let me back inside. I was thirsty and drank a lot.
All day there was no Paul and I got lonely. I went under his bed and chewed on one of his socks to feel better. I stayed there a long time that DadWeekend.
Finally I heard the door late and Paul was back! I had to kiss him lots and that made AlphaMom mad and she tried to put me in the yard again, but Paul told her I'd be good.
So Paul would go away for DadWeekend and leave me with AlphaMom. I tried to stay out of her way; she wasn't mean to me, she just sort of . . . forgot me. One time it was DadWeekend and AlphaMom put me in the yard, and I whined and barked, but all the lights were off, and I sort of knew that she wasn't in the house either. When it got dark the house stayed dark, and I was getting thirsty and hungry again. I went all around the yard and found a little water in the hose when I chewed on it.
It was a long time until the kitchen door opened--two days I think, and I was so hungry that I polished off the kibble in about three minutes.
Anyway, it got so that I was out in the backyard a lot after that. Sometimes Paul would Loud at AlphaMom, but she'd Loud right back at him about YourResponsibility and ThatDamnDog.
It took me a while to figure out that I was ThatDamnDog. Paul always called me HeyBoy
We didn't do FetchitFetchit a lot anymore either. Paul would come out and sit with me and hug me and talk to me but other times he'd cry and just hug me. I tried to make him feel better, and I think I did.
Then came a day when I couldn't make him stop crying. He and AlphaMom were Louding a lot, and she kept saying Custody and Move. Paul kept holding onto me, and I was scared, right down to my toenails. Even AlphaMom petted me, and finally we all piled up on the sofa together and fell asleep.
That was the last time I saw my Little People.
After Paul went to DadWeekend, AlphaMom put me in my crate in the back of the car and told me she was really sorry. She also told me I was a Good Dog, and I wagged my tail because she hardly ever said that to me. We drove off.
We drove a long time, and I was asleep when the Scary Thing happened. The car stopped really hard and fast and I bounced in my crate all over the back. The noise scared me and I howled, but it didn't help. Then we fell and I was on my side in my crate. The water from my bowl spilled on me, getting me all wet. I howled again.
It took a long time for anyone to find me. There were lights and scary howlings that got closer, and I could smell blood, and tires. There were people moving around, but they didn't get to me for a long time.
I could smell something else too.
Finally I heard a People opening up the back of the car with a lot of creaking and little cutting bits fell on me. I whined—I didn't want to, but I was scared. The Death smell was strong. I waited and whined again, and suddenly the door to the crate popped open and I jumped out. Somebody yelled. "What the hell!" but I didn't wait to hear anything. I ran in the darkness, out onto the dirt and the grass and ran far, far away.
I was always a pretty good runner.
Finally though, I had to stop. My tongue was hanging out and I was scared. I looked around and sniffed the air, but everything was dark and I was far away from People. I looked back, and very slowly I started to GO back, even though Death was there.
There were voices calling when I got closer, saying "here boy!" and my tail wagged when I heard that. The voices sounded good, really good. I wanted to go to them because it felt GOOD to have People calling. I started going faster, but I couldn't because my sides hurt. I was thirsty and tired and scared.
I just wanted to be near somebody.
When I got back to the place, there were only a few People there, and it was very dark. I kept my head low and wagged my tail a little bit when I looked at them. I smelled the air, smelling them.
They smelled good. I whined a little.
The Man People looked over where I was, and then he made this wonderful, wonderful sound! IT was high and sweet and made my tail wag HARD while my ears pricked up. Before I knew it I was across the road right in front of him, hoping he'd make that noise again. He held out a hand and I sniffed it—funny smell, and I sneezed.
The Woman People came over slowly and said "Latex—I bet that smells funky to a dog."
"Very probably. He's a Boxer, a pretty young one. Let's see if his collar gives us a name," the Man People said as he petted me. I liked that, and let him do it again. He had good hands, even if they smelled funny. He touched my throat and I whined a little, but he was gentle.
"I see tags for rabies, distemper, nothing else. Any ID in the wreck?"
"Nope. I see bowls and kibble and a few chew toys—looks like she was taking him somewhere permanent."
The Woman People sounded sad, so I looked at her and wagged my tail. She came over and patted me too. Her hands smelled good—clean and cool, so I washed them very carefully, even between her fingers. She giggled, just like Paul did and that made my tail wag harder.
"Friendly boy, isn't he?"
"Boxers are, by nature. I bet he's thirsty too—do you have any water with you, Sara?"
In a minute, she came back with my bowl and oooooooh I drank and drank and drank and then I had to kiss her fingers again because it tasted sooo good. She giggled again, and petted me while the Man People went away for a moment. When he came back he did the noise thing again, and I scooted over to him.
I LOVED that noise!
He petted me and then looked at the Woman People. "We need to call Animal Control."
"Why? He's not dangerous, and he's not dead, Grissom. If it's a matter of hanging onto him for a few days until we find our vic's next of kin—"
"You want to take him home?" The Man People came closer to us and squatted down, doing something with his hands. They made funny snappy noises and I sniffed them—much better. They tasted better too. "Sara—we're not talking about a Chihuahua here. A dog this size is going to need some space and an enclosed yard and walks—"
"Oh I get it. You want to take him."
"I didn't say that—"
"You didn't have to. I can see it in your smirk, Mister."
"Well I do have a yard—"
I liked them, so I sat right in the middle and stayed very still, letting them talk. I liked their smells. She smelled like hot breakfast drink, and waffles, and he smelled like her. They talked a little more, and finally the Man People got up. I waited for him to make that GREAT noise again; I was quivering, waiting for it---
He made it YEAH! I shot up and danced around him, I was so happy. He looked at the Woman People and she was laughing.
"Puppy love—" she told him.
I got to go home with the Man People, who was AlphaGrissom. He put me in my crate (after all the sharp bits got dumped out) and talked to me the whole time we were in the car. I was scared to be in a car, but his voice was nice.
" . . . Find you a vet to look you over. I'm pretty sure you're shaken up. You need a name. I can't keep calling you 'dog'; it's not . . . dignified, and I don't know what your owners call you. Hmmmmm. Back when I was in Minnesota I had a landlord named Bruno Batistessa. Ex-navy, part time boxer. You look a little like him. Maybe that would do. Bruno? Is Bruno all right with you?"
Bruno was all right with me.
When we stopped, AlphaGrissom opened the back of the crate and I waited for the noise. YES! He did it again for me. I loved how smart he was! I followed him up a few steps and he opened a door. Carefully I went in, sniffing hard at everything. I went into all the rooms, even the ones with the flushing waterbowl, and the other one with the high-up soft place.
The Woman People's smell was here, oh yeah. And I could smell cooking and all sorts of interesting things: bugs and plastic and foooooooood.
My tummy growled, and I whined to say I was sorry. Alpha mom didn't like it when I bugged her about food, but AlphaGrissom set out my bowl in the kitchen and oooooooohhhhhkibblekibblekibbble!
I like kibble. I like to dig in it and crunch it and sometimes push it around on the floor. Sometimes Paul would do FetchitFetchit with kibble, except I would eat it in the air. That was fun.
I ate and I drank and every time I looked up, AlphaGrissom was there watching me. When cleaned my bowl, I snuffled and went over to let him know how much I liked it. I sniffed his knees and his legs and his Man Part through his pants and he pushed me away, but not mean, because he petted me.
"Yes, male, just like you, Bruno. Glad we got that out of the way without a witness—"
I wagged my tail. AlphaGrissom walked over to the living room and sat down. I came over and very carefully, very gently he felt me all over. When he touched one of my legs I whimpered, but he told me it was just a cut.
I heard a key noise and looked at the door. A wuffly noise came out of me—not a bark, just a warning. AlphaGrissom got up, but the door opened and the Woman People came in, taking off her coat. I went over to her and snuffled her good. She had a nice Woman part, but she pushed me away a lot harder.
AlphaGrissom laughed. "Bruno's very inquisitive."
"You could say that. Hey buddy, I brought you something." The Woman People shook a crinkly bag and I sniffed it, smelling a Chewy!
She opened the bag and gave it to me. I took it and carried it back to the rug in the living room, then settled down so I could see the door and chew on it. OoooohGood. Licklickchewchewchew while the Alpha People talked, I was good. I was a Good Dog, yes I was.
"Nick says he reached the vic's ex-husband. He's moving out of state—apparently he won custody of the son, but neither he nor his ex wanted the dog. She was probably taking him to the shelter when the accident happened."
"Ah. That compounds the tragedy then."
"Yeah. So—you named him already?"
"Bruno. He looks like the only Bruno I've ever known. What do you think?"
The Woman People came over and squatted down. I looked up at her and my tail wagged. She gave me the chewy, so I loved her. I heard her whisper to me. "Are you a Bruno?"
My tail wagged harder. I liked the way she said it, the way it was full of goodness when she did. She laughed. "Looks like a yes to me."
She went to sit up on the sofa with AlphaGrissom and I went back to my chewy. After a while there were noises.
It could have been food, so I looked up at them, and the Woman People stopped washing AlphaGrissom's face.
"I can't—Grissom, I'm not doing . . . it . . . in front of a dog!"
"You didn't mind the crickets. Or the tarantula."
"That was . . . different. They didn't have . . . expressions."
"Not that you could see without a magnifying glass anyway."
"You are so asking to sleep alone tonight."
"I wouldn't be alone. I have Bruno."
"Yeah, well that may be all you have if you don't consider my comfort zone here—"
"We'll close the bedroom door—"
I heard them go off, but I was busy with my chewy, so it was okay. Then I got lonely, so I got up and went to the door of the high-up soft room. It was closed, but there were noises. Sort of like Loud, but growlier and happier—woof!
Then the Woman People was so happy she was howling. "OoohGodYeahhhhhYeahhhh---"
She sounded very happy, so I joined her. I howled and when I stopped, there was no noise at all. Then I heard the Woman People and she was laughing. I heard heavy feet, and the door opened. AlphaGrissom was there, all sweaty and smelly.
He did not look happy, so I curled up as little and small on the carpet as I could make myself. Then he sighed. "Bruno—"
"Grissom, it's okay," I heard the Woman People say. I heard her get up and come over, and she opened the door wider.
And then AlphaGrissom said, "Sara, honey—" and that's how I knew who she was.
My People: AlphaGrissom and SaraHoney.
I went in and the room was dark and smelled like them a LOT. I sniffed the edge of the high-up soft and snorted and then I went back out to the living room and looked for my chewy.
"I guess he wanted to be sure we weren't being attacked, " SaraHoney said and she giggled.
AlphaGrissom rumbled. "His timing leaves something to be desired."
"Not in my case. Come on, babe--I knowexactly what I can do to you that will keep me very quiet—"
The door closed again very fast, and after a while, even though I could hear AlphaGrissom Happy Growling, I went to sleep.
So I live with AlphaGrissom and SaraHoney now. They take me with them to the Park and play Fetchitfetchit with me. SaraHoney feeds me in the morning and AlphaGrissom feeds me at night. Both of them feed me under the table. I went with them to something called VacationintheMountains, and sometimes we go to BodyFarm.
That one has LOTS of good smells, but we do NOT play Fetchitfetchit there at all.
And I am a Good Dog. I know it, because my People, AlphaGrissom and SaraHoney, tell me so every day.