The Humanity of Dogs

Life would be so much easier if that old adage was really true, you know, man's best friend?

But, are they best servicing us as mere companions? Perhaps they should be our teachers.

The Humanity of Dogs by Rob Pierce

We walked down the street, me and Lux. Lux is a white Lab with some black hair on top, not exactly a purebred. Neither am I; we’re both mutts.

We walked past The Gunshot Apartments, a complex that didn’t really have a name, just plenty of reason to be called that. Not a whole lot of people lived there, which was good. It meant not a whole lot of people died there either.

It was just past noon on a warm Saturday, I was getting the morning dog walk out of the way before it got hot. To me it was still morning, I’d just finished my third coffee. I don’t measure time by the clock, I measure it by meals. I don’t eat dinner until I finish work, and last night I worked late.

It was a good time to walk past The Gunshot, before those dumbfucks woke up. Lux was a smart dog, he walked fast most of the time but he walked faster here. Didn’t run, didn’t show fear, didn’t show stupid either. Under normal circumstances the people in my neighborhood don’t scare me, but normal circumstances don’t apply to crackheads with semi-automatics.

Me and Lux kept walking. This was our neighborhood and we could take care of ourselves. Thoughts just run through my head, especially after a late night job, especially with a hardcore hangover, the kind of daze that sees clarity. What was clear right now was I should get paid better for this kind of work.

There was no one on the sidewalk, no one looking out the Gunshot’s windows. My eyes kept alert but my mind drifted back to the job last night, a job that was built to go wrong. I took care of it, did what had to be done, which was wrong, but nobody saw and that’s how I looked at it too.

Tina needed a lesson, and I didn’t like to enforce on a woman but it wasn’t like she was one of my exes. Anyway, you grow up in Oakland and you don’t think of women as the weaker sex. Tina owed and Tina would pay. That conversation went quick, but her eyes when she looked up from the floor told me the problem I feared was already in the room.

“You touched my sister?”

I turned and Ricky was ten feet away. One look at Tina’s face and he knew I’d hit her hard.

Not a family I wanted to be surrounded by. I stepped toward Ricky. He was large, he was stupid, and he looked surprised. If he moved fast he’d be on me before I could get my pistol on him, and I didn’t want to fight him unarmed. I also didn’t want to stand where his sister could swipe at my legs.

“Tina knows what she has to do,” I said. “I walk out this door now and she pays, no one gets hurt anymore.”

Ricky’s eyes narrowed, like maybe he was thinking about it, then he took a long fast stride in my direction.

I stepped back fast, slammed my heel down hard on Tina’s hand, and reached under my coat for the Glock holstered on my hip. Ricky kept coming, a wild creature.

Last night left me as a black pit bull rounded the corner and ran at me and Lux. I held Lux’s leash taut as he strained on it. I didn’t want cause to shoot a dog. Damn thing kept running, though. I dropped Lux’s leash and he lowered himself, waiting as the bigger dog kept coming. I reached inside my jacket and brought the pistol out from under my coat. Lux still waited, ready to pounce. I’d take his odds against most dogs, but a pit has powerful jaws and is susceptible to the evil some owners train into them.

I turned my pistol to where the pit bull was about to step and it stopped. The dog looked up at me, and if it had a tail it probably wouldn’t have wagged, but nothing in its face implied it was about to attack. It looked at me, then at Lux the same way. I looked at the Gunshot building, looked around on the street, saw no one and holstered my Glock.

“Hey boy,” I said to the pit. Lux stood up all the way and he and the pit approached each other with apparently feigned caution, as they moved on quickly to sniffing each others’ butts. I loosened my grip on the leash and they play-fought but not full on, not even venturing into the sometimes dangerous-looking play some dogs love most. Lux is one of those dogs.

The pit showed restraint. Ricky should have had his good sense. Not that it would have helped him if he’d tried to sniff my ass. There’s times any kind of crazy gets put down.

After a couple of minutes I tugged Lux’s leash and we resumed walking. The pit kept on wherever it was going. Me and my hangover would make it home peacefully and I’d see what was left to drink.

Rob Pierce is the author of the novel Uncle Dust (All Due Respect Books), and the editor of Swill Magazine. He has been nominated for a Derringer Award for short crime fiction, and has had his stories published in Flash Fiction Offensive, Pulp Modern, Plots With Guns, Revolt Daily, Near To The Knuckle, and Shotgun Honey, among others. He is married and the father of two, although he won’t say which two.