Reality Check

I used to have a cocker spaniel.  When my ex step-father moved in, he brought his German shepherd with him.  The cocker was the father of a breeding pair.  The Alpha Male of the house.  We did our best to keep them apart, but eventually the two found themselves in the same room.

The spaniel did not care that he was outmatched.  We rushed the spaniel to the Vet.  The gash in his throat was longer than the width of my palm.  The dog never whimpered.  He just looked at me with those coal black eyes, breathing what should have been his last breaths.

The Vet stitched him up and we took him home.  He was back to normal in no time.  He pranced around the house, neck hanging loose, casual and indifferent.

A few weeks later there was a run of bad weather.  Snow and ice.  I heard tires screech in front of the house.  My mother screamed.  I bolted from my room and stumbled out onto the front steps.  The spaniel trotted slowly toward the house, tongue hanging out, as if nothing had happened.

The driver of the old F-150 that hit him was mortified.  He jumped from the truck.  We could see from the steps that the dog’s stitches were torn open, but he didn’t seem to care.  When the truck hit him, he rolled underneath.  Whatever odds were at work, the dog won.

My mother was furious.  At the dog.  She reluctantly paid to have him stitched up again.  She cursed his stupidity.  She loved him.

I bolted straight out of a sound sleep.


My step father’s voice.  I don’t remember putting on my pants.  I crashed through the back door, shirtless and barefoot, and dove off the second-story porch.  My foot made contact with one of the steps on the way down and I landed in the snow.  I scrambled to my knees and locked the shepherd in a rear naked choke.

It didn’t even react.

It held the spaniel in its teeth, by the throat, re-opening previous injuries into deep and grievous wounds.  My step father found something to use as a prybar to wrench the shepherd’s teeth apart.  The spaniel fell to the ground, lifeless.

My stepfather turned pale.

“Oh fuck,” he muttered.  “Your mom is going to throw me out . . . “

I knelt in the snow, spattered in blood and spit.  I watched as he picked the spaniel up by the collar and dropped him unceremoniously into a garbage can.  He took the shepherd by the collar and led him inside.

I stood, dumbfounded, and walked toward the can.  Melt water from the roof had filled it half with ice.  The spaniel lay on his side.  His throat was ripped wide open.  There was a hole in his esophagus big enough to fit my thumb in.  He was still breathing.

I rushed inside to tell my mother.  I raced him to the Vet.

My stepfather sat stupidly beside me as we waited for the doctors.  After some time one of the assistants came out and informed us that the dog would live.  He needed blood, but despite the massive trauma he would live.  We walked solemnly back to the truck to head home.

A technician came rushing out the door and chased us across the parking lot.

“He’s crashing,” she said.

Apparently, animal blood is not sorted by RH type.  When they give an animal blood, it’s just a gamble.  This time, they lost.  The dog had survived everything but the medicine.

Yesterday I walked into a shop full of tactical equipment.  On the wall, behind the counter, hung a bunch of unauthorized joke insignias.  “Regular Guy” tabs and “Secret Squirrel” patches.

I bought a little black tab embroidered with my blood type.

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