The Observer: Dog days 

click to enlarge dogdays.jpg

Summertime almost always makes The Observer think of the dogs of my youth, those constant companions who were always there as I tromped the wilds near Lawson Road in Little Rock, and later the fields and canebreaks of Saline County. It says something about the way that The Observer came up that the memory of summer always smells like wet dog.

There were two Silvers when I was a kid, both mutts. The first Silver — so named because of my fixation on black-and-white re-runs of "The Lone Ranger" — was a collie mix. I had her so early that I don't really remember getting her. In my memories, she is always there, whining worriedly when I got too close to the road.

There was a guy we'll call Frank who lived in a house near ours. To tell you what kind of guy Frank was: My cousins and I once sat on the hood of my mother's Pontiac and watched him lay the beatdown on a similarly stringy-haired guy in his yard until the cops showed up and carted him off. His weapon of choice: a ripped out payphone, one of the big ones made of cast iron, long since divorced from a booth somewhere.

For awhile there, Frank kept a red, horrendously mean dog named Diablo — a pinscher, I think now — chained in the middle of a trampled circle of dirt in the back yard. At that age, The Observer so small, Diablo lived up to his name: a hellhound, pony-sized, barking and snarling and snapping his chain taut when I got too close to the fence.

Once, when I was around 6, I was walking on the pond levee behind our house with Silver when Diablo appeared in a puff of brimstone, growling, trailing a broken length of chain. The terror of that moment is still complete and whole in my mind: the monster of my nightmares, set loose. I froze.

I had never heard Silver make an angry noise before. She was always such a good-natured dog that the sound of her growling was enough to startle me. When I looked down, she had planted her feet, head lowered. Every hair stood out on her, making her look like one of the wolves in her family tree, lips drawn back over her teeth, the growl hanging in her throat like the thrum of a terrible engine. She was smaller than Diablo, no match, but she edged forward, angling between us. When she did, he actually took a step away. I took that opportunity to run. I did not look back to see the terrible clamor behind me. When Silver came limping home hours later, my mother tended to her torn ear, and washed the blood out of her fur.

Silver's one vice was chasing our neighbor's ducks from time to time — never hurting them, never biting or killing, maybe just a little retriever in some distant corner of her DNA, like that bit of wolf that rushed up to save me when she faced down Diablo.

That's how she met her end when I was eight or nine: shot by the guy up the street while chasing a bunch of goddamn two-dollar ducks. Was it the saddest moment of life up until then, and for a good while after? Maybe. Probably. Almost surely.

It seems like I had Silver the First for a decade, though I know it can't be that long. A boy's life runs different than a man's — quicker in the heart, but slower in the head. These days, June, July and August rush past me in a sweaty, unpleasant blur. For a boy, the summers can stretch out into sweet, golden years.

Maybe it's the same with dogs, who love so much that they tend to burn hot and short. I sure hope so.



Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Every secret thing

    The Observer came into the office on Tuesday morning, not quite bright-eyed or bushy tailed thanks to Daylight Savings Time jetlag, to find our colleague Benji Hardy conked out asleep in yet another colleague's office, Benji having pulled an all-nighter to bring you, Dear Reader, this week's cover story.
    • Mar 10, 2015
  • Live long and prosper

    Before we get started, a request: The Observer got a press release earlier this week that said the office of Gov. Asa Hutchinson is asking Arkansans to send in their photos that shout Arkansas! — anything from the great outdoors to festivals to picturesque town squares — for possible use on the gov's new website.
    • Mar 3, 2015
  • Casting out demons: why Justin Harris got rid of kids he applied pressure to adopt

    Rep. Justin Harris blames DHS for the fallout related to his adoption of three young girls, but sources familiar with the situation contradict his story and paint a troubling picture of the adoption process and the girls' time in the Harris household.
    • Mar 12, 2015

Most Shared

Latest in The Observer

  • Playing catch-up

    What with the big, clear-the-decks Road Trip issue last week — which we're sure you stuffed immediately in your motorcar's glove box, turtle hull or catchall, for when you get a hankerin' to gallivant — The Observer has had two glorious weeks to Observe since the last time we conversed.
    • Oct 20, 2016
  • Old Gray Lady rides again

    There was a reunion of Arkansas Gazette employees last Saturday night, nearly 25 years to the day it was shut down.
    • Oct 6, 2016
  • Thrifty

    The Observer is a known and incorrigible haunter of thrift stores. Some weekends, with Spouse in tow, we'll make the rounds of every Goodwill store in three counties, driving them on a carefully pre-planned circuit so we can stop midway and get coffee at our favorite little place.
    • Sep 29, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Logoly State Park dedicates new visitors center

Logoly State Park dedicates new visitors center

Arkansas’s first environmental education state park interprets the importance of the natural world and our place within it.

Event Calendar

« »


2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments


© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation