Dogs Never Bite Me

By Ed Staskus

   Maggie Campbell was working at her friend’s hair salon in Old Brooklyn and was halfway through an overlay when her husband called. She couldn’t pick up since her hands were full. When she listened to the voice mail later, she heard Steve say he was sorry.

   “Honey, I’m sorry,” he said. She could hear talking in the background, and somebody laughing. The laughing man sounded like Fat Freddie, Steve’s brother.

   “What did you do?” she thought, sitting in the lunchroom, making a sandwich, waiting for it to heat up in the toaster oven. He rattled on for more than a minute. She took a bite of her ham and cheese sandwich. It was raining cats and dogs outside.

   “Oh, man, what did you do?” she thought to herself louder than before.

   “She was walking in the street,” he said. “She looked like she was trying to get hit by a car.”

   “Oh, he rescued another dog,” Maggie realized.

   He said the dog looked so bad that he pulled over, turned around, went back, and picked her up. Fat Freddie sat in the back with man’s best friend, who was shivering. “She was just looking for somebody to hit her,” Steve told Maggie over dinner that night. “She just wanted to die.” But there she was safe and sound at their feet.

   Steve found her on the east side, on Superior Ave. on the other side of downtown. No collar and no tags. She was a purebred German Shepherd, between two and three years old. Fat Freddie wanted her right away. He lived in Little Italy where he had some sketchy neighbors. But, because Steve’s brother had a hateful girlfriend, she said no, and that was that.

   When Steve brought her back to their house in West Park, Maggie fell in love with the pooch. “She’s so sweet I can’t stand it. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to give her to anybody.”

   She curled up on the sofa between them when they watched TV. If they got up at the same time, she didn’t know which one of them to follow. Wherever they went she was right behind them. She lay next to the claw tooth tub when Maggie took a bath. She had to step over the dog, which was hard to do with her short legs.

   She was wondering what the dog’s tale was.

   Maggie was going up the stairs to take a bath, stripping as she went, when she found out. She was taking her belt off when the dog almost pooped herself. She could not get away from the sight of the belt fast enough. The Shepherd stumbled down a few steps before recovering her balance, and disappeared fast

   Maggie muttered “son-of-a bitch” under her breath. “All because I took my belt off. How about that?”

   When they first got her, the dog was depressed and miserable. She wouldn’t eat for a week. At first, Maggie and the pooch shared rice chips. She wouldn’t eat anything else, and she wouldn’t touch dog food, but then she got back in the swing of eating chow.

   She had a bad ear infection, but, luckily, Maggie had ear medication left over from other dogs they had rescued. Their vet came over to check her out because she had some small lumps on her chest. Tracy the Vet said they were probably fatty lumps and nothing to worry about. She ran the dog’s blood, just in case.

   Steve put a call in to the pound and left a description of the dog and his phone number, but no one ever called back. Maggie didn’t know if she was going to be able to give her to anybody, but thought she had to find her a home, even if it was only with another rescuer.

   They put up fliers with other rescuers, passing them to each other, by word of mouth and on Facebook. They found a home for her in no time. A few days after Steve found the German Shepherd, Maggie tagged her sister about a Yorkie.  Her sister had needed to put her own Yorkie down a couple of months earlier.

   “I want the dog,” she said.

   Maggie called about picking up the Yorkie.

   “When can I grab the dog?”

   She drove to Elyria and picked up the eleven-month-old dog. He was going to be Maggie’s sister and nephew’s Christmas present, but they had to fix him up first, in more ways than one.

   An older woman had bought the dog from a breeder, but she broke her leg and ended up in a nursing home. Her kids locked the puppy in the garage for three weeks. They were sick idiots. They fed him, sure, throwing some food into the garage now and then, but they neglected the animal. He went from being spoiled rotten to having no one, no matter how rotten they were.

   Finally, a neighbor took the Yorkie, but soon decided the dog was vicious.

   “Oh, it’s vicious, vicious, it snarls at me, and lunges at me,” the lady said.

   “All seven pounds of it” Maggie said.

   “Yes, he won’t let me pass out of the kitchen.”

   “Just give me the dog,” Maggie said.

   People are so stupid, she thought. Sometimes I hate them. “Dogs never bite me, only people,” she told the Yorkie. “Honestly, I’d rather hang out with dogs,” she told anybody who would listen.

   Most of the Yorkie’s problem was that he had never been neutered. That was going to take a lot of his attitude out of him. The rest of it was they let him act like that. You don’t let a dog act like he wants to. You are the alpha dog, not the dog. He learned quick enough who the alpha dog was in Maggie’s house.

   “When they’re aggressive you have to show them that you’re more dominant than they are.”

   Maggie said no, and the Yorkie growled, showing his teeth, and she picked him up and put him on his back. If it’s a little dog, you put them on their backs. If it’s a big dog, you press on their backs until you hear the sigh of release.

   “We don’t do that in this house,” she explained.

   She put him in a cage.

   “Ugh,” he said, and said it again.

   But cage training is better than force training. After that he was a good boy, running around on the couch, playing with his rope and toy. When she gave him to her sister, she explained how to restrain him when he acted out, and to make sure she had a cage for him, just in case.

   The next day Steve came home with another Yorkie.

   “It’s for my cousin,” he said.

   Steve’s cousin Clint had been a heroin addict who had to have his legs amputated.

   “He isn’t still using, is he?” Maggie asked.

   “He needs a dog,” Steve said, and that was all he said.

Ed Staskus posts stories on 147 Stanley Street and Cleveland Daybook To get the site’s monthly feature in your in-box click on “Follow.”


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