“That Damn Dog”
By: Joseph A. Bunch
The attack was over in seconds. Tom Simons, a young, eighteen-year-old, recent high school graduate, had never witnessed or experienced such an event. While the attack didn’t happen until July, it all started in early June when the Herzog family moved into the house behind the one where Tom lives. The Herzog’s were a young couple in their late twenties. They had no children, at least no human children. It was just Mr. Herzog, Mrs. Herzog, and That Damn Dog. The dog was one of those golden retriever types but unlike most, his fur was so bright. From Tom’s perspective, it was as bright as, if not brighter than, the gold wedding ring his mother wore.
Mrs. Herzog treated that dog as if it were her own child; conceived, popped out, and cared for like a human baby. The only difference between that dog and a human child, other than the obvious, is that it was always outside in the back yard. Day and night. Mr. Herzog would not let the dog in the house. Tom and his neighbors didn’t know exactly why Mr. Herzog would not let the dog in the house, but most assumed it was because of its incessant barking. The dog barked all day and most of the night. He was the loudest dog Tom or any of his neighbors had ever heard.
Until the event that led to the attack, none of the neighbors really knew the Herzog’s. Several of them, including Tom’s parents, asked the Herzog’s to find some way to keep their dog quiet, but their requests were ignored.
One neighbor, Mr. Stevens, who lived next door to the Herzog’s, and whose son Ron is Tom’s best friend, was the most adamant and aggressive in his attempts to get the dog quiet. He was constantly complaining about it. On numerous occasions he was seen yelling at the Herzog’s when he saw them in their back yard. He would yell, “What the hell is wrong with that damn dog? You need to shut him up.”
Every time Tom was at Mr. Steven’s house hanging out with Ron, Mr. Steven’s would talk about the dog. One day, when Tom was at their house Mr. Stevens said, “That damn dog needs to go. I can’t sleep at night because of its constant barking. I tried calling the police to complain about it, but they wouldn’t do anything.”
Upon hearing Mr. Stevens say he called the police, Tom doubted it. Mr. Stevens has a criminal record that the whole neighborhood knows about. Mr. Stevens keeps no secret of it. He is honest. He claims to have “accidentally” killed a man in a bar fight when he was in college. He says it was self-defense, but the police didn’t believe him. In the end Mr. Stevens was arrested, tried, convicted of negligent homicide, and spent three years in prison.
Another neighbor that really hated That Damn Dog were the Johnsons. They lived behind Mr. Stevens. They were an older couple. Mr. Johnson was a retired railroad worker and Mrs. Johnson a retired schoolteacher. She was Tom’s math teacher in the 10th grade. Once, when Tom’s mother asked him to get the mail from the mailbox, he witnessed Mrs. Johnson venting about the dog while retrieving the mail from her mailbox. She was talking to herself, cursing under her breath, talking about that “filthy mangy animal” and how she hated dogs. She even referred to it as That Damn Dog.
From Tom’s perspective, he likes dogs. He even thinks That Damn Dog is a cutie, but agrees that it barks way too much, and if he could muzzle it, he would.
The good thing is everything changed on the evening of July 4th. The Stevens invited Tom and his family, along with the Johnson’s and other neighbors over for a barbecue and fireworks. In the hopes of not hearing That Damn Dog barking so much, Mr. Stevens decided to have the party on his front lawn. He even had music playing very loud to avoid hearing the dog. At one point a song about dogs started playing. Tom heard the words “Who let the dogs out” coming from the singer’s voice and started laughing, wondering why Mr. Steven’s would play such a song.
As soon as Mr. Stevens heard those words from that song, he ran to the speakers which were set up in the middle of the yard and immediately stopped the song. Just as he turned it off, a car stopped in the middle of the road in front of his house. An older man wearing a light green jacket jumped out of the car and ran towards Mr. Stevens. “Are you Bob Stevens?” he yelled.
Upon hearing the man, Mr. Stevens turned to look at him. “Yes, I’m Bob,” he replied.
“You killed my son!” the man yelled as he pulled a gun from him his jacket. “You killed my son! My only son! I’ve been trying to find you for years. You should have been put to death! You killer! You are going to die!”
“It was an accident!” Mr. Steven’s yelled back. “I’m sorry. It was an accident.”
While this was happening, Mrs. Herzog had just left her house to take That Damn Dog for a walk. She and the dog walked down on the sidewalk and headed towards Mr. Stevens’ house. Immediately upon seeing the man pull the gun, That Damn Dog, with amazing strength, jerked the leash from Mrs. Herzog’s hand and started running towards the man, barking louder than any dog had ever barked.
Upon hearing That Damn Dog’s loud barking, the man turned to look at him. By that time, the dog was about four feet from him, and as soon as the man turned, That Damn Dog leapt in the air to land on the man. The man, to avoid being attacked by That Damn Dog, quickly walked backwards, stumbled, and fell dropping his gun as he hit the ground. Tom, without a bit of hesitation, immediately grabbed the gun so the man couldn’t get it back.
As soon as he saw the man drop the gun, That Damn Dog stopped. He never attacked the man, and because of his actions, what could have been a violent attack was prevented in seconds.
Seeing what That Damn Dog had done, Mr. Steven’s, with tears falling from his eyes, slowly walked to the dog who was now sitting their staring at the man lying on the ground. Once he got to the dog, Mr. Steven’s knelt in front of him. “Thank you,” he said as That Damn Dog inched closer to him, “You are my hero.”
Upon hearing Mr. Stevens’s comments Mrs. Herzog said, “That’s his name. We call him Hero.”
After this event, they all became friends. Even Hero was much quieter. Now he mostly barked as if to say hello when he saw one of the neighbors. He was no longer That Damn Dog. Everyone loved him so much; they had faith in him. They had never witnessed such a heroic event, especially from an animal. He was a hero; a hero they could trust.
One day while out walking with his friend Ron, Tom saw Hero sitting on the grass in the front yard of the house where he lived. Tom stared at him for a moment. Hero stared back. As they looked at each other thoughts of what might be going through Hero’s canine mind suddenly appeared in Tom’s. He sensed that Hero felt he could do more; that he could be a greater hero. Tom felt the same way. Tom, as an eighteen-year-old young adult, had been unsure and confused about what he wanted to do or should do in his life, but that now changed. He wanted to be a hero. He thought If that damn dog can be a hero so can I. I can do things to encourage, strengthen, and help others and never reach a point where I feel far too many people put their faith me.
Copyright ©2022 by Joseph Bunch. All rights reserved. No part may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, scanning, uploading, electronic or mechanical, including printing, photocopying, recording, or by any other storage or retrieval system, without the written permission of the author.
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