Last night I was out on the back porch making business calls so Thaddeus could game in peace–and so I wouldn’t need to utter the phrase, “Oh, no, that’s just a dragon, don’t worry about it.”
Anyway, the back door was open, and I’d stepped in for a couple minutes. We were talking while Thaddeus played Dragon Age 3 (if there was ever a game designed for a writer, it’s this one), discussing politics and deities in the mythos–and how and why the leaders of that world had failed to grasp that the proper application of magic was not so much hurling flaming boulders at each other as building roads and refrigerating perishables–when we heard a noise.
Well, a cacophony, really. Dogs all over the neighborhood started barking, and still the noise moved through it all. I’ve worked around enough animals to recognize it. It’s the noise pretty much everything with fur–I’ve heard it from rabbits, cats, rats, and pigs–including, by I gather by inference, humans, makes when they are terrified, in pain, and, particularly, dying.
It’s a high-pitched squealing sort of sound, and it grabs attention, screaming either “danger” or “opportunity” (or both) depending on where the listener falls on the food chain. The thing is, it sounds remarkably the same, whatever the vocal qualities of the animal making it.
I started putting on my shoes. There’s a yard across the alley from ours that has a lot of dogs in it. Three pit bulls, and three or so little mutts. There’s been some effort made to subdivide the yard. I figured one of the neighborhood’s stray cats had been a little too slow traveling through.
I put on my shoes, because our alley’s not the sort of thing you cross barefoot, or with thin soles, unless you’ve had a tetanus shot this week.
I’ll tell the truth, I didn’t hurry too much. By the time you hear that sound from something, the best you’re probably going to do is turn a minute or two of pain into a few hours of slow death. In any case, it rarely leads to something you actually want to see.
I walked out and, after finding a spot mostly free of bird poop, hopped up on our fence, which is a trick, because it’s maybe four inch cinder block, old, and poorly built to begin with. A good kick could take it out.
I had a moment of slight relief. There was a mess of dogs, yes, but a mess of stuffing, too. I though, Oh, they just got really rowdy tearing up a toy, and someone got bitten.
Then I noticed the beat-up limp toy they were throwing around was a bit too realistic, and bloody. The three pits had found the smaller dog and were taking tossing around and shaking it. I don’t know who got into whose part of the yard, but the other mutts, one puppy, one bigger dog, were back a bit and barking. I figured the other was gone at that point; it was maybe 20-30 pounds, so I didn’t figure it could have put up much of a fight.
Then, it started squealing again. I’ve seen dog fights, of the non-organized/non-planned sort where they’re working out dominance. This was three dogs hunting down tearing pieces off another one for fun. Tails wagging, happy barks, while the little one screamed.
I put on my Angry Authority voice, and shouted, “Kennel up!” to the pits, and they took off running. The little dog lay limp. The puppy and the mutt took off, too, looking for somewhere to hide.
Thaddeus came out, as did our next door neighbor, and theirs. I explained what was going on, and the across-the-alley-next-door neighbor went over to their place. Unsurprisingly, no one was home. She did manage to get the puppy out, at least.
To my surprise, the beat up little dog got up and took off running for its own kennel! Definitely a tough little thing.
I kept an eye on the dogs. One of the pits was still nosing around the other dog. Every time it came close, the other mutt would start barking a warning, and I’d shout at the pit bull, who’d go back to his kennel. I talked to the next door neighbor while Thaddeus figured out who to call. I was impressed by that second mutt, barking a warning to its friend. It wasn’t much bigger than the other dog, but took the risk of drawing the big dog’s attention to warn the other. On the other hand, it hadn’t jumped to the other dog’s defense, either.
She’d worked for the airlines, and had some pretty cool stories for Denver and LAX. Her family just moved in, so she had a few questions about the neighborhood.
Thaddeus ended up giving me the police non-emergency number for the local station . . . which was closed, so we tried the next nearest one. Their dispatcher answered on the first ring. I explained what was going on, and she said, “Oh no!” and asked for my name/address/phone number, and she promised to send Animal Control along, asking that I show them to the house when they arrived.
It ended up being an odd situation. Any time I dropped down the pit bull came back to finish the game, and so I stayed up and waited for Animal Control . The wall was too narrow to sit, or to balance a computer on, and it was rapidly getting too dark to read, so I was left standing alone with my thoughts–something that rarely (perhaps too rarely) happens these days–and nothing to do but watch and listen.
It’s always an interesting state to be in, where you have nothing particular to distract or entertain you, but at the same time, can’t let your mind wander. It’s a state we rather rarely indulge ourselves in in the modern world.
I would have missed the sunset if I hadn’t been stuck out there. It would have passed me by and I never would have known what I’d missed. It was a warm evening, capping a balmy day, and the birds were singing their quiet roosting songs as they gathered in the pine above me.
The whole thing had started just after five, and I stood on the wall until seven. The pit bull had finally laid down and stopped coming by. I hadn’t seen or heard the smaller dog in awhile, which meant it was either holed up or dead.
I considered shutting the pit bull in their sideyard, or trying to get the small dog out, but my financial status is not one where I can afford to have a pit bull chewing on my leg. I could’ve shot the pit bull easily enough, but then there’d just be two dead dogs, which didn’t seem like an improvement, and didn’t seem warranted except if there had been a person being attacked. It was pretty clear the authorities weren’t going to show up.
The next door neighbor took out the trash.
“You can smell the blood,” she said. And you could. I’m not sure how much blood it takes to carry a scent across a few dozen yards, but, I realized when I thought about it, the answer is probably, More than a small dog can spare.
I’d done everything I could. So I hopped down, and waited for a phone call that never came. Phoenix Animal Control must have been too busy writing tickets for insufficient leash length or something. Maybe that’s not fair, but it seems strange that, “Hey, there’s a pack of dogs tearing another dog to pieces as we speak,” wasn’t worth at least a drive-by or a returned phone call. I didn’t hear any more attacks during the night, but I doubt the little dog survived without vet care overnight.
It was, other than that, a good day. It was strange, though, spending a beautiful evening standing a pointless vigil over the dying.