“Dog Fight” by George Bellows.
Growls and jaws flashing, they drove at each other. Small men yelled while the leash pulled taught from their straining bodies. It was impossible to tell where one ended and the other began.
From the couch, it at once seemed so close and so far. The screen door banged and bounded as my roommate slid outside to chat with a neighbor. Our front door was open to the inside. I could feel the early Winter chill slipping in.
“Negligence,” I thought, a small scowl forming as I tucked my bare feet further under me.
I heard a patter of paws quickly bound up the stairs, followed by another clang. It’s a common occurrence, the dog curiously perched at the screen door, trapped by the boundaries of the house.
Instead of excited panting or barks of warning, though, I was assaulted by my roommate’s voice.
“Odie,” he yelled. “Get back here!”
I ignored his cries, expecting to hear the dog ushered back inside, the door swung shut behind. But the noise outside crew louder. growls and yips, multiple voices, closer and further, creating a three-dimensional soundscape some performance artist might play under the title “Anatomy of a Dogfight.”
Doors in the house opened and closed, more feet moving toward our lawn. And I remained on the couch, petulant and disapproving.
Odie is not my dog. He’s not my responsibility. I sometimes feed him, play with him, walk him, or give him love and attention, but only on my terms.
The shouts and growls grew stronger, a chorus of shouts now assaulting my ears. It was aurally escalating at an unacceptable rate.
I set my project aside and made my way up the stairs and to the door.
As I pushed the door open, my housemates and neighbors had effectively created a loose ring, three to five feet of distance separating them from the pair of snarling dogs twisting together. The two black beasts spun, one on leash, the other not. Their heads seemed connected at the necks, a yin-yang unsure which was the dominant yin and which the submissive yang.
I didn’t stop to take in the scene. I identified the rottweiler that lives here and moved directly toward the mêlée. I slipped my arm around his haunches and lifted him from the fray. He tried to pull and dart from my arms, but I held fast, hoisting him over my shoulder and immediately turning back to the door.
His chest rumbled with continued low growls on my shoulder, his body suspended awkwardly like a lever, my body the fulcrum. I didn’t change my pace as I carried him down to his mistress’s room. Tempted though I was to body slam him into the bed, I refrained, half knowing my anger was unnecessary and half to avoid crushing the open laptop sitting in the middle of the bedspread.
The dog stared at me from his bed as I towered over him. I glared. As soon as his eyes left mine, his head craning around as if searching for his distant compatriot, I swatted his nose. He slunk down sheepishly.
“No,” I said. “Bad dog.”
He set his head down between his paws. I turned, closing the door to his makeshift cell behind me.
The couch was still warm when I retook my seat. I expected my heart to be racing, my adrenaline to be pumping. I had, after all, just broken up a dog fight. Instead, I found myself taking stock of my body, searching for soreness in my back or arms, checking if lifting a 90 lb dog had given me another hernia.
“Well,” my roommate joked as he passed, “you sure showed him who was dominant.”
“Yup,” I replied. I shook my head, wondering if he’d own up to irresponsibly leaving the door ajar.
“I mean, you just, FWHOOSH!” He gesticulated wildly.
I smirked. “Now you know how I deal with kids.”