Bad Dog

Ferrigno is best known for his crime novels. After college he spent half a decade as a professional gambler until getting down to brass tacks and writing ten novels.

Ferrigno is best known for his crime novels. After college he spent half a decade as a professional gambler until getting down to brass tacks and writing ten novels. Sins of the Assassin, the second in his Assassin Trilogy, was released earlier this year. After reading Robert’s story you might think he’s some kind of psycho animal hater, but he assures us that he has two dogs that “love him very, very much.”

Story Read by: Sam, age 10, a virtuoso drummer from Gainesville, FL.
Dim Jim is late for work, staggering around trying to zip up his pants without cutting off his own dick, and I’m watching it all from the couch, still thinking about the cat I had to kill last month. Nice cat too. I’m a good dog, don’t get me wrong. I’m not prejudiced, I like cats. They’ve got the right attitude vis-à-vis the hairless apes, like open up a pouch of Tender Vittles for me and then go scoop my shit out of the litter box with a slotted spoon while I ignore you. I like cats, truly, but it had to be done.

I stifle a yawn as Dim Jim grabs an apple and dashes out the door. He’s back a moment later to rub my head and shake out some kibble into my bowl. I wag my tail and he’s gone, doubtless feeling loved and appreciated, initiated at some level into the pack. What a moron. I feel sorry for him, though. Ape life is a nightmare. Up early, hit the freeway, slave away in some cubicle all day—I know. I’ve seen it. Take Your Pet to Work Day is a fucking eye-opener. Then home again to a microwaved dinner before slumping into bed. Apes may think they’re the pinnacle of the food chain, but I’ve seen worker ants milking aphids on the Nature Channel that are more in charge of their destiny.

One of the kitchen cupboards is slightly open, just enough for me to claw it wider. Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, they’re greaaaaaat. The kibble is for later, if I’m really desperate. Dim Jim’s left the remote between the cushions of the couch, so I settle back, feet in the air, and watch TV for an hour or so, mostly basketball, which, I have to admit, makes me wish I had opposable thumbs. Then The View comes on, but a few minutes of that is about all I can stomach. They don’t make a muzzle big enough for those bitches.

Time to walk the neighborhood, survey my domain. Out through the dog door, into the backyard, and a quick leap over the short fence into the vacant lot next door. I’m not even breathing hard. A beautiful, sunny morning, the grass damp and fragrant. Human senses are so atrophied they might as well be deaf and blind, but me, I can smell coffee brewing in every house on the cul-de-sac, hear the sound of Honey Nut Cheerios tumbling into a bowl. I’ve got a sensory road map as clear as the GPS in his Prius that Dim Jim can’t figure out. At this very moment, four houses down the block, Mary Lou is taking a shower, washing her hair with balsamic shampoo and probably thinking of that skinny boyfriend who drives too fast. Two streets over, Mrs. Gerard is cooking sausage, that horrible fake sausage made from sawdust and soybeans. It’s still not going to save her husband from stroking out in a year or two unless he cuts down on the beer and cigarettes. Not that I care.

Here’s the details for those of you keeping score. I’m half Australian shepherd, half collie, which means I’m the smartest dog you ever met, and I like bossing things, directing the sheep, no matter if they have four legs or two. It’s just a matter of thinking ahead and applying pressure where it’s needed. I’m thirty-two pounds, not a speck of tartar on my teeth, long, reddish-blond hair, a long snout, and a look that apes think is a perpetual smile. Which is pretty accurate, except most of the time the joke’s on them. Still got my nuts. Keeping them is a story in and of itself, considering how the apes like to snip ’em, but I’ve managed it. Oh yeah, my name. The stupid name Dim Jim gave me is Tristan. I know, I know, but let me tell you, it could be worse. There’s an overweight basset on the next block named Frodo, for God’s sake. I’d fucking kill Dim Jim in his sleep if he called me that. I won’t tell you my real name.

No leash laws in Happydale Estates, and I’ve got a tag on my collar, but that’s no reason to not be on my best behavior. Cute little dalmatian got picked up a few months ago as a public nuisance for racing through flowerbeds, and her ape had to bail her out. Now she’s housebound. Life imprisonment. Here’s the thing, you can’t just take a dump anyplace you feel like it. Not around here anyway. There is no state of nature in Happydale. You unload on some ape’s manicured lawn, you’re going to get chased off or get reported. Which is why I’m making my way into the greenbelt that cuts through the subdivision. When I need to take a crap, I leave it deep in the brush where the apes won’t notice. You want to keep your nuts? Don’t squirt-mark your territory, and quit humping ape legs. Word to the wise.

I’ve seen it all on my walks through the neighborhood, all the preening and nastiness of the apes—blubber-butts stilting about on high heels or showing off their hair plugs, see them crying over their credit-card bills and 401(k)s, babbling on their cell phones, yelling at their kids, and hitting their dog with a rolled-up newspaper while the poor mutt cowers. The sheer arrogance of these creatures never ceases to amaze me. Or enrage me.

The exterminator van is parked in front of the Carson house, so it must be Tuesday. Once a week, regular as clockwork. Mrs. Carson tells the neighbors they’ve got a persistent termite problem but the only problem she has is Mr. Carson works too much to mount her. She and the exterminator like to do it in the downstairs bedroom, the guest bedroom, which I guess is ape humor. All I know is they never really thanked my people for showing them what doggy style is all about. I listen outside the window for a few minutes. She’s a groaner; he keeps asking her if she likes it, so he’s evidently not paying attention. No surprise there. I peeked in once, saw him driving away, red faced, sweat dripping off his nose. No wonder apes usually keep their eyes closed.

I trot to the back porch. Mrs. Carson has left a bowl of crisp bacon for me. She does it every Tuesday now. Even since I showed up at her back door with the exterminator’s underwear in my mouth. Boxers with little hearts. They didn’t even hear me come in to the guest room, too busy, and like I said, they keep their eyes closed. She tried to get the underwear from me that first time, but I ran off. Came back an hour later without them, sat there, and waited. She tried to play cute with me, told me what a good boy I am. I didn’t react, just waited, and finally she brought me a leftover pork chop, which was excellent. Now we play this little game. Every Tuesday she leaves me something on the back porch, and I don’t leave the underwear where Mr. Carson will find them. She leaves me a T-bone, I might even give her the valentine boxers back. I love the guilt game.

Lots of dogs in my territory, and I visit them all on my daily circuit through the subdivision, showing the flag. Making sure no one is getting ideas. Friendly, submissive woofs from the spaniel, the dachshund, the golden retriever with the bad eye. The Doberman pup lowers his eyes as I approach, but the hair rises on his back. I’m going to have to watch him. The neighborhood dogs are decent for the most part, dumb and happy, spayed and neutered and content to be led around as long as their ape still knows how to work a can opener. I’ve got no problem with that—a leader needs followers. It’s the other ones, the restless ones, that give me pause.

Sniff-sniff. Ummm. I do a quick 360 trying to isolate the source... A quick trot down the sidewalk, nails clicking against the concrete, faster now. Only a few cars on the road, drivers hunched over their steering wheels, seeing nothing but the street. Sniff-sniff. There.

The Weimaraner two blocks away is out for a walk. Another week she’s going to be in heat. Her apes don’t know it yet. She’ll be locked away as soon as they figure it out, but there will be a day or two when the Weim will be receptive before they have a clue. Sniff-sniff. The Weim is never allowed out for a walk by herself, and her yard has a high fence, but that’s no problem for me. I’m a digger. Sniff-sniff. Ahhhh. Soon.

I always make a point to swing by the Fullerton place, just to enjoy the empty backyard next door. That silent backyard didn’t come easy. I had to kill the Fullertons’ cat to accomplish it. They’ve got a new one now, a silky Persian, but for some reason she’s a little standoffish.

Debbie, the Fullertons’ five-year-old daughter, sees me in the yard and runs outside to pet me and kiss me and rub my belly. Her mother comes out a few minutes later bringing me a couple of pieces of rolled turkey. I’m a hero at the Fullerton house, the best dog in the world. Mrs. Fullerton heads back inside, but Debbie sticks around to stroke my long fur and tell me that she loves me. The cat stays inside, watching through the screen door. Like I said, cats are smart.

Grass sprouts through the chain-link fence separating the Fullerton yard from the one next door. There used to be a dog in that other yard. Rottweiler. Big fucker even for a Rott. Three months ago, right after his ape family moved to the neighborhood, I paid him a visit. Figured I’d take his temperature. See what I had to deal with. The Fullertons’ cat approached as I entered the yard, rubbed against me, whiskers twitching, but I noticed he kept me in between him and the Rott. I didn’t blame him. Rotts have a bad reputation, but most of them are dumb and easily led. Not this one.

The Rott leaped the fence easily, the Fullertons’ cat scampering away. The Rott ignored the cat, got in close and personal to me, eyes bulging. So you’re the top dog around here.

I didn’t react. Didn’t flinch. Just stared at him, watching the drool roll off his jowls.

The Rott was quick, snapped my head between his jaws before I could react. He could have crushed me like a grape, but he didn’t clamp down. Just held me tight enough that I could feel his teeth pressed against my scalp and muzzle, tight enough that I could feel his hot breath covering my face like a warm, moist blanket. I piddled. I admit it. I peed right there. No, the Rott didn’t hurt me. He insulted me, which was worse.

I’m top dog now, said the Rott. I see you again, you better be ready to piss yourself dry. Then he flung me to the ground, hopped the fence, and walked slowly to his house. Didn’t even look back. Like, what was I going to do?

I shook myself, sprayed his spit, and promised myself one way or the other, I was going to take care of that big ugly bastard. Two days later I made my move.

I waited until I was sure Debbie was inside playing, slipping into the yard so quietly I didn’t even disturb the dragonflies hovering above the flowers. The Rott slept outside his house in the yard next door, snoozing away in the sun. The cat squeezed out from under the porch steps, padded over to say hello, purring in my ear. Felt good too, soft and warm against me, raked his scratchy tongue across my face. I killed him with one snap of my jaws. Broke his neck, the only sound the crack of his top vertebra. Painless, or as close to it as I could manage. I feel a little sad, I won’t deny it. Like I said, I’m not a bad dog.

A quick look around. Just happy sounds from inside the house, Debbie singing along to some TV program. Then I dragged the cat’s body through a gap in the fence at the rear of the yard, slowly approached the sleeping Rott. His eyes were closed, a bubble of mucus inflating and deflating from one nostril with every breath. I carefully deposited the body of the cat near the Rott, watched him sleep for a few moments, enjoying what was about to happen, and then scooted back through the gap in the fence.

I scratched at the screen door, barking, then raced back to the yard. By the time Debbie runs out to see me, the Rott is already airborne. I put myself in front of Debbie, barking hard, teeth bared, shoulders bunched, flat-out ferocious.

The Rott lunges at me as Debbie screams, but I don’t give ground, barking away, like I’m trying to protect Debbie from the ravening beast. And maybe I am. No telling what that Rott’s going to do when he’s got his mad on. I keep snarling at the Rott, and he’s confused by my aggression, not sure what’s going on. I don’t give him a chance to think, snapping at him until Debbie’s mother runs out, sees her little girl about to be mauled, and picks up a rock. The Rott jumps back into his own yard, but it’s too late for him. It’s been too late since the moment he fucked with me.

I’m licking Debbie’s face as she clings to me. The mother is cradling us both in her arms when she spots their dead cat in front of the Rott’s house. The Rott finally realizing what’s happened, panics, drags the dead cat inside his house like now no one will see it. A day later the Rott is gone, taken to the pound by his ape, replaced by a chubby, deballed basset hound. I’m the hero of the neighborhood, the brave dog that saved little Debbie from a killer Rott. I’m bigger than fucking Rin Tin Tin.

Debbie’s mom comes back outside with more rolled turkey for me. I lick her hand and walk off with the turkey in my mouth. I like rolled turkey, but I’ve got a better use for it today. Delayed gratification is what separates me from the apes.

Three months ago I spotted a pair of Airedales edging across the border of my domain and knew they weren’t just out for a stroll. They were brothers, a matched set. Big dogs and smart too, a dangerous combination. I’ve spotted them four times since then, and each time they were farther into my territory. Sooner or later they’re going to mount a full-bore challenge to my authority, double-team me. Good thing I’ve made a new friend.

A pit bull moved into the neighborhood a couple months ago. Young and powerful, all muscle and jaw, with a shredded ear and the rotten temper the breed is known for. Particularly since the apes who raised him fought him. For money. Apes are real sports. The pit’s with a new ape family now, rescued, as they call it, and he’s doing better. The first few times I visited him all he did was lunge against the too-high-to-jump chain-link fence growling kill kill kill. I didn’t react. Just spoke to him softly, told him I was his friend and he had nothing to be afraid of. I said we were all good dogs around here. No one wanted to fight. I started bringing him treats after that. Nothing major. A chew toy. A biscuit. Sometimes just a little conversation, because he gets lonely, and I’m good company. Today he gets some rolled turkey passed through the fence, still warm from my mouth. He looks forward to my visits now. Says he’s never had a friend before. That’s me.

That young pit bull could turn out okay under other circumstances. Eased back into society. Taught manners and restraint. Love can go a long way to heal wounds. It’s not going to happen, though. Not with those two Airedales closing in on me.

The next time I spot the Airedales I’m running right over to the pit. A few whispered words to him, and I know just the right words to say, and those killer instincts of his are going to come boiling out. That young pit bull just needs a pal to dig him a way out from under that fence, and point him in the right direction. When I give him the go-ahead, he’s going to launch himself at those two Airedales. He’s going to turn them into bloody chunks before they know what’s hit them. That’ll be the end of the pit too, of course. He’ll get himself gassed by animal control for certain. Not easy being me. Tough decisions have to be made, eggs-and-omelets decisions. I’m a good dog, with tender feelings and a sensitive nature... but what am I supposed to do?

The rolled turkey bounces against my gums as I walk toward the pit bull’s yard. He bounds toward me, eyes bright, panting with joy. I smile at him as I approach the fence.