A Real Dog Lover
By: S. Scott Bullock
“Jonesy.” The old man said smiling. “You’re the best dog in the whole wide world. Did you know that boy? Did you know that?” The old man patted Jonesy on his jet black head and scratched behind his ear. Jonesy raised his head and partially opened his beautiful chestnut-brown eyes. He looked up at the old man, his lids at half-mast.
“You drowsy, boy?” The old man said rubbing Jonesy’s head. “That’s the medicine I gave you a little while ago. Like I been tellin’ you, you got to heal up, boy. So you can’t be runnin’ round crazy.”
The sharp sound of the bell of an old style rotary dial phone shattered the calm. The old man pushed himself up from the brown and tan Lazy Boy recliner with a grunt and a sigh. Jonesy raised his head and cocked it toward the phone.
“Lay still, boy.” The old man said walking over to the old style telephone table. He sat down on the Early American chair and picked up the receiver of the ancient black phone.
“Hellooooo.” He said in a sing-song.
“Hi Gumpy.” A woman’s voice said.
“Is this my favorite granddaughter?!” The old man said grinning with joy.
“I’m your only granddaughter, Gumpy!” She said laughing.
“You’re still my favorite!
“Guess what, Gumpy.” The woman said.
“The patent is off of Post Toasties?” He said, still grinning.
“No. Gumpy.” She said solemnly. Then with great excitement. “You’re gonna be a Great Gumpy!”
“Oh my land! Oh my land!” The old man shouted.
Jonesy lifted his head, held it for a moment and then dropped it back onto the floor.
“And.” The woman said. “We’re coming down to see you!”
“Oh my land. I am so happy for you, my sweet girl. I am so happy.” He shifted the heavy receiver to his other hand. “When are you coming, sweet girl?”
“Three weeks, if that’s okay.”
“Better than okay. Wonderful. I can’t wait to hug you and Carl. It’s been way too long. Way too long, sweet girl.”
“Five years, Gumpy.”
“Too long.” The old man wiped at the moisture gathering around his eyes. “You’ll be able to meet Jonesy!” He said, excited.
“My new boy! Jonesy!”
“Oh, Gumpy.” She chided. “Not ANOTHER dog! Where’d you find this one?”
“He found me.” The old man said looking over at the sleeping Jonesy. “Actually we met under some pretty bad circumstances.”
“What circumstances, Gumpy?”
“I accidentally hit the poor boy with my truck!”
“Oh my God!”
“He was runnin’ along side the road and I didn’t see him. I swerved to miss a squirrel and banged right into the poor fella.”
“Is he okay?”
“I brought him home and fixed him up. It broke both his hind legs so I put em both in casts.”
“You still have the office at home, Gumpy?”
“Of course. Old veterinarians never retire, we just wait till it’s our time to be put to sleep.” He said and laughed her favorite ‘Gumpy laugh’. “Besides, lots of folks around here still need my help once in awhile. Sick horses, dry cows, and what not.”
“How’s he doing now? What’s his name again?”
“Jonesy, and he’s doing great. I have to keep meds in him so he won’t hurt himself worse. Makes him drowsy and silly as all heck, but it keeps him calm and still. I can control him that way. He’s only been with me five weeks, but I feel like I’ve known him and loved him forever.”
“You’re a precious, special man, Gumpy.”
“Still got you fooled, huh princess?”
“I thought you were done with dogs after Sally Lynn passed.”
“Men like me are never done with dogs, sweet girl. They’re in our blood and our souls. I tried to be done, but it didn’t work. Jonesy showed me that I wasn’t done.”
“Oops. Gumpy, I’ve got a call waiting and it may be Carl, can I call you back?”
“You go talk to your man, sweet girl. You don’t need to call me back. Tell him I said ‘hello’ and just be sure to call when you’re coming down. I have to de-stink the guest room.” He said and laughed. “I love you, sweet girl.”
“I love you too, Gumpy. Bye.”
The old man hung up the phone and walked back to his recliner. He sat with a loud thump and another grunt. He picked the TV remote up off the Early American double level side table and punched the on button. An old Sony, twenty-five inch CRT set crackled into life.
“Time for ‘The Price Is Right’, Jonesy.” He said. “This new fella’s okay, but he’s no Bob Barker, I’ll tell ya that much.”
Jonesy twitched on the floor next to the old man’s chair.
The evening news was finishing up on the TV and a beautiful blonde woman was saying something about mass murder and a missing teen. The old man punched the mute button.
“Nope.” He said to the TV. “No bad news. Got no room in my head for bad news.”
He waited for the opening credits of ‘The Price Is Right’ before unmuting the TV. As the show began, the old man pulled a pipe off the standing ashtray next to his chair. He picked up a tobacco pouch and filled the bowl of the pipe with Cherry Stone tobacco. Soon the smell of cedar from the paneling and years of hardwood burned in the fireplace would be joined by the homey smell of cherry tobacco smoke. He lit his pipe and curls of smoke twirled up and away from his face. He sat back into his recliner and pulled the lever that raised his feet. As Drew Carey asked for bids on the first item, the old man began a walk down his own personal memory lane.
“You don’t know this, Jonesy.” He said. “But I was a big hero in the Korean War.” He pronounced Korean with the accent on ‘Ko’. “I was a medic. Saved a lot of fellas. But more important I saved lots of dogs. Halfway through my stint we were on R&R in this tiny village called Sung Houang. Me and my buddy, Dougie Babajian, Dougie was an Armenian fella, anyway, we were havin’ lunch at this little place in the middle of the village.”
The old man leaned forward, relighted his pipe, and sat back again.
“When we finished eatin’ I asked the Ko-rean fella what it was we just ate and he told me it was dog.” The old man looked down at Jonesy. “Sorry boy, but I didn’t know. Well, I grabbed a hold of that fella and I backed him against the wall. I pulled my gun out of my holster and I held it to that fella’s head and told him to pray to God or Buddha or whoever he believed in because I was gonna take the top of his head off with my side arm. Well, he starts sayin’ all this Ko-rean stuff and cryin’ and wailin’ somethin’ fierce. His wife comes runnin’ out and falls right to her knees in front of me, beggin’ me not to hurt her husband. Well, I’ll tell ya, Jonesy, that really got to me. That poor lady in front of me, beggin’ at me that way. So I pushed that fella down into a chair and I sat down real close next to him, pointing my side arm at him the whole time. I told him that if I ever got wind of him killing a dog again, I’d shoot him sure as sunrise. I said it to his wife too, who was still kneelin’ and beggin’. And you know what, Jonesy? He swore he wouldn’t, and his wife swore on it too. I told him that I was friends with every other American service man and if any one of them came by and saw dog on the menu or a dog tied up or even a pile of dog poop anywhere near his place, I’d come back and take the top of his head off. I was lyin’ about knowing every other grunt, but he didn’t know it. And from what I heard from the fellas I knew who R&R’d in that village later, he never served up dog again. I’m damn proud of that Jonesy. Damn proud.”
The motion sensor light in the backyard went on and there was a small clatter of metal hitting metal. Jonesy stirred and raised his head slightly.
“You hear that too, boy? What the heck.” The old man got up from his chair, grunting and sighing, and headed for his back door. He opened it and looked around. “I don’t see anything.” He said. “Hello?” He called out to the night. “Somebody there?” He turned around and stepped back inside.
“Racoons.” He said walking back into his den. “I’ll be there in a minute Jonsey, I need to get my dinner. I’ll feed you when those meds wear off before you’re next dose.”
The old man pulled a pot out of an under-sink cupboard and a knock came from the front door.
“Who?” The old man said heading to the door. He opened it.
“Hank!” He said to a uniformed state trooper. “What a nice surprise. Come on in.”
“It’s not a visit, Sam. It’s official.” The trooper said.
“Well. Oh my. Okay, what can I do for you?”
The trooper pulled out a four by five photo of a handsome young African-American man.
“Have you seen this guy?” The trooper asked. “Anywhere around here?”
The old man took the photo and considered it for a long time. He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a pair of close-up half glasses. He put them on and considered the picture further.
“Nice looking young fella.” He said. “But not familiar at all. Who is he?”
“Missing kid.” The trooper said.
“Come in for a cup of coffee, Hank.”
“I can’t, Sam. Wish I could. Gotta go check out some other folks. Thanks though.” The trooper took the picture back from the old man, shook his hand and walked away.
“Good luck, Hank.” The old man said and closed the door. He walked back into the den to check on Jonesy who was still sleeping and twitching on the floor. “Good boy.” He said and returned to the kitchen.
Sitting back down in his recliner with a TV tray in front of him, he finished off a bowl of chili and beans and drank the last of his Bud-Lite Lime. He put the bottle on the tray and got out his pipe and tobacco. He loaded up the bowl and lit the pipe. He punched the remote and the TV crackled to life. The local news was beginning and he quickly muted the sound.
“Nope.” He said to the TV. “No room in my head for bad news.”
The sound he had heard earlier in the backyard happened again.
“Racoons. I sure hope they find something to eat.”
Jonesy began to moan and move around a little. The old man looked down at him.
“Are you wakin’ up boy?” He said and patted his head. “Are you hurtin’. I’m gonna go get your meds and some food for you. How about that, boy? Lemme turn up the sound for you.” He said and unmuted the TV.
The old man walked out of the den. A pretty, African-American news anchor was speaking on the TV.
“The eighteen-year-old is still missing. More on that story in a moment, but now here’s Mika with the weather. An overly coiffed, middle-aged man with an orange tan came on the screen and began pointing at things on a map. When he was finished, a commercial for Tide laundry soap came on and the old man walked back into the den. He carried a dish of wet dog food and a syringe.
“You hungry my good boy?” He said and went to Jonesy. He knelt down with great effort and several grunts and groans. The news came back on and the pretty African-American anchor continued the story from earlier in the program.
“Police found evidence of a struggle and blood on the north side of Rural Route 58 yesterday morning after a routine traffic stop of a drunk driver. The blood type matches that of the missing youth. Unseasonably warm weather and lack of typical rainfall left the evidence intact. It could have been there for the five weeks since the youth’s disappearance.
The old man pulled the duct tape off Jonesy’s mouth.
“The youth, Duane Denzel Jones, was reported missing last June and his disappearance follows a pattern of teen-youth disappearances in this area that have occurred annually for the past five years. No direct correlation has been officially speculated but this disappearance is eerily reminiscent of last year’s disappearance of Sally Lynn Wilcox.
“Please untie my wrists” Duane said to the old man, barely able to speak. “They hurt me so bad.”
“Don’t you start yippin’ now Jonesy.” The old man said patting the jet black head of Duane Jones and scratching behind his ear. “I’m gonna feed you and give you your calmin’ down medicine.”
“My legs.” He cried out. “They hurt me. I can’t move em.
“Five weeks now.” The old man said. “Five weeks now and you ask me the same questions every time your medicine wears off. Five weeks, Jonesy.”
“I’m in a cast? Why are my legs in a cast?”
The old man spooned a glob of wet dog food from the bowl and held it to Duane’s mouth.
“Here you go boy.” The old man said. “Eat your food.”
“Please.” Duane said. “Please untie me.”
“Can’t do that Jonesy. But I will tell you this, and I think it’ll make you happy.” The old man put the spoon back into the dog dish and set it on the table. He picked up the syringe and gently pushed the needle into Duane’s arm. He pushed the plunger down.
“You’ll be asleep again in no time.” The old man said. “And next week your casts can come off. And while your under for that, we can kill two birds with one stone. Because, just like Bob Barker says… Always spay and neuter your pets.”
Duane slowly fell back into a drugged stupor. The old man patted his head and turned the channel to Gilligan’s Island.
“I love you, boy.” He said.