Wednesday, May 28, 2014


    I watched a dog kill a gopher. It is not really surprising that it happened, but the dog happened to be a dog I was living with and I was taking him for a walk at the moment.
    He was on a long leash because anytime I see a dog being walked on a short leash for no purpose other than discipline for discipline's sake, I wonder what the dog could have possibly done to make the walker want or need to yank its neck whenever it strays just far enough to render the leash taut. The possibilities are numerous in both visceral and psychological ways. It is particularly troubling for me to see when there is no one else around but myself to witness it. What phantoms do these dog walkers refrain their beasts of leisure from reaching?
    The dog -Jack- and I were walking along the edge of the train tracks on the north end of town. The man made embankments create a three mile stretch of grassy bucolic hill with small patches of pine tree oasis below, some even with park benches and gazebos. A fence is installed along the edge of the tracks, at the apex of the industrial ripple of land. It turns out there are animals in the area who can burrow beneath the fence, into the hill; animals such as gophers.
     Jack had stopped to rest on the hill in the grass, panting and squinting lazily in the sun drenched clovers. I stood near him, admiring his massive and regal skull structure while simultaneously realizing if I were to let him go free he would almost immediately have been hit by a car, or picked up by animal services. I looked to the park bench at the bottom of the hill and considered taking repose from the summer walk as Jack had.
    That's when the leash went slack towards the opposite direction, away from where Jack was resting only a moment before. I looked north down the parallel tracks and saw a glistening and nearly black gopher scurry up through the unkempt flora.
    The gopher wasn't fast enough.
    Jack gained quickly on the twenty five foot dash up the hill. His tongue was back inside of his mouth. His thick architectural head, matted in paint strokes of white and black and brown fur, looked more determined than any dog's face I had seen or will ever see again. The sun shined bright on him on that nearly cloudless Midwestern afternoon. He was moving fast enough to blur his body.
    He caught the gopher by its neck with his wide and muscular jaws, and lashed his head upwards. The gopher's slick fur and seal-like blubber whipped up like a pendulum of carefully constructed animal matter, with legs and feet and muscle and blood and a skeleton with fragile vertebrae; specifically fragile when too much fast and angled trauma is applied to the to neck of a creature.
    Jack tossed the gopher high in the air, towards the train tracks. The limp body bounced against the edge of the fence, rattling the grayish blue chain links. The gopher toppled and barrel-rolled down the white gravel hill on the other side of the fence, next to the tracks.
   I ran to the fence and stared through the mesh at the dead animal dusted with powdered rock; it was nearly a quarter buried in the fallen stones. "Oh shit" I muttered in a low droning tone.
   Jack stood at attention with his snout pressed against the fence, his tail whipping back and forth at a vision blurring speed. He snorted and shook his head, letting his wet cheeks and jowls slap against his pearl yellow teeth and his shiny mauve and spotted purple gums.
   I wish I would have let him have it: the gopher. I wish I would have let him study it, poking and prodding is with his superior nose, that glistening wet furry ebon lump of an animal organ. I wish I would have seen it and I wish he would have at least tried to eat it.
   "Come on, Jack." I finally said, yanking his leash.
   He looked up at me next to the fence, his tail still wagging. His front legs collapsed as he pushed his head into a matted net of grass. He pushed and strained his muscular terrier legs and body against the green and tan web of friction. He snorted again, then rolled over on his back and remained that way.
    "Come on, Jack." I said and yanked his neck again.
    Finally he stood up.
    We walked back to the apartment.
    He was a dog of noble Roman origin, trained and bred for glorious combat. He was a dog with a biologically canine lineage, but only a short paper trail in his inevitable breeding from wolf to domesticated sport dog.
    As we neared the apartment, I said to Jack, as if he actually had the ability to talk, "We're not going to tell Steph about this. She would probably freak out. Deal?"
    Jack stared up at me panting and squinting in a way that made him look happy and oblivious.
    "It's a deal."

Aaron C. Molden

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