Sometimes I’m sneaky. Like today.
I scramble up this tree as quiet as a possum. Only the cat below knows I’m here. He doesn’t care because he’s hunting moles or voles. Mom would be yelling mad if she knew, but she’s away, and I left Dad working with his office door shut.
I usually take my dog Sassy everywhere, but I gave her a rawhide chew to keep her quiet while I slipped outside.
Out on the edge of town, that’s where I am. One of the neighbors is home, out in the backyard behind me with her toddler. But I’m watching a house so brand new they don’t have a fence. Their poor dog barks nonstop. He’s barked himself hoarse. Being staked out is driving him crazy. Tied to a post next to a small cement patio. No shade or dog bed in sight. He does have a huge water bowl.
Dad’s already called animal control and the officer told us, “Yes, it’s cruel. But there’s no law against it. Not yet.”
Monday night, Dad and I walked over to meet the family and talk about their dog on the chain. They said, “Max’s our first dog. We both work so he has to stay outside. Max’s already chewed up Suzy’s pair of $600 high heels and my leather easy chair.” They seem very friendly, invited us in, and let me play with Max. He slobbered on my face and licked my arms. He’s a big goofy one-year-old. I sat on the stone tile floor while he sniffed me. He wiggled his stumpy tail and rubbed his black and tan body against me like he wanted to wrestle. Likes to play tug and chase his toys, but won’t fetch or stay. Suzy, Max’s mom, really loves dogs. “He’s my first. I’m real new at this. Maybe you can help me train him.”
“Sure,” I said. “And he really needs a yard. Dogs can go crazy on chains.”
Kneeling down beside me to rub Max, Suzy said, “We’re working on the fence part, got to build it ourselves.”
I offered to walk Max and bring him over to play with my dog, but Suzy’s husband shook his head. “He’s too big. Max pulls on the leash and drags us like a tank.”
“What if my Dad helps?”
“Suzy and I will think about your offer. Okay?”They didn’t call last night even though I waited by the phone.
Now it’s Tuesday, about four o’clock, so they’re at their jobs. I’m watching Max. He looks like a mix of rottweiler and a something else. He paces around the pole he’s tied to then flops on the edge of his chain, groaning and panting in the dirt, only to spring up and do it again.
This morning before school, he let me get close enough to lick my hand. He never growls, only wags, whines, and wiggles.
I lob a large Milk Bone.
Max rises, lets out a greeting bark then wolfs it down. Then he’s quiet while I unweave myself from the branch I’m wound on. I pitch another treat at his stake out circle. He gobbles it. I move closer, smoothly. I let him sniff the toe of my shoe before I pour kibble into the metal bowl I pull from my backpack. He looks too skinny for his size. Unfair. His people don’t know anything about dogs.
I hunker down and watch him eat, pressing my palm on the stone cold cement. My view blurs as he chomps. Max has only a hard place to nap and lives on a chain. I’m sad there’s nobody but me to keep him company.
After chowing down, Max licks my face. He doesn’t know how big he is and climbs into my lap. I shoot my hands behind me to keep from falling over. He starts washing one of my ears. That tickles and makes me giggle. When he’s done getting all the salt and sweat off one side of my face he starts on my other side.
I stand up. He barks. He must think I’m leaving. “Silly dog,” I say as he pushes his nose into my jeans pocket. He can’t get to the treats wedged in the bottom. “No more free lunch.”
I take a treat out and hide it in my left hand. “Max, sit.” But he doesn’t. “Don’t you know sit?”
I take the treat in my right hand and lift it over his nose. He sits. “Good sit.” I scratch behind his ear. We practice again and again until I don’t have to lure him into a sit. Then I think, I wonder if he even knows his name? I back up to the post he’s chained to. He follows. I make him sit then say, “Max, stay,” showing him the flat of my hand like a stop sign I step back. He stays. “Good dog!”
Before leaving I say, “Max, sit. Stay,” and take six steps away, backwards, keeping my hand out like a stop sign. Clapping my hands I call, “Max, come.” I cheer when he runs to me and hand him my last Milk Bone. I keep my hands cupped like a dish with all my fingers together like people do if they want to hand feed a horse and not lose any fingers. He slobbers over my hands. I refill his water bowl from the hose.
“Tonight, I’ll ask if they’ll let me baby-sit you after school. You could play with Sassy. And I hope they build you a fence soon.” He could turn aggressive left on a chain.
Before leaving, I promise Max, “When I grow up, I’ll make a new law. No dogs on chains, ever.” He whimpers. I think he wants to believe me.
Connect with Dogs Deserve Better to help protect dogs from having to live on chains.
Find out how to rescue a rottweiler at www.dogbreedinfo.com