"The glorious history of man is filled with legends of dogs and memories of dogs: despicable dogs, respectable dogs, fearful dogs, pitiful dogs."
From Red Sorghum by Mo Yan translated by Howard Goldblatt
My mother killed the purple tongued dog with a box of Raid and some sneaky shit. Though Raid is meant for rats we knew that it could kill other animals, and I know, as sure as some people know Jesus is real, that if the Raid hadn't worked she would have found something else.
But I didn't think she was ruthless. She had told the owner that he should have the dog on a leash. He lived a couple of houses up and would let the dog out on his own to wander around the neighborhood in and out of yards, chase people, birds, or have staring contest and barking matches with dogs locked up in fences. She warned him with the same straight up witness that she warned me about not washing the dishes or cleaning my room. She was for real, for real, but I could sense the man didn't take her seriously. He was like lady why you trippin', not with his mouth (only the God knows what would happen), but with his eyes. He laughed and then turned his back, she came back into the house, shut the door and with a serious look, said, Ima have to kill that dog.
The purple tounged dog was a beautiful breed, I think a Chow Chow. He was big and his hair would stand up on his back. I'd see him and be like look the purple tounged dog, but mom was just scared. One time we sat in the car for thirty minutes after we got home, waiting for him to leave the yard. Mama talked about him like a dog, and I had to got to the bathroom. We waited and waited while the purple tongued dog ran through the yard peeing and pooping on anything he could find. Again, when we got in the house she said with a deep voice like she was singing a spiritual out of pitch in a field, Ima have to kill that dog.
Those days were green lawns and the smell of fresh cut grass in the hot summer or that dry almost sawdust in the air smell of leaves when we raked them in the fall. It was childhood, sprinklers, and running out the open door and coming back with funky arms.
She prepared a steak for the purple tounged dog. I had seen her do this many times for us, the counter with black pepper, salt, and meat tenderizer in tiny plastic containers with lids with holes on the top. But she didn't use that. I guess the dog just needed raw meat. She spiced it with Raid from a big black box whose colors meant death. She placed some of the meat by the gate, some by the places where the fences met, and cut smaller slices into cubes and sprinkled them in small tufts of grass, all across the yard.
Then she said, if he's on a leash, he won't never come up in her yard, but if he ain't on no leash... silence, then looked me dead in the eyes.
Jack Harris a small boy of just twelve had been bitten by the purple tounged dog. I can still see him walking up the street with the white gauze wrapped around his leg and wrist covering the wound. He was so happy the day I saw him, I couldn't understand why, given how horrible it is to be attacked by purple tongue. But that's just memory. It ain't got much to do with anything. I know it hurt bad and he wasn't happy when that dog clamped up on him. Damn shame. They shoulda killed the dog then, but I don't know why they didn't.
I don't know why they made my Mama kill that dog.
Then one day the purple dog was gone. Nobody knew what happened, but I think I did. We never talked about him again.
In Red Sorghum, by Nobel Prize Winning author Mo Yan, he tells the story of a terrific battle between dogs and humans fought in between the wars of humans in the sorghum fields. It is only one of the many battles in the mythic and beautiful novel where man fights man, family fights family, and Mo Yan takes it a step further--man fights dog.
The dog fight occurs after a battle with the Japanese leaves the area surrounding the small town filled with corpses. The dogs feed on death. They become strong and beautiful. They become thirsty for blood. Their fur shines and they grow strong enough to think of man as their enemy.
When the dog pack was at full strength, there were probably six hundred in all, made up primarily of village dogs whose masters lay rotting in the marshland. The remainder, those that came and went in a frenzy, were dogs from neighboring villages that had homes to return to. They were led by our family's three dogs: Red, Green, and Blackie.
The great dog war is fought with tactics, grenades, and bullets. It is about man's best friend becoming enemy.
The dogs in Wuhan fascinate me. Don't worry there is no battle here, but there are many wandering about, free, and without masters.
The white poodle is my favorite though I haven't seen him in a while. The day I noticed him, he made the news report during my nightly talk with my wife.
Early in the morning the white poodle plays with the leaves in an open courtyard in front of one of the dorms. The day is windy and makes the leaves dance. He goes back and forth chasing giant maple leaves sprinting twenty to thirty yards, grabbing them in his mouth.
He weighs about twenty pounds and is the dirty white poodle sometimes get. We say white, there is a reddish tint to parts of his coat, must not be a pure breed.
Most dogs here aren't on leashes. The owner usually let them roam free, so I look around to see if there is someone to call him.
There's almost nobody in the courtyard. I keep walking.
About two hours later, while I'm staring out the window at the coffee shop, I see him again in steady trot roaming down the street full gaze with a pack of people.
He comes into view and keeps walking towards the mall.
There's a police officer who stationed at the opening for a road that leads up the hill. He's there for most of the day and the intersection is always congested. He's really more of a traffic guard than officer, just like the ones in the State's for kids in the morning on their way to school.
He's got a uniform and a neon sign on his jacket. He's got a whistle around his neck. You might think he is guarding the pedestrians, but most of the time, he seems to be more concerned about the cars. Most of the time, the pedestrians ignore him, seizing the opportunity to take the space between cars to get across the street. There appears to be no real order, though there must be, because I've never seen anyone get hurt.
As I'm about to head home and cross the intersection, I look down and see the white poodle. He don't pay no mind to the cars and jumps out there with his steady trot. Somehow the car directly in front of him, sees him and pushes the brakes and comes to a quick stop. The white poodle made a way for us to pass.
I haven't seen any roadkill yet; and I haven't see the white poodle since.
The white poodle isn't the only stray. There are many others. Sometimes owners gather with fine breeds in open areas, just like in the States. In some places the evening dog show goes with Taiji and the immensely popular street ballroom dancing.
But the dog show seems to be about money. The lines and curves of the breeds look expensive. It's cold here now and many of them have sweaters. All of them are well groomed.
Sometimes when I look at dogs on leashes, I imagine the owners are the ones who are controlled by the dogs. I think the string goes backwards and it is a human being held at the wrist by a dog's neck.
I have a dog at home. He is a small poodle black with hair that is steadily growing gray. He's a good breed and we treat him well. My African American folks will hate this, as does my wife. Sometimes he sleeps at the foot of the bed. Though, we don't groom him much. I usually wash him, but when we take him to the dog people for grooming, they look at us funny. He's spoiled, but to them he looks neglected.
I miss him jumping up and down or whimpering when he wants to go out, or hopping up on to the couch while I take a nap in the day.
An African American teacher in another city puts a post up on Wechat that shows a picture of the young man who raped a young lady who was unconscious behind a dumpster in the States, next to a picture of Michael Vick. The man got three months, Michael Vick got eighteen months for fighting dogs.
This weird movie comes on one of the only English movie channels here called Hotel for Dogs. It's about these kids who save stray dogs from the pound and house them in an old abandoned hotel. Don Cheedle is in the joint.
It's full of a chivalry and love for stray dogs who would otherwise be condemned to the pound.
I don't really understand.
I want a dog while I'm here, but can't figure out if I can handle the maintenance. One of my friends here, tells me how we can find one. "There are many strays he says. We can kidnap one!"
I imagine the mission and begin to prepare, then a woman tells me how she brought a cat into her home from the street and there were fleas everywhere. I think about my wife. I think she secretly hates our dog. She calls him your dog, and has not pet him since he arrived over seven years ago.
Fleas are one of the reasons she doesn't like him.
On another day, a mangy looking dog walks through the courtyard between two buildings where I teach. His fur looks like it has been eaten by something. He had to walk pass the security guards to get in the building.
He's a pretty big dog with black fur, at least fifty pounds.
I am amazed. No one else is.
He pees on some of the bushes, looks around. Everyone keeps moving. He goes on about his business. I haven't seen him since.
I mention my fascination with the strays to a colleague. He says,"Thank God they aren't in packs. They'll eat human flesh you know."
Though I know it, I don't know it. I think of Mo Yan.
One day on the street, I see six or seven dogs all running together throughout the crowds. It amazes me. I wonder what holds them together and if they are dangerous. They move so quickly. They aren't too big, but I don't know the instinct of a group of dogs. All the dogs I know have owners or are quickly shut up in rescue spots. Some people may have a few. I imagine the world in proper balance is roughly one dog per person.
If my mother were here, the strays would be a major concern. Each one would scare her to death. She wouldn't get him like she did the purple tongue dog, and she couldn't call the authorities, cuz they obviously don't care. I'm not sure what she would do.