|Every editor in America has groaned at one time or another at receiving a story about a boy and his dog. Even Esquire will send one back, faster than a streak of lightning.
That is their loss, and your gain, if you will stick around. I'm going to tell you about my dog Hooch.
Now, let me tell you up front that Hooch is the only dog that ever busted out of Sing Sing by himself. Friendly as anything on four legs, the dog catchers didn't have a hard time catching Hooch; Keeping him was their problem.
Sing Sing has two kinds of cells for dogs. The inside cells are six feet tall, with the top open to the ceiling. They put Hooch in one of these the first two times they caught him. The first time he was still waiting for me when I came. He had made friends with everyone there. They were genuinely sorry to see him go. The second time it took me a few hours to get there and Hooch had gone out over the top of the cell, out the door, and they were trying to catch him in the front office when I arrived.
|Nobody ever minded better than Hooch. He scooted to a halt right beside me and laughed at them as they huffed and puffed up to shake their heads at me. "We don't know how he got out."
I did, but kept my mouth shut for once in my life.
Nothing kept Hooch for long. I put up a fence around the yard. He went over it. I put him on a nylon dog leash. In less than 30 seconds he had chewed it in two. I put a dog chain on him. He pulled the collar off and was gone. I tightened the collar until he gagged. "That'll hold you while I'm gone," I told him.
He broke the chain.
How can a dog break a 200 pound test chain? I didn't know either so I chained him up again after he came home (and he did always come home if someone didn't capture him). Then I opened the curtain just a tiny slit and watched, and watched, and watched, until I realized he was watching me. Then I went to the bathroom and watched from there. Just before dark Hooch began going in circles, circles, circles, until he had that chain kinked just right. Then he snapped back on it about twice, and that chain snapped.
200 pounds of test had been tested to the limits rather quickly.
I stepped out the door before he got to the fence. "Hooch."
He stopped in midair, and came sailing to me. That was his one redeeming quality, besides how beautiful he was and how friendly he was, and how big he was, Hooch always came to me. If he could hear me, he came back, always.
|He came back that night and I brought him into the house. He laid down beside the bed and went to sleep. Perfect dog was Hooch. Perfect. He had a disposition that wouldn't quit.
Michelle had him trained before she shoved him off on me, and came over to train him some more after that. She just loved to brush his teeth, and male that he was, he loved the attention. Being male and hating cats is all that ever led to his leavings, by the way.
The next day I bought a bigger chain.
He broke it.
I bought a bigger chain, and he broke it. I put up an electric fence, and boy did that ever stop him in his tracks. He didn't want to go back the second time, no sir. I made him. Just one sniff, and he backed off. I had him fixed for good. Yes sir.
I went in the house and about nine I peeked outside. Hooch was sound asleep, not in his dog house, no sir, no dog house for Hooch. It was either inside at my bed, or nothing. He wouldn't even sleep on the $50 blanket I bought him if it was outside. No sir.
He was sleeping soundly out there so I turned the electric fence off and went to sleep.
Hooch was gone when I got up at four the next morning.
"I'll fix your wagon," I vowed.
I knew he would be back. I hoped he would be back.
Well, let's be blunt here; by nightfall I was PRAYING he would be back!
The very next day, somebody called. "Come get your dog."
Just as soon as he saw me pull up Hooch dropped what he was doing and sailed to the van, scooting inside and hopping up in the front seat like he belonged there. "Boy, I'm going to beat your brains out."
He knew better; I'd never laid a hand on him in anger and I don't think Michelle had either. Anyway, I got him back that time and I went to the hardware store. I had them make me a big, heavy chain with big, heavy snap locks on both ends. That chain would pull a farmer's loaded pickup and never think about breaking.
Hooch saw me lugging it back to the van and knew it was for him. He wouldn't even look at me when I got behind the wheel.
I tried it out on him that very night. He pulled it tight one time, and slumped down, surrendering to his fate.
I hated to do it, but I had to keep Hooch at home or get rid of him.
Nobody in their right mind would get rid of a dog like Hooch.
Didn't a week go by that someone didn't try to buy him from me. Hooch was half Bullmaster and half Rottweiller. He didn't look like either breed. No bloodlines? Didn't matter. "Just name a price!"
Unfortunately the chain didn't work. The next morning, Hooch was gone.
Mouth gaping, I jerked the door open and raced to look at the chain. It wasn't even tight. He had not broken the chain.
The collar was gone too, so he hadn't broken it either!
There was only one answer,
I went scouring the neighborhood and brought him home with the collar still on him. One more time I put him on that big chain. By noon he was gone again. The chain was not tight.
I went, found him, brought him home, chained him up, and went to the bathroom so I could peek out.
Hooch waited, and waited. Then Hooch turned his head, got his body just right so the chain was just a little ways out to the side, bit down on that snap lock, and moved his head just a bit so the chain came loose. He was headed for the fence when my word caught him. "Hooch!"
Here he came, looking for a trip in the van.
I treated him to a night inside.
He slumped on the floor, wagged his tail every time I glanced his way, and went to sleep.
The last time he got caught by the dog catchers they put him in one of the inner cells. I was out of town and didn't get back until late Sunday. He'd been in jail two days by then.
I was waiting on them to open the door Monday morning. "He got out of the inner cell and almost out the door again when we caught him. So, we put him in our maximum security pen."
I laughed at their troubles, and I signed for him and the front desk called to the back. "Bring Hooch up."
We waited for about 40, 50 seconds, then a voice came over the receiver.
There was so much anguish and disbelief in that wail that I knew it was a put-on job. Somebody there was stealing my dog.
I was seething when the girl came to the front. She took one look at my jaw line, then her eyes raked off to the walls, and back to the girl behind the desk. "He's gone."
"Gone?" she asked. "How could he get out of the maximum security pen?"
"He bent the gate and got out!"
Who had everr heard of a story that ridiculous? Well, it just so happened that I had my camera on me, and I was going to catch them in their lie. "Let me take a picture of that gate."
They glanced worriedly at each other, made me sign a waiver for going back, and I followed the girl in.
She showed me the inner cell where Hooch had escaped from. The top was six feet high. She said he had obviously went over it.
I could believe that.
We came to the door, just a standard knob. He had opened it.
I could believe that.
We went outside to the maximum security pen and she showed me the gate.
I had to take a picture of that gate; I could not believe it. Hooch had bent that gate, not where the latch is, no sir, Hooch had bent the two half inch round pins which the gate swings open and shut on. He had bent them so badly the gate could not be put back on. And Hooch was gone. Out that gate, and over a fence eight feet high with a strand of barbed wire at the top.
They were so embarrassed that they didn't even charge me for the gate, much less his lockup time, and promised to bring him straight home to me if they ever caught him.
As I was leaving a helicopter came over, slow and low. I wondered briefly if they were searching for Hooch. If so, they were searching in the wrong place. Hooch was at home when I got back. Twelve miles of city roads, and he had made it home.
He looked at me. I looked at him. I shook my head and said, "Come on." He followed me like a little puppy, out to the tool shed in the back where I kept my 27" bicycle. I pulled it out, got the leash, and put it on Hooch. "Come on."
We went out to the street and I got on the bicycle, holding him by the leash. "Let's go."
It took a little bit, but he soon got the idea we were going for a walk, and off we went. Before we'd gone two blocks he was out front and tugging. I quit pumping and let him tug.
When he got up to top speed I glanced down at the speedometer. He was tugging me and the bicycle thirty two miles an hour.
I knew it right then; all I had to do now was get Hooch to Alaska and I'd be a millionaire.
The hardest part of the walks from then on was teaching him what a STOP sign looked like.
The next morning I took him out to the chain, chained him up good, and wired the snap shut. He looked up at me. I looked back at him. His head went slowly down, defeated at last.
He knew he would never get loose again.
I couldn't stand that look on his face.
I undid the chain and said. "Come on."
Back in the house we went. He laid in the floor and wagged his tail any time I glanced his way. There never was a more perfect dog than Hooch.
|So Hooch was a house dog from then on. The only trouble was, I traveled all over the state, doing interviews, and leaving him at home inside for even five minutes would get the windows busted out, so I began taking Hooch with me.
The neighbors were glad to see him go because of the motto Hooch lived by. That simple motto in life had kept Hooch in trouble from the day he was born. His motto was: "The only thing I hate worse than a cat is a dog that won't kill a cat."
Hooch wasn't mine two weeks before the third dead cat showed up on the doorsteps. I took one look and slammed the door shut before my landlady could see it.
"Hooch, did you do that?" He looked back at me so innocently that I paused to reflect. "No, you've been in the house with me all day."
So, I called to my landlady. "Verna, one of your cats is dead. Do you want me to bury it for you?"
She came and looked out the door. "Oh, the poor thing."
She looked at Hooch, back out the door. I forestalled her question. "Hooch has been inside all day."
Verna nodded, and sighed. "Well, I guess you had better bury it. That is so nice of you to offer. I know how much you dislike cats."
"I have my reasons," I told her.
So out I went to do my good deed for the day. It took awhile, but I finally found the key. It took awhile, but I finally got the door open and found the right shovel. When I got back there was the cat, the poor pitiful thing, tongue out, belly in, dead.
I didn't want to get my hands dirty, so I shoved the shovel up in under that cat to carry it like that.
And I'll be doggoned if that cat didn't jump up from there and take off like a scared rabbit.
Now, that's just one more of the reasons I hate cats so much;
Unfortunately, that wasn't the last dead cat we found, nor was Hooch always lucky enough not to get caught in the act of snuffing out an innocent life.
Hooch was a good dog:
The situation got so bad that anytime a cat showed up dead
What could I say? Loose was mostly what Hooch was made of. It got where I had to have Hooch go everywhere with me. I began using him for a focus in the pictures I was taking and it didn't take long for him to realize he loved posing.
One interview I did was at a tiger preserve. As soon as we got stopped, Hooch smelled the cats inside. He was almost in a frenzy when I got out and tried to leave him behind. Realizing he would break my windows out if I were gone very long, I pulled out the big chain, and snubbed him up close to the van. It was an uphill climb and I had the van in low gear and the brakes set. Hooch rocked the van, he was so eager to go with me.
Inside I talked with Don Jackson for a long time and it was suggested that I follow him around inside. We went in and saw about 60 tigers and lions. I took pictures, and we got a great interview going. Then we had breakfast and I told Don that I had Hooch with me, and how many cats he had killed.
"Well, I can fix that," said Don. "I'll bring him in there with the tigers. One look will scare him so bad, he'll never chase a cat again as long as he lives."
Well, that sounded good to me. Then I had a wonderful idea.. I'd get pictures of Hooch when he met the tigers, but Hooch was so strong, what if Don could not hold him? "Hey," said Don. "I weigh 235 pounds, and I wrestle grown tigers to the ground. Holding your dog won't be no problem."
I told him about the gate. He didn't believe me.
So, out we went to the van and I snapped the heavy duty nylon leash on Hooch's collar. It didn't faze him a bit when I gave the leash to Don and brought out my camera. He was used to having his picture taken.
In we went, through the trailer house they use for an office. Hooch was strutting his stuff and everyone there admired him as we went by. Out in the compound we went, and Hooch perked up immediately, smelling cats everywhere. He was happy. His tail was wagging behind him, his ears were up, his eyes were shining bright. In short, Hooch did not suspect a blessed thing.
Don led him right up to the biggest tiger there. This tiger is so big he can stand on his hind feet and make a mark nine feet high with his nose.
That cat was so big it took Hooch two looks before he suddenly realized what he was looking at.
Every hair on him turned straight out. Hooch, hunkered low, and growled. This tiger stood up on his hind feet right in front of Hooch. Nine feet tall of him this tiger stood.
Braver men than Hooch would have run from a tiger that big.
But couldn't none of them have run so fast.
Hooch had been standing beside Don when it started. Hooch was standing there when the tiger began to rear up. Hooch was gone before the tiger got all the way up. He was gone so fast that he jerked Don plumb around in the other direction and ripped the nylon leash right out of his hand, taking a good strip of his hand with it.
Hooch was heading for gone.
Hooch saw an opening beneath the trailer house and lunged into it, picking up speed as he went.
The only problem is, that trailer house is part of a retaining wall.
It curves around.
Following it, Hooch was going so fast he didn't even realize he had come full circle right back out into the compound.
Suddenly the truth dawned on him.
Why, he was right back in there with that tiger!
Hooch stopped dead still. Every hair on him went straight out. Hoping to intimidate the tiger, Hooch said, "woof."
That's when every tiger and lion in that joint woke up. There was movement on all four sides of Hooch. There were over 60 tigers and lions there. Big, deep-throated roars rattled on his ears from every direction.
His legs flew out from under him and Hooch was on his belly, crawling, scrawling, whining to get out of there.
Finding traction at last, he came to his feet and lunged towards the trailer house once more. I managed to grab the leash as he went by.
That was a mistake. Don couldn't hold him and Don wrestled tigers nine feet tall. It was all I could do to keep my feet as Hooch headed for the trailer. In my mind's eye I could see him going under the trailer, and back out again, right in the middle of those tigers one more time. This was going to be so much fun! But then, the door opened and a secretary peered out to see what all the roaring was about.
That was a mistake. Hooch hit her right in the belly, flattened her, and kept on making motions with his feet until he was over the obstruction. I couldn't even let loose of the leash, he was going so fast. If my feet missed her belly as I went over, it was an accident.
As fate would have it, another secretary was opening the front door of the trailer as we came tearing through the hall way. Hooch saw daylight, and Hooch went through that door. I dropped the leash and let him go. When I got to the van Hooch was scratching hard on the door, whining piteously to be let in.
I opened the door for him and Hooch dived under the middle seat. His nose was in the far corner, and he was digging to get farther in.
Don, poor Don. He came out and showed me his hand. Flesh had been ripped out of his palm. It looked awful and must have hurt worse. "What can I do to make up for this?" I asked him.
"Well," he replied. "Let me try it one more time and I think we can cure him right. You owe me that much."
Well, a debt is a debt.
So, that's just what we did. Not as easily said as done, of course. But we done it. Don is big. Don wrestles tigers. But it still took both of us to drag that dog back outside.
When Hooch realized WHERE we were dragging him TO,
There was no way we could drag that dog back inside to meet his fate.
Hooch was not going.
He only weighed about a hundred pounds though. I picked him up and carried him.
Once I had him in my arms he turned to begging, licking my face, whining piteously.
Heartless wretch that I am, I told him it was all for his own good,
and back inside we went. Making sure that Don was ready for him,
I handed Hooch to him on the leash. And THAT time, I got a picture!
|The next day I was about half a mile from there with Hooch right beside me, exploring the rugged terrain Turpentine Creek calls their back yard. His tail was wagging, his ears were up, his eyes were bright. All of a sudden, Hooch stopped dead still in his tracks, every hair on him turned straight out, and ZOOM, Hooch was gone.
I got my compass out and glanced at it.
Yep. He was heading straight for the van.
Then I looked around and spotted what had spooked him. It was just a small pile of scrapings from the tiger's pen -- but it was big enough to make a coward out of Hooch.
Even Esquire would want to know; did this cure Hooch from his cat-killing frenzy? Let me tell you what happened when we got home and Hooch saw his first cat, up close and personal.
Hooch saw the cat, and stopped dead still.
That cat is probably bragging about it to this very day.
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MORE TRUE ADVENTURES
from the imaginative pen
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