I am the Stray Dog. I walk close to the ground. My paws…calloused by time; they stride over broken concrete—discoloured from dried blood of the forlorn. Those sad, discarded drops of red, each a tale of its own; but that’s a human story. I tell you I am the Stray Dog. The Square Corner is my home. I was born to a hellion mother; reared in a hellion litter of nine. A scoundrel of a dog. A mutt. Pug nosed. Oval brown eyes set wide apart. My shoulders broad, I lay low like a bulldog. I’ll pounce. Rip out a pincher’s throat. I’ve done it more than once. That’s my reputation. The Stray Dog from the bad part of town. I’ve never been petted by human hands. Never licked a human face. Sat on a rich dame’s lap. Nor do I beg for scraps under oak tables, resting my wanting head on a kid’s bent knee. I’ve never been leashed. Don’t even try. I’ve never walked merrily through well kept parks…beckoned by a silver whistle. I’m different. I’ve pissed on dead cats. I’ve squatted and shat on tony front lawns. I’ve bitten SPCA guys, watched them bleed from their hands and wrists. I’ve been beaten by them, too. Their long clubs, electric prods. I've done daring, impossible things. I tore my way out of a kennel, before they gassed me in a chambler of death. I am the Stray Dog. Now you know my story. Or you think you do. Because I, too, am the Square Corner. But my paws hurt now. Arthritis in the hind legs. I can barely lift my legs sometimes. I pea like a poodle bitch. They want me, those young mutts. The vicious mix breeds just like me. Tough and cagey, with sharp fangs as I once had. Take down the Stray Dog. They know it’ll make their reputation. Thirteen years I been on the street. Now what becomes my home? The back alley of the One Lucky. Late at night he feeds me, this bartender with aching shoulders. He opens the kitchen door. Drops off table scraps of half eaten meat and french fries, often soaked in human spittle and brown beer. He knows not to pet me. I know not to lick his hands. If he were born years ago to a hellion litter, maybe he’d be just like me. I guess each of us has a tale of our own—some of us tell it close to ground. Our paws or feet, calloused by time
It was 3am. 'Beer Mugs' Moran closed the One Lucky. He had someone to take care of now. In the back alley a stray dog would sleep in between the garbage cans. 'Beer Mugs' fed him, mostly table scraps. He wished he could give the dog something more than half eaten hamburgers and soaked french fries. That's because he respected the toughness in his new friend. There was a kinship betweem them, he believed. That bond that happens sometimes between man and dog. 'Beer Mugs' knew not to pet him. He saw a sadness, a weariness, a fierce independence in those dog eyes set wide. He wondered if canines were like humans. If they, too, thought of death and the last years of life lived in loneliness and hurt. 'Beer Mugs' bent over and swiped the plate of food into his friend's bowl. The bartender's shoulders hurt as he closed the back door. The stray dog ambled slowly to the food with his aching hind legs. He ate alone, satisfied by the human meal he had.