All the dogs disappeared, which was no skin off my already-peeling back because I started sleeping eight hours a night. I can’t stand dogs for the most part. I’ve tried to own a couple, but I’m one of those people who has pretty dramatic break-ups with pets. Shredded curtains, shattered pots, ruined carpets from vindictive pissing—just no good, partner.
I still fell asleep with the TV on, which I knew was a bad habit. The beginnings of my dreams often mixed with the end of the news. One night I saw a fluff piece where a man-sized, two-legged dog wheeled a cannon around town. The news portion of my dream must have been for the cannon being constructed on the river bank, which I think had to do with a city fair, and the man-sized, two-legged dog crawled from the utility closet of my mind. It was colored like an inverted Snoopy, and it walked with an Igor gait. Something about it was vaguely mannequin.
I first heard about the dogs after my night-run, which I go on from about 11 to 11:30, when I saw a sign for a Yorkie outside Dogwood’s front door. Dogwood Apartments was the name of the place I lived, if you can believe it.
The sign looked like a kid had made it. MISING, it said across the top. SMANTHA A GOOD DOG 3 YEER OLD PLEEZ CALL MY DAD SMANTHA LIKS SAMMIN. I was pretty sure the Yorkie belonged to this little girl and her single dad (who was hot—the dad was), so I jotted down the contact info on the bottom of the flier and pocketed it for future reference. This yoga floozy from Floor 2 showed up behind me and also mused over the poster. “My Chamomile is missing, too,” she said, and I thought she was talking about tea.
What a stupid name for a dog.
She mentioned a search party for the dogs, and I faked a yawn, which turned into a real yawn, and told her I was real sleepy and would probably turn in, so I did.
All dogs should probably have collars in case they go missing. It can be dangerous to put your phone number on the tag, because people can find your address and rob you, but I’ve heard leaving an email address is good. I wondered if all the dogs had been found by someone who had no phone, no computer—no home at all.
I think eleven Dogwood dogs were missing, gone gradually over a couple weeks. I started to realize something might be up when I found out other people’s dogs were missing, too. Out in the city, I mean. At night, when I was running, or walking the block smoking a cigarette, I noticed I couldn’t hear any dogs anywhere. Didn’t see any, either. MISSING DOG on windows and poles and benches. Stop signs, even.
I had to wear a collar back then, or at least that’s what I always called it. It wasn’t a house arrest thing, and most nice people reassured me it was just a bit of an insurance policy. Nobody wanted anything bad to happen to me. I usually wore turtlenecks to cover it. It beep-beeped and notified nearby police cars if I was ever out past midnight so they could pick me up and take me home.
One day I heard the hot dad’s little girl say, “Sometimes life is rough! Ruff, ruff, ruff!” Her hot dad’s young laugh tumbled around in the walls. I wondered if they were grieving Samantha—the good dog who liked salmon.
As I was falling asleep later that night, the news again melting into my dreams, I saw the man-sized, two-legged dog. It was lanky and walked like a shadow. I heard dogs barking. I woke up and saw it through my window, walking down the street. Barks echoed their way to me. It had been so long since I’d heard a dog bark. Ruff, ruff, ruff.
I stayed up and listened to them barking—I heard dogs barking—I could hear them barking, and I closed my eyes as a breaking news graphic flashed and beep-beeped onto screen.
All dogs go crazy when they see a good car to chase. I don’t blame them, but I’ve never been fast enough to catch one myself. I’ve never been legally allowed to drive, either. I can empathize with the idea that cars are something exciting and unobtainable.
It wasn’t any fun looking for the dogs, but I figured maybe I was the one who needed to do it. Everyone else walked around like clueless assholes and waved pictures of their dogs in the air. Nothing was going to get done without me.
I walked as far as I could every day before midnight and its beep-beeps rolled around. My feet would go numb, and I’d walk until it felt like I was walking on my ankles. I learned pretty quick I wouldn’t just be stumbling upon the dogs. I knew what I had to find. It hobble-walked through my dreams.
One night I had him, it—just ahead of me down the road. I saw the large dog walking on two legs with a basket slung over its shoulder. The basket was full of dogs of all shapes and sizes, wagging their tails and howling. The walking dog disappeared down an alley, so I chased it.
But then my stupid collar started beeping, and right as I was peering down the alley, watching it galump its merry way to wherever it hid, everything slighted to the left. The ground topsy-turve grooved in a clever little circle and became the sky, and my collar beep-beeped a lullaby as I fell into a dream.
A patrol car pulled up at some point and found me snoozing. The officer said some nice stuff and reminded me of how I was and I was embarrassed but he insisted he should take me home so he did.
“All dogs go to heaven,” the hot dad said to his little girl. I watched them from my window. They were sitting outside the apartment complex. “That’s probably where Samantha is now, lovebird.” And the little girl nodded her head and bummed around Dogwood for a couple days. I saw her looking at the toes of her shoes, hopping the most depressing scotch I’d ever seen. Until one day hot dad came home with a bird in a cage and said lookit this!
Then all their troubles were gone.
One by one the owners decided everything was fine. It had only been a couple months. No one cared anymore.
I was sick and tired of it.
I bought a carton of Camels and a few of those stupid nut bars and enough coffee to keep my narcoleptic ass up for months. I camped out my balcony all night. I stared down the street until the walking dog showed up. My TV was on. My white walls were blue.
Sure enough, it did, sashaying street light to sushi shop with a basketful of doggies. I booked it down the stairs, out the front door, and tailed it all sneaky-like for about ten blocks.
We made it to the river wall, and it descended the bank with me behind, and we made our way to a cannon on the riverside.
Midnight said, “I have just a couple minutes to spare!”
My world slighted but I shook it off.
“All dogs go to cannon,” said the man-sized, two-legged dog as it stuffed dogs into a baby blue cannon pointed to some target across the river.
I looked at its face and saw eye and mouth holes. Human eyes stuck behind a plaster canine mask. The eyes looked male. He looked like he hadn’t slept in weeks.
“All dogs,” he stumbled to his basket, plucked a dog, “go to cannon.” Over and over. All of them, to the cannon, the puppies and oldies and Dobermans and Rottweilers and even a duo of sheepish pugs—the cannon.
I didn’t want to speak. I felt I was watching a ceremony. My collar went off. Beep-beep, all dogs, beep-beep, go to cannon. He lit the fuse on the end of the cannon and it fizzled loud and orange and went as slowly as in a cartoon.
I stood in front of the cannon, angled my head to its target-direction, watched the patrol cars beep-beep pull up to the side of the beep-beep river bank, and there was me and the man-sized, two-legged beep-beep dog and we looked at each other and beep-beep held beep-beep hands and I looked into his mask and we too went into the cannon and beep-beep blasted away.