“Kill!  Kill!”  I yelled encouragingly, my bicycle speeding over the concrete pavement.  It was late in the evening, autumn had come, and a leash was strung taut from the handlebars to my dog.

‘Frisky’ was what we called him, and he was mine.  I had gotten him during our second year in Germany from a lady downstairs who raised dogs.  He was a cocker-poo – a blend of cocker spaniel and full grown poodle, with a cropped tail and completely black.  He was mine – mine to live with and raise.

Like any kid I had begged for him after I saw that pile of dogs – squirming little things, black, brown, and fuzzy.  And my parents had surprised me on September eleven – my birthday – with one.

Of course there were all those rules, requirements, and prerequisites for owning a dog – especially one overseas in Army apartments.  I would be responsible for every aspect of his behavior – arising at four-thirty in the morning to walk him, feed him before school – coming home afterwards and cleaning up any mess he made.  House training him, teaching him – with help from my mother . . .

And from her we had gotten – and he had learned – the command “KILL!”.

Kill meant a lot of things to him.  It meant “attack” for one.  It also meant hauling me – towing me, actually – along the streets of the kaserne (an “Army camp” in German).  It meant defending me, or anyone else, or attacking another dog, though he wasn’t real brave.  Foolish, yes; brave, no.

He had curly hair – remarkably curly – which tumbled down in his eyes.  With his bobbed tail he would often join in when my brother and I got to fighting – and my mom would urge him on:  “Kill them!  Kill them!” – to which he would joyously oblige, or at least attempt to.

But he saved me a lot of peddling once he got out of the ‘basket stage’.  That is the stage where you are hauling them around in a basket on your bicycle.  I wrecked only once with him – he didn’t forget it nor forgive it at once.  Once he got up to about thirty pounds roles were switched: he would haul me instead of me hauling him.

He was a good dog – for a dog.

One morning I woke up – woke from an erotic dream.  Sure, I was only thirteen, but by then I’d seen as much sex as many adults had seen.

So I wake up – thrilling dream! – I was back home – to find the dog peeing on my groin.

Funny sometimes how something warm and wet will bring something back, something you haven’t seen for . . . it seemed years, a lifetime ago.  My friends, my old neighborhood, the sex we’d had.

But that dog . . .

When it came time to leave overseas I was a hefty child.  “Husky” they called it back then.  “Fat” is what my parents called it, so did my brother.  I could make my stomach folds grin, I had gotten so fat from German food (so good!) and the earnings I made from my ‘job’.  And while the Army was willing to ship me and my huge folds of fat back home with my parents, it was not so with my dog.

“You’re going to have to loose HIS weight,” my mom said.  Thirty-five pounds it was – and I had only three months to do it.  No matter how I cried or pleaded, they were firm:  I would lose as much as he weighed, or else he would not be coming home with us.  They would find some other family for him to live with.

So I dieted – without having a clue how – living on Carnaton Instant breakfasts and not much else.  The weight came off slowly – so slowly! – and my child’s discipline when it came to treats and eating was not good.  And yet I did it – barely, in the nick of time, with just a few weeks to spare . . .

and so I brought him home – or to our ‘new home’ – back in the USA.  Later on I would defend him, later still abandon him to my parents while I joined the Marine Corps . . .

He was a well traveled dog at that – going from Germany to Georgia, then to Indiana and beyond.  He lived quite a number of years – about 15 – under my momma.  In his old age my mom would joke about how he would go outside and then forget what he’d gone to do, until he got so old when he’d raise his leg to pee he’d fall over in the snow . . .

He lived a varied life – and a good life – for a dog.  He was well behaved and trained.  My mom, who treats her animals much better than her children – or people at all – made sure of that.  He grew old and gray muzzled, forgetful near the end, until they finally had to put him down . . .

And he never forgot to “kill”.