This is one of many short stories that will hopefully become a book someday soon.
|Spanky vs. Judge
As you already know, Spanky was a good-sized dog. In his prime he was about 90 pounds. There are bigger Shepherds, but he certainly wasn’t a runt.
As a rule, he was a pretty social dog, too. He wasn’t overly aggressive with other dogs or cats. Heck, when you’re bigger than almost everybody you run into, there’s no real need to throw your weight around.
Consistent with most rules, there was an exception.
The exception’s name was Judge.
Judge lived three doors down from us. He was a German Shepherd about the same size and age as Spanky.
They hated each other.
Over the five years that we were neighbors with Judge and his family, I can’t tell you how many times we had to break up fights between these two. The interesting part of this series of heavyweight bouts is that Judge was always the instigator.
Judge’s owner, “Kenny” seemed to take some pride in Judge’s aggressive nature. I’m guessing that he was probably a bit of a school yard bully in his day, and fancied Judge to be a tough guy, too. Why else would you name your dog “Judge”?
While Spanky didn’t start any fights, he certainly didn’t take any attitude from Judge, and he never backed down from a challenge to his territory.
If Judge was loose and saw Spanky, he would immediately charge across the yards to start a fight. Because they were of pretty equal size and weight, neither one ever really got hurt. Sure, there were some cuts and scrapes, but never any injuries that required a trip to the vet.
I’d heard that you could stop fighting dogs by spraying the animals with a hose. So, I tried it. I’m here to tell you that all that does is create two wet, mad dogs, that are even harder to pull apart because you’ve made them wet. That, and now you have a dog that smells like “wet dog”. Great.
What I learned over the years is that there is no way short of pulling the animals apart to stop the fight
Wading in to break up a fight between two big animals isn’t the safest or smartest thing someone can do. A lot of things can happen – some, not so good. But if one of those animals is a member of your family, adrenaline will probably prevail and you’ll find yourself in the middle of a fury of teeth and claws.
Once you’re in the middle, you could become a victim of “the enemy”, or you could be bitten by “friendly fire”. Both are equally painful.
The funny thing is that I’ve been bitten and scratched breaking up cat fights, but I was never so much as nicked breaking up Spanky and Judge. That can only be attributed to dumb luck.
One notable fight that did produce a permanent scar occurred in our garage.
I had been working on rebuilding an engine and reinstalling it in my car, and Spanky seemed to enjoy the time we spent together in the garage. If he could have handed me the tools I needed, it would have been perfect. He just never could tell the difference between a 9/16 or a ½ inch socket, but he was good company while I wrestled with my 1970 Buick.
We’d been outside for a couple of hours when Kenny let Judge out – unsupervised, yet again.
Always looking for a fight, Judge came around the corner into the garage and all hell broke loose.
While the fight raged between the two dogs, Kenny and I pulled the animals in opposite directions, trying to separate them. Spanky clearly had the upper hand this time, and just before we were able to pull them apart, he bit right through Judges left ear. At that exact moment, we pulled them apart, splitting Judge’s ear like a snake’s tongue.
Kenny seemed to have a problem with this. I’m not sure if it was the sight of blood, or the fact that his prized bully dog had just had his ear bitten through, but I think he almost cried. From that day forward, whenever Judge perked up his ears, you could hear the wind whistle through the split. It made me giggle every time.
Early one summer, we learned that Judge and his family had sold their house. This news was not unlike learning that you had won the lottery. Okay, that’s an overstatement, but it was good news. The days of checking to see if Judge was loose before letting Spanky out were almost over.
In all the years that these fights raged, Spanky had never instigated one of them. If Judge was chained in his yard, and Spanky was loose, there were no problems. Spanky just flaunted his freedom, playing Frisbee and marking his territory while Judge watched from his yard.
The day before they moved, this routine changed. It wasn’t unusual for a few of our friends to meet in our yard after work to toss the Frisbee around. As usual, Spanky was playing with us – just enjoying his day, playing his favorite game. We had played for a half an hour or so when we noticed that Spanky had stopped playing. That was very unusual. He would play until he dropped, but for some reason, he had just quit.
There was a deep swale that ran along the front of everyone’s property to channel runoff from the development that we lived in. Blackberry bushes were interspersed with other small bushes along the edge, making the swale itself pretty much invisible from the houses. For a large black dog planning a sneak attack on an archenemy, it was the perfect path.
When we finally spotted him, he had made his way along the swale from our yard to a point directly across from Judge. Spanky was hunkered down like a Marine crawling underneath barbed wire. Now, the only thing that stood between him and a totally unsuspecting Judge was about 15 yards of soft green grass.
Judge still hadn’t spotted him, and before we could do anything, Spanky made his move, charging out of the swale and covering the last 15 yards in about a second. He was on Judge before he knew what hit him.
Spanky had the advantage of surprise, and Judge was tied up. It was no contest.
Kenny had been loading a van with the last of their belongings and ran over to help break up the last fight between these two long-time enemies. This time, there was no reason to pull Judge off. He couldn’t get away from Spanky fast enough – knocking Kenny over as soon as he got there. I’d never seen Spanky like this before, or since. He was biting Judge anywhere and everywhere he could.
As soon as I pulled Spanky away, Kenny let Judge loose, probably expecting Judge to attack Spanky as he had so many times before. To everyone’s surprise, Judge ran the other way; limping and yelping from the beating he had just taken. Spanky trotted off to our yard picking up his Frisbee - ready to play.
That night we cooked some of the biggest porterhouse steaks I’ve ever seen on the grill, and rewarded Spanky with one of his own. Following a quick after dinner nap, he trotted off for a little more Frisbee before dark. There was a little extra swagger in his step that night, and for the next few days, too
I still don’t know how, but somehow Spanky knew that his longtime nemesis was leaving, and he made sure that the bully had something to remember him by.