For as long as I can remember, there was only one thing I ever wanted in life. One thing that would have made me happy and content.
All I’ve ever wanted was a chance to be a watchdog. A real watchdog. One who would stand guard and protect his owners from harm. One who would alert them in the event of danger. One who would save his family from a raging fire, from unwanted intruders, or from pesky squirrels and raccoons.
That’s been my dream for the longest time. And someday I’ll realize that goal. I just know it. You wait and see.
As each day passes, I wait for the call. Will it be today, I wonder? Or maybe tomorrow? There’s nothing holding me back. I have all of the necessary qualifications—I’m fearless, hard-working, and loyal. I even meet the age requirement. In a few months, I’ll be celebrating my second birthday—in people years, that is. I haven’t quite figured out exactly how old that is in dog years, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s nearly grown up. I like to think I’m mature enough to handle the job.
But sometimes I think I’m the only one who seems to think so. If people would just give me a chance, I could be a great watchdog.
I was telling my mother the other day about my ultimate goal in life. I can tell her anything. My mother Iris, a proud basset hound, was busy cleaning up after the puppies when I found her.
“Mom, you know what I want to be when I grow up?”
“A watchdog,” I said proudly.
I’ll never forget her reaction. She chuckled. She actually chuckled.
“Oh, Rutherford, be serious,” she said. “What do you really want to be?”
“I am serious. I want to be a watchdog.”
She pulled me closer and licked my face. I love it when she does that. It’s always so warm and cozy to lie next to her.
“Sweetheart, you’re a basset hound. You’re not a Doberman or a German shepherd. People don’t get basset hounds for protection.”
She smiled weakly. “Well, we’re just not built that way. Look at us—we have long bodies and short legs. We’re not very strong, and we can’t run fast. We just wouldn’t be effective as watchdogs.”
I sighed. I was hoping for a different answer.
“Rutherford, you have to accept the fact that we’re here for a different reason. Mr. Davis breeds us to become the best show dogs in the state. People don’t come here looking for watchdogs. They come here looking for dogs they can enter in competitions who’ll someday become Best in Show.”
“I know all that,” I said. “But it’s not good enough. I want more out of life than beauty pageants. I want to make a difference. And I just figured that becoming a watchdog would do that.”
My mother nuzzled my cheek. “Son, if that’s what you truly want, I’m not going to stand in your way. But it’s going to be difficult to convince others that you’re watchdog material.”
I appreciated her support. She was trying to let me down easy—just like a mother. But I’m determined, and nothing will stop me from reaching my ultimate goal. I’m well aware it will be an uphill battle. For nearly two years, I’ve been passed over by people looking for a show winner, and I knew exactly why. My mother would never say it to my face, but both she and I know I’ll never be Best in Show.
Not that I even wanted to.
See, I was born with a little handicap that seems to scare people away. I’m not as fast as some of the others. Big deal. How important is speed, anyway? When you’re a watchdog, you don’t run away. You hold your ground—and I can do that just fine. So, the fact I have one hind leg an inch shorter than the other three shouldn’t mean a thing. I’ve learned to live with it. Why couldn’t they?
Heck, I’ve met plenty of three-legged dogs in my time, and they do just fine. I have all four of mine. That should count for something.
But whenever families show up here and see me limp around the yard, I know what they’re thinking. I can see it on their faces. They know a defect like mine would never win them a dog show. So, they want nothing to do with me.
And that’s fine. I’ve learned to handle rejection. The ones that really bug me are the folks who feel sorry for me.
“Aw, see that poor dog over there?” they say. “He’s cute, but let’s keep looking.”
I hate that. I don’t need their pity. I need a chance to show them what I can do. I’m not dog show material, but I can do other stuff—like being a watchdog—if they’d just give me the chance.
So, at the end of each day, I’m still here, and that worries me a little.
(To be continued…)
RUTHERFORD, CANINE COMIC, by John Madormo, illus. by Brad Foster, coming September 2020 from Zumaya Thresholds; Trade paperback, ISBN 978-1-61271-353-3, Ebook, ISBN 978-1-61271-354-0 (Kindle), 978-1-61271-355-7 (epub)
Available from the Zumaya eBookstore, Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes & Noble, B&N Press, Kobo, and Google Play Books, and via special order at your favorite independent bookseller. Have a library card? Ask your library to get the ebook from Overstock.