A short story by Peter Turner
Gord was a wise and elegant old Golden Retriever. He was happy to go ungroomed, like a retired diplomat who’d become nonchalant about his appearance. He remained devastatingly handsome however, in spite of the dense snarls in his coat.
For his tenth birthday, Charlie, Elspeth and the three children hid behind the living room furniture, then called in Gord and jumped up shouting, ‘SURPRISE’! He was thrilled, hadn’t a clue.
The family lived in an old farmhouse on the dirt road heading out of Ellisburg. Gord threw up in cars, so he was seldom far from home. His main outing was to accompany one or another of them on a walk, run or bike ride around their ten kilometer dirt road circuit. Left behind for one of these, he would sulk for the entire day.
Otherwise, he would lop out the driveway, looking forward to engage with every dog who lived along the way. They were English or French speaking and occasionally bilingual, like Gord. They could be attractively stinky or revoltingly perfumed, silently huge or yappily small, angrily aggressive or hopelessly mooshy, chained or loose.
Gord knew precisely how to deal with each dog. It might be a hurried wide berth to the other side of the road, a friendly sniffing visit, a run like stink, or a taunt, within inches, of an insanely mad beast attached to a tractor chain. But never once was he drawn into an encounter in which the fur flew.
Gord did occasionally wander at night, to discretely visit a fair bitch who might have offered a seductive scent of heat. He was thought by neighbors to have fathered dozens of fine healthy litters, at least one from as far as 15 kilometers across the valley, through raw bear country.
Sometimes in the summers, when Elspeth and the kids went away to the cottage, Gord stayed at home alone with Charlie. Thus one muggy August morning, Charlie got a call at his law office from the Chief of Police of the town of Caldwell, about 30 kilometers to the west.
“Lawyer England? I got your dog here. Best you come and git him right off, OK?”
“Wait a minute Chief, can’t be my dog. He’s not strayed away from home in 10 years.”
“Well Maître, his collar says “Gord” and it gives your home phone. Would that be good enough for you?”
“How did he get there?”
“Oh, it was a guy in a truck that we stopped last night. It was an awful mess in the cab. Anyways we got that dog, it don’t matter more than that. You’d best come at dinnertime. We’re closed then, but I’ll tie him to the front door.”
The whole business was pretty vague, but Charlie couldn’t get any more out of the Chief. He drove down to Caldwell at noon and found Gord tied to the door handle of the police station. He was sitting in the hot sun looking nonplussed. There was neither shade nor water at hand.He quickly hopped in the car and Charlie took him on the short ride home and returned to his office.
The next morning, Charlie took a call from the Sherbrooke jail. It was Robert Bruneau, a guy in is early 20s, who Charlie had assisted, on and off, with legal issues. He was a junior associate in a notorious band of outlaws and lived with his mother in Ellisburg.
“Hey Charlie. How are you my man? They got me in the jail over here in Sherbrooke. Can you come and get me out?”
“What did you do Robert?”
“Well, I stoled a truck and then I stoled your nice dog eh. Your door wasn’t locked.”
Charlie vaguely remembered having heard some odd noise in the night.
“Ah, come on Robert. What the hell did you do that for?”
“Sorry Charlie. Jest stupid I guess. I always liked that old dog eh”.
Robert was to appear in Court the next morning. Charlie sent Alan Dobson, a young lawyer who’d recently joined him, to represent him. Alan reported back that the judge had noticed the anomaly.
“Me. Dobson, I see you are working for Me. England? And the charge relating to the theft of a dog cites Me. England as its owner. Is that correct?”
“Yes, your Honour.”
The Judge addressed the defendant.
“What could have motivated you in this Mr. Bruneau? Was it something personal against Me. England?”
“No Mr. Judge, your worship sir, I just liked that dog, I knew him a little. He was so pretty. Just wanted to borrow him for while eh. And then he got sick, awful sick everywhere, all over me, and the truck. I had to stop on the highway. Then the police caught us.”
Charlie remembered that, in spite of Elspeth’s strict orders, he’d run out of dog food. He’d served Gord a generous helping of spaghetti that night.
“Is this a legal aid case Me. Dobson?”
“Oh I think not your Honour.”
“That’s good. Our hard working tax payers might resent paying Me. England for defending the man who stole his dog.”