Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Diary of a Pitbull Poker Player

* Perhaps you have seen the popular series of paintings by C.M. Coolidge entitled "Dogs Playing Poker." Naturally, we chuckle at the idea of canines sitting down to play cards, but the inspiration for those paintings had to come from somewhere, right?*

1906-New York
I never thought much about the meaning of a song. Just give me some good howlin’, and I’d join in. That was what meant brotherhood to me—no shiny horns or scratchy strings, just good ol’ yowling, with the subtle symphony of the city at night humming around you.
Good ol’ Summertime…that’s the song, I think. I never quite understood the words, but the way those folks were singing it on the street corner, right outside the hospital, I could feel it was about a better time, a time when you would spend lazy days with your best friends, running through the sun-drenched grass, playing catch, maybe even chasing a car or two.
Boomer always loved chasing cars. I always warned him, “Boomer, you got to be careful; you got those stubby short legs, and waddling won’t get you out of oncoming traffic.” Funny how I was always the one looking out for him, but it’s my fault he’s laid up right now, in this flea-ridden dive, getting stitched up by some fumbling-fingered doctor.
It had started with the card game. It was Thursday-night tradition for me and my pack, and we had become renowned in the pubs we would frequent to play. We were quite a sight, all different breeds and walks of life, coming together and dueling with the deck for hours. We even caught the eye of some local painter—a Mr. Coolidge, I think his name was—who insisted on doing a couple portraits of us during our games. They were some mighty nice paintings. Even ended up in a couple advertisements.
But the game last night turned ugly—it happens, when you rub one of us the wrong way, or you get a bit tipsy and start flappin’ your jowls, but usually we laugh it off and buy another round to douse the fire. But not with Boomer, no. Bulldogs tend to be bull-headed; maybe that’s why they call ‘em bulldogs. He was getting in a bad row with a Russian Hound that I had invited to our game. Boomer snapped at him, claiming that he caught the Red red-handed with spare cards under the table, which didn’t sit well with the Russian.
All I had meant to do was stop things before the Russian mauled him into chutney. I grabbed Boomer by the scruff of his neck and held him down on the floor, with my jaws around his throat, only to show dominance and get Boomer stand down. Guess I didn’t know my own strength…I might’ve had one too many shots and lost control, ‘cause next thing I know, I’m tasting blood in my mouth…
As I was gettin’ up the nerve to walk into the vet’s, and I heard some folks crooning that song on the corner, I was praying that when I saw Boomer again, that he’d forgive me. Praying we could still get those dog days of summer back…

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