Before Tall Guy

Before, Everything, and After – MxPx

The people at the SPCA couldn’t tell us much about Zeke’s history. He’d been found wandering beside a major highway north of town, and he was about a year old. That was all they knew. That and the fact that he was a really nice guy.

He’d been with us for about a year and a half when I discovered something about him that really bothered me. lt made me feel powerless and angry.

One evening, I grabbed my hockey bag from the basement and brought it upstairs. I’d just started playing again, so he’d never seen my gear. When Zeke saw the hockey stick, he immediately backed into the corner and cowered. His ears were pinned back and he was shaking. He peed a little. He was terrified.

None of us had ever raised a hand in anger towards him, never mind a hockey stick, so this was obviously something he’d come to fear before he joined our family.

§ § §

“No Tall Guy! Please don’t hit me! I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry…”

“Zeke! It’s OK. I’m not going to hit you. You’re my best friend. Why would you think I was going to hit you?”

“You have the dog hitting stick!”

“This is a hockey stick. I’m going to play with my friends.”

“You and your friends play by hitting dogs? Why?”

“No! Of course not! We play hockey. You know how sometimes we watch hockey on TV?”

“I don’t really watch TV. I’d rather read.”

“Right. But sometimes I watch it and you sit beside me.”

“Is that the thing Jaro McGinla does? I like him. I would like to meet his dog.”

“Listen pal, I’m going to skip my hockey game tonight. I want you to tell me what happened to you before you joined our family. Sometimes when you tell somebody why you’re scared, you don’t feel as scared anymore.”

§ § §

Zeke in his own words…

i sort of remember my mum and my brothers and sisters and i never met my dad and the place i remember was big and smelled like horses and it was fun playing with my sisters and brothers and then one day a lady came and took me away from them

i was very sad and scared because i wanted my mum and i cried for a while but the lady was nice and sang me a song but there was a man there who was not nice and then i had to go the bathroom so i did and then the man hit me and stuck my nose right in my own poo and the lady told him to stop and the man yelled at her and he hit her too but he didn’t put her nose in poo

the man threw me outside and i remember i hurt my foot when i landed but i liked outside because of all the smells and also the man was not there and the lady gave me some food and a drink most days

one day i was playing and i needed to dig a hole and when the man saw it he yelled and i runned away because i knew he was going to hit me again and probably stick my nose in the hole and he grabbed the dog hitting stick and there wasn’t enough room for me to run away from the stick and he hit me on my head and when i woke up it was dark outside and i could only see half as much as usual

i don’t know why the lady brought me there because after a while i didn’t see her and the man chained me to the thing in the ground and sometimes he’d bring me meat to eat but not enough and one day i figured out that i might be able to get the collar off if i pulled backwards hard enough because i was a skinny guy so i tried it one night and it worked and i digged a hole under the fence and i ran and ran and ran and i never saw the man again

i liked being away from the yard did you know that people leave food outside their house for dogs? well they do and they put it in nice bags so it’s all together and all you have to do is open the bag and you can eat so many good things

one day i was out for a walk and i met a dog named fiona and we decided to be friends and we shared all our food and played lots and she let me sleep in the place where she lived by the trampoline

she told me about a place that had so much food that we could never eat it all but it was across the road so we had to run fast

when we got to the road fiona said i should watch her go across the road first because she had done it before and she said watch close zeke and then she ran out onto the road and then she disappeared and i don’t know how but i heard a bunch of loud noises and then all the boxes on the road stopped so i ran across the road to try and find her but i couldn’t so i ate lunch and i never did see her again and i’m sad because i must have said something mean to her and then she didn’t want to be my friend anymore

after i had a nap in the big food box i decided to go back across the road to the trampoline and then i saw this man running towards me and he looked really worried so i waited for him in case he was coming to tell me where fiona was

he had a stick but it wasn’t a dog hitting stick and he put the thing on the end of it around my neck and we went over to his box and he helped me get in and then he closed the door and away we went it was kind of fun

after a while we stopped and i heard a bunch of dogs and i hoped that fiona was one of them and the man helped me get out and took me to a room and closed the door and that was that i never did see him again and also fiona was not there

the people gave me food and water and mostly left me alone so i wanted to go somewhere else but the whole room was made out of rock so i couldn’t dig so i tried to get out under the fence but i couldn’t and then one day you guys showed up and took me home and everything was great until i found out you have a dog hitting stick

§ § §

From that moment on, I kept my hockey equipment in the trunk of the car so Zeke would never have to see it again. It was a small accommodation to make sure he felt as safe as possible in our home.

I think that deep down he knows what happened to Fiona, but he needs to keep it buried for his own sake. We all have things we’d rather not talk about.

Despite everything he’s been through, Zeke remains a happy-go-lucky dog. His sense of humour plays a big part in keeping him sane, I think. And, like all dogs, he’s blessed with a natural ability to exist in the now. What has happened can’t be changed. Nobody knows what will happen in the future. So why worry about anything except this moment? And for most of the moments in his life since I've known him, Zeke has been joyful.

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