By John Thomas Tuft

By the time he was a year old, Lucky was being used as a bait dog. His lower front teeth had been pulled and his canine teeth filed down. This is so he would not hurt the other dogs. The other dogs being the ones trained to be fighting dogs. They were the ones of higher value. Lucky was a punching bag of sorts. Trainers in the illegal ‘sport’ of dog fighting use dogs known to be passive, nonaggressive, and gentle to help train their aggressive fighters to bite and tear with impunity. But they don’t want their prize dogs bitten and injured while they train so they remove the capability of the bait dogs to fight back. Lucky didn’t ask for any of this, it was his fate in the world of humans.

Being of a gentle disposition, Lucky accepted his lot, being generally considered of low value, a tool to be used, an inferior dog. His owner staked him outside in the yard all day, every day. “Cracked and broken and beautiful…*” was not part of his lexicon. The man would put a bowl of food out every day, maybe some water if he was lucky. The other dogs, knowing that Lucky would not fight, always helped themselves to his food and water. Lucky grew thinner and thinner, plagued by ticks, fleas and heart worms. Despised, dejected, forlorn, Lucky accepted his fate. No shelter when there were storms, no respite from the heat, Lucky wore the earth bare around the stake in the ground, dragging his chain behind him.

Bob and Sissy moved in next door. It did not take long for them to notice Lucky. Their hearts were touched by the plight of the cracked and broken and beautiful dog in the neighbor’s yard. Sissy, being of bold nature, went into the yard to check on the puppy. At first, Lucky backed away from the thought of an angel, but when she noticed the speckles on his left ear and squealed with delight, a sound quite foreign to Lucky, he let her scratch said ear. Marching directly to the owner’s door, she demanded to be given custody of this cracked and broken and beautiful creature. “He’s just gonna die on ya,” the owner muttered, but Sissy insisted. Wrapping a trembling Lucky in a soft quilt, Sissy drove straightaway to the veterinarian’s office. A warm bath, treatment for ticks and fleas and heart worms and close to $1000 later, she drove the still trembling Lucky to his new home.

Bob and Sissy debated where to put Lucky and assumed since he lived outdoors all the time that is where he felt most at home. That first night, a fierce storm blew in, sending sheets of water before the howling winds. Sissy could not sleep. She arose and checked on Lucky, finding him huddled against the side of the house, trembling beyond fear. Sissy collected him in her arms and brought him into the screened porch, fashioned a large bed of old quilts and towels, laid Lucky down, then curled up beside him and they slept the night away. In the morning, when Sissy went to feed Lucky she was surprised when he ignored his food. “I gave him something soft,” she explained to Bob, “because of his missing teeth.” No matter how they tried, Lucky would not eat. They finally gave up and ate their own breakfast. Much to their surprise, when they finished, Lucky went to his bowl and slurped down his own, just like a puppy.

Lucky supervised Bob’s efforts all that first day, building a fence so that Lucky could roam the entire yard. When Sissy brought iced tea out for a break, Lucky offered her his speckled ear for a good scratching. This was a whole new world of Lucky love. That evening when Bob and Sissy settled in the living room for whatever humans do to pass the time, Lucky peeked in from the porch, waiting for a sign. One soft whistle from Sissy and Lucky bounded into the room, launched himself from ten feet away, and sprawled across her lap, ready or not. And that’s the way it went. Days of helping and playing and running. Evenings of sprawling love.

One day a new family moved in across the street from Bob and Sissy. A young woman in her first house, with a six-year-old daughter, Brandy, who was born with Down’s Syndrome and also could not see or hear. Brandy and Lucky took to each other immediately, a delightful union of the cracked, broken and beautiful. Brandy rested a hand on Lucky’s back and the bait dog led her around to experience all the joys and pleasures of a yard. And a true friend. Bob built a fence around Brandy’s yard so the two could roam at will. Bob and Sissy could hear them from their back porch, Brandy singing a song at the top of her six-year-old lungs and Lucky talking away as only beloved dogs can.

To this day, no one is sure quite how it happened. Sissy heard Lucky in their backyard barking frantically, insistent. No matter how she tried to shush him, Lucky kept on barking, louder and louder. Then she heard him crashing his body against the gate, over and over. Sissy ran to the back, but it was too late. In the blink of an eye, she saw the scene unfold like it was slow motion. Somehow, Brandy was outside her fenced yard. She was on the curb, determined to cross the street. A pickup truck was barreling down the street. Lucky backed up, ran at the gate with all his might, gathered himself and launched over it. Brandy stepped off the curb, smiling as she sensed the dog nearby. Lucky never hesitated, streaking toward the little girl, hitting her full force, knocking her backward, out of the way. And taking the full brunt of the collision with the truck…

If you are ever lucky enough to make it to Bob and Sissy’s place, be sure to ask to see it. In the backyard there is pile of rocks that don’t match, carefully arranged. On top is a plaque. It reads: Lucky Love. A true friend. Cracked and broken and beautiful…that’s how light shines through.

Words are magic and writers are wizards.

*Cracked and Broken, Diana Jones, 2009