When I was a kid, maybe ten years old, we had a dog-catcher in our neighborhood. We called him the Dog Man. He’d ride around in his white van and corral any stray dogs he saw into his van, to take them wherever people put stray dogs.
He wasn’t a bad guy. He armed himself with a kind word and a smile, proud in his duty of making our neighborhood safe. One time, a Rottweiler ran at me and started barking. The Dog Man pulled up in his white van.
The dog didn’t even wait for him to get to our side of the street. This huge dogfight champion skittered off with his tail between his legs at the very idea of the dog catcher. He ran up and asked me if I was okay. I told him that the dog knocked me down. He gave me a pat on the head and a warm smile, saying that he’d “whoop him good” for me. I was a bit confused by this. He ruffled my hair and went back to the van.
Nothing really seemed off about the Dog Man. He seemed to just be another hardworking member of the community. He was very proud of his job. He sometimes bragged and told tall tales of catching prized dogfight ring champions with only his bare hands, a biscuit and a handkerchief. He seemed to just be another uncle without a nephew. Come to think of it, none saw his family. He never mentioned them. None even knew where he lived. None thought much of it though, as he was just too friendly to hang out with constantly.
Then the pets started disappearing. This worried everyone greatly. In a suburban white neighborhood, pets were like furry sons and daughters. Then people noticed. It wasn’t pets in general that were disappearing.
It was just the dogs.
I brought this up to the Dog Man and he seemed genuinely concerned, like he had just found out his friends had gone missing. He vowed he would “get to the bottom of this”. He no longer had his trademark smile. It was now replaced by a cold, steely look, with some unidentifiable cloaked emotion in his eyes. Passion? Fear? He got into his van and rode away.
My best friend Geoff’s dog went missing. He bawled his eyes out about it. I tried to console him by saying that nothing could have carried him off, since he was the size of a bicycle. “He’ll come back, Geoff. Just you wait,” I said in an attempt to cheer him up.
“No, Ralph,” he said. “None of them have come back. None of them ever do.” He shot me a look of pure sadness, and I knew it was time to leave. I walked out to the front hall, and out the door.
On the way out I saw something.
A figurine of a dog.
It was on Geoff’s kitchen table, next to an open envelope that said “Sandie” in rough handwriting. The name of Geoff’s dog, albeit grossly misspelled. While the handwriting was extremely crude, the figurine was….surprisingly detailed. It looked hand painted, and depicted Sandy in all her canine glory. Geoff’s mom was standing near it, talking on the phone. She gave me a little wave as I passed, and I waved back. As I walked out the door, I overheard something about “no return address.”
I began my way back home. We lived in small white house, identical to all our neighbors' small white houses. I saw someone crouching over our neighbors' little black poodle. It was sleeping in the afternoon sun, and hadn’t seemed to notice the person sneaking up on it.
“Hey!” I said. The figure spun around. It was the Dog Man. The poodle turned and saw that the Dog Man had been sneaking up on her, and began yapping and running away. The dog man whirled fully around to face me and asked if something was wrong.
“Why were you sneaking up on that dog?” I asked in an accusatory manner.
“I was just gonad pet her, is all,” he responded sulkily, pouting a little. He didn’t seem like such of a bad guy now. This wasn’t the guy who kidnapped Geoff’s dog, I thought to myself. I hastily apologized (earning a “No worries, mate. I understand,” and a wink from the Dog Man), explaining that I was worried he was going to kidnap her.
His face turned to stone. “Kidnapping? What makes you think they’re being kidnapped?” he asked almost frantically, grabbing one of my shoulders. I jerked out of his grasp, and ran away. I looked back. He was walking in the other direction, towards the forest.
I went home and told my mom about how weird the Dog Man was acting. She consoled me, and told me to go get some rest. I went to sleep, and had nightmares about a horrible whimpering noise in the woods, that was quickly silenced by a howl so loud I swear it was right in my ears. I jolted awake, and saw a figure of a man outside my window, walking with a bag slung over his shoulder. He turned, as if he knew I was looking at him, and turned his head towards my window.
It was the Dog Man.
He flashed a quick smile and headed into the woods, slowly, deliberately, and confidently.
I tried to go back to sleep, but couldn’t manage it. The image of Geoff’s dog rotting in some cave, or out in the woods alone, or wherever this sick fuck had put the dogs shook me too much.
I had to know.
I figured I owed Geoff that much. He deserved to know what happened to his dog.
I snuck downstairs. It was 12:00 AM, so my mum would be fast asleep. I quietly put on my coat and boots, and snuck outside.
It was a clear night, so the moon would provide me with enough light, but I didn’t want to take any chances, so I grabbed a flashlight. Better to be safe than sorry, right? I also took a kitchen knife.
Again, better to be safe.
I followed the path the Dog Man had taken into the woods, noticing the disturbing lack of sound. It felt like there were no animals out here, nothing but trees for kilometers. It felt oppressive. I kept going.
Eventually, after what felt like an hour of walking, I arrived at an old house. It was originally white, but half the paint had chipped off to reveal moldering and rotting wood. A crudely painted sign out front labeled it as “The Dogg Hows”. Thinking back, it closely resembled the writing on the envelope.
So he was behind it all. That sick motherfucker had walked among us, shared concern about the dogs he was kidnapping, pretended to be our friend. I had to know what was behind that door. I noticed it was half open, and light was shining through it. I wouldn’t need the flashlight then. I put it away, and crept forward.
Although the outside was decrepit, the inside looked okay. Sparsely furnished, but not falling apart. There was an old TV playing a show about dogs on the Animal Channel. The volume was turned all the way down. I looked to the other side of the room.
There were a large amount of dog figurines, and some oil paints. So he was repainting them to look like the dogs he took. Strangely creative for a psychopath.
I looked over to the small kitchen unit. The only food he had was a half empty bag of dog food. What was he eating then? Could he be eating the dogs? I pushed the thought from my mind. I noticed there was one bowl on the floor.
There were no dogs on this floor, and there was only one bowl here…..he couldn’t have been…..EATING from it? The thought disgusted me. What was wrong with this man? Did he think he was half dog or something?
His clothes were thrown on the couch. Oh, good. He must have gone off to bed. His bedroom would likely be on the upper level. I could check the basement easily this way.
As I approached the basement door, I heard a small, pathetic whimpering noise. I hoped it was Sandy.
I headed down the spitefully creaky stairs, and saw what would easily be the most horrific sight of my life.
Dog carcasses littered the floor, huge bites taken out of their throats and faces. Some of them were skinned, with their pelts hung up to dry next to their decaying bodies. I almost vomited at the sight and smell of it. The odor was so powerful I could taste it. There were a few dogs that were still alive, albeit grossly malnourished. These ones were bleeding from their anuses. I would later realized that he was raping them. One of them was the black poodle from my neighbors' yard. It was shaking profusely. I looked over to the center of the room, and there he was. Lying naked except for a mask of a border collie, on a pile of pelts was the dog man.
He was covered in blood. I almost screamed, thinking I was given away until I realized he was asleep. Sandy was lying next to him, unconscious, connected to a leash in his hand. The whimpering increased in volume as the dogs saw me. The Dog Man was starting to stir. I would have to be quick.
I crept over to the dog man, and jostled Sandy awake. She saw me and started licking my face. I cut her leash, and nudged her up the stairs. There was no telling where she would go now, hopefully Geoff’s house, but anywhere was better than this.
I heard a growling behind me.
Not dog growling.
I whirled to see that the dog man was awake and on all fours. I sprinted out of the basement so fast, it would Olympic teeters to shame.
I could hear him behind me, barking, growling, snarling and howling. Just when I thought I could slow down, I would feel his hot breath behind me and hear the panting getting closer, and I’d have to push myself even harder.
Somehow, I made it to the edge of the woods. I looked back to see the dog man down on all fours, not wearing his mask (he must have lost it while we were running). He howled at the sky and trotted back into the woods.
I blacked out.
I woke up back home in my bed. It looked like it was approaching noon outside. How long was I out? My mum was sitting on my bed with me.
“Sweetheart,” she asked, “What on earth were you doing out near the woods and the beginning of the night?” She said this so sweetly, so innocently, so motherly it broke my heart. I told her what had happened through my pathetic weeping. She said that it would all be all right, that they’d tell his bosses and they wouldn’t let him be a dogcatcher anymore, that Geoff’s dog made it home and was okay now, but that they needed me to tell them where he lived. I told her I loved her, and she said the same through tears of her own.
The next day, a search party was sent out, consisting of pet owners and policemen. They went into the woods, back to that goddamned “Dogg Hows”, and they found it, they found everything I’d described. I think maybe five of the twenty-five or so dogs abducted made it out alive, and those dogs were viciously sodomized and abused by that monster.
The only thing they didn’t find was the Dog Man.
They contacted the people who would have employed him, and they said there was no dog catcher registered for that area. As far as they knew, he never existed. None ever got his name, so we could never find him. For all I know, the Dog Man could still be out there today.
He probably still is.
One of the reasons I’m bringing this up is to help cope with it. I feel if I type it out, maybe some of my fear and depression will leech out of me and onto the page, or something like that.
The other reason I’m bringing this up….I recently moved in with my girlfriend. She’s the nicest girl in the world, and she has a dog named Tough Guy.
I woke up one morning and came downstairs to find her crying on the couch. I asked her what was wrong and she said that Tough Guy must have run off during the night. The weird thing was, she didn’t remember putting him out.
My heart sank, and my face turned to stone. She asked what was wrong. I didn’t hear her. I walked out the front door to the mailbox, and checked it.
I was hit with a wave of relief. Hopefully, someone had seen Tough Guy run off, and sent him to the pound or something. Maybe he was hit by a car. The thought broke my heart, but it was better than what the Dog Man would have done to him.
I walked back inside, and realized I wasn’t wearing my glasses. I walked back upstairs to the bedroom, already planning out a strategy to search for Tough Guy, when I saw it.
There, on my night stand, was an envelope.