No Dogs Allowed
This article has been reprinted with the permission of the author. Her bio is at the end of the article.
No Dogs Allowed
By Lillian S. Barber
The heat was already becoming oppressive in spite of the dry air, and the roadside scenery was changing gradually toward the brown and sandy colors of the desert. The road, sparsely traveled, ran straight ahead in monotonous ribbon. There was a little dust in the atmosphere, but the sky sat above it with brilliant blueness not often seen by city dwellers. The static was starting to encroach on the classical station from Los Angeles, and she kept adjusting the dial although it was not much help. Eventually the static overwhelmed the music, and she shut the radio off.
The lack of good music was just one of the string of annoyances that added to her discontent. Desert living had never been all it was cracked up to be; and, of course, now it was nearly unbearable. Fortunately fuel supplies had not dried up along with everything else during the Bad Year and it was still possible to drive almost anywhere one wished to go.
She reached down and lovingly stroked the small, silken head stretched across her knee at the same time keeping her eyes alert for the road block she knew would be ahead at some point before the hill.
It had been in the year 2017 that the breeders had finally lost their battle. With a good part of the world in chaos after the incredible destruction of the quakes during the Bad Year and the crop losses and ensuing extreme shortages that followed the unseasonal freezes and relentless drought afterwards, the government had decreed that there would be no more reproduction of animals that served no practical purpose. Zoos were allowed a breeding pair of each surviving species of wildlife, and the newly formed Federal Kennel Club, actually a branch of government, had selected two breeding pairs of each recognized breed of dog, displaying the animals behind a security screen of plate glass so that future generations might be able to see part of the world that once had been.
Now, four years later, the edict had come that all remaining pets were to be humanely destroyed. Like the old 55 speed limit, the unpopular law was largely ignored even by the most law abiding citizens; but it had become exceedingly difficult. Animal control officers were everywhere; and, once the government had realized how widespread the non-compliance actually was, militia were pressed into service in order to change things.
For Toby and Laura Travis living in a high desert canyon reached by two miles of rough, steep dirt road had become a blessing in disguise. Laura, especially, had always hated it, not only because of the slow, soul jarring ride to and from the state highway but because of the isolation it engendered. Now the remote and well secreted little house gave them more than the privacy they had originally sought for themselves and their small family of well bred Italian Greyhounds. With the chain link runs removed and the kennel signs taken down, the property no longer looked as if dogs lived there. Although it went against her grain, Laura had had the two noisy ones in the group debarked before the local veterinarians had been forced to give up their small animal practice due to lack of clientele. It was fortunate that Italian Greyhounds, unlike some other toy breeds, are not at all yappy.
She spotted the camouflage colors of two vehicles ahead. At one time she had considered it rather odd that the Marine Corps used jungle colors in the desert, making the tanks and uniforms far more noticeable against the drab background than they would have been had they not been sporting camouflage; but now she was glad of the incongruity. She gave the little dog one more meaningful pat and said, firmly, “Down. Stay.”
At one time, when they had been used in Obedience competition, those commands had meant something quite different. Now they were a vital part of staying alive. It was risky to take a dog out in the car at all, but Domino had been trained well, and to her “down” meant to lie perfectly still on the floor until released from the command.
Laura reached behind the seat and picked up her sweater from the back. She dropped it gently over the dog, made sure her shoulder harness was properly fastened and took her wallet from her purse. Since the Bad Year there had been so much looting and thievery, mostly of heavily rationed food supplies, that the Marine Corps had cordoned off parts of the desert that were difficult to patrol, allowing only residents with identification and visitors with proper credentials to drive into the area.
As always, her heart pounded as she rolled to a stop and waited for the young Marine to approach. She handed him her identification.
He was friendly. “How far have you been?” he asked.
” San Bernardino. Grocery shopping.”
The Marine took a perfunctory look around the car. They usually examined only vans and campers.
” The stuff is all in the trunk,” said Laura. “Do you want me to open it?”
He shook his head and waved her on, uttering the perennial, “Have a nice day!”
There hadn’t been one for so long, she thought sadly.
She accelerated to about 50 and made sure there were no more government vehicles ahead before releasing Domino from her hiding place. For the remainder of the trip she persuaded the dog to remain in a lying down position on the seat. It was difficult to accept the fact that there were people who would report a beautiful little dog although its meager meals came only from part of its owners’ rations. Well, before the Bad Year Laura had had a weight problem and had been unable to do anything about it. Now, with dog food no longer available even on the black market, all the necessary nutrition for the eight remaining IGs had to be scraped out of the not too ample food allotment of two people. Once again Laura was thankful that she had chosen to love a small breed. As she left the highway pavement to turn onto the dirt road to her house she caressed Domino fondly, reminded once more of one of the I.G. fancy’s favorite stories, that of Frederick the Great hiding under a bridge, his faithful Italian greyhound quietly under his arm, while enemy hordes searched for him. It was said that the dog’s inherently quiet nature saved his master’s life.
Had he barked, the course of history might have been changed.
“You wouldn’t have changed the course of history, Dommie,” she said to her companion, “but I would have put up one hell of a fight for you if you had barked and that kid had discovered you.”
The long, slim tail beat a tattoo on the car seat. Domino recognized the jostling caused by the pitted, unpaved road and knew that they would soon be home.
As she pulled into the nearly hidden driveway she noted that Toby’s car was still gone. She felt relief that none of the dogs inside barked. It had been a difficult task to train them not to sound an alarm when a car approached, but these days silence was a necessity. At first Toby had objected to their gross disobedience of the law. He had suggested that they keep Domino and maybe another of the younger dogs and turn in the others; but Laura had threatened to load all of them into the camper and to become a permanent fugitive as so many others had attempted in an effort to save their beloved pets. “I’ll take your .38 and they’ll have to take the kids over my dead body,” she had sobbed; and Toby, knowing her well after 25 years of marriage, had relented.
The other seven dogs greeted her with the flattering enthusiasm to which she had grown so accustomed. without it she knew she could not face the rather bleak life they had been forced to live since the Bad Year. She petted them all for a few minutes, then hushed them and went out to the car to unload. Domino was still romping joyfully in the sandy soil, having been cooped up for half a day.
The sound of a car caught the simultaneous attention of both of them. There had been a time when the dogs’ superior hearing would have picked it up far ahead of Laura’s; but she had learned to be alert to such sounds. She picked up a plastic sack of groceries —paper bags had been outlawed right after the Bad Year —and called Domino to follow her into the house. When she came out again she could see a government car starting up the final hill. Her heart leapt into her throat. She cracked open the door to admonish the dogs to be quiet, closed it again and walked out onto the driveway to await the visitor.
It was one of the dreaded Animal Control vehicles, and it pulled up right behind Laura’s Americar. Two men got out, both wearing the uniform of the ACS. One carried a rifle, and the other brandished an official appearing paper.
” Mrs. Travis?” asked the one with the document.
” Yes,” nodded Laura, terror transmitting the shaking of her body to her voice.
” We’re from the Animal Control Services,” the man said superfluously. “We have a report that you are harboring some racing dogs.”
In spite of her fear Laura almost chuckled. Even now people were so stupid about Italian Greyhounds. Then, forcing composure, she said, “Racing dogs! Of course not!”
” May we enter your house?” the Animal Control officer went on. He showed her the document. It was, as expected, a search warrant.
” The place is a mess,” Laura replied frantically. “I just got home. Couldn’t you come back after I’ve had a chance to clean?” She knew it was hopeless, but she had to try something —anything.
” Come now, Mrs. Travis,” said the man. “That would just give you a chance to hide the dogs or move them somewhere else, wouldn’t it? Step aside, please.”
” There are no dogs,” she insisted in desperation. At that moment one of the IGs —it sounded like Crissi, who had actually had surgery to prevent it —began her hoarse bark.
” Crissi, shut up!” Laura screamed. It was a gut reaction. She and Toby had yelled at Crissi so many times before the Bad Year. Crissi’s insistent, Doberman sized bark had often incited the other, more typically quiet dogs to join in. The debarking had been done as a last resort in spite of Laura’s distaste for the operation.
” Please step aside,” the ACS officer repeated firmly.
Laura continued to block his way. “You can’t come into my house!” she shouted.
Suddenly, without warning, the other man hit her in the stomach with the butt of his rifle, knocking the wind out of her. Everything went black.
When Laura opened her eyes she was drenched in perspiration. It was no wonder. It was mid-July and the power had gone off, a not too infrequent desert occurrence, especially when everyone was using air conditioning. Crissi was out in the dog run barking her fool but pretty head off. The six month old puppy had just jumped from somewhere across the room right into the pit of Laura’s stomach, waking her from the sound but troubled sleep into which she had fallen while reading the mail, a piece of which had dropped to the floor. She picked it up and looked at it again. It was a renewal notice for the county dog licenses for the year 2006-2007. Laura began to laugh. Then she became aware of Domino curled softly against her on the sofa and tears formed in her eyes. She hugged the sleek form tightly and looked around the room at her other heat loving, calmly snoozing Italian Greyhounds.
” I love you guys,” she said with passion —and with great relief.
About the Author
Lilian Barber is a highly respected breeder and judge of Italian Greyhounds. A past president of the Italian Greyhound Club of America and of the Kennel Club of Palm Springs, she has had four books published about the Italian Greyhound, is a regular columnist for several dog magazines and has written articles on subjects that include travel, music and exotic pets. Her most recently published book is a moving auto-biography which has received great praise.