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Tito
By
fallingdove

Tito

Tags: dog, ft. hood

A story about my dog, and about the shooting on Ft. Hood.

I had a nice office job on post, Fort Hood, Texas. I lived right outside the air field gate. I had a blue healer named Tito, and I enjoyed taking him for walks. His leash hung from the door handle, and he would push it into the door so the the snap clicked, reminding me. He was a charmer.

When it would rain I would try to catch him at the door and wipe his feet so he wouldn't track up the house. He would inevitably get away from me and run muddy circles around the house and I would yell at him. He would smile from ear to ear.

A salesman knocked. Tito barked.

“Good boy.” I said and petted him.

“Would you like to buy some magazines?” the salesman asked.

“No. I don't read magazines.” I said. The salesman tried to come into my house.

“He doesn't bite.” the salesman says as he starts to step over the threshold.

“He bites, and I wouldn't.” I said. Tito is standing right in front of the pushy salesman, growling with every hair standing on end. I relax when the salesman leaves.

I took Tito to the Killeen city park, and passed Korean women with their Pomeranian's, and African and Arabic women with their head scarfs. People wonder how I can have such long hair in this heat, but I wonder about wearing a scarf in the heat. I was passed by soldiers who were running to stay in shape for their physical fitness tests.

“What kind of a dog is that, he's cute.” one of two ladies asked. Tito liked girls and started smiling and waging and acting as cute as he could. They giggled at is antics.

I'd take him fishing and he'd splash in the water and run up and down the dock smiling. Another fisherman watched him doing this; repeatedly getting his feet wet, then making tracks on the dock. I ignored him.

“Goofball.” the fisherman said. The fisherman and my dog were smiling at each other.

On Veteran's Day I took Tito for a walk in the old golf course near the 1 st Cavalry Division Horse Detachment stables. Out of the fog stepped a Civil War style formation of horses and riders. It was a beautiful anachronism. A mule drawn wagon rattled along behind the horsemen. On the buckboard sat a blue healer. Tito and the other dog looked at each other with interest, but silently.

The neighbor, named Jennifer, on the other side of the duplex, had a dog and a cat that had kittens and puppies at the same time. Her house got over run with fleas. One afternoon, she took all the animals and kids out on the front lawn and bombed the house. I was sweeping the house and swept the dust and Tito-hair out the front door into the flowerbed. I stopped to talk to my neighbor and to take in the afternoon glow. I sat down on the porch.

“Watch Tito.” Jennifer warned. He was sitting inside looking at the kittens intently. He was very good about not crossing the front threshold, or the threshold into my bedroom.

“Oh, look at the kitten.” The cutest black and white fuzz-ball was having difficulty making through the short grass. In a blink, Tito was through the screen-door and after the kitten. I leaped after him and swung the broom like an ax. The broom was about to hit him in the back. I blinked. The broom was buried in the lawn with a broken kitten under it's hard edge. Children's, cat's, dog's, Jennifer's eyes looked at me in glassy shock. Tito was the first to wake up. He wanted to finish killing the kitten. I tried to stop Tito. The kitten's legs moved slowly under the broom. Jennifer scooped it up and brought it inside. It died in the sink a few moments later. There was a shoe-box funeral later that evening. I cried uncontrollably. Jennifer's seven-year-old daughter scolded me, she couldn't really talk because she was deaf, but I got the point.

At work, Marla and I were taking our two o'clock break outside. She talked constantly about her Shelties. She posted pictures of them on a website called “Sheltie Nation” everyday. She entered them into cute dog contests. She was obsessed with her dogs.

We walked around the parking lot to stretch our legs. The Texas sky was bright and blue. The warning alarm kept blaring, but they were always testing the noisy warning system.

"This is a severe storm warning. Take shelter in the nearest building immediately." a mechanical woman's voice said.

"The warning system must be busted." said Marla.

"This is a severe storm warning. Take shelter in the nearest building immediately." the voice said again after the alarm blasted again. I got the giggles as I looked at the clear blue sky.

“I wish they would turn the alarm down, or quit testing it, it hurts my ears.” I said.

Angel, the secretary opened the main door of the office building I worked in and gestured for us to come to her.

“Marla, Paula, come in.” she said.

“But our break isn't over, it's only two-oh-five.” Marla said.

“Just come in, we got a call telling us to bring everyone inside because there's a shooter out killing people.” Angel said.

I went and sat down at my computer in my cubicle. I checked my facebook account and posted a blurb about my situation.

My phone beeped, a soldier who had connived my phone number from me, texted me again.

“I'm ok.” he wrote. I rolled my eyes.

“I'm sorry to hear that.” I mumbled.

My cubicle partner, Blumb, was on his cell phone with a friend who was mopping up bodies.

When he hung up he said “There are several shooters., a shooting in a residential area and another shooting at the Clear Creek PX. Several guys are involved. They only caught one of them, an army officer, a Major.” he said. “They have us all inside so we don't get shot by the guys who are still running loose.”

I checked my facebook page again and it had more than twenty responses. I passed on what Blumb had told me.

I worked on my work project, but couldn't concentrate. I rummaged through my desk drawer hoping to find a snack, with no luck. When four o'clock came I didn't feel so guilty about goofing off. I opened up my facebook account and played my farming game without reservations. Little updates kept circulating around the office.

"What would posses an officer to do this?" said Blumb.

 There were about sixty of us in the office, with little to do but talk. A young guy and a loud-mouthed lady started arguing over politics and the young guy flipped a knife open in front of everyone. His supervisor skillfully swept the incident under the rug to save his job.

It was ten o'clock that night before the warning horn started giving the short little blasts that signal “All Clear.” and we could go home.

I stepped out the door and started to walk across the parking lot to my car when the short blasts started again. I crouched an shook for a moment, rattled from the day, startled by the noise. I looked at Old Ironsides Road and saw a miles of taillights that weren't moving. I went back into the building.

“Jimmy, can I have tomorrow off?” I asked the site supervisor who had also decided to wait for awhile before tackling the traffic bound trip home.

“Sure, fill out a form before you leave.” he said.

I laid down on the conference room floor and took a nap. An hour later I drove home easily.

My blue healer, Tito, met me at the door. I let him out and he peed for a long minute. I felt bad about leaving him so long. I had let him out when I went home for lunch. He spent about an hour sniffing my shed clothing, trying to figure out where I had been.

“I got your foot.” I said and I grabbed and held one of Tito's feet. He gave me a look that said “Grow up lady.” This game used to be a fun way to harass him. He would struggle and I would hold his foot no matter what he did, but now he was used to the game and just gave me an annoyed look and let me hold whichever foot I chose.

The next day I woke up late and I decided to take Tito fishing. I let him out into the yard to do his happy dance. It made me happy to see how excited he got over getting to go to the lake. He was jumping and smiling and running around in circles. He saw a cat across the street and tore after it. I yelled after him. A mini-van glided down the street and hit Tito, dragging him a hundred feet before it came to a stop. I screamed and fell to my knees and face, but on my way to the ground I saw my dog run to the backyard.

The minivan stopped and a man got out and followed Tito to the backyard. I got up and followed them, I found him hovering over Tito.

“Will you help me get him into my car, so I can take him to the vet?” I asked.

“Yea, my wife's dog got ran over in front of us a month back, and they didn't stop. I understand. I'll help.” he said. I got the car door open and the floor lined with a rug to protect it from the bleeding dog. He carried Tito. I couldn't have done it by myself. He brought me a bag of expensive groceries later that week to appologise.

After dropping Tito off at the vet's office I went to Henderson's Family Restaurant to eat. It was packed. There were three camera crews in the place.

“Hi Sandy. Can I have a seat?” I said.

“Yea, your normal seat is open upstairs.” she said and ran off.

“It's really busy.” I said when I saw her again.

“Some fool told these guys that soldiers hang out here.” Sandy said. She giggled and ran off to wait tables.

I sat down and waited. A very handsome blond guy came up to my table.

“Excuse me, are you a soldier?” he asked.

“No.” I said.

“Are you married to a soldier?” he asked.

“No. I was in the army; I work on post.” I said.

“We're from CBS. Can we interview you?” he said.

“Sure.” He took my personal information, and instructed me to talk to him when answering, and to not look at the camera. He asked me several questions about the shooting.

“Did you know anyone who was hurt or killed in the shooting?” he asked.

“No.” I said, but I started to cry again because of Tito. “My dog just got ran over.”

“How do you feel about a fellow soldier doing this?” he asked.

“Ummm, bad?” I said.

“Do you feel less secure now that a shooting has happened here?” he asked. I hadn't thought about it.

“Ugh...Ummm. I hadn't thought about it." I said.

“How well do you think this community will recover from this tragedy.” he asked.

“Very well, we're used to death and tragedy because this is a war-town.” I said.

“Thank you very much for your service to our country.” he said. I smiled with a wet face.

“Sandy, they interviewed me. CBS interviewed me.” I said when she came to get my order.

“I know, I've been interviewed by ABC, NBC, CBS, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and a bunch I've never heard of. Chubs has that pretty little reporter going.” she looked over at an animated old man who was at another table with a young lady reporter.

“The CBS interviewer was really cute.” I said with a blush.

“I didn't notice him, but there was a camera-man for ABC that was super yummy.” she said with a quirky wink.

“My dog got ran over.” I said.

“Oh honey, I'm sorry.” she said and she hugged me genuinely. I felt guilty for not telling her that he's alive. She ran off to work.

I picked Tito up at the vet's office. He had a happy drugged dog smile on his coned face, and four wrapped feet.

“I only wanted the front feet wrapped but the girls wrapped all four.” the vet said. I looked at Tito and he stuck his tongue out.

I became grateful that I'd played the “Got your foot” game with him when it came time to change his wrappings. Weeks of spoon feeding him gravy with pain killers and babying him came and went. He cried in pain when ever I left the room. He looked at me with disapproval when I wasn't petting him or talking to him.

I left the back door open to let a cool breeze float through the little wooden house. I laid down on the couch for a nap. When I woke up Tito was gone from his bed. I looked out the window and saw him running around the yard, chasing crickets. I stepped out the back door and he fell on his side and started crying convincingly.

The Muslim community in Killeen changed after the shooting. I didn't see women in head scarves when I walked Tito in the park. The Muslim owned shoe store went out of business, which made me sad because the lady who owned it was nice. The Muslim owned convenience stores were sold to Koreans. The mosque went unmolested because it was heavily police protected.

It's sad that synagogues can't be protected from harm off post in Texas. There is a synagogue on the high security area of West Fort Hood.

Tito's feet recovered, but he never healed up emotionally. I couldn't handle him looking at me like a farted all the time, so I took him to live with my Mom. My Mom has other dogs and she's home more than I am. She lives in the country and he can roll in smelly nasty stuff and hunt mice and be a dog there. He loves it.

“I go out to change sprinkler pipes and I lift one end of the pipe to get the water out” my mom says. She does this to make the pipe lighter. “Tito runs to where the water is gushing out and dances in the water and smiles. He's fun to change pipes with.”

About a year later I talked to my mom and she said “ Tito's gone blind. At first I thought he was joking around when he would walk into a wall. You know how he is, but no, his eyes are all white now.” He knows his way around by memory, and is still happy.

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