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Sand Bar Bill

The Dogs of War

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From the war in Afghanistan. I don't really have any point, but just an interesting little viginette.

Here comes Lucky,” a soldier says. “Means we won’t get shot at today. Yesterday she didn’t show, and we got ****ed up.”

Lucky is sweet and hopeful, she curls between the camouflaged legs of the soldiers and they speak to her but are not allowed to touch. Regulations. I’m not bound by them so I kneel and whistle and she bounds over and folds herself softly into me. Someone has fashioned a collar for her. From the collar hangs a single silver dog tag. It reads DO NOT KILL.

“First Sergeant shot the last dog,” someone explains. The army does not allow mascots. The men discuss whether Lucky lives up to her name.

“She is. She is,” says an MP in dark sunglasses.

“Naw, man. The other day she came by and we still got shot at.”

“No, dude. She is—look at her. She don’t even like hajjis.”

By hajjis he means Afghans, and Lucky has just run off after one, his shalwar kameez flapping in the breeze. Lucky nips at the loose cloth while the man, embarrassed, hurries away. Afghans are rarely kind to dogs, and dogs behave accordingly.

“Get ‘im, Lucky! Bite hajji!” someone calls. The running Afghani laughs; probably he does not understand the insult.

Lucky loses interest. She walks a few feet off and settles down in the dust and sunshine, watching, listening. A tall sergeant arrives carrying breakfast in a foam tray. Lucky perks up and walks toward the sergeant, expectant. She rises slightly on her back feet sniffing at the tray, and the sergeant kicks her with all his weight, his boot smashing into her thin ribs. She tumbles and flees, tail folded tightly, howling and running. The sergeant spits.

“****in’ dog don’t get my breakfast, **** that,” he says.

Other MPs stare after the dog. They shake their heads and toe the dirt, ashamed.

“That was ****ed up,” several say, just out of earshot of the big sergeant, who outranks them all. “Back home, someone does that to my dog, I’d ****in shoot them.”

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