Pobre
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5 P obre was a pound dog; pound dogs are jailbirds, only it isn’t that they’ve ever done anything really wrong, but they just happened to be born to somebody who didn’t want them. Some dogs were there because they had broken a rule, but we never knew about Pobre. Daddy had to tell me about Pobre’s beginnings because they had Pobre before they had me. When he found out I was on the way, he decided a boy needed a dog to grow up with, so he went to the pound and picked out a dog no one else would ever choose. He made two mistakes: I turned out to be a girl and Pobre turned out to be a dog anyone would want. Of course, he didn’t start out that way. Daddy said that when Pobre first came to the Hill, he was skinny, hard-headed, and his black coat looked like wornout carpet with lots of slashes and tears. His first day on the Pobre 6 Tails on the Hill way home from the pound he threw up on the back seat of the car. First thing when he hopped out of the car on the Hill, he attacked Tiny Tim, our big horse-dog; he marched over to Mother, who was hanging out clothes, looked up at her, raised his leg, and peed on her; then he lifted his nose, took a few sniffs, and headed straight for the dog pan. Without so much as a “May I?” he ducked his head, and in a few short snorts emptied it. Daddy said by that time the other Hill dogs gathered around. They didn’t bark; they didn’t move a muscle except their eyes as they watched Pobre swagger and strut from dog to dog checking each one out. After his tour of inspection, he hopped up the steps, seated himself on the porch, and declared the back porch his territory and the Hill Gang had better not forget it-and Daddy said they never did. Those first few weeks Pobre showed everyone how tough he was. He didn’t need friends because he could take care of himself. But all of that high and mighty attitude changed, Daddy said, overnight. He woke up to crashing and clanging and thumping and moaning out on the back steps. When he ran to the door and switched on the light, there was a proud, stuck-up Pobre with his head stuck inside a big pickle jar. He had managed to break out the bottom, but he couldn’t get rid of the rim and about six inches of jagged glass around his head. Daddy said he broke the rim, and Pobre, almost at the same moment, changed from rough and tough ex-jailbird to a warm and loving friend. But he said that probably my arrival also had something to do with his new “philosophy of life.” I never really understood what “philosophy of life” meant until I got a few spankings and Daddy would always say I needed to 8 Tails on the Hill Sometimes if I didn’t get the door fast enough a rat would scoot in between my feet. They knocked over candleholders, chewed the glue off of our National Geographics, gnawed ivy, and even tore open my bubble gum wrappers and stole my bubble gum! Daddy had to put wire mesh over the chimney to keep them from scooting down through the fireplace. They nested in the motor of the Chevy pickup; they took over the barn, and we couldn’t get away from the sounds of their squeals and clicking and pitter-pattering of millions of claws. One night Daddy drove the pickup down to a field and we sat there and watched as armies of mice moved in front of the headlights like gray waves, cleaning out the wheat stubble right down to the ground. Like Daddy, Pobre must have decided enough was enough. Just like Superman, he left his perch on the porch, shook himself from nose to tail, and right before our eyes changed from peace to war. He raised his hackles, bared his teeth, and attacked. He darted in and out of bushes and flower beds, rooted up boards and rocks, and shot around that yard like a bullet bouncing off of walls and rocks and fence posts. He’d clamp his teeth around the rat’s neck, lift the squirming squealing gray...


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