Anyone who’s suffered through more than a year of Latin will tell you that cave canem (kah-way kah-nem) means “beware of dog.” When I was a kid in Chicago, I would see “BEWARE OF DOG” on back gates in alleys. If it was on a chain-link fence, it meant that the dog was medium to large and would generally bark its head off at you. If it was on a wood fence that was over four feet tall, it meant that the dog would probably eat you. Dogs like that have this sixth sense that someone is walking a little too close to their house (meaning on their side of the imaginary line down the center of the alley) and will bark and bang on the gate trying to get out, maybe even try to jump over the fence. That was a little scary, because you’d see this huge paw reaching over the fence and hanging on as the dog barked psychotically from the other side. You have to wonder why someone would keep a dog like that as a pet.
Of course, maybe the dog isn’t a pet, but a defensive weapon, meaning there was some kind of illicit activity going on in the house. In my neighborhood, you could never really tell.
There was a hotel in my neighborhood that was a gay bathhouse. Around the back, they had a gate with iron bars, behind which was the orneriest German Shepherd you’ve ever seen. Come anywhere near that gate and the dog would go berserk, actually sticking his snout out between the bars hoping to snack on your arm. A couple of times a day, someone had the task of putting a muzzle on him and taking him for a walk. The guy wore a pistol on his belt for one purpose: to kill the dog if it somehow got loose and tried to attack someone.
And, of course, there was Kuala, about whom I wrote earlier this year…
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