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by William Stewart

(Inspired by a story by T. Michael Riddle)

 They tell me I was the last of my kind, an American Pit Bull Terrier, and I admit I wore the name with pride, but never arrogance. Oh, I could fight, and fight well, if the situation called for it, but I would get along with other animals that didn't challenge me or weren't foolish enough to question my courage. I loved all humans, unless they gave me reason not to by endangering my family or abusing our property. Then I would fight to the death for my family.
My master trained me from a pup to obey him but these things I knew by instinct. These things he said I inherited from hundreds of generations of good dogs, some bred for the pit, some for hunting and some just for companions for our masters-but good, brave bulldogs, one and all.
Now, as I drift here between realities waiting, I'm told, for my final dispensation from the Creator, I wonder where we went wrong. Did we bulldogs not try hard enough? Were we not brave enough, not loyal enough? Did we not defend our homes, our masters and their families and possessions with our very lives? Did we not love our human masters with every fiber of our beings. Perhaps then, we did not show our love and devotion strongly enough, nor convincingly enough that our kind should be permitted to exist?
Mistakes were made, that is true. Some of my kind hurt humans but only because they were made to hate and attack them by foolish and overbearing masters. Some of us were allowed to roam freely and get into trouble, as any dog would. But were we to blame? Did we deserve extinction?
There were of course, the news reports. For a long time it seemed that we bulldogs were the only dogs that ever bit anyone. Did all the other breeds suddenly stop biting humans for some reason; perhaps to make us bulldogs look bad? If not, why then was it only bites by our kind that were reported, and why were we blamed when the breeding of the offender wasn't even known?
Besides, haven't dogs always occasionally bitten humans? Why were we singled out? Was it because we were courageous fighters, the best the world had ever seen in combat? We thought that courage and tenacity and bravery were traits humans admired. Don't they worship their sports heroes and honor their war heroes?
Where then did we go wrong? Could we have done something differently that all our masters might have fought harder-as mine did in the end-to keep us from being outlawed, hunted down and executed? I have so many questions!
Some said it was the "animal rights" and "humane" type humans. They wanted all animals to have a safe, cozy and "happy" life. That may be okay for their Poodles and Pekinese lapdogs but bulldogs aren't interested in getting old and fat and dying in their comfortable beds-bulldogs need more. They didn't seem to understand that we didn't mind a little discomfort-what they would call cruelty-if that was what we had to endure to get to do what we loved, whether it was hunting or fighting or protecting our masters.
If those humans are really for "animal rights" as they claim, shouldn't it be our right to choose how we live-and die? Like any dog can, we could refuse to do a job we didn't like. We could have quit and curled up in a ball or pissed and hollered like a street cur being chased away by kids throwing stones, but that was not our way!
We loved what we did! Discomfort, pain, hardship-they were nothing to us-couldn't they understand-we were bulldogs! Couldn't they see that, in our joy for the hunt, in our love of combat? Wherein was the cruelty if we loved our sports? Could they not understand that we truly needed a challenge to be happy? And how could a real bulldog be happier than when he was locked in combat with a worthy opponent?
Perhaps it was that which scared the "animal rights" and "humane" type humans. Perhaps they thought because we feared nothing, we would attack them or their children, but we never would, without good reason, unless made mean by an ignorant master. And some masters were ignorant, not understanding our true natures any better than the "humane" ones, thinking we would be better fighters if beaten and mistreated, even starved and fed gunpowder to rot our stomachs and make us irritable!
Many years ago (just to make our masters look wicked) the public was told by the "humane" ones that these foolish things were done by our owners and were necessary to make us fighters. How silly some humans are! Some of my ancestors were world class athletes. Who would be stupid enough to think they would perform better if beaten or with their stomachs eaten away by chemicals?
Didn't they realize we performed as much for our love of our masters as for our own enjoyment? Our true masters understood why we fought. We were bulldogs! We were born and bred for hundreds of years to love combat!
Considering these things I can't understand why the "humane" types thought we would be better off if they killed us. If we were happier fighting and hunting and didn't mind even the stringent living conditions some of our masters kept us in, why would they think we would be better off dead.
Perhaps the "humane" ones are so weak in spirit that a little discomfort makes them wish they were dead so they mistakenly think a bulldog must feel the same way. How foolish they must be if that is the case! How they underestimated us!
Sometimes I suspected that they simply hated us for what we were, because we were everything they were not, as cowards are often jealous of the brave, and that was why they had my kind banned from existence and destroyed by the tens of thousands. But how could even a foolish and jealous human not admire our courage and loyalty and sweet natures with our masters and families? I have so many questions.
So here I wait, the essence of the last bulldog to have lived on earth. My master secreted me away (in the barn and storm cellar) and only walked me at night for years before we were finally betrayed by one who pretended to be his friend. And then one day, they came to take me away.
They took me to a place where hundreds of dogs were barking furiously for their families and friends. They dragged me from the truck and threw me into a big 'tank' with several other dogs of outlawed breeds, a Rottweiler, a Doberman and one of my relatives, a big, white American Bulldog. They slammed the heavy door and sealed it up tight and I could hear the muffled sound of a compressor starting up outside.
For a short time we did have some fun though. While the others were scared and cowered away from us, the American Bulldog and I went at each other like step-brothers, swapping every hold we could get-what a joyous time we were having-but then it got very hard to breathe and my tongue felt swollen and my eyes and eardrums ached as if they were going to explode....
And then I was here. Someone is coming! He seems to be in charge. Now I will find out if I have been a good dog, after all. I've been awfully worried about that, afraid I was a bad dog and did something wrong, because it just doesn't make sense that they would kill a good dog for no reason. I hope there will be other bulldogs where I'm going. If dogs and masters go to the same place maybe I will even see my master! From what I remember, I'm afraid he may be here too.
As they took me away those humans in shiny uniforms were shooting at him with guns, like the ones he used when he took me hunting. (I think they were shooting at him, although I'd never before seen one human shoot at another in my life!) My master taught me that humans respect each other's lives, so why would they be shooting at him?
I tried to protect him but the uniformed ones wouldn't stand for a fair fight. As I charged out to meet them, one of them sprayed me in the face with something that burned my eyes so I couldn't see, while another shot me with a dart that made me feel dizzy.
But they weren't dealing with some lesser breed, I was a bulldog, and I fought back hard through the blindness and the drug, and finally grabbed one of them by the leg and I sank my cutters deep in his flesh and shook with everything I had left, making the man scream in pain and terror. But another grabbed my back legs and stretched me out while two more put a steel cable around my throat, and pulled it taught, choking me until I blacked out.
As my fight had been transpiring I could hear my master crying out my name, swearing and screaming at them, "Let go of my dog! Leave my dog alone!" He was fighting hard but there were so many of them and only my master, all alone, to fight for me.
In the truck I woke up groggy from asphyxiation, but I could hear the guns still firing and see that without me, my master was in trouble. He had said many times they would have to 'take me over his dead body', but I never understood what that meant. Why would anyone want to take me from the master I loved? And how could my master be dead?
I could see the fight going on in our yard. My master was shooting back at them from behind the cover of his car-and he was fighting fiercely, like a real bulldog! But I could see that he was hurt-his body jerking over and over as they fired-and he fell to his knees, the life-blood spreading from many places on his shirt and pants.
I was enraged, furious to get free and go to his side and help him! I tore at the bars of my cage until my teeth were broken and useless, my lips and gums shredded and burning, but I couldn't free myself! I couldn't believe he was fighting all those humans for me! I mean, I was just an old bulldog but he was a human, a master-my master! How could this be happening?
As they hurriedly drove me away the shooting faded and stopped. The last thing I saw the uniformed ones were cautiously moving in. One of them kicked at my master's body, but I think for him the fight was finally over.
Please tell me I didn't fail my master! Oh, I hope not! If I did, they may punish me-send me to a bad place, where there are no bulldogs to fight, no game to hunt, and no masters to love. I hope they will decide I was a good dog so I can go to the other place.
Maybe my master is already there waiting for me! When I see him we will run and play until we are spent, throwing ourselves down in the grass, joyous to be together again! I'll lick his face all over and he'll chuckle, halfheartedly admonishing me to stop, as he always did.
We'll lie there in the soft grass and watch the sun set like we used to do on warm summer evenings. He will pat me on the head and stroke my back, and tell me what a good boy I am-and I'll ask him why a good dog and a good master would be treated this way.
My master is wise-he will answer my questions.



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