Worse Than Its Bite

A woman in Oklahoma was shot in the leg – by a labrador puppy (Irish Times 12/10/19) …


The gate of the yard opened, and the dogs sat up in interest. “Sounds like we’ve got us a newbie,” said Tally.

The dogs were in New Tricks, a Shelter started in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, by an elderly dog-lover keen to give misbehaving dogs a second chance. She had been rewarded for this over the years by savage opposition from the neighbours, savage letters from the town council and occasional savaging from the dogs.

Now the current crop of inmates gazed expectantly, a little fearfully, at the gate, like the Toy Story toys awaiting new presents. Their mouths dropped open in unison, causing a selection of bones to clatter to the ground.

The newcomer was a Labrador puppy.

Lula Mae

“Well, I never,” drawled Lula Mae, the collie.

The gate closed behind him. The puppy looked around defiantly at them.

“What are you all looking at?” he snarled.

Lula Mae smiled down at him. “Now listen, honey -” she began.

“My name’s not Honey,” said the puppy.

“Well, I didn’t think it was -”

“It’s Sweets,” said the puppy.

There was a short silence. “Oh, you poor thing,” said Max, the boxer.


“Well, Sweets,” continued Lula Mae, “I know you’re scared, surrounded by tough dogs like us -”

“Bit people, did you?” asked Sweets, scornfully.

“We didn’t just bite people,” said Lula Mae, surprised at how defensive she sounded. “Well, Max here did-”


“Just postmen,” said Max. “I thought you were meant to, that they were delivered free, like manna.”

“Whereas Tally here,” said Lula Mae, “was put in here just because he was too slow.”

“Really?” said Sweets.


“Yes,” said Tally. “My actual name is The Tahlequah Torpedo The Third – you get names like that when you’re a racing greyhound – and after a bad race I heard the owner say he was buying a The Tahlequah Torpedo The Fourth.”

“And he put you in here?”

“Er, yes,” said Tally, “though only after, well, now that you mention it, I bit him.”

“I see,” said Sweets. He turned to the big dog beside him, a Belgian Malinois. “And you?”


“I’m Duke,” said the dog. “I was a sniffer-dog, best in the whole of Cherokee County, for more than ten years. I just had two days to go till retirement when I sniffed out a bag of cocaine in a raid. Trouble was the bag was open, I got a snout full of coke, and I started to believe that I was Dracula, and my handler was a young lady in a revealing night-dress, and, well -”

“- he bit him.” said everyone.

Sweets looked at Lula Mae, who lowered her head. “I chewed slippers,” she said, quietly.

“That’s doesn’t sound too bad,” said Sweets, surprised.

“No,” said Lula Mae, “but one day my owner invited her friend to afternoon tea, and she brought her stupid pet dog.”


“It was a Shih Tzu,” said Lula Mae. She gazed at him, a bottomless pit of guilt in her eyes. “I honestly thought it was a haunted slipper.”

There was a short silence after this. “So,” said Sweets eventually, “you all think you’re the toughest of the tough, the literal dogs’ bollockses. Well, I’m here to tell you you’re not.”

“Why?” sneered Max. “What terrible thing did you do?”

“I shot my owner,” said Sweets.

There was a stunned silence. “O-k,” said Max eventually, “that is impressive.”

“How?” asked Tally.

“It’s simple,” said Sweets. “I waved my paw like I was waving ‘hello’, it flicked the trigger of her shotgun, which she always left lying on the porch, and ‘boom’.”

“I’m not surprised,” nodded Duke, the police-dog. “It’s exactly the sort of accident that happens when folk don’t lock away their guns.”

“Accident?” said Sweets. “You reckon?”

“You can’t be saying you shot her on purpose,” said Lula Mae, sounding as if she needed smelling salts. “Why would you?”

“My name,” said Sweets, “is Sweets. That should start to give you a hint. And I can wave my paw like I’m saying ‘hello’. I mean, what dog can do that? A dog whose owner is mental, that’s who. She used to make me chase toilet rolls so that I’d look like the Andrex puppy. She dressed me in an elf costume for her Christmas card. Then yesterday I was asleep and she yelled “walkies!!!” and waved my lead in my face, flicking the side of my ear.”

“So you killed her?” gasped Lula Mae. “For that?”

“Of course I didn’t kill her,” said Sweets. “I’m not an animal.”

The others waited while he played this back in his head.

“Well, ok, I am,” said Sweets. “But I just grazed her leg. I figured that would put an end to ‘walkies’ for a while.”

“Which it has,” said Duke, “since she’s put you in here.”

“Yes, well, I have to admit I didn’t see that bit coming,” said Sweets. “I guess ‘man’s best friend’ doesn’t mean as much as I thought it did.”

“Tell us about it,” chorused the others.

Just then they heard voices. The Shelter’s elderly owner was an approaching the gate with an even more elderly lady.

“… as safe as I used to,” the visitor was saying. “There’s a lot of petty crime in our area now, and some things have been stolen from my yard. It’s hard because I live alone.”

“I understand,” said the Shelter owner. “So you’d like a nice dog to keep you company?”

“Oh, I don’t want a nice dog,” said the visitor. “I want a guard dog.”

The dogs looked at each other, then at Sweets, who nodded.

“I’ve got this,” he said.








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