Bil Browning

31 Days: How to Make a Dog Fly

Filed By Bil Browning | August 30, 2011 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: pitt bull rescue, Reece Piece

The backstory behind this photo is after the break.

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I'm doing a series of posts for 31 days that will feature a photo from my personal collections and the backstory behind the picture. I'm trying to stick with shots that have not appeared on the site before. I'm using the stories as a writing exercise to help me prepare for writing a book. You can find the rest of the series posts here:

The story of how Reese Piece the pit bull came to live at Rancho Bilerico is an amusing tale.

Reese Makes Her Arrival

It was a few days before Christmas when Reese showed up in our fenced in backyard. I'm always the first one awake at our home and I was downstairs puttering around making coffee and starting to put together the day's posts for Bilerico. I'd already let the dogs out, fed them breakfast when they'd finished, and was starting to get settled in for a quiet day of writing.

Just as I got parked in my chair, I heard a horrible scratching noise coming from our back door. I'm not talking about a polite dog-scratching-at-a-door-to-come-inside type of scratch. It sounded like something heavy had hit the top of the door and then slid all the way to the bottom.

The first time I thought maybe neighborhood kids were playing and got carried away. The second time I thought, "What in the hell is that?" and the third time I got up to check things out. Before I could make it across the room, the noise had hit two or three more times.

It was a thud at the top of the door and then a scrape and slide to the bottom.

Thud. Scrape.

Thud. Scrape.

Thud. Scrape.

As I peeked out the small window at the top of our door, all I could see was an empty yard. I couldn't see anyone outside who could be causing the noise.

Suddenly I was looking at a pit bull's muzzle through the little window as it launched itself from the ground up and over our porch to hit the top of the door and slid to the bottom with her nails gouging the wood all the way down.

"Stop that! Go away!" I yelled from behind the door. It didn't help.

Thud. Scrape.

I really didn't want to open the door and confront a hyperactive pit bull. They have a horrible reputation as mutant killer beasts and, I'll admit, I was a little scared.

Thud. Scrape.

If I didn't do something soon though, the dog was going to destroy our wooden door.

Thud. Scrape.

I cautiously opened the door a crack. The dog sat down.

"Go away. Shoo!" I said. "Go on! Git!"

Since we'd moved to our house, we'd adopted a cat and a dog already; both of them had shown up on our doorstep and I knew we didn't have room for another. This dog had to go quick before our daughter saw it and started begging to keep it. After all, it was a few days before Christmas - a parent's weakest moment for adolescent pleadings.

The dog rolled over on its back and invited me to pet her belly. I could see she was a female and while she seemed friendly enough, I wasn't giving an inch.

"Go on now. There's no room at the inn this Christmas. You gotta go. Beat it!" I said to her. "Go on, girl." I closed the door and left her laying there on her back at the foot of the steps.

Thud. Scrape.

I opened the door again. She ran to the bottom of the steps and grinned up at me with her tongue lolling out. I opened the door wider and she rolled over again. I stepped out on to the porch and she launched onto her feet and started jumping straight in the air. I ran back inside and shut the door quickly.

Thud. Scrape.

What in the hell was I supposed to do? I couldn't let the dog keep destroying the door, but how could I get rid of her? Our yard was fenced in; I had no idea how she'd gotten in to start with. If I couldn't figure out how she'd ended up there how could she be expected to find her way out?

Thud. Scrape.

A Plan Comes Together

I opened the door again and she ran to the base of the steps. I stepped out on the porch and she rolled over. I was starting to get used to the routine now.

"Stay," I said in my sternest voice. She laid there.

I walked over to her and she stood up. Cautiously I let her sniff my hand. Suddenly she was standing on her back legs and leaning against me licking my hand constantly.

"Good girl," I said as I started walking toward our back gate. The dog followed and I knew I'd found my escape. I'd lead her to the gate, get her to go through it and shut it behind her.

Foolproof. Or so I thought.

We made it to the gate. We went through the gate. I held on to the gate as she walked through and started to shut it. Before I could get it closed though, the damn mutt had rushed through and was back in the yard looking up at me with that stupid grin on her face as if to say, "Well, that was fun. What other games you got up your sleeve?"

I tried again. Same result.

The next time we walked a little down the alley together. When she wandered into an abandoned house's yard, I slowly started walking back toward our gate. I watched her sniffing around as I walked backwards for a moment and then turned around satisfied I'd ditched her. As I touched the gate the dog came barreling back towards me and through the gate back into the yard. Foiled again.

A Plan Gets Revised

Obviously I needed to think big picture. I went back inside the house to grab a bowl of dog food. A dog always stays where there's food, right?

Thud. Scrape.

Thud. Scrape.

Between me digging in the dog food bag and Reese jumping at the door, the other dogs were excited and curious. They really wanted to go see this new stranger who was making so much noise and, I'm sure, they hoped the food was for them.

Thud. Scrape.

I opened the door and the sit/lay down/grin process repeated itself like clockwork. This time I rattled the food, tossed her a kibble (which bounced off her forehead - that dog never did learn to catch treats), and started leading her back towards the gate again. My plan was to take her down the alley a bit, put the food down and while she was getting her grub on, I'd sneak back through the gate.

Sure enough, she followed the sound of the food rattling in a plastic container. Tail wagging and tongue still lolling, she followed me down the alley. I sat the bowl down and she stuck her nose in and started to eat. I started to back away slowly and she looked up, eyeing me warily.

"Go on, girl. Eat up," I said as I stopped moving. "You obviously need it."

She stuck her nose back in the bowl and I took another step back. Her came up and I stood still. This process repeated a few times until suddenly she took off as if she'd been shot out of a cannon. She rocketed around the abandoned yard a few times and then ran down the alley, through our gate and back into the yard.

Thud. Scrape.

I could hear it as I walked down the alley muttering to myself about the "goddamned dog." Now what was I supposed to do? I was out of ideas.

Mr. Morning Sunshine

Around Rancho Bilerico I'm known as the morning person. Jerame isn't. In fact, some people would say (not me, of course!) that he's a little grumpy in the morning. His patience for mischief is low. If I didn't get rid of this dog soon, she'd wake him up and I didn't want to deal with a bitchy husband that early in the morning.

My worrying gave me an idea. Maybe it would be better for me to go wake up Jerame and get him to come deal with the dog. Since he'd be freshly awake, he'd broker no nonsense and the dog would take off for the hills. One good bellow and that mutt would light out as if the gates of hell had opened right before her.

I walked back into the house with my new plan securely in place.

Thud. Scrape.

I could hear it continuing as I walked upstairs to wake up Mr. Morning Sunshine. The dogs could hear it too and they were going nuts milling around the living room and trying to figure out what was going on outside. As the smallest dog started growling, I made it upstairs and started shaking Jerame awake.

"Honey? Wake up. I need your help," I said quietly.

Jerame opened one eye slowly and, in his usual verbose morning manner, grunted, "What?"

I explained my predicament and the dog and the gate and the alley and the dog food and the rolling over and the rocketing around and as I looked back over at him I noticed he'd fallen asleep again. I'd taken too long. I shook him again.

"What?!"

I gave a shorter explanation while he kept his eyes closed. When I'd finished the Cliff Notes version, he just looked at me.

"She'll go away soon. Let me sleep," he said.

"I don't think so, she's been at it for about 45 minutes now," I fretted. "You should do something."

"Fine," he said and then rolled over. Eventually about a half hour later, I finally got him up out of bed and downstairs to investigate.

And That's How It Happened

Thud. Scrape.

We could hear it as we came down the stairs.

"What is that?" Jerame asked and I hurried to point out that was why I'd wanted him to hurry before our door was turned into toothpicks. "It's the dog?" he questioned, only half awake.

"Yes," I assured him. "Now go yell at it and get rid of her."

As he walked out the door, I stood in the living room waiting for the sound of his deep voice giving that dog what-for and chasing it off. It was quiet. I couldn't hear anything.

A couple of minutes later, Jerame opened the door. He started to walk in, turned around, and said, "Well, come on in then." As I stood there dumbfounded he said to me, "We'll call pit bull rescues today and get her placed somewhere. She's not staying. Don't worry."

"Right..." I thought but I dutifully called all the shelters. The main Indianapolis shelter said they'd put her down immediately since she's a pit bull. The no-kill shelter was full. And none of the foster homes had room and begged us to keep her over the holidays until they could find her a temporary home. Of course they never called back with another option and Reese never left. It wasn't our daughter who ended up pleading to keep the dog.

Reese was always hyperactive and, quite frankly, a pain in the ass. She wore out the three other dogs before making her way through the humans. Once she'd worn everyone out, she'd start over at the beginning just hoping someone would want to play. For months I begged Jerame to find a new home for the dog but his heart was set on her. Eventually I got over it and accepted her as part of the family.

One of her favorite toys was an old rope bone that was perfect for both dogs and humans to yank her around the yard. I'd let her grab one end and I'd spin in circles until her feet lifted up off the ground and she spun with me. We'd turn around in circles until I was dizzy and then collapse on the ground. I'd giggle and she'd grin as we both tried to stand up. Once we had our equilibrium back, we'd do it again. And again. And again. She never tired of it and, well, neither did I.

How do you make a dog fly? Give a poor starving mutt a warm bed, some loving arms to hold her, and a little bit of food and her heart will soar with nary a thud to mark it's previous crashes.


When we moved to our tiny apartment in DC from our big old house with a yard in Indianapolis, we had to give Reese Piece to a new family. A friend who adored Reese and played with her constantly whenever she'd visit asked to keep her. She sends us pictures regularly and keeps us up to date on her health. Reese now has a new playmate and is very happy in her new home where she plays rope bone in the backyard to her heart's content. Jerame still misses her incredibly and talks about how much he wishes he hadn't been forced into giving her up. Don't tell him, but I'd let her back into our home any day (but I doubt her new owner could get her out their gate).


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Geeez...you are incredibly thin.

What a heart-warming story. You're such a sap, I love it.

I miss that dog so much. She was really difficult to get used to at first - saying she had behavioral problems is an understatement. Maybe sometime in the series, Bil will post one of the pics of her with her "panties" on and tell that story.

But yes, Bil is right. Small apartment, no room, whatever - I'd take that dog back in a hot minute if the her new human would give her up (which I highly doubt!)

Yup!, dat's a Pitty for ya. All bounce-go-fart-'n'-wiggle... and there's no end to it until you club 'em in the head to knock 'em out so you can catch your breath. You have my complete and heart-felt sympathies. My Tinkabelly is every bit as obnoxious, hyperactive, uncooth, and I wouldn't give her up for love nor money... well... nah. Miss Tinky-Stinky-Ba-Dinky is now a whole year old, tho' there were (and sometimes still are) times when I didn't think I'd let her live that long.
I found her through a couple who unintentionally ended up "breeding" Pits - unintentional because they didn't realize how old their female was, and when they took her to the vet it was already too late. SOOO-PRIIIZE!!! Next thing they knew, they had 11 puppies. I, of course, fell in love with the "runt" - a white, female, with a rust patch on one ear, a spot at the base of her tail, and little rusty speckles everywhere else. Who knew, when looking at this shy, scared, tiny little sweetheart that she would grow into the Speckle-Butted Menace she is today?
I wish I had a photo decent enough to link into this post - but if any of you can get my hell-hound to sit still for a picture, instead of trying to eat the camera, you're more than welcome to come and try.

...and, yes, Bil - Tink's one love in life (aside from her "mommie") is her Tuggie. She's gone through three of them in her single year on the planet, and I'll never be able to get my shoulder back in it's socket.