It's a suicide story.
He sat on the porch just staring at it. The dog slowly wagged its tail. It tapped a paw on the deck attempting to get an emotion out of his new owner. Given his shiny coat and proportions, the animal was far from being a mutt. It had a muscular chest and strong back. The black and orange stripe pattern gave it a tiger-like appearance.
The man said nothing. His wrinkled hands rested on a handgun. A steel frame with tennis balls jammed on the ends stood by his side, like a soldier on guard duty. The wheezing got worse. He cranked the oxygen valve. Breathing in he closed his eyes. The morning sun warmed his pale face. Headaches and nausea chipped away at his sanity. He was in constant pain given the many years that washed over him.
The dog's bark cracked like a whip. It had its mouth open exposing milky white fangs. They looked like little shark teeth. It sniffed the air around its owner and turned its head left and right. The noise snapped the man out of his catatonic state. He saw the dog run towards the nearby creek. It splashed around and drank its fill of mountain water. It made a puddle on his deck while it lay there panting. Extending his good hand he pet the dog on the nose. It closed its eyes and licked the man's fingertips. He chuckled and coughed. His sticky fingers wrapped around the gun once more.
The dog rose and sniffed the barrel. It barked once more staring into his master's blue eyes.
"It's my service pistol."
It sat down perking its snipped ears. The man smiled.
"You know I was once young and strong like you."
He laughed and reached for a small glass. The cork put up a fight. It didn't budge. He cursed and sobbed. The dog bit down on the knob and tugged. It sent the cork tumbling down the wooden staircase.
"What the… Hey, that's a nice trick. I bet the guy wasn't a priest."
The old man poured a generous portion of whisky.
"I haven't had a drink in ten years, can you believe that? Now I can't taste it. That's life for you…"
He dropped the glass on the deck. The dog sneezed and backed away.
"It's smoky. You don't like it? I remember it tastes like baked ham."
Clouds gathered on the horizon. A warm dusty breeze made the leaves rustle. The noise was sweet music to his ears. The man savored every minute of it. He planned on leaving today. There wasn't much left for him here or any other place. He wanted to do it at sunrise but when he stepped on his porch the dog was waiting for him. He had no idea where it came from. A plane flew by now and again ripping through the countryside.
"Have you been digging holes?"
The dog was covered in mud. Its nostrils were packed with clay.
"I hope it's deep enough. Do you like airplanes? I love to fly. I was good too."
He bent over a bit to show the dog his patches. It barked once.
"Cool, right? That's how many bastards I shot down. You should have seen me out there."
It sat and placed its muscular head on the old man's legs. It liked the gentle petting on its snout. The man kissed it on the forehead and shoved the animal aside.
"You should go now. You don't want to see what's about to happen. There's another farm a couple of miles down that dirt road. They'll take you in if they need another guard dog."
He grabbed the gun and fiddled with the safety. The dog backed away and sat down whining. It stared into his blue eyes.
"I don't know what you want from me. You knew this day would come. Why won't you let me have this? I can't go on this way. Please."
It grabbed the cane in its mouth and placed it on the man's lap. He got up groaning and unplugged every tube in his decaying body. The dog sprinted ahead stopping from time to time to make sure the old man was on track. It stopped running when it reached the grave.
"Nice work. You could fit two of me in there. This place is beautiful."
He gripped the gun with his last ounce of strength and squeezed the trigger. Blood stained his shirt. He died with his eyes closed. The dog howled and howled. Its claws flung dirt in the hole. It didn't stop until the crater was full. It lay there in the mud waiting for morning. Once the sun rays skewered the thick brush it ran to the creek. The rocky path led the animal to another farm.
"Look, dad, there's a dog out there."
"You're right. Where's its master? Hey boy, come here."
"Dad, where's it going?"
"I don't know. Nothing down there but the highway."
The dog jumped the railing and walked on the tarmac. Car horns didn't bother the animal. It continued on the side of the road, eating in truck stops, parking lots, and sleeping under cars.
One day it stopped walking. It dug a hole under the chain link fence and dashed for the hangar.
"Hey, who's dog is this? Hi there fellow. Ain't you cute looking like a tiger. What are you? some kind of rescue dog? You look like you work out, haha."
He reached out to pet the animal. It jumped on his chest and licked his face, knocking the pilot on his butt.
"Stop linking it, you'll ruin the leather. Do you like my jacket? See these patches? I know a thing or two about dogfights too."
The man checked for a collar or a chip but came out empty-handed. He asked around but no one knew where the dog came from.
"Well boy, it looks like you're a stray. Do you wanna stay here on base with me?"
It blinked its blue eyes.