Normandy Village: Dogs with Guns

by Tim Gilmore, 5/10/2017

With one shot, Diesel entered that subchapter of American history concerning dogs with guns.

Right up against midnight, Wednesday the 22nd, just a week off Valentine’s.

Diesel barked in the night. He had, as the saying goes, business to conduct. He’s a conductor. He’s a businessman. So Brian woke to escort Diesel outside.

At first, all Summer knows is the bleeding is vast, is vast and profuse and red-very-red in the dark.

Against his personal Summer Miracle, Brian had curled and slept when Diesel broke off their spooning to shit.

The dog had’na thought he might’a shot Summer. Summer’d not thought she might’a been shot.

After the bright flash and the shattering bang, Diesel the Dog slunk in corners, his tail between his legs, sensitive ears ambushed, his brows arched and shifting, desperate to be loyal, trembling and confused. That handgun would surely have kept them all safe. If it had.

“It was my dawg,” Brian said, “shot my girlfriend,” his dog, and not his child. His child, he said, was not his dog, and his child was not at home. So his dog, at least, had not shot his child.

“It was his dawg,” said his girl, “shot me in the leg.” The girl’s name is Summer Miracle, it’s true.

“I was sleepin’,” she said, “so I don’t know how he done it.”

Said Brian, “Diesel jumped on the nightstand on top of my gun and the gun went off and shot Summer.”

Two houses down, the bumper sticker on a three-ton pickup truck says, “Guns Don’t Kill People. People do.”

Donald Hanlon has lived on the same block of Patou Drive in this 1950s Westside ranch-style subdivision called Normandy Village for 35 years. He told a TV news reporter, “Either way, there was a weapon involved. I don’t think it was intentional, but I don’t think the dog could do it.”

Despite what Hanlon seemed to imply, it’s possible Diesel the Dog knew a thing or two the neighbor didn’t. He may’ve read up on the history of dogs with guns, a subject the National Rifle Association finds much less objectionable than Robert F. Williams’s 1962 book Negroes with Guns, which led to the creation of the “Black Panthers,” the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, in 1966.

Diesel would have seen the October 2015 Indiana headline, “Dog Named Trigger Shoots Hunter,” and read about how Trigger stepped on the trigger of Allie Carter’s shotgun and shot her in the foot.

Lafayette [Indiana] Journal

He may have seen the January 1996 Kentucky headline, “Dog Shoots Man in Legs in Hunting Accident,” and learned about Rusty stepping on the trigger of Phillip Smith’s shotgun and blasting away both the man’s legs. The sheriff of Martin County said, “It’s not funny,” but also, “It’s kind of funny,” and that the dog would not be prosecuted.

Morning Call, Allentown, PA, January 25, 1996

Though likely unimpressed, Diesel may have felt sympathetic toward each writer’s inability to resist playing with the old adage of what constitutes news—not “Dog Bites Man,” but “Man Bites Dog.”

He may have read similar headlines in The Daily Capital News of Jefferson City, Missouri, from November 30, 1937, or The News Tribune of Fort Pierce, Florida, from October 24, 1956, or even The Logan [Utah] Republican from Leap Day, 1908, concerning the death-by-dog-with-gun of Dr. Vernon Paul, “a young English medical man.”

Daily Capital News, Jefferson City, MO, November 30, 1937

But if Diesel planned the shooting of Summer Miracle, surely he saw the story as highly Floridian and knew he’d do no time if he stood his ground.

Almost every “Dog Shoots Man” story for the past 150 years prides itself on a joke about the dog not being arrested.

And when The Washington Post reported, on October 27, 2015, “In the Past Five Years, At Least Six Americans Have Been Shot by Dogs,” it included a chart showing four of the last 10 shootings-by-dog happened in Florida. Soon Diesel would score another point for the home team.

Four years before Diesel shot Summer, almost to the day, a man driving his pickup in Sebring, Florida “heard boom, saw smoke, and felt a burning in his leg,” as Police Commander Steve Carr summarized the incident. Gregory Lanier had stacked his guns on the passenger seat of his truck. As his dog danced about, trying to keep his balance atop the firearms as the pickup bounced along the rutted dirt road, he stepped on the trigger of Lanier’s .380 pistol.

Newspapers spared the dog’s name, but the usual jokes followed. Man’s Best Friend was feeling unfriendly. The dog was not detained for questioning. “Man Bites Dog” and “Dog Shoots Man” are news.

After Diesel shot Summer Miracle, however, Brian admitted the dog messed up his mojo. Something beautiful had always obtained in the most foul beds of the world and shown their sleepers and lovers the earth that rose round and sublime and blue and atmospheric from and of the soil and the shit and the bugs. But now his girl and his dog were scared of loud noises.

“Without liberty!” opined a grizzled neighbor in a camouflage ball cap, “You can still have an accident. But you cain’t have no liberty without guns!”

The neighbor then fell into the couch on his driveway, lit a cigarette, bared his teeth, and spat a globule of resentment and independence.