I grew up in a small suburb of Dallas, TX called Grand Prairie. Anyone who is familiar with the area can tell you that this wasn't the best of neighborhoods (actually it still isn't). But the price was right and when you're a young struggling family that's all that really matters.
We had lived in the same house for years with no problems. We knew our neighbors, they knew us. I played with all the kids on my street and the surrounding streets. Finally my parents had saved enough money to buy a new vehicle. It wasn't brand new but it wasn't 10 years old either. It was a full size dodge van that was painted black with an awesome 3-tone blue stripe that ran all the way around it.
We were so proud of that damn van. We washed it every week. It was by far the nicest car on the block. Which is probably the reason we became targets.
Shortly after we purchased the van our house got broken into. They stole our only TV. Two weeks later they broke into the Van and stole the factory radio. Two weeks after that they broke into our house again and stole our new TV. It was the same people, the police were sure of that. There had been a rash of burglaries in the area. But it wasn't likely that they would get caught. Rarely does anyone burglarizing the 'hood or the ghetto get caught.
So we took action. My dad decided that the thing we needed was a security system. The only problem with that was in the mid eighties an electric system was out the question for a poor white family like mine. So we got the next best thing, a dog.
I remember that day very well. My dad was so tired of replacing the things he worked so hard for. My mom was so afraid that they would break into the house while we were home. I was 7, the next daughter was 2 and there was the newborn. I remember my dad and my mom sitting in the living room talking about getting a d-o-g. (yeah they spelled it). My dad kept saying we had to get a "big ugly mother-f*cker". My mom agreed but was worried about us kids and a mean dog. My dad had it all worked out. We would chain the dog up outside and we kids weren't allowed outside without an adult around.
I was so excited, My little seven year old brain was jumping with joy! Finally a DOG! I had been wanting a dog for so long.... when I was younger we used to have a dogs but they kept running away or getting hit by cars. My parents stopped getting pets after the last one nearly broke my heart. But now finally.... a DOG!
As my dad was getting ready to go to the pound I got myself ready. There was no way he was going to pick out a dog without my help. Just as he was leaving I ran up and said, "You have to take me with you, you might get the wrong one." My dad laughed and agreed.
I remember nothing of the drive there. But I do remember walking around and peering into all the little cages. When we first got there my dad told them he was looking for a dog to keep thieves away. They took us to the first area that had all puppies and cute dogs. We walked around and I fell in love with every other one. My dad was getting a little pissed off.. he wanted a full grown, "big ugly mother-f*cker". After looking at the cute ones, my dad and I went back to the front counter where he asked to see the big ugly mean dogs.
The receptionist took us to another area... this was where they kept the "big ugly mother-f*ckers" and boy where they big, and ugly, and mean. My dad got a taste of mean and was quickly turned off. He didn't want to get bitten by his own dog after all..
So it was with defeat that we began our trek out the front door. Just as the exit came into view from behind us came the slightly squeaky voice of an adolescent girl. "Sir I hear you need a big dog to protect your house but you also have little kids"
My dad turned around and standing there was a volunteer wringing her hands together and looking around as if she were making a drug deal rather than adopting out a dog.
"Yeah I am" says my dad
"Well I think I've got the right dog for you. Please just follow me and be very quiet"
What? So she leads us back to a door clearly marked "Authorized Personnel Only". After a few turns we walk through another door. From behind it we can hear the frenzied barking of what could be hundreds of dogs; all of them sound supremely mad. Like they want to eat you.
As she passes through the door she turns back and says:
"Whatever you do, don't put your fingers anywhere near these cages. This is Skid Row. and they all know that they won't the see the light of day again.. it makes them a little mad"
She wasn't kidding. Every dog in there from the smallest puppy to the biggest Rottie was foaming at the mouth to get out of it's cage. Their eyes were red rimmed and their spittle would fly out to fleck the legs of your pants as they barked uncontrollably. The girl disappeared around a corner. You could just make out her voice in the din. She seemed to be talking to someone. Suddenly all the dogs in the room went quiet, and from around the corner the young woman cried out "No, No stay! Caesar! Come back here!"
The sound of thudding paws and scrapping nails grew closer and closer, the hurried pant of a giant dog filled my ears. Around the corner sped a looming black hulk that in no way could have been a dog... no freaking way.