I still miss him after all these years.
Much like I, he had an intemperate disposition, cared little for what others thought of him, and when it came to fighting, he had only two speeds—dead still and full bore. This is probably why Trigger and I were inseparable companions for eight years until his short life had to be unavoidably terminated by euthanasia.
At maturity he was a 48-pound black Cocker Spaniel. To be more precise, close to a half hundred-weight bomb waiting for something or somebody to ignite his short fuse.
I first encountered him at a swap meet, ensconced in a large cardboard box with several of his eight-week-old brethren. And while his brothers and sisters frolicked, clamoring for every bypasser’s attention, he commandeered a corner of the box and, with a baleful stare, defied all the bargain-seekers to come near him—no doubt waiting for a human of similar disposition to transport him to a more amenable domicile.
He reluctantly condescended to accompany me to what I euphemistically called an apartment, actually a ramshackle converted double garage barely fit for human residence. It was my home—and became his castle. I named him Trigger, since Spare Magazine or Recoil Spring didn’t quite seem to fit the bill. His “parents” charged no fee for the adoption, but retrospectively I would have given them every penny I had in exchange for those eight years of faithful companionship.
To me, he appeared to be what every fighting soldier should be: polite to women, loving with children, and accepting of men, though somewhat distant in his demeanor toward adult males. Though spiteful by nature—he wouldn’t allow a fly to approach within six feet of any potential food supply—he never looked for trouble with other dogs. But he also never backed off an inch if they showed any sign of aggression. And that’s the way it should be.
I remember two free-roving German Shepherds approaching us during a daily walk. All the warning signs were out: direct stares from 50 feet away, stiff tails twitching, and that look to their walk that every male adult human or canine recognizes. I smelled it coming, and by the feel of the leash in my hands, I knew Trigger’s sixth sense had also kicked into gear.
They were sensing Cocker cutlets for lunch, and it was obvious that physical violence was going to be the only resolution. Figuring that I would only be hampering his physical movement by attempting to restrain an incensed 50-pound canine bomb, I unsnapped his leash and literally “let slip the dogs of war.” The net result was a pair of 100-pound Shepherds—one bleeding copiously—making a rapid tactical withdrawal.
Trigger didn’t pursue them. In fact, all he did was turn around and give me that “What the hell were they thinking?” look.
The simple rules of battle: Don’t engage in physical force if you don’t have to. Use overwhelming force if you have to engage. Disengage when your enemy knows he’s beaten.
That was the soldier in Trigger: “Leave me alone and we’ll get along fine. Mess with me and I’ll drop the bomb.” Or more succinctly, “You start it and I’ll finish it.” And he always did. To him the old axiom, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog” was a staple. (Something we haven’t seemed to comprehend throughout history, as bean-counters who’ve never been to war send 18-year-old German Shepherds to foreign lands for no intelligent purpose, only to have them killed and maimed by Cocker Spaniels who have nothing to lose.)
I was once transporting half a dozen Marines from one firing range to another and overheard one remark, “He’s crazy as a loon. They broke the mold when they made that one.” To which one of his companions retorted, “If you think he’s nuts, you should see his dog—he ate his own mold when he was born.” You can’t fool a battle-worn Marine.
I know you didn’t mean it the way I took it, but 30 years later I thank you, gentlemen. I’m flattered. And Trigger thanks you. No higher praise have I had than that, misinterpreted or not.
And yes, Peter, I still mean what I said 30 years ago, when you said I feel more for that dog than a human and I said, “No, ten humans.” I’m still looking for the last four or five to make up the ten—just like my father said would happen 40 years ago.
And that, Dear Reader, was Trigger. Straight to the point and nothing fancy. Much like comparing a faithful old lever rifle to a modern-day battle carbine. You want red-dot optics? He had two—burning coals right in line with the muzzle, if you get my drift. And he never malfunctioned until his untimely death.
Wesley’s Prayer for Old Sam could have been written for Trigger. But it wasn’t—so this humble tribute is all I have.
I miss you, Dog.
Louis Awerbuck is Director of the internationally acclaimed Yavapai Firearms Academy. Course information and schedules are available at their website at http://www.yfainc.com