Authors: Casey Christie
“Are you fucking nuts! That dog is going to rip your arm off” said the Warrant Officer.
“No it won’t. I am no threat to him and I am not trying to hurt him.”
“Look what it did to that American Pit and British Terrier. It’s a fucking monster man! Let me kill it before it murders anything else.”
“It is a he. And he didn’t murder anything. He just protected himself. Just like any of our own animals would have done.”
Sergeant Night never broke his calm gaze at the animal, going against the common reasoning of not to stare a male dog in the eyes, and continued to speak peacefully and confidently to him.
“Don’t worry big guy, I’m not going to hurt you. I’m just going to remove this leash and take you off the line.”
“You are a fucking madman Night! All those stories about you and the Black Bastards are true. Well whatever, I am taking my suspect out of here and will process him at Sandton Police Station. I am officially handing this scene over to you and you can deal with that monster.” With that, the Warrant Officer lifted the now semi-conscious ring leader to his feet.
“He’s actually a good man dog” muttered the dazed criminal. “He doesn’t have issues with humans, only other dogs really.”
“Well that was his job wasn’t it?” said Sergeant Night nonchalantly.
“Ya, it was his occupation hey Mike, kinda like us, he had to be the biggest baddest dog in the township” said Constable Shaka, his huge smile lighting up his face.
“Something like that.”
“Please look after him officer. I might do illegal things and I might fight dogs for a living but I still love that dog” said the criminal.
“You loved the money this animal made for you, not the dog itself. And yes I will look after him. Not for you but for him. There’s something special about this guy, I can feel it and he deserves to be loved, really loved.”
“His name’s Tiger by the way” shouted the handcuffed criminal while being pushed into the back of the Warrant Officer’s police vehicle.
“Tiger, typical cheesy name for somebody to give to a dog like this hey Zulu?”
“Ya, but they should have called him Lion instead if they wanted to give it a name like that, he’s as big as one hey Mike -- and we are in Africa after all.”
“You’re right” said Mike, now softly stroking the immense animal.
Sergeant Night took Tiger home with him that day after a visit to his local vet for a full medical check-up. He knew the Norwood vet well, as he often brought in injured, abandoned and stray dogs that he found while on patrol. He did not have a lead with him so he had to use the makeshift leash that the dog fighters used, a broad metal chain attached to Tiger’s neck by a thick metal collar which cut into his skin. Night had to constantly reassure the massive canine that he had no ill intention toward it. He repeatedly slowed down while guiding the animal from the police vehicle to the vets rooms, allowing for a mutual journey while continually uttering the words, “It’s ok big fella, no one’s going to hurt you, we are just going to see the doctor.” Tiger was yielding for the most part until Sergeant Night gave Constable Zulu the chain to hold while he went inside to let the vet know they were there. The moment Night handed the leash over to Shaka the large animal stood on its two hind legs and placed its front paws on Shaka’s shoulders and let out a deep cautioning growl while staring directly into the Constable’s kind eyes.
Sergeant Night remembered standing there in awe of the sight. Two giants upright face to face in a stand-off. It was mesmerising. After a few tension filled seconds and to Night’s surprise Shaka started laughing, his white teeth bursting through his wide smile, a long amused laugh. Shaka’s reaction seemed to bemuse the dog as well. Tiger stopped growling, tilted his face to one side as a curious dog does and jumped back to the floor and nonchalantly took up a position next to Shaka’s side.
“I like this dog!” declared Shaka while grinning broadly and led Tiger into the Veterinary Clinic’s waiting room.
Sergeant Night recalled how thankful he was that the waiting room was empty and that they could go straight through to see the animal doctor.
“Most people bring in lost poodles or other lap dogs while you seem to always rescue the dogs most people are afraid to handle” said the vet upon seeing Sergeant Night and his new rescue.
“Hi Doc, I suppose you are right and it’s because of that fear that these dogs are in the position they are in in the first place. All of my most loyal and loving dogs have always been of the so called ‘fighting’ or guard breeds and why not? They can’t help be what man has created. Anyway a bit of love and care and they are fine.”
The vet determined that the dog was only two years old at the time and had not had any of his vaccines, which she then administered and apart from the many scars and bite marks on his face and shoulders he was in good health.
“This is one of the biggest Boerboels I have seen Mike. What’s his name?” asked Veterinary Surgeon Michelle Fisher.
Fisher was an eccentric English born Vet who reminded Night of a mad animal scientist. She had curly blonde hair and wore round spectacles that seemed at least two sizes too big for her. She was a petite lady standing no more than five foot two inches tall and Night often enjoyed watching her have conversations with the dogs he brought in, she would speak for the animals in the conversations as well.
“They call him Tiger.”
“Typical. Are you going to keep it or give him a new title?”
“Well I am thinking of a new name but one hasn’t come to me yet, you know a name that feels right.”
“He is an extraordinary dog Mike, unusually over-muscled and he has massive canines, look” said the vet while pulling back the dog’s upper lip. “Reminds me of a dinosaur, a tyrannosaurus or something.”
“Well I was thinking of King, he has a noble quality about him and could pass for a ‘king of dogs’.”
“You know ‘rex’ in Tyrannosaurus-Rex actually means King in Latin Mike?”
“Rex huh, hey Rex, Rexy my boy.”
The giant dog turned to the Sergeant while sitting on the tiled floor where the vet had examined him -- he had been too large to place on the examination table -- and then swiftly looked away, seemingly in disgust.
“Don’t think he likes it” said the vet.
Constable Shaka had been following this exchange with interest and decided to put in his tuppence worth.
“You know, Mike, back home in my village there was a story about this wild dog that protected the village people from lions. They say it was a huge brown and black dog and nobody knew where it came from or how it came to live in the village. It wasn’t very friendly to the people of the community but protected them and their livestock from wild animals, lions and hyenas. All it wanted in return was to be fed. Which the village elders turned into a daily ritual, feeding the dog every night before the township people ate. They fed it the best meat from the kill of the day’s hunt. They say it even fought and killed an attacking lion once.”
“A dog that fought and killed a lion huh? Forgive me if I am little sceptical on that one but one thing is for sure, this dog certainly isn’t getting the best of my meat as much as I may grow to love him. Anyway what’s your point my brother?”
“Well his name was Wamba. And every time I look at that dog I think of a lion killer, Wamba the lion killer that my grandparents used to tell me about.”
“Wamba huh. Wamba, look here boy.”
Tiger turned once more and looked directly at Sergeant Night and let out a deep growl followed by a great bark. And he was no longer Tiger but Wamba the Lion Killer.
Wamba stayed with Sergeant Night in his state subsidised single man’s flat in the police barracks for just under a year but continued to grow, grow and eat. Sergeant Night trained Wamba alongside some canines that were undergoing drill with dog handler friends of his who were part of the elite South African Police Force’s K-9 element, otherwise known as the Delta Unit. Wamba was one of the most obedient dogs, he delivered the biggest tackle and most powerful bite and completed the fastest obstacle course speeds and for a time it looked like he would qualify as a fully-fledged K-9 Officer at the top of his class. His one failure held him back though and eventually led to him being struck off the course.
It was his inability to work alongside fellow canines. Twice he had taken down a noisy German Shepherd which counted itself the Alpha Male of the pack and on one occasion had dominated all of the other dogs on the course into an unworkable condition for the day. Sergeant Night remembered the words the lead instructor said to him when he broke the news that Wamba would progress no further.
“I’m sorry Mike but Wamba has got to go. He’s like a one dog army or something. We all love him and would like nothing more than to graduate the big guy but he actually scares some of the other dogs... and their handlers. If you really want him to be a working dog I can get him operational as a war dog or contractors’ K-9 in Iraq or Afghanistan. He would be brilliant out there. You could just unleash him and watch the terrorists squirm!”
Night declined the offer and started taking Wamba to Lisa’s place as often as he could as he simply needed to provide him with a bigger property to live in. Fortunately Wamba took an immediate liking to Lisa and it soon became apparent how protective the dog was towards her. Slowly but surely they formed a strong enough relationship so that Night could leave Wamba with her at her parents’ house. It was much larger than the Sergeant’s pad and he felt good about knowing Lisa had a loyal guard dog with her.
“Hello my girl.” Night embraced Lisa with a tender but firm hug.
He held her close and then gave her a long sensual kiss.
She pulled away blushing.
“What’s wrong, your parents aren’t here are they?”
“No they are away in Cape Town for the week.”
“Then what’s wrong?”
“Ag nothing babe, you know me I just get embarrassed.”
Lisa van der Westhuizen was a typically shy Afrikaans girl and was brought up in a strict churchgoing household. The slightest public or spontaneous show of affection would make her blush a bright red. Although in private she was a highly affectionate woman and could hardly keep her hands off her lover.
She had burnt blonde, almost brown, hair that was straight and rested just below her feminine shoulders, naturally dark tanned skin that most Hollywood babes tried to achieve through sprays or sun beds. High cheekbones, an aquiline nose and round sensual lips concealing bright white teeth. Though rather than flaunt her natural beauty, Night always thought, she tried to play it down. Wearing thick glasses and placing her hair in a clumsy bun while most often wearing very conservative, dated grey and khaki office suits to work she didn’t turn many male heads and if you didn’t know any better one wouldn’t give her a second look.
It was her voice though that he favoured, her voice that had initially drawn Night to her, over the police radio net. It was low and steady, almost hoarse. It conveyed deep care, tenderness and love, great stability and a gentle authority too. Her home language was Afrikaans, which demanded a semi-coarse delivery and in which she often spoke to Michael while he replied in English. He never asked her to only speak in English as he had always had a fondness for Afrikaans speaking women.
When he finally met her in person while picking her up to take her out on their first date it was her penetrating eyes that sealed Night’s attraction to her. They were a stunning green that conveyed great compassion.
“Are you ready babe, all packed up?”
“I am, if you can just get our bags, I will pack our lunch and we can get going.”
“How are you feeling today Mike, you OK, you know, after what happened yesterday?”
As she asked the question she could see the irritation in his eyes. Michael Night didn’t speak of his emotions and wasn’t very open about the death of his friends or colleagues. Most policemen preferred not to talk of the deceased or how it happened. Unless they were talking to other policemen of course. For only those who have lost and those who serve really understand what it is like to kill and be killed in the name of the law and in the protection and service of others.
“And Zulu, have you spoken to him today?”
Sergeant Night looked at her. If she was anybody else he quite literally would have told her to fuck off and mind her own business! But the sincere concern in her voice and her gentle manner softened him.
“You know we don’t talk of these things Lis. Not with Civvies anyway. You know that.”
“I know Mike but he is my friend as well and I care about him.”
Sergeant Night stood silently for a while, not even he was sure why, a mixture of pent up emotion, sadness and anger at another good man’s death. Another brother fallen by the gun of a criminal. Then mutilated. And no one cared. Even he had to force himself into pretending he didn’t care otherwise the pain would be too much. There were so many deaths, so many good policemen, his brothers who had died in the last decade in the new South Africa, in the war on crime.
The old policeman’s trick was to blame the death on the dead officer’s tactics. After a police officer was killed on duty one would often hear other officers talking:
“He should never have been allowed on the road, he didn’t know what he was doing, he didn’t have the experience or know how, it’s his own fault.”
“It was a tactical fail on his part. Now he is dead. A weak link in the force, good riddance.”
It was the only way they could make sense of it. Sergeant Michael Night and his crew believed they would not fall because they were superior combatants to the enemy. They were better trained, had sharper skills and would be more aggressive and violent in action than any enemy could be. This, indeed, Night often thought was part of the pain – they had to be extremely violent and as Zulu had said about Wamba, Tiger as he was known then, they had to be the biggest, baddest dogs in the township.