I'm writing from my neighbor's back deck.
His name is Jazz, and yes, he's as cool as you think he is. He's a big sweetie too. Kind-hearted enough to let a stray dog loiter on his deck.
The dog is big and mean looking. He's got a pit bull's square head, the same bulging muscles in his shoulders and hind legs, but his ears aren't cropped; his tail is long.
In other words, he's a pit bull that never made the cut. A mongrel. A stray. And over the last few days, he's caused quite the stir in our little lakeside neighborhood.
There are kids here. My kids live here. The dog weighs more than either one of them, maybe both of them, combined.
A local cop came out to investigate this morning. My wife caught her in the driveway and asked where she planned to take the dog. The cop said, and I'm quoting here: "Oh, hon. I'm not taking it anywhere. I'll destroy it."
The dog is growling now. I've gotten too close. I back away and he flops down on Jazz's deck. His terrified eyes, his defensive posture — everything about the dog reminds me of my troubled students. When he barks his rear end rises, his tail wags.
There's a neighborhood group text going. Jazz says he hasn't fed the dog. And, remember, Jazz is cool. He's the only one of us who's had any interaction with the dog so far. But he hasn't fed him because he wants the dog to go home.
Except, the dog doesn't have a home. We all know it, but we just keep waiting. For what? I don't know. Nobody wants that cop to come back. "... Destroy it." Who says that? What does it even mean?
My parents have a dog that looks just like the one on Jazz's back deck. His name's Woody because my dad found him in the — you guessed it — woods. It took my dad months' worth of dog food and countless trips out to the little thicket behind the middle school before he could ever even touch Woody.
If Dad hadn't been willing to put in so much effort, Woody might've wound up on Jazz's back deck, or worse.
My dog barks from the laundry room. Her name's Layla. She's a red merle Australian Shepherd with ice-blue eyes. In other words, she's fancy. So fancy that we named this whole wonderful place where we live "Layla's Landing."
Yes. My dog is spoiled. Pampered beyond belief and now I'm thinking of her as my daughter, the same way I keep thinking of the pit bull as some of the kids I've met over the years. The ones who look mean but are really just scared. I'm still thinking of Woody, too, and what would've happened to him if my dad hadn't come around.
I text Jazz. I ask him if I can feed the dog. He says it's cool, so I do.
I cry as I watch the stray woof it down, knowing that's it. That's all I'm going to do. With a dog, a cat, two kids and a wife, my house is full already.
There are still tears in my eyes when I leave Jazz's yard and enter my own. My kids got a trampoline for Christmas. I walk past it, knowing some kids got nothing. Some kids get a raw deal when it comes to life, just like that dog out there. Maybe somebody comes along every now and then and dumps some food out, buys a few Christmas presents, but it takes more than that to save a life.
It takes someone like my other neighbor, Marilyn Spencer, aka the "TypsyGypsy."
My phone buzzes. The group text again, and again, and again. Marilyn has taken the dog in. She knows somebody who fosters pit bulls. She's going to look after the dog for a while. She sends a picture of her daughter and the dog, the same one who growled at me right before I fed him, the same animal somebody, somewhere, dropped off on the side of the road.
When I look at the picture, the dog's eyes are what I notice first. Amber colored and still full of pain, but the fear is finally gone from them, at least for now.
Eli Cranor is an Arkansas author whose debut novel, "Don't Know Tough," is available wherever books are sold. He can be reached using the "Contact" page at elicranor.com and found on Twitter @elicranor.