By: Arnold Bustillo
He always tried to make it quick, when he snapped a dog’s neck. The dogs were never conscious when he did it. He’d get them nice and drunk with some shots of whiskey in their last bowl of kibble, so there was never really a struggle, or any fear, by the time the lethargy kicked in, but sometimes the big ones required a little extra muscle. The biggest dog he ever killed this way was about 80 pounds and nothing but muscle – an American bulldog. But the truth is most of them were under 20 pounds. It was always those little yappy fuckers that people wanted gone the most. If you’ve never broken a dog’s neck with your bare hands, he would have described it a lot like twisting off a stubborn lid on a jar of pickles, but instead of hearing that single pop of the freshness seal, you hear a dozen pickles snapping almost in unison. Then it was over. Then he would toss the carcass into the woods at the back of his land, and let the coyotes, mountain lions, and buzzards take it from there.
I guess you could have called him a sort of K9 hit man. All his clients came to him by word of mouth, a snow ball of referrals since the first time he did it. His best clients were jealous or frustrated romantic partners, fed up with having to compete with a house pet for love and affection. His second best clients were frustrated neighbors, who just wanted the barking dog in the backyard next door to finally shut the fuck up so they could get a full night’s sleep. There were a few scorned divorcees throughout the years; people who preferred to have their own dogs whacked before they would send them to live with the ex who also got the house.
And every once in a while there was the sympathetic owner, who knew they had to put their dog down, but considered the idea of lethal injection to be more cruel than the quick and painless death offered by a K9 hit man for hire. I can’t personally speak to which method is more or less cruel, lethal injection or a broken neck delivered in blackout drunkenness – I myself have never had either. But I have been blackout drunk before, and the human body can overlook a lot of pain in that kind of state, so there’s no reason to think that any of his doggy victims ever felt a thing.
Plus, there was the whole circle of life argument. When a veterinarian kills a dog, it ends up cremated, or wrapped in a hefty bag and tossed in a landfill. With him, he tossed the carcass to the woods so everything from the predators, to the maggots could have a taste. But, if I’m being honest, these are calculations I don’t think he ever made. He was a soldier of fortune, a hired killer and nothing else. To him, each broken neck and carcass in the woods was an easy grand in his pocket – in sweet, un-taxable, untraceable, green American cash. And while I think he had to be pretty dead inside to do that kind of work, even as a side hustle (his real job was coffee shop manager), he never took joy in breaking a dog’s neck. It didn’t make him sad, but he never got off on it either. He saw the deed the way a longtime janitor probably sees the job of unclogging a shitty toilet. Neither a path to joy nor a reason to shed any tears. It just was what it was; a thing he did to make a few bucks.
The clients who had possession of the dogs were his easiest cases – they would just hand the dogs over, and if there was a loved one who would ask any questions, they’d make up some story about taking the dog off leash, just for a quick minute, before the damn thing chased a squirrel into the horizon never to be seen again. He often coached his clients on the performance they would have to give.
“As soon as I’m down the road and out of sight,” he would tell them, “call your boyfriend and tell him that Fido got away. Sound as out-of-breath as you can, and say that you’ve been calling Fido’s name for 20 minutes, but no luck. Ask what they want you to do, then do it. If they want to come out and help you search, then let them. If they want you to go home and make “Missing Dog” posters, then do that. No matter what they say, just play along, tell them how sorry you are, tell them how stupid you feel, tell them you’re willing to put up cash for a reward, and most importantly, let them decide when it’s time to stop searching.”
When the client wanted to be rid of a neighbor’s noisy backyard dog, it invariably meant that the client shared a fence line with the offending pooch. This meant he could access the dog by entering the client’s property, cutting a hole in the shared fence line, the coaxing the dog through with treats and cuts of raw meat. Once the dog was across the property line, he would let it feast on more raw meat and treats, while he quickly repaired the fence. Then he would leave, with dog on leash, and head for his pickup truck parked a couple blocks away. To passers by, he looked like nothing more than a man on a morning stroll with his best friend. And within a couple hours, the dog would meet the same fate as all the others.
His last kill was a small terrier pug mix, cleverly named Lorelai. The client was the jealous husband of Lorelai’s owner, fed up with how the dog was allowed to nip and yap without provocation and with no consequences. To hear the husband describe it, the dog was just a jerk. For that case, he met the husband at a walking trail near a wooded area, then coached him about what to say to the wife – “I took her off the leash for just a second, Lorelai saw something, and ran after it. I’ve been calling her name and looking all over. I’m so sorry, I feel so stupid, it’s all my fault.”
The wife wanted to keep searching late into the night, walking the quiet streets and calling out for Lorelai, but a lightning and thunder storm rolled in that finally convinced her to call it quits. Little did she know that by the time the storm rolled in, the whiskey kibble had already taken effect, and Lorelai was in a deep slumber as the K9 hit man held Lorelai’s limp body under one arm, and used his free hand to twist the dog’s neck, just as easily as he would have opened the lid on a stubborn jar of pickles. As lightning flashed and cracked above him at the edge of his land, the deed was done, and he tossed Lorelai’s carcass into the woods for the coyotes, and mountain lions, and buzzards.
The problem with lightning storms is that they are so fast, and so unpredictable. Before he could walk away from the edge of the woods, before he could get more than 10 yards from Lorelai’s lifeless carcass, he was struck down by a bolt of lightning that he never saw coming. Being relatively strong and healthy, the lightning strike did not kill him, but it did knock him unconscious for about 20 minutes. Just long enough for the storm to pass over, and for the coyotes and mountain lions and buzzards to go and see the treats that awaited them at the edge of the woods.
A coyote would carry Lorelai away in its mouth, which meant that by the time the mountain lion arrived on the scene, the only carcass that was available for it to feast on was that of a full grown man knocked out cold by a bolt of lightning. The mountain lion opened its jaws and clamped down on the man’s neck, not only tearing through the vital arteries that supplied blood to the brain, but also – poetically – snapping through several neck bones; killing him. Like those of the dogs that came before him, his limp body was dragged deep into the woods, and as of yet has not been found.