There you lie
Infected and bleeding
There you dream
Of a life without suffering
8888884. I just got those numbers tattooed on myself. They are numbers that mean a lot to me because I am not the first person to get them. These numbers were first tattooed on someone nearly four years ago. Someone who didn't get to choose where he would get his number. Someone who didn't want a number in the first place. His name is Liam. He's my dog.
For the first four years of Liam's life, he didn't have a name. He was a laboratory testing animal and as such, a name wasn't in the cards for him. A name would have personalized him. Made him real. Turned him into something more than the subject of an experiment, a tool to be used for human gain. It makes it harder to view a person as a thing when it has a name. A series of numbers says the opposite of a name. It denotes a lack of importance; it strips a living creature of its worth and makes it just a thing that is being used. Because that's what Liam was to the people who had him for the first four years of his life. A thing. A tool. Nothing more than a number.
People sometimes ask me how I can know that. How I can know what it was like for Liam in the lab? I know because I was the first person to see him when he came out. When Liam came to live with me, he was terrified. Not just of his new surroundings, but of everything. The sound of metal clinking, the feel of grass or anything soft — it all scared him. The thing that broke my heart most was that he was afraid of me as well. When I touched him, he would put his head down and put his tail between his legs. The only touch he had known had been the touch that was always followed by something painful. Something unpleasant. I could see it in his eyes when I touched him, he was afraid of what I was going to do to him. Afraid that myself and my friends would treat him exactly how all the other humans he had ever encountered had. As a thing. A tool. Nothing more than a number.
But he proved himself to be stronger than I can even begin to understand. Somehow, even after everything he went through, slowly but surely, he began to trust the new people around him. He started to wag his tail. To learn that there was more to this world than pain, cages and concrete. The grass still scared him, but he wanted to be near the new people around him. So he would take one big jump into the yard to be next to us and then one big jump back to the sidewalk. Over time, he didn't have to jump, he would simply walk through the grass. He had learned not to be afraid of the feel of something soft. He even learned how to play... sort of.
I'd get my rifle down days beforehand and start cleaning it. Dad used to kid me. It doesn't take that long to clean a rifle, he'd say. But I always got so excited. Sometimes I think it's the preparation, the anticipation that's the most exciting part. But I couldn't wait for opening day. I'd set up a practice range behind the house and tack up an old camouflage jacket on the barn. I'd aim right for the top button. I wanted to be at my optimum for when the real hunt began.
It was the best time of year. The turning leaves cast a golden- orange glow, the atmosphere was crisp, there was a smoky smell in the air as folks were starting up their wood stoves. That's when "buck fever" sets in. The old adrenalin gets pumping and you feel super alive. It's my favorite season.
No one who hasn't done it can understand the thrill of the hunt. I believe it has to do with our early hominid origins. In those days they had to hunt in order to live. Of course, there were berries and nuts and grasses which the women gathered. But the real food came from the hunters, who were men. They had to be out there every single day. No time restrictions, no hunting "seasons." Hunting was 24-7. What a life! Sometimes I wish I'd lived then.
It makes you feel like you're getting back to your primitive origins when you're hunting, back to your natural self, away from all the artificial restraints of modern life. You feel like your uncivilized, untamed self is coming out. It's a kind of exhilarating liberation.