One afternoon while Karl and I were hanging out in his backyard talking about nothing in particular, Luther quietly walked up to the grill and glared at us. His glossy brown eyes, Marlon Brando demeanor and low stocky stature gave him a lovable, almost commanding presence that was hard to dismiss. Hungry and a little aggravated, he made a low grunt as he started to pace. Karl paid him no attention as he reached for a spatula.

“Go somewhere and chill out.” Karl said as he flipped a few burgers. Luther groaned then circled the patio three times, stretched out and raised a leg to scratch an itch. He was unusually obedient — even for a Bassett Hound.

“The Truth About Luther”
by Max Nomad

Originally, I met Karl and his girlfriend Jeanine through a mutual friend. The first time I met Luther was a few months earlier. I arrived just after Karl and Jeanine had finished arguing. She drove away as I stepped up on the porch. Just as he began to vent, the phone rang. “I’ll be right back,” he said as he walked inside.

Out in the yard Luther meandered about, sniffing around in the grass as he pondered whatever dogs think about. I assumed this was Luther because Karl had mentioned something about a new dog on the phone. Soon after Karl stepped inside, clouds rolled in and unleashed a downpour. He trudged up to the porch steps and stood at the bottom looking up at me with droopy-eyed expectations.

“C’mon, Luther,” I gestured for him to come to me. “C’mon boy!”

With quiet desperation he looked at me, squinted up at the rain, studied the first step, and then glanced at me again. When it was apparent that I expected him to come to my side, he took a few paces back, turned, and with a high-spirited gallop charged for the steps. The first step was easy. Step two he hurdled without fail. Step three stopped in mid-stride with a dull fleshy whack. His eyes tumbled. A choked “Roorlawl” followed, something I instantly understood to mean ‘Go Get Help!’ And after a brief hang-time, he fell to the first step on his back. I found myself apologizing profusely as I hoisted him into my arms. His teeth were gritted as if he was biting his lip. That’s when I discovered the shocking truth: Luther was blessed. I mean really blessed. He was endowed in a way that most human males couldn’t measure up to. Even biologists would have agreed — it was as if his body was a life-support system for his penis.

Karl walked back out, paused, and shook his head. “Not again,” he sighed as he carefully took Luther from my arms. “I gotta hurry up and build that walk ramp for him.”

Regarding his breed, Luther was heavier than most. Karl’s rationale was that he couldn’t take the little guy for long walks. The last time he took him to the boardwalk they had to come home early; Luther’s piece brushed up against curbs, fire hydrants, Pine bark in flowerbeds, and occasionally when he got happy and tried to trot he stepped on himself. And as if that wasn’t weird enough, we were all in agreement that Luther knew he had The Extra Length. There were times when he flaunted it.

Back then, Karl was a Deadhead — so much of a fan that he had followed the Grateful Dead on stretches of their tours for a few years. As a means of subsidizing his income in between stints as a brick layer while off tour, he sold natural products, the kind made for peace pipes, chuckles, or red-eyed discovery of God in a slice of pizza. As a result he made friends of all kinds along the way. His fenced-in acre had become secluded a safe heaven in the middle of quaint suburbia. There was always someone visiting from somewhere, usually either resting or sitting in the den puffing more smoke than Cheech & Chong. If Luther wasn’t out in the yard or locked in a bedroom, he’d feel the need to express himself. He’d strut out to the middle of the floor and take a seat on stage. Sometimes he’d roll over on his back as if trying to get a tan, letting his ears flop down along with whatever else. Other times he would look around then casually start to lick his manhood. Everyone that knew Luther paid no attention. Those that weren’t ready for him paused. Particularly women. Usually they would giggle, make a comment, or sit back in a puzzled-almost-uncomfortable silence as if what they were staring at something that was staring back at them.

Early one afternoon Karl had a caravan of friends stop in on their way to a Dead show in DC. During the excitement of everyone parking VW Buses and cars and reeling in a joyful reunion with him, someone forgot to close the gate. Luther escaped. Someone had poured a Heineken in his water bowl before the caravan arrived — and it was almost empty when we discovered it. Instead of going with his friends to the Dead show, he gave his ticket to someone else in the caravan along with a brown paper bag and stayed home to find Luther. The rest of us weren’t going to the show and had nothing else planned, so we split up and set out to search the area for our favorite hound. The thought of him getting picked up by a dogcatcher was bad enough. Pleading the case to a judge for a dog charged with drunk and disorderly conduct was even worse. Luther was gone for two days before he finally popped back up. Aside from needing a bath and a worn out look as if he’d done Spring Break in Cancun, he was fine. Months passed and eventually we forgot all about it.

One day we were over at the house hanging out over at the house with some of Karl’s friends, a band on break from tour. They had been gigging with Merl Saunders, a musician that had been known to sit in with the Grateful Dead on tour. The fact they had been on tour with someone who had played with the Dead on tour made them royalty by association in Karl’s mind. As a result, Karl had a mound of weed on the coffee table. Smoke filled the den as a bong passed between hands and they shared their stories from the road with us. A knock came at the front door. We tucked everything away except the fog before Jeanine greeted the unexpected visitor. It was an older lady that identified herself as a neighbor from up the street. She asked to speak to the owner. When she said the owner wasn’t there, the lady turned to leave and mentioned that she’d be back with a cop and a dogcatcher. The word ‘cop’ made Karl jump up to find out what the problem was. He talked to the lady who adamantly refused to discuss the matter until she showed him something at her house. He went with her. A stone curiosity made me follow.

A 6-foot tall wooden privacy fence enclosed her yard. She unlocked and opened the gate. Over in the far corner was a Great Dane in front of a doghouse nursing some pups. When the lady called out to her dog Martha, the pups stood up to follow. They almost looked like they were still at rest until they started to trot. As they got closer we noticed their unusual features, but it was their familiar strides that left Karl and I speechless.

Apparently Martha was from a champion bloodline of show dogs, registered with more papers than a Harvard Ph.D. As a part-time breeder, the lady mated Martha with another pedigree twice a year and sold the pups for $700 apiece. Then somehow Luther came along, not even tall enough to sniff the female’s butt if she was standing beside him. It was easy to see hints of Luther in the lot but there was one last thing that would eliminate any further questions.
Karl knelt down and started to play with the first male he came across. Slowly he rolled the pup over and glanced at its underside.

“Well?” I asked.

“Like father, like son,” he sighed. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the hound had sired these little Great Dane low-riders. With a single chance left to breed that year, the lady didn’t hold back on letting us know she’d never be able to sell the litter. Her lawyer’s name came up a few times as well. We figured the chances and the math. It wasn’t pretty.

Later that evening after everyone left Karl, Jeanine and I discussed the matter. Luther paced around as if he was well aware of the situation. Unlike the typical playboy worried about a one-night stand that ended up with unexpected child, Luther and Karl were faced with something worse: seven children, a pissed off owner and a case twisted with unexplained phenomena in front of what promised to be a really baffled judge. That was the first time I’d ever seen a real dog sweat over a paternity suit.

Two days later the phone rang. I was on the couch taking a nap. After some random talk, I realized it was Karl. From the background chatter and slow easy lilt in his voice, I could tell he was still finishing off that mound on the coffee table with a little help from his friends.

“Luther is off the hook bro,” he said with a happy lilt.

“What happened?”

Apparently the caravan that came through before on their way to the show returned the next day. The paper bag Karl had given the guy was full of happy herbs and psychedelics, all of which sold out before the concert. The profit went toward a Free Luther fund. That, a few phone calls, and a little extra cash sealed the deal to purchase the pups and give them away to some good-hearted souls willing to provide loving homes.

I lost track of them as years passed, particularly after the Dead stopped touring. Jerry Garcia had made that final trip to join Janis, Jimi, and Morrison. Many of the Deadheads either took on lives in everyday society or went on to follow Phish on tour. Life had carried me into a wild entrepreneurial foray through Corporate America. Once in a while I bumped into someone from those times. Usually there was small talk, a few questions about life since then, and in the end we parted ways with promises about a rendezvous that never seemed to happen. Luther’s name came up every time. Each of us had a story about him. Mine had a weird lesson to it: While having a good time, no one ever thinks about the consequences until things go wrong. Luther’s fling led to seven kids and a paternity suit settled out of court. He didn’t have a job and wasn’t really able to take care of himself; the kids ended up in a good place once everything panned out. Luther got lucky, even for a dog. Not many stray men could brag about an ending like that.

(C) Copyright 2001 . Max Nomad . All Rights Reserved.