Archive for the ‘Agents’ Category

First Lady prayer…

A dog’s purpose!!!

It is impossible for me to ignore the video that has surfaced regarding the movie A Dog’s Purpose and the training of a German Shepherd where the dog is forced into raging waters by his trainer.   I CAN speak out because my history of training more than 14,000 dogs allows me to do so.  The production company, including the director and actors, can make all the excuses they deem necessary to save the movie, but what I saw in that video speaks volumes about everyone involved.  No ‘investigation’ is necessary.  No script changes are necessary.  No changes in trainers are necessary. No firings are necessary.  No apologies are necessary.  It is not A DOG’S PURPOSE to be treated in this manner, and no person who truly loves animals should support this movie no matter what changes are made.  Again, the video speaks for itself.  The trainer, the writer, the director, the producer, the actors, should all be ashamed of themselves.  By the way, I could have trained that dog to swim in those same raging waters with very little training and props.

The Legend continues…

I have not been hounded by the following question, but there have been a few inquiries.  “What is the status of the followup to The Bog, The Legend of Man’s Best Friend.”

I can tell you it is in process.

I don’t lean positively to such words as “goal” or “objective.”  I see them as words of constraint.  Rather, I will tell you that I will keep you abreast of my progress which, save for poor health or death, will put the book in your hands, should you wish, before you celebrate the coming of 2018.

That being said, I gotta get truckin’.  Best, JohnIMG_2052 (2)

The lost dogs…#’s 7 & 8

Friends: The following weeks I will be posting some of the chapters of my new short story entitled, The Lost Dogs of Mercy Trap. This is the first of 6-8 stories to be published in 2016. I hope you enjoy. John
(Chapter’s seven and eight)

Katy and Joseph took personal leave days from work. At ten AM they loaded Jimmy in the van and drove 35 miles north to Goldstone, WV, a city of 20,000 people. They shopped at five stores gathering dog food, treats, collars, shampoo, ropes, hardware snaps, and other supplies.

Returning to Mercy Trap around two PM they drove to the steel mill. In order to bath and groom the dogs, they would have to find a building with running water.

For the first time since the episode of abused dogs had started, Joseph felt he was getting a break. There was one bathroom with a tub and shower where the water had not been turned off. “Must be for he security guards,” Joseph mused.

“Then where are they?” asked Katy.

“Christmas break, I suspect.” He said.

“And if they show up tomorrow night?”

“Then I’ll give them a Christmas bonus to turn their heads?”

They unloaded supplies and returned to Joseph’s house, fixed PB&J sandwiches and settled around the kitchen table with pencils and note pads. It was time to be specific about the abduction, storage, care, and return of five dogs.

They worked through the afternoon and evening putting their plan on paper. At ten PM, 48 hours before the plan would unfold, Katy hugged both Jimmy and Joseph and drove home.


On Thursday and Friday Joseph took Jimmy to the hospital for volunteer time in the peds department, and then sorted mail. Katy wrote stories about awards presentations, personnel promotions, and obits.

They met for dinner at Bob Evans on Friday after work.

“Why do I feel like I’m on death row and this is my final meal?” said Katy.

Joseph and Jimmy laughed out loud.

“You worry too much,” Jimmy said. “After all what’s the worst that can happen?”

“Death before a firing squad,” she said. “Or maybe lethal injection.”

“No way,” Jimmy said. “We won’t get caught. And if we did, there’s not a jury in Mercy Trap that’d give us more than three years in the pen.”

“Okay, okay, children,” Joseph admonished. “Let’s enjoy our meal as if it is our last. We’re going to need all the energy we can muster before the night is over.”

After dinner, Katy drove home. She changed into drab pants, old shoes, and a sweatshirt with the hood pulled over her head. She took a bus to within three blocks of Joseph’s house, and walked, wondering all the while why she had agreed to such a crazy scheme.

The first three dogs were loaded without incident…mostly due to their familiarity with Joseph and his treats.

The fourth, a young Rottweiler, never having been removed from a 20-foot tether, was unruly and anxious. But a piece of Bob Evans steak calmed him considerably while they forced him into the van.

Katy and Jimmy took the four dogs to the Steel Mill while Joseph worked at getting the acceptance of a 175-pound Mastiff.

His name was Scrooge. He was a cross between a rounder and a junkyard dog. Fortunately, the mailbox for all five owners was on a post outside each property fence. Joseph always threw the treats. But, he had never entered any of the yards. Still, he was comfortable with the first four dogs. Though they would bark, it was more for the treats than out of aggression. This morning, even in the dark of night, each of the four had merely wagged their tails when he entered their yards and hooked them to a leash.

Scrooge, however, was different. He did not wear his disposition on his sleeve. He was pensive and slow to move. He never attacked the treats. Rather, he was thoughtful. He’d wait until Joseph turned his head before eyeing the treat. Then, he’d sluggishly pick it up and throw it down in one gulp.

“Hey, boy,” Joseph said as he approached the big dog and offered him a biscuit.
Surprisingly, Scrooge wagged his tail, accepted the biscuit, and allowed Joseph to remove the old chain and snap a new lead to his collar. Then, as if the two had gone on numerous walks together, they slowly and silently left the yard.

Katy and Jimmy returned and Joseph loaded Scrooge in the van. Two hours later they finished bathing the five dogs.

The lost dogs…#6

Friends: The following weeks I will be posting some of the chapters of my new short story entitled, The Lost Dogs of Mercy Trap. This is the first of 6-8 stories to be published in 2016. I hope you enjoy. John
(Chapter six)

Wednesday morning the city was abuzz with the events of the City Council meeting and the newspaper article written by Katy Shepherd.

Postman warns:
“All dogs gone!”
By Katy Shepherd
The Community Herald

Mercy Trap. WV—Joseph Christian, US Postal Service employee and local mailman, warned at last night’s City Council meeting, “Prepare yourselves, some morning soon you might wake to find your dogs have disappeared.”
Thinking he was planning to steal their dogs, five residents of Manger Avenue, each having been accused by Christian of abusing their dogs, erupted with threats against the postman.
At least 100 citizens of Mercy Trap attended the meeting in support of Christian and security guards had to disperse both groups before the meeting continued.
Last month, Christian, having witnessed multiple accounts of animal abuse along his mail route, petitioned council to investigate. Council requested that the director of the Animal Control Shelter look into the matter to determine the degree of mistreatment or cruelty.
Apparently, Animal Control did not perform any inspections. No officer of Animal Control attended last night’s meeting. Animal Control Director, Judd Slay, has not returned calls to his office and home.
Christian, a 12-year government employee has vowed to correct the living conditions of abused dogs along his mail route…while the dog owners have threatened to “get even” if Christian comes onto their properties or touches their dogs in any way.
The outspoken representative for the dog owners, Jared Asher, told this reporter following the meeting, “What right does that guy have in accusing us of animal abuse? Hell, if he’d ah had his dog chained in his yard two years ago instead of in the back seat of a car, the dog might be alive today.”
Before leaving the Court House, Christian reworded his statement about ‘disappearing dogs’ when he said to members of City Council. “How would each of you feel if upon waking tomorrow morning there were no dogs in Mercy Trap?”
I don’t know about any of you, dear readers, but personally, I’d be devastated.

Following Katy’s article were pictures taken by Joseph depicting the deplorable condition of each of the five dogs.

That morning, in an attempt to subdue tensions, Joseph’s supervisor placed a different delivery postman on Manger Avenue while Joseph sorted mail.

That evening, Joseph invited Katy for dinner with he and Jimmy.

She brought white bean soup and cornbread. He and Jimmy baked chocolate chip cookies.

Joseph told about the postal employees who supported him. Katy told about the calls, emails, and Face Book posts…mostly demanding that the dogs be taken from their owners. Jimmy told about his many classmates who had called.

“So, if no one is going to do anything for those poor creatures, what are we going to do?” Joseph asked.

Katy and Jimmy looked at him.

“What are you talking about, Dad?”

He smiled at this son.

Having a strong inclination of what he was referring to, Katy said, “You can’t be serious, Joseph?”

“Why not?” he asked.

“Well for one thing,” she said, “you could go to jail.”

“Jail! What are you talking about?” Jimmy yelled.

“I think your dad wants to steal the dogs!”

Joseph shrugged, “Not steal…borrow. Just long enough to teach those guys a lesson.”

“Dad! You gotta be kidding!”

“Your dad is not kidding, Jimmy…but, he is crazy.”

“Not crazy,” Joseph said, “just determined to make a point.”

Joseph stood, walked to the kitchen, poured a glass of water and returned. Katy and Jimmy watched and waited.

“Okay,” he said, “how about some what ifs?”

Katy slowly shook her head. Jimmy looked at his dad like he was the coolest dad on the planet.

“What if after midnight tomorrow I sneak into the yards and take the dogs?”

“Take them where, Joseph?”

“What if I put them in the old warehouse over by the river? There are a thousand storage rooms at the old steel mill. I can have food and water for them, they’ll gorge themselves and then sleep like pups…nobody’ll hear a thing.”

“And what if Jared Asher and his cronies come looking for you?”

“If Jimmy can spend the day with you, I’ll leave for work before those guys know the dogs are missing. They’ll come looking for me at the Post Office and by that time I’ll have an alibi arranged.”

  “And when the police come looking for you?”

“At lunch time I’ll go see Chief Wise. I know he’s a dog lover. He’s got three Beagles. I’ll tell him what I did and that I did it just so folks would think about life without dogs. Then, I’ll sneak the dogs back the next night with new collars, new feed bowls, with each bowl filled to the brim with food and water.”

“And you think the dog owners will be understanding and forgiving?”

“Wouldn’t anyone? I mean…” he stammered trying to find the right words. “Look, Katy. These guys must love their dogs…they’ve just never learned how to care for them. They’ll be so happy to have their dogs returned they’ll never treat them bad again. Imagine how happy Jimmy and I would be to see King again?”

And then Joseph realized that in his excitement he had said the wrong thing.

“Jimmy, I…”

“It’s okay, Dad. I understand what you mean.”

Joseph sat back at the table and looked at his two best friends.

After what seemed like ten minutes, Katy spoke. “Okay, okay,” she said. “Where do we start?”

      Joseph smiled and Jimmy screamed with joy.

The lost dogs…#5

Friends: The following weeks I will be posting some of the chapters of my new short story entitled, The Lost Dogs of Mercy Trap. This is the first of 6-8 stories to be published in 2016. I hope you enjoy. John
(Chapter five)

Tuesday morning of Christmas week Joseph and Jimmy talked about their adventure of the day before.

“How about we drive by mom’s memorial each day after school. It’s only a couple blocks out of the way. In fact, on my therapy days we go right by it.”

“It’s close enough,” Jimmy, “that we can drive in that direction any time we want.”
Jimmy ate quietly, gathering his thoughts. “Isn’t the city council meeting tonight?”
Joseph was surprised. “Now how in tarnation did you remember that?”

“I think King reminded me.”

“Well, I’ve raised enough stink that if I don’t show up I’ll be tar and feathered by my fellow employees.”

“Good for you dad, King would be proud of you,” the boy said with a smile.
It was the first time in two years that Joseph had heard the dog’s name and seen a smile on his son’s face at the same time.

* * * * *

     Amy Pierson knocked and opened the front door at the same time. “Babysitter on-board,” she yelled.

“I hate it when she says that,” Jimmy said.

His dad laughed. “That’s why she does it, son.”

Joseph headed for the main post office where he loaded his truck with mail and headed for his route. He had been delivering mail for 12 years, knew most of his patrons by name, and received enough homemade cakes and candies during Christmas week to feed a ravenous pack of dogs.

He parked on Manger Avenue and Seventh Street, packed his bag, locked the truck and began stuffing mail in boxes. His load was double the norm with the onset of Christmas and he wondered from whence the cards came…from friends and families separated all over the world? And he thought about Mary and the cards that would be sent no more.

“See you at City Council tonight, Joseph?”

The question came from Katy Shepherd as she and her Doberman Pinscher fought the winter wind and headed toward her mail box. He waited at the fence line…her mail in one hand and a dog biscuit for Starman in the other.

Katy and Joseph’s wife, Mary, had been friends for many years, a friendship formed through the animal rescue organization they supported.

“My son has already reminded me,” he said.

Katy laughed. Then said, “After what he encountered with King, it just might be therapy for his wounds.”

“It’s probably not good for my continued employment to make enemies…and I’ll sure make ‘em tonight.”

“Do I detect indecision?”

“No, not really. But, my boss isn’t too happy about it.”

“Take heart, Joseph. It’ll be standing room only, mostly supporting you. And I’ll be there to tell the rest of the community about what’s happening on Manger Avenue.”

“Thanks, Katy.” He handed a second Milk Bone to Starman.

Moments later she yelled at him, “Don’t forget the pictures!”

He waved at her.

Katy was a beat writer for the community newspaper. He had talked to her about what was happening on Manger Avenue. He had shown her the pictures and she had spent two days walking the route with him while gathering names and addresses.

He had stood before City Council last month and told them about the abuse and mistreatment of five dogs on his mail route. Further, he had requested that City Council direct the Animal Control Shelter to inspect each home and demand changes.\

Members of City council were uneasy about getting involved with a sensitive issue that might upset constituents, cause complaints about the rights of the animals, and ultimately cost votes at election time. So they were agreeable to turning the problem over to the director of the Animal Control Shelter with instructions to investigate and report back at the next council meeting.

Katy, however, was not so agreeable in relieving council members of their moral responsibility…and her article the following morning raised the ire of council members as well as the citizens of Mercy Trap. Letters to the editor poured in: each and everyone demanding that dogs be treated as humanly as what council members expected in their own households.

Over the next month as Joseph continued to deliver mail, he noted that no changes had been made in the conditions of each dog. All five dogs remained on chains, all were malnourished to the point of death, two had not received shelter from the wind and snow, one had no feed bowl, and the fifth supported a chain so thick that it cut into his neck.

At dinnertime on Tuesday he told Jimmy that no changes had been made.

Jimmy was thinking about King. “There’s got to be something we can do, Dad. Just think about how hard it’s been without King.”

Joseph bolted up in his chair. “That’s it, Jimmy. You’re a genius.” He kissed his son on the forehead, grabbed his hat and coat, and headed for the door just as Amy entered.

“I’ll explain when I get back. Keep your fingers crossed. I love you guys.”

Out the door his dad ran while Jimmy tried to discern what he had said that had gotten his dad so excited.

The lost dogs…#4

Friends: The following weeks I will be posting some of the chapters of my new short story entitled, The Lost Dogs of Mercy Trap. This is the first of 6-8 stories to be published in 2016. I hope you enjoy. John
The Lost Dogs of Mercy Trap
A short story (Chapter four)

Later that day Joseph parked at Blessed Heart Community hospital, unloaded Jimmy’s wheel chair, and carefully placed his son into it. It was one mile from the hospital to Gunner Rill road, the same route home that Mary had taken every day. In her honor they were going to walk to the place of her death, erect a small sign, and place a bouquet of flowers in the ground.

“Mom hated plastic flowers,” Jimmy said.

His dad laughed. “We’ll come back in the spring and plant…”

“A small rose bush.”

Joseph placed a hand on his son’s shoulder. “Yeah, she’d like that.” He then removed a small sign from a pouch in the back of the wheelchair and handed it to his son. “What do you think?”

It was simple in design. At the top of a black metal staff was a plaque in florescent letters, reading: Please Drive Carefully! The nameplate read: In memory of Mary Christian.
Jimmy didn’t say anything, but he held the sign against his chest as his dad pushed the chair against the lightly falling snow.

By the time they reached the intersection of Gunner Hill Road and found the spot for the makeshift memorial the winter sun was casting lengthy shadows. But they were in no rush. Both father and son were thinking about their earlier conversation when Joseph had said, “It’s time for you and I to let your mom go.”

Sensing his son’s thought, as only a parent can, Joseph said, “I think I said that wrong, Jimmy. We are not letting your mom go. She’s part of us. We are going to hold on to her until we die. Her goodness, her morals, her companionship, her spirituality, her care for others will bolster us through the difficulties of life that lay ahead. Every decision we make in the future will be influenced by what she taught us. So, no, we are not letting her go.”

“She’s letting us go, isn’t she dad,” Jimmy said.

Joseph knelt beside his son and they hugged. “Yep, she’s not only letting us go, but she’s probably saying ‘it’s about time you guys get moving before you freeze to death’.”

Together, they laughed.

“Oh, yeah. One more thing,” Joseph said. He pulled a box from under the chair and handed it to his son.

“What’s this?”

“Let’s just call it the first gift of Christmas.”

The square box weighted about two pounds, and the wrapping glowed with the colors of the season. Jimmy could barely restrain himself from tearing into the gift with all the fervor that Christmas demands.

Red and white tissue paper caressed a twelve by twelve inch slab of stone that was four inches thick. Etched into the stone was the figure of a Labrador Retriever and the name, King.

To this day, two years from the accident, Jimmy and his dad had not talked about their dog. Jimmy had always believed that his beloved pet had died. Joseph had never told his son that the dog, nor his body, had ever been found.

“I hope they are together,” Jimmy said.

His dad did not respond.

Jimmy handed the stone to his dad who placed it at the base of the memorial.

“Ready to go home or do you want to stay here and freeze?” Joseph asked his son.

Jimmy laughed. “I’m hungry.”

“Me too. How about hamburgers, fries, and a chocolate milkshake?”

“How about strawberry?” his son joked.

“Let’s do it.”

The trip back to their car, though the snow and wind had increased, was the best time they had spent together in the past two years.

The lost dogs…#3

Friends: The following weeks I will be posting some of the chapters of my new short story entitled, The Lost Dogs of Mercy Trap. This is the first of 6-8 stories to be published in 2016. I hope you enjoy. John

The Lost Dogs of Mercy Trap
A short story (Chapter three)
John Preston Smith

It had been two years since Mary had died, since Jimmy had been paralyzed, and since King had disappeared.

It was Sunday and Christmas was one week away.

It had been a difficult time for both Joseph and his son. The ups and downs of hope and despair regarding Jimmy’s paralysis demanded more love and acceptance than Joseph thought he was capable of handling. It had been a life-changing experience for both.

Besides his mother, Jimmy had lost his freedom and his dog. He could no longer play sports, hang with his friends, climb stairs, ride a bike, run, dance, swim…the list was endless. Instead, he was learning to face life while tethered to a wheeled chair.

Joseph was facing a future without the love of his life.
For two years, two dreadfully long and difficult years, Joseph and Jimmy had maintained the best possible relationship.

Joseph decided it was time for he and his son to accept what had happened, embrace it as best they could, and to move forward as Mary would have wanted. It was time to find out how his son would react.

On Monday morning the snows of winter were coming and schools were closed for Christmas. Joseph and Jimmy were having breakfast. “I’d like to place a memorial on the side of the road where your mom died.”

Jimmy studied his plate as if an answer were somewhere in his scrambled eggs. Without looking up, he said. “I don’t understand.”
“I’d like for you and I to put a sign on Gunner Hill close to where the accident occurred.”

Jimmy look at his dad, confused. “Why?”

“For three reasons. One, it tells people who we lost. Many, many people knew your mom. I don’t want them to forget her. Secondly, it might alert folks to the danger of Gunner Hill and maybe they will drive more cautious. Who knows, our sign might save a life.”

Joseph removed a handkerchief from his pocket, blew his nose, and whipped his eyes.

“What’s the third reason, Dad?”

Joseph reached across the table and took his son’s hand. “It’s time, Jimmy.”


“Time for you and I to let your mom go. It’s time for you and I to be thankful that we have each other. And it’s time for you and I to look to the future.”

It took ten seconds…ten of the longest seconds in Joseph’s life. But in the end, Jimmy squeezed his dad’s hand and cried.

The Lost Dogs…#1

Friends:  The following weeks I will be posting some of the chapters of my new short story entitled, The Lost Dogs of Mercy Trap.  This is the first of 6-8 unedited stories to be published in 2016.  I hope you enjoy.  John


The Lost Dogs of Mercy Trap

A short story

John Preston Smith

Christmas 2015
The accident killing the wife of Joseph Christian, also paralyzed his nine-year-old son, Jimmy. It was a case study of vehicular homicide: a snowy and rainy night of slick roads, a man leaving a pub inebriated, and no one at the watering hole willing to demand his car keys.

It was one week before Christmas.

Mary Christian was returning home from her day of work as a registered nurse in the Intensive Care Unit at Blessed Heart Community hospital. Her thoughts were full of the coming week. Christmas was her favorite time of year. And though Jimmy had past believing in Santa and his Elves, he did believe in the birth of the Christ child

Mary and Joseph had been diligent in teaching Jimmy the true values of Christmas giving. It was a precarious course to maneuver. They did not want to steal his childhood excitement of receiving gifts, but too, they wanted him to understand the basic needs of clothing and food that many children in his community lacked.

She smiled at him through the mirror. School was closed for the holidays and they had spent the day together. Jimmy loved volunteering in the Pediatrics department by helping children in the toy room. And the children loved it when he bought King, his four-year-old Labrador Retriever. King was a perfect therapy dog. His had an easygoing demeanor, he tolerated ear pulling and kids riding on his back, and he’d lay on the floor when kids wanted to cuddle.

On one particular day as they were driving home from the hospital, Jimmy said, “You know, Mom, it’s like he knows.”
“Knows what, Jimmy?”

Jimmy didn’t answer, but she knew he was referring to King and how he acted when he visited the hospital. “Yes,” she said, “he knows.”

As she approached the intersection of Gunner Hill Road, even though the light was green, she slowed. The crossroad was a recipe for death. Cars coming toward her crested a hill near the traffic light and the evening headlights of those cars made it difficult to see. The glare of the wet roads made it worse.

The intersection set at the bottom of Gunner Hill, the road to her right. The steepness of Gunner Hill was such that oftentimes drivers unfamiliar with the road would slide through the rain soaked intersection with their foot jammed on the brake pedal. The collision possibilities were nightmarish. I
* * * * *
Sixty-five-year old Judd Drought was  both retired and an alcoholic. His wife had left him 20 years past, his three children had disowned him, and he had five DUI’s over the past 9 years.

He had left his drinking buddies the same time Mary Christian had left the hospital.

Christmas, the pangs of loneliness, and his inebriated state overshadowed his ability to control his speed, the wet and slippery pavement, and the downhill danger of Gunner Hill.

     Before he could react, his car was out of control.
* * * * *
The traffic light was green. Mary inched through the intersection as the car coming toward her paused in order to turn left after Mary passed. The high beams of the car blinded her.

     Before the moment passed, she was dead and Jimmy was paralyzed.