Confessions of a Con-Man-How I Rescued Bogart the Wonderdog
Back up people. Don't you amateurs try to compete on this open call. I am a professional con-man of great note. Let the pro speak. In fact, just give me the entire cover for this one. This is like tipping Albert Pujols off to a coming change-up coming down the heart of the plate. Talk about teeing one up for ol' Spudman.
How I Rescued Bogart, the Wonderdog.
I hit .386, cracked five homers and only made one error all season as a All-Conference second baseman my last season at college. Five other players from my team signed professional contracts. I only got a week-end tryout with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. One scout took me aside and told me I had a major league arm and speed. But he said I was too little and so my life-long dream died. I took another path as it was still the Vietnam/Nixon era.
I became a long-haired, back-to-earth hippie and joined a commune which was a shocking transformation to my relatives. Like any self-respecting hippie of any note, I got a big, old friendly dog. I named him Bogart, the Wonderdog. Bogey for short.
I was in a pool league which was as good of an excuse as any to drink lots of beer with other lost souls, joke around, and dance with lovely hippie women who wore no bras. Good clean fun really. I wasn't hurting anyone and the only law I broke was smoking reefer outside which was a common deal back then in liberal Bellingham, Washington. Bogey went everywhere with me. I took him with me to the store and got him a set of packs that I would fill up with groceries. I took him on long hikes out in the forests, and with me on the boat to go fishing. He slept on my bed, I brushed him all the time and feed him well. He was one half Samoyed and one half Siberian Husky. Both his parents were papered pure breds. He was a handsome creature and my very best friend.
On my nights out I would put him in the back of my orange pick-up which had a canopy on it. He had food, water and I checked on him frequently so don't start accusing me of abusing my dog. I treated him like a king. I went out to check on him when the band went on break and he wasn't there. I checked everywhere frantically. I roamed around downtown calling out his name over and over. I finally gave up at around three am and slowly motored home totally depressed. I had lost my best friend!
I woke up pissed off and plotted my strategy. I had worked briefly as a sports reporter for my hometown newspaper and knew how the paper worked. Bellingham was a big bigger than my hometown but not much. I knew how smaller towns worked. I called the paper. This was my story and one of my better cons of all-time. My plan worked to perfection. It went like this on the call:
Me: "I was hoping to talk with the feature editor about a tragic event that happened to me and my little daughter, Teri, who is only age seven. My wife and Teri's mother was killed in a motorcycle accident two months ago in Eastern Washington. We moved here to start a new life. Last night, our wonderful dog, Bogart disappeared and now I can't even get Teri out of bed and she refuses to talk. It is another terrible blow to this little angel," I sobbed. (Note: I had never been married, I had no child and Teri was a little girl who lived on the commune. I rationalized this grand lie as someone had to have deliberately opened up my canopy and stole my buddy. All's fair in love and war and getting revenge at someone stealing a hippie's dog.)
I paused dramatically, with sobs and actually made myself cry on purpose. There was a long silence which I knew was a good thing. The receptionist took down my information including my phone number. The phone rang less than twenty minutes later. It was a young woman reporter, the feature editor herself, calling me back. We made an appointment for an interview at noon. This gave me just enough time to race out to the commune and pick up Teri. I told her what I wanted her to do and bribed her with a bunch of candy which she was normally forbidden to eat. I got her a huge pop, ice cream sandwiches, a licorice rope, some cry-babies, a movie size box of Hot Tamales and a jumbo Butterfinger. I had her act out what to do when the reporter came.
I told the reporter how my wife, Sybil, (I did that for fun) had been a rodeo princess and often rode motorcycles around the farm near Spokane, across the state. I misted up as I told how she had been taking a shortcut and got hit by Hostess Bakery Truck delivering Twinkies. (I thought that was a bit much but it added detail to the fairy tale ending of my mythical wife, who was very good-looking, by the way.) I kept it up and noticed that this kind woman was tearing up as she tried to write especially after Teri came in the room and left in fake tears crying out :”Where's my Bogart? Where's my Bogart?” and slammed the upstairs bedroom door at my friend's house. We both jumped at the sound.
I gave the reporter a snapshot of Bogey and she looked at it for the longest time. She gave me a tender hug and disappeared. She called me three hours later and told me that she had finished the article and hoped it would help. I raced down to the store at around four pm and purchased a Bellingham Herald. I turned to the back page which was always used for local news only. Here is what I saw:
That was the headline with Bogey's picture underneath it and one tear-jerking story. About two hours after the paper came out, I started getting phone calls. The phone rang every few minutes with possible sightings, clues and well-wishers. Finally, one guy told me that he was certain that Bogey was chained up at his neighbor's house ten miles out of town. Teri and I went racing out there on the country roads. We pulled into the address and went down a long driveway and there he was! Teri, who really loved Bogey for real , jumped out and ran toward him screaming his name. Bogey saw us, got up and started yanking on the chain holding him back. The back door of the house bangs open and out comes a woman in an apron and still holding a spoon. A boy about Teri's age and a younger girl with a binky in her mouth follow behind her.
“What do you people want?” she asks in not a friendly tone.
Teri stops petting Bogey who wouldn't quit licking her and stands up. “That's my dog. We want him back,” the little red-haired pony-tailed actress retorts.
“Yeah, that's my dog. His picture was in the Herald this afternoon. I see you have a delivery tube. Did you not see him?” I asked matching her tone.
A big guy dressed in the typical logging outfit of the area comes racing out. “It says there is a $500 reward. We were going to contact you in the morning.”
“Well, I appreciate that but I got so excited, I left without all the money. Here's a twenty,” which I handed to a now excited boy who was petting Bogey too. “I'll drop off the rest of the money tomorrow after work.” I unlatched the chain, grabbed Bogart up in my arms and motioned for Teri to go back to the truck. I started to get in but stopped. “Hey, by the way, where did you find him?”
The two adults traded quick, furtive glances which I read instantly and knew what had really happened and he said: “He was running loose downtown last night so we picked him up. Didn't want him to get hit or anything.”
“Oh, thanks a bunch. That was very nice of you. Hell, I looked everywhere for him last night for hours. I couldn't figure out how he got out as I always put this stick in here,” I said as I demonstrated how the piece fit into the slot which locked the canopy door. “It was on the ground,” I added.
The big guy moved toward me and I noticed his left fist clench up for a second. I quickly surveyed the scene and it would have been on but I didn't want to beat the shit out of this dude in front of his little kids. Getting beat up by a hippie would have been total humiliation. I made direct eye contact and clenched my own fists before waving to the kids and wife in the distance and yelling: “Thanks for saving my dog.” He was at my window which was down.
“I expect to see the rest of that money tomorrow,” he said.
“Yeah, you bet. See you when it's time.”
I think I forgot but I'm not certain. The feature editor wanted to do a follow-up but I thought I had better not press it.
One should not steal a dog from a hippie still in mourning about losing his dream of turning double plays for a living. Especially one who had not one clue of what to do with his life. Ain't nice.
Yes, I felt bad later about conning the compassionate, kind reporter. I am a con-man with a conscience which leads to a man in near constant turmoil. The end of installment one. Stay tuned for others. I just conned you into reading this but I can show the real newspaper clipping for those who are the doubting sort.
Bogart, the Wonderdog as an innocent youth.