Dog Wars

Michael Ramberg

They’d moved to Turkey but without Daddy, because Mommy had decided Daddy wasn’t the same person when he came back from helping fight the war. So she packed her things and sold some things and sent some things to the orphans and the thrift store. And because they both loved the dog too, and the other way was to leave him with Daddy, who was always mad or sad or both, they took along Dogasaurus who sat in a box in the basement of the airplane where Emma was afraid he was dark and scared. That’s how they got to Turkey.

Here it was hot all the time and there was no macaroni and cheese in boxes. Mommy had to make it herself the first night. It wasn’t the same, and the apartment wasn’t the same—it was bright white and it looked out into the area on the other side of the fence, which Emma thought was a big brown yard. Past that the ground fell to a space filled with trees, a Dusty Trench, Mommy called it. Don’t go in there she said.

Mrs. Kramer was their neighbor across the hall who on their first night brought a cake and a bottle of red wine, and she said here’s some fine juice as she poured and sat on their couch and talked to Mommy about the Principal and all the other teachers in the school. “Bit of a mess, truth be told,” she said, and lots of other things Emma didn’t understand. She drank the red juice and Emma couldn’t have any, but Mommy only had a little bit, and when she left Mrs. Kramer said keep the rest as a present but there wasn’t much left, and Mommy finished it right away.

“We’ll have to be careful around that one,” she whispered. Then she said, “Right. Let’s brush some teefers.”

Emma tried hard to sleep but instead heard dogs barking in the Dusty Trench. She called for Mommy who sat with her and listened and Dogasaurus lay curled up on his pillow. The dogs didn’t have owners down there, but they did fine by themselves Mommy told her, but how did she know for sure? They sounded angry like they were in their own airplane basement waiting and didn’t know when they would get wherever they were going.


Later that week Emma was in the playground next to their house that in Turkish was called a lojman. She was with her Turkish nanny in a headscarf and long jacket who sat and watched but was scared of Dogasaurus, even if all he did was sniff under the piney shrubby spaces and bark at cats.

She was on the swings when out came Mrs. Kramer to look at Dogasaurus who barked then stopped. She said, “That dog is a red star terror.” There was no Mister Kramer. There were a lot of them, Mrs. without Misters, here at the faculty housing.

Emma looked up at Mrs. Kramer, at her eyes like beads drowning behind dirty lenses. She wore a lavender dress and carried a water glass, and her feet in sandals were old and purple. Emma didn’t like her much, but she was their neighbor here in Ankara, and Mommy said, We have to get along with our neighbors.

“You should have him on leash,” she said. Dogasaurus must have heard because he looked at her, tipped his head, and took two steps forward. “Suppose he’s a good enough looking dog. What’s his name?”

“Dad called him Edgar Poe, but that’s not his name.”

“It’s not?”

“Nope. But I wasn’t born yet when dad named him, so I can’t be upset that he got it wrong.”

“Suppose you know his real name?”

“His real name is Dogasaurus.”

Mrs. Kramer nodded. “Where’s your Da now then?”

Daddy was back home staying with Grandpa because of what the war did, but Emma didn’t want to say it so Home was all she said.

Mrs. Kramer drank from her water glass and looked out past the fence. “There’s strays out there.” She waved her arm out where the green grass stopped at the edge of the fence and the brown grass started on its other side. “If he stays off leash they’ll have him for a snack, they will.”

“Dogasaurus can take care of himself,” Emma said. “He would probably eat all the dogs down there first.”

“If you’d heard them you wouldn’t say that. Don’t tell me you haven’t heard them, dearie. They bark like they’re at war down there. ”

“Daddy was…” She stopped because We have to watch what we say around her, Mommy said.

That’s when Mommy came up the walk, home from work and coming fast with a bag on her shoulder and waving to them both as Dogasaurus ran to sniff her legs and jump up happy on her.

“Your Da was what?”

Before Emma could answer, Mommy was shouting Hello so she shouted Hello back.

“We were just having a chat,” said Mrs. Kramer.

Mommy stopped walking. “What about?”

Mrs. Kramer squeezed her eyes and looked at Emma. Then she said, “About the dogs down there.” She swung her hand to show Mommy and water spilled on the road.

“They’re having a war.”

Mommy looked at them both. “I doubt that,” she said.


The next day when Mommy came up the walk, Emma was on the swing and Dogasaurus was gone. It wasn’t till they said goodbye to her nanny with the headscarf and big belly and walked up to the lojman door that they realized he wasn’t there, scampering around their feet, anxious to be let in. So they started to call his name. They looked in the bushes behind the lojman and around the grounds of the swings and slides in the big playground. They looked behind the kindergarten, and they wandered in and out of the lojman where flowers were blooming and the grass was green, calling his real name and the name her dad had given the dog, but they could not find him anywhere.

“I spent a fortune to bring that dog along,” said Mommy. “We’d better find him.”


That night Emma sat at the bedroom window all alone looking down into the Dirty Trench under the tops of the white skinned trees. She heard the dogs barking and tried to make out Dogasaurus’s voice but couldn’t. That’s when Mommy came in.

“There’s something out there,” Emma said. Mommy looked like she was listening. “Is it Dogasaurus?”

Then Mommy was quiet like she was sometimes. Then she said, “He’ll come back. They always do.” Mommy didn’t always answer the question you asked her. Sometimes she didn’t answer at all. The moon poked through the torn-up clouds to let down some more light, but she still couldn’t see into the valley and could only hear the barking.

Emma couldn’t sleep thinking about Dogasaurus out there with the stray dogs who didn’t have any people. They were out there having their dog wars in the valley and she had dreams that he was being chased and bitten and when she woke up it was dark, the iPad clock said five hundred, so she got out of bed to go look for him.

She took the keys from the hook by the door and left as quiet as she could and walked down the stairs in the dark. Outside it was still warm but not like when the sun was out, so she walked down the big road whispering Dogasaurus Dogasaurus knowing she could find the way back, but maybe she couldn’t, so she turned to look back.

And then there he was standing on the long road that came up to the lojman where she lived, between her and the lojman and Mommy. It was his white and yellow but he was darker and dirty, sitting and staring at her. It was him but he did not come when she called. Instead he sat chewing on a thing he had brought out from the Dusty Trench. He chewed and stopped and looked at her, then picked up the thing, and it hung from the side of his mouth. It was a stick or maybe something else that was very long and it scraped on the ground as he carried it to her, his feet lifting high and happy.

He looked free and wild, and the thing in his mouth was wet and sparkly in the dark, something harder than a stick, and he dropped it to come at Emma. His paws left darkness on the ground, and she screamed at the noise he made.


Michael Ramberg is a native Minnesotan currently living in Turkey. You can follow him on Twitter at @mramberg or his website