A Drunk Man’s Best Friend
I’ve always been proud of my patience and ability to hold my temper in check. Rarely do I cross the line and let emotion overrule my better judgment. I do have a breaking point but most people don’t see it. A “drunk” by the name of Mark Michaels is one of the unlucky few.
Mark came to Small Town for a disorderly conduct court appearance due to shenanigans he committed outside our city limits. He calls himself a drunk. He’s proud of it and will happily tell you so. I soon learned to call him a pain in my ass. In my opinion, the only redeeming quality Mark had was his best friend Chip, a smart mutt with absolute love for his owner.
Our winters in Small Town can be downright frigid. Mark arrived with a tent, thinking to camp in our RV park until he was through with the court system. After one night, he realized his plan was flawed. During his court appearance, he begged the judge to place him in jail. The judge refused.
My first encounter with Mark was later that same day. He decided if the judge would not help his cause, he would take matters into his own hands. He went to a small convenience store, bought and drank two forty ounce beers, and then proceeded to cause a scene.
I was filling in for patrol while two of our officers were at a week-long training. When I arrived, Mark asked what it took to get arrested in Small Town. I told him it was his lucky day.
A kind-hearted citizen said she would take Chip while Mark was in jail. Mark went willingly and I was thankful his alcohol level did not keep him from being accepted by detention (we don’t have a drink tank).
Mark was let out the next day. His pleas for “three hots and a cot” were again ignored by the judge. Mark retrieved Chip and then found another store to sell him alcohol. After drinking enough to sink a ship, he walked to our local library. Mark became unruly when politely told he could not take Chip inside. He decided the library was being uncooperative so he sat in the doorway and refused to let anyone pass.
I arrived and took Mark into custody. I notified animal control and had Chip transported to our city kennel. Mark kicked and yelled because I did not try to locate our tender hearted citizen to take custody of his dog. I ignored his death threats, trying to explain Chip would be fine and nothing would happen to him while in our care. Mark was not pacified.
At the jail, he refused to get out of my car. With my patience at an end, I told him I would pull him out by his legs if he didn’t cooperate. He got out, took two steps and dropped to his knees, saying he was not going with me. I had to drag him to the secondary entry doors.
I pressed the intercom button and asked for the portable breath testing unit (PBT). Mark refused to take the test. With the help of detention officers, Mark was held down and the test was administered. As luck would have it, his breath alcohol level was too high to be admitted to jail without medical clearance. Being the only officer on duty and the closest hospital thirty miles away, I wrote Mark a citation and told him he could pick up Chip when he was sober.
I had the guard open the main door, removed the handcuffs and told Mark to start walking. He continued to yell and threaten me as he resisted going through the door. I had to bodily shove him out. I was hoping he would walk the booze off and that I would be off duty when he sobered up.
Mark staggered away and came up with a grand solution to his problems, deciding to take his complaints to the judge. Due to threatening the courthouse guards, his demands were ignored.
I was behind on paperwork and had just sat down at my desk when I was dispatched to the courthouse for a disorderly male subject. Being a detective, I put two and two together and then practiced slow breathing during my drive to pick up Mark.
My breathing technique did little good and when I deposited Mark in our interview room, I gave him the option of sitting on a chair or the floor. I also told him to vomit in the garbage can if he felt the need. I slammed the door as I left the room.
I entered my office and monitored Mark on a viewing screen. I was hoping to get at least a small amount of paperwork completed. I tried to ignore the yelling.
“I’m a veteran, don’t I deserve honor for serving this country? How dare you treat me this way! You’re nothing but a dog killing un-American bitch.”
On it went.
My Chief heard the commotion and came to my office to check things out. We watched as Mark fell off the chair and began screaming because he managed to get one cuff under a leg and now had the cuffs pressuring his crotch when he tried to stand. Shaking his head, the Chief left the room. Mark was my problem.
I forced myself to go back to the interview room to keep Mark from castrating himself. Once I walked in, his yelling stopped. He agreed to be nice if I placed the handcuffs in front of him and then begged me not to leave him alone in the small room.
Those were the words that got to me. “Please don’t leave me alone.” My anger completely deflated. I called animal control and asked to have Chip brought over.
I made some more phone calls and found someone willing to drive Mark back to his house, forty miles from town, where he eagerly told me he lived. I contributed $20 for gas.
Before his ride arrived, I took him out of handcuffs and we went outside so he could smoke a cigarette and play with Chip. As we stood there, Mark reminisced about being in the military and the first Gulf War. He then spoke of his thirty year old daughter who couldn’t handle his drinking. He hadn’t seen her in many years though he remembered her as the sweetest and prettiest baby in the world. He told me about finding Chip as a puppy and their years together.
I asked about his next court date and made it clear I was requesting vacation during that time. Laughing, Mark said he wouldn’t be alive much longer due to hepatitis C and I didn’t need to worry. Mark’s ride came and I waved as he and Chip drove away.
Six days later, on Thanksgiving morning, I went and picked up coffee and donuts for our dispatchers (they are way underappreciated for the job they do). I sat with them and listened as they performed their duties.
A detective called from the next county asking if we had any dealings with a Mark Michaels. The dispatcher asked if he was drunk again. The detective said, “No, he’s dead and we’re trying to locate family.”
The phone was handed to me. A well-meaning couple found Mark in a homeless shelter and wanted to share their thanks by giving him a bed for the night. They took him to their house but first gave him money for a six pack of beer. Mark drank his last taste of alcohol in a warm room, lying on a soft bed.
The next morning they found Mark’s body. He was fifty-one years old. Chip was not with him. The homeless shelter does not take dogs and they never saw a sign of Mark’s loyal friend. I searched and checked local pounds and animal shelters for months but Chip was never located.
I learn so many life lessons while doing my job. They are not all sweet and cuddly or have happy endings. I sometimes need to be reminded that we are human beings. I’ve grown angry since Mark died but I count to ten and think of a cold lonely soldier with nowhere to go and his only friend, a dog named Chip.
Detective Ivy signing off.