“Listen up you young pups, now I know when you look at me you see a dog of small stature with only one eye, bare skin where once there was a long coat of crème and white fur and a limp in my back leg but don’t’ forget that you look upon the legendary Shimar the Pirate Dog.”
“Shimar the Pirate Dog?” puzzled the puppies as they looked upon the small dog perched upon a pillow that rested upon the arm of a sofa. “You, but you aren’t much bigger than we are! And we are nowhere near the ocean. How can a little dog like you have been a pirate on the high seas?”
“Well pipe down and I will spin you a tale, a tale of me, the Pirate captain Shimar, of my first mate Reggie the Terrible, and our ship the Dirty Drawers.” Said the old dog.
“So why is your ship called the Dirty Drawers?” Said one pup
“And why is your first mate called the Terrible?” spoke up another.
“And how did you lose your eye and your fur?” ventured a third.
“Quiet, quiet,” cautioned Shimar, “all in good time, they are all a part of the story that I am about to tell. It all begins many years ago, a little while before Reggie enters the story or before any other parts of the adventure when I was a prisoner, serving a life sentence in that worst of all prisons, the pound.”
“No, not the pound, not that horrible place!” Shrieked one of the youngest pups.
“Yes, the pound, locked away with all the dogs and cats and other critters. Confined to a small cage, far from the oceans swell and the sea breeze. I thought my days were done. As a young pup, I had escaped any fence that someone tried to enclose me in and I loved to run free and wild, like our ancestors the might wolves, but one day they managed to snag me, they put me into a cage and oh the sad songs I heard in the jailhouse. The wails of caged dogs protesting their innocence, the evil cry of cats vowing vengeance upon their captors. Yet, while I could tell you all kinds of jailhouse tails but you don’t want to hear about that place with its hardships, what you want to hear about it my life as Shimar the pirate dog, am I right?”
“Yeah!” cried the pups.
“So, prison life was hard. There was the confinement, there were the guards and worst of all were the cats. Many of the cats in prison were hardened catnip addicts who would take on a Rottweiler if they thought they could get catnip for it. I had attempted to escape several times. I had tried looking cute, at that point I still had a soft, bushy coat of crème and white fur and even though I only had one eye I was still a pretty attractive pup.”
“But you only had one eye, how’d that happen?”
“Oh, well I got into a fight with a prison gang called the Fierce Feral Felines who were running a catnip smuggling operation in the pound. That my young friends is a tale for another time, but if I stop to tell every tale you’ll never get to hear about my adventures as a pirate. So where was I, ah yes, I was being rescued and it was an epic jail break. The alarms were blaring, the dogs were howling in rhythm with the alarms, the light went out, and they broke me out of my cage, and ran with me out of the pound with a hoard of dogcatchers shouting and trying to stop them as this group of dogs came in, opening all the dog cages and it was epic. Our rescuers barked at us to head outside and there waiting on a horse drawn carriage was an old solid white bulldog directing the smaller dogs to get up on the wagon and the larger dogs to run alongside. Some of his pack were holding the dog catchers at bay while we loaded up and then with a loud, commanding bark the horses began to move and the remaining dogs fell back as we fled into the setting sun. The dog catchers furiously shouted and yelled and some even for a little while ran after us. We rode and we rode, and I would be happy to never ride on a horse drawn carriage as long as I live. The road was rough and we were thrown all about the carriage as the bigger dogs ran alongside howling and barking and jumping as the night began to set in. We journeyed across open country for what seemed an eternity stopping only to let the horses and the bigger dogs rest. It was an awesome sight, some sixty dogs of various sizes and ages moving across the countryside. Once we were far enough away all but the oldest were commanded to run and stay together with the pack. It was hot and my little legs were tired and there was never enough food but I was a free dog and I ran and yipped and barked with my companions. Eventually several days later, though it seemed like weeks upon weeks we reached the ocean.
Never before had I seen the ocean or smelled the salty air. I ran in the hot sand yipping and rolling like a young pup, although I had already spent my youth behind bars. I was free, it was a freedom I had never known before. No fences to keep me in, no leashes or chains constraining where I could run, just the sand and the sea. I chased after seagulls, I ran through the waves, I dug tunnels in the sand, I got pinched on the nose by a crab- I don’t recommend that, smarted for days afterwards, and my liberators laughed and laughed and laughed at my foolishness as well as the foolishness of the other dogs on the beach. I was free at last and I didn’t care how foolish my antics might look to anyone else. I was covered in sand and seaweed and salt when I saw the ship for the first time.
The captain, the white bulldog who oversaw our rescue who I now knew was called Ghost, told us he expected some of us to join his crew of the pirate ship Vice Grip, named after his jaws once he held onto something. It would be hard and dangerous work, the pay was poor, the living conditions small but you it would be a pirate’s life where you could take what you wanted and perhaps one day one of us might command our own ship.
The first time the captain looked upon me he snorted, “You’re no sea dog, you are a land lover who should stay on the shore.” But I was determined to prove him wrong. I would stand on the prow of the ship as the waves broke on her hull. I would swab the decks until you could eat off of them, although admittedly for dogs that didn’t have to be that clean, I would chase every rat that stowed away on board trying to eat our kibble that we took with us, and I would become a fierce and fearless pirate. I already had only one eye, so all I needed was an eye patch to fit the part. I would be a sea wolf, a terror of the seas, I would set sail on the Vice Grip and prove myself to the captain and his fearsome crew.
The Vice Grip was a sleek and powerful brig with 20 guns and a crew of around 150 pirates who were fiercely loyal to the Ghost as we referred reverently to our captain. We set off on what was my initial voyage into the dangerous Caribbean Waters setting off for the pirate port of Tortuga where we were to rendezvous with a couple other ships to prowl the waters searching for fame, fortune, and most importantly for me at that point adventure. That initial voyage was difficult, I was continually sea sick and I often had to ‘feed the fishes’ if you know what I mean. It took me a little while to get my sea legs under me and much of life upon the open ocean is repetitive and boring, especially as a newbie sailor. There are long patches where you see nothing but the blue of the seemingly endless ocean stretching to meet the endless blue of the sky, you are a small wooden ark in the vastness of the abyss. Occasionally we’d see creatures leap out of the ocean, and sea gulls would pursue us and call out continually for food. But aside from aching bones from hours of hard work and an uneasy stomach that initial voyage upon the waters of the Caribbean was uneventful until we pulled into Tortuga.:
“But I thought you were a pirate captain, sir?” interrupted one of the pups.
“Patience my young friends, you don’t become a pirate captain overnight, you have to start at the bottom and I had already moved from being a prisoner to being a pirate on what I thought was one of the greatest pirate crews of the age. The Ghost had demonstrated his courage to me when he orchestrated our jailbreak and his crew seemed to hold him in an awe approaching worship at times. I only saw someone challenge him once, and that was in Tortuga when we were taking on supplies and a Mastiff barked that he couldn’t believe that such a ship could be commanded by someone so small. The Ghost quickly turned towards this massive dog and moved towards him slowly, bulldogs don’t move anywhere too quickly, and growled in his deep, gravelly voice, “Is that a challenge you filthy cur dog?” When the mastiff growled bag, Ghost, quicker than I thought possible lunged and grabbed onto his rear leg with his strong massive jaws. Oh, how that mastiff cried and howled and begged to be set free and Ghost held on until he decided it was time to let the challenger limp away with tail dragging between his legs.
Later that day he came up to me and said, “Never let anyone challenge you or intimidate you just because you are small in stature. Being a small in stature simply means that you must be big in attitude and that for your bark to be respected your bite has to be worse.” I was surrounded by several dogs bigger than me: Pit bulls, Dobermans, and German Shepherds but we had our share of Terriers, Dachshunds, and even one Chihuahua who was meaner and tougher than any of them. We loaded the ship with kibble, gunpowder, and rolled the cannon balls and stowed them on the gun decks. While in port I was assigned to a 12-pound cannon crews, one of our smaller guns and I stored the munitions that were for the two 12 pounders. While we were in port the leader of our gun crew showed me what my responsibility was as we practiced cleaning, loading and positioning for fire our gun. We worked and drilled until I could do my job in my sleep, and I think I did at times as I laid there in my hammock. Our cannon was nicknamed tiny terror, since the Chihuahua I mentioned above commanded it. The Chihuahua’s name was Juan but we all called him Snarl since his lip seemed to be locked in an eternal snarl. He drove us mercilessly but we were his crew and he made sure that nobody else messed with his crew. Being one of the smaller guns we were a small group of dogs of smaller breeds: there was Rusty, a good-natured mutt, and Gunter the Dachshund in addition to me who were responsible for keeping the tiny terror ready to bite at a moment’s notice.
And I learned to take care of myself, pirates are a rough group. Once while we were on Tortuga a group of pirates from another crew threatened us tiny terrors one night as we were eating and drinking and when Snarl said attack and launched himself from the table onto the back of the Rottweiler who was barking threats at us. I found myself matched up against a boxer and my speed came in handy as I darted around nipping at his back legs and every time he reached for me all he could ever get was a mouthful of fur. Before long the Rottweiler was pleading from mercy from Snarl and we tiny terrors proved equal to our name. From that night on we didn’t have any trouble in port.
After a couple days of refitting, rest and planning we joined up with the crew of the Specter led by Captain Silver, a greyhound whose daring raids were spoken of across the island and the Hyena a massive older ship, not as fast as the Vice Grip of the Specter but more heavily armed and able to carry a larger crew and a more cargo. The three ships were going to sail in the direction of Havana in search of ships carrying treasure from the new world back across the ocean. Finding ships once they entered the Atlantic would be near impossible but within the Caribbean there was a greater opportunity to find ships and to capture their cargo. So, we set off and I was in high spirits for I was finally earning a place among the pirates and I would have a part, even if it was a small part in the prize that was to come.
We departed on a rainy morning in March, and the rain was colder than I thought possible for that part of the world, and it wasn’t long before all of our coats were drenched with rain, but Ghost’s commands were heard above the wind and the rain as we moved away from Tortuga into the deep waters. The days were filled with drilling on cannon drills, cleaning the deck, and in joyous expectation of our first contact with a treasure ship. We sailed at a modest pace, to allow the Hyena to run with the faster Vice Grip and Specter. Apart from the rains the initial day the winds were favorable and the weather good and on the evening of our third day of patrols the Specter signaled that she had spotted our prey approaching. We moved to begin the long task of intercepting the ships, initially approaching at a pace where the Hyena wouldn’t be left too far behind but as we saw the ship growing closer the Vice Grip and Specter set their sales for speed and began to outdistance the Hyena, but this was all a part of the plan agreed upon by the captains. The ship we were approaching also didn’t change course which was a bit unsettling, either their captain was a fool or there was some danger we were not yet aware of, but as we scanned the horizon we didn’t see any evidence of danger.
We quickly approached, and the captain ordered us to fly our colors and the black flag with a bulldog head biting through a bone flew from our mast while captain Silver’s slender skull with crosses sabers on a black background flew from his ship. The announcement that we were pirates had its desired effect, the captain of the merchant ship struck his sails, allowing us to move alongside and board it without contest. Its crew cowered as we came alongside and began to board. Quickly chests and food were carried back across from their ship to ours. We searched their ship from top to bottom for anything that was worth taking back to our ships to split with our comrades on the Specter and Hyena. We made quick work of it, but even though we worked quickly before we were finished we heard our captain order us back to the ship. We grabbed one last crate and returned to our home on the Vice Grip to learn that the Hyena had spotted a frigate approaching. Even with three ships we would be hard pressed to take on a frigate unless we were able to coordinate all three ships. Captain Silver signaled all three ships to separate and meet back in Tortuga in two weeks. Our two faster ships would attempt to lead the frigate away from the Hyena. It would be a challenging ordeal because even though a frigate was larger than either the Vice Grip or Specter it was just as fast on the open seas. We would pass closest to the path of the frigate to attempt to get it to change its course away from the Hyena. We were ordered to load the cannons and our crew got the tiny terror ready for action.
As we approached the frigate I got to experience the tiny terror’s bark. We were ordered to put a shell in the direction of the frigate, even though we were still out of range and so under Snarl’s orders we fired the canon and it was louder than anything I had ever heard. A spray of water erupted from where the 12-pound shell landed and the frigate answered with one of her own cannons which landed close enough to our ship that I got a face full of salty water. We passed close enough that their captain changed course to pursue us, but we were already making our fastest pace as we moved toward the Bahamas where we hoped to lose our pursuers. The next two days were tense as the frigate continued to pursue us, but the winds were good and we continued to stay ahead of them until we were able to hide in the midst of the islands.
As we returned to Tortuga to reunite with the crews of the Specter and Hyena we began to examine the loot we pulled from the hull of the merchant ship. In many respects, it was not an exceptional cargo, pine and oak pulled from the forests of the Americas, sugar, molasses and spice which we could get a decent price for, but there was also one crate that the crew had seemed especially reluctant to part with. One of the German Shepherds cracked open the crate and gave it a sniff, wrinkled its eyebrows and said, “What is this?”
But I knew, and it made sense now why the frigate pursued us as long as they did. “That’s catnip!” I exclaimed, “no wonder the cats on the merchant ship looked so defeated as we took it away. We could get a good price for that on the black market. One sniff of that and cats will be rolling around on the deck powerless before you! They will do anything, anything for that.”
“But Mr. Shimar, how did you know it was catnip?” Said one of the listening pups.
Well, remember I said I had lost my eye to the Fierce Feral Felines in prison, they were running a catnip smuggling ring. I had seen what it did to other cats and how they used it. I also knew that this was high quality catnip, not some rejects from the edges of a field. There was a note inside that this was a special reserve harvest sent as a gift to Purrincess Maria, the daughter of the feline king of Purrtugal.