EXCERPT: 'I Am Dog'

I was eleven years old when I first saw the movie The Yearling. I was very confused by the father's reaction to his son when he told him he'd done something bad. The young boy's father hugged his son and told him he loved him for being so honest. If I went to Flash to confess I'd messed up, all I got was the paddle or the back side of his very large hand against my cheek. I wanted the father from The Yearling, so the next time I screwed up, I told my dad. Instead of praising me, Flash hit me harder than ever. I was so upset I ran away from home. I rode my bicycle all the way to Fort Morgan, fifty-eight miles from our house in Denver. I would have gone farther, but I was too hungry and tired. I called my mom's dad, Grandpa Mike, to come get me. I never told him why I ran away. If I ratted on Flash, Grandpa would have killed him.

On the weekends when I wasn't at church with Mom, Flash and Grandpa Mike taught me how to hunt and fish. Living in Colorado gave them a lot of options to show me the ropes. I was pretty good in the woods. I loved to camp out, make meals over an open fire, and listen to their old hunting stories.

Flash made a sport out of finding new and undiscovered spots to hunt. He always made me feel like we were great explorers on a mission, going places, discovering secret locations no one else knew about. It was fun for a little kid. Flash was a survivalist. His navy training taught him how to make any situation work. His instincts in the great outdoors were the finest any son could ask for when learning to hunt. He showed me how to track everything from deer to fox, pheasants to ducks.

Flash and Grandpa Mike always made us hike to our locations. They were afraid we might get shot by some drunken hunters if we rode on horseback. We never took dogs. I was the dog. It was my job to figure our course.

I spent the first twenty-three years of my life on the wrong side of the law. For most of my childhood, I ran with gangs and bikers. The only thing I knew about the law was a thousand ways to break it. I got pretty good at that. It took a murder-one conviction to make me decide to change my life from committing crime to fighting it. It might seem strange that a man with my criminal past is so passionately concerned with what happens to the victims of crime. I have been misjudged, misinterpreted, and misunderstood for most of my life. I have spent the last twenty-seven years trying to be one of the good guys. I love God, my wife, my children, and my career. In spite of those efforts to be seen as a moral man of virtue, I am still viewed as an ex-con, a criminal, a killer. I am many things, including those just mentioned. Put it all together and you will see: I am Dog.

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