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The sound of two large dogs fighting and one man howling in fear and pain destroyed the dark peace of the neighborhood one night. A German shepherd on the block had slipped through his gate and charged a neighbor walking his bearlike Lab-Rottweiler. By the time anyone could intervene, the shepherd's teeth were clamped tight on the neck of the Lab-Rott, whose owner was punching and kicking at the heaving mass of angry, bloody dog tangled in a leash around his knees. Fortunately a passing cabdriver was packing a golf club, which he tossed through his window to a neighbor who was joining the fray.

After a few well-placed whacks the shepherd let go and limped home. One of its owners, horrified at his animal's bloody condition, soon emerged from the house and delivered a speech whose basic theme was "What the fuck didya do to my dog?"

The Lab-Rott's owner, gashed and somewhat crazed himself, returned said speech in kind: "What the fuck you?"

"What the fuck you? Who's gonna take care of my dog?" the shepherd's young owner said. "He's injured! He's ruined! He could die! Who's gonna take care of my dog?"

When a woman suggested that he call the all-night emergency vet at Belmont and Clybourn, the kid looked at her with flushed bemusement.

"Aw, that costs money," he said. "The dog ain't hurt that bad."

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