Dog the Bounty Hunter

When we heard on the radio this week that Duane Chapman, (aka Dog the Bounty Hunter) was coming to a local Borders for a book signing, we knew this was an event we could not miss. While Ann Arbor gets a fair share of writers on the book hawking circuit, for the most part they are little-known and obscure (for example, the next writer in town is Fred Thompson, author of Barbeque Nation- 350 Hot off the Grill Recipes from America's Backyard. Our point exactly). So what the hell, we thought- we'll buy Dog's book, wait in line for an autograph, engage the Dog in brief conversation, and off we'll go with a story to tell about meeting a C-list celebrity best known from a reality show on the A&E Network. What a Friday night that'll be!

It didn't quite work out that way. We'll discuss why in a minute, but first let's delve into Dog's background (mainly for our loyal cadre of readers in the former Russian republics where American television is prohibited. Огpомное спасибо- На здоpовье!). In a nutshell, Dog's life redefines complicated: married five times, father of twelve children (two deceased). Former Texas outlaw gang member convicted of murder in 1977, who, following his release from prison, turned over a new leaf and became a bail bondsman in Hawaii. He made international news in 2003 when he captured Andrew Luster in Mexico after the creepy heir to the Max Factor cosmetics company skipped the country during his rape trial (Luster is currently serving over 100 years in prison). Unfortunately for the Dog, bounty hunting is illegal in Mexico so he was arrested and charged. After a lengthy legal battle, all charges against Dog and his posse were ultimately dropped (within the last several days, ironically). The notoriety of arresting Luster led to a show with the A&E network and after four seasons, the escapades of Dog and his bounty-hunting family have become one of the most popular reality shows on TV.

For good reason too- we have to admit the show can be amusing. Often clad in biker leather and flea market jewelry with little feathers braided in his hair, Dog looks more like a Harley rider from El Centro than a bounty hunter. His uber tan and power mullet and faded prison tattoos only add to the caricature. He says aloha to whoever he meets and calls everyone brah and utters the same cliches (he calls them "Dogisms") over and over to the point of ad nauseam. Each episode starts with Beth (Dog's alpha-female wife) throwing a kinipshitfit about losing the bond money they posted so an accused criminal could get released pending trial. Dog and his posse (mostly family members) then go looking for the missing jailbird and the goat chase officially begins. Sheepish relatives and associated derelicts get pinched for the last known whereabouts, doors get kicked in, clouds of mace shoot from canisters the size of small fire extinguishers, and the bounty hunters fight and wrestle with some degenerate who clearly does not want to return to the grey bar hotel. Every episode ends with Dog having a "Come to Jesus" conversation with his absconder as they drive to jail and by the time they arrive, the bad guy is bawling and promising to give up his n'er-do-well ways and thanking Dog for returning him to a 6x10 cell.

It's that sense of empathy that endears Dog to so many people. We expected to encounter a small crowd, and oh boy, were we ever mistaken. We arrived an hour before his scheduled appearance and the store was absolutely packed. We bought his book (the only way to get a wristband to meet and get an autograph), only to find 450 people were already ahead of us. Dog arrived and gave the local media an interview before they shuttled him off to a question and answer session with 75 early attendees. Hundreds of more fans funneled through the door and we contemplated whether it was worth waiting three hours to have a five second encounter with a reality-TV celebrity who is equal parts Boba Fett and P.T. Barnum. Outside, a perfect summer evening beckoned and minutes later, we were enjoying a carafe of merlot and a thick steak on the patio of a new restaurant. When we got home and read the opening lines of Dog's book, we knew we made the right choice.

In the old days, there weren't enough lawmen for all the criminals on the loose, so sheriff's posted hefty rewards to capture crooks on the run. Legends of the Wild West, like Wild Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp, and Billy the Kid, all made their living hunting bounties. Now I might not be as famous as some of those guys, but I am the greatest bounty hunter who ever lived.

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