It was just another day. Concrete below me, bars surrounding. A cacophony of barks assaulting my ears so hard I had to respond. I waited for the man to arrive. He’d clean my mess out of my cell. The kibble scramble would come next. Yes, food. Finally. There was nothing else to wiggle about. My days were punctuated only by the occasional appearance of the man’s face and the diurnal delivery of dry food.
The day wasn’t a hot day, not yet anyway. I breathed comfortably with just my nose, which felt good. I hadn’t been sleeping well because it felt like soup at night, and I had to keep my mouth open all the time, and mosquitoes and flies pestered my peace. At least it was quieter at night, unless a fox came up and set everyone on edge.
I had been there for 2 months, or forever. I hadn’t met all of the other dogs in the kennel yet, and I probably wouldn’t. They came and went, some back to their owners, some to an unknown place. All I knew is that sometimes a cell went quiet and I stopped hearing a familiar bark in the chorus. It made me uneasy.
I knew a few, though: Marty the beagle, Joe the pitbull mix, Mel the shepherd/lab. Mostly black dogs or furry matted ones. Occasionally there was a crisp boxer or a sharp, clean dachsund, but it wasn’t real because their owners would come back for them in a week after their vacation. Usually.
There was the man. He was friendly and I liked him, I wished he could have spent more time with me. He set down my bowl of food. I inhaled my cup and a half of kibble. The best part of my day, gone in 10 seconds. I sat back and panted, feeling my stomach expand, fresh energy coursing through me. It would have been marvelous to jump out of my cell and gallop the yard; I could see the grass and longed to till it with my paws. Instead I waited to feel sleepy enough to lie down.
Hours passed, and I waited for my next bowl of kibble to arrive. I had to poop, so I pooped. Whatever. I returned to the front door bars where I spent most days pressing myself eagerly, hopefully.
The hot July sun finally started to lower; I knew because the bar shadows got longer. Earlier it had rained and thundered and that was very scary. I had wanted to cuddle up against someone, but there was no one except walls and bars, so I went to the corner but that’s where I pooped last, but then it boomed again and I got scared so I curled up with my poop. I didn’t care if I was dirty anymore. It didn’t matter.
The man appeared, earlier than usual and without food. Odd. I cowered in confusion, but he made some friendly noises and guided me from my cell into his office. I hadn’t been in there since I first arrived! It smelled ripe and marvelous. I started exploring and forgot my apprehension.
A car door slammed, which usually means someone coming or going. I jolted out of my sniff trance, and remembered when it was me, and how I had been so scared. If it was a newcomer, I would make this dog feel welcome. Was that why the man had brought me out here? To welcome a new dog?
A girl’s head appeared at the door and she looked kind. Her hair was the color of my ears, so I liked her. She came in and crouched down to me so I didn’t have to jump up to smell her breath. I appreciated her consideration, even if I really do like to jump up and stretch out my long body on people. Her face twisted a little bit, just for a second – I surmised it was the face she made when there were marvelous smells.
She and the man talked and I wiggled back and forth between them. This situation was so strange and exciting that I peed! Suddenly there was a strange band around my neck and a long string attached to it that she held the other end of. It was weird to feel attached to her, and I didn’t like it when we got too far apart because it pulled tightly around my neck and I felt like I was choking. I tried to stay close enough so that this didn’t happen, but I didn’t always know where she was going and sometimes she didn’t go where I needed her to go, which was always wherever the next new smell was.
The man crouched down and whispered kind things into my big, long ear and then quietly dropped his head to get back to work, to go give Joe, Marty, Mel, and the others their evening meal. I tried to follow him, because I knew him and I knew he would feed me. But I was attached to the girl now, and she was taking me out front where there was a car! So I followed happily.
She opened a door and it smelled interesting in there so I jumped inside. That must have been the right thing to do, because she shut the door behind me and got in through another door. Soon we were moving down a bumpy road and it felt wild and strange to be in motion but not moving my legs. It had also become comfortable and breezy, even though before I got into the car the day was hot and still. I loved having a wide vista of all we passed, farms and mountains and animals and new buildings and even a sleek man on a bicycle.
After the initial thrill of the ride wore off, I started to feel a little nervous again. Where were we going? What would happen when she let me out of the car? Would it be like the place I was before, where there were so many trapped dogs like me? Or worse, would it be like the place before that, where the two bad people locked me outside without food and didn’t care if I died? We passed another farm, and I fantasized she was taking me to a huge field to run through and chase rabbits and squirrels. My heart leapt even though I was only using my imagination.
The girl talked friendly to me while she steered, and that was nice, but I still didn’t know her. Finally we slowed down in a place where there were more houses than grass. She opened the car door and I bounced out hesitantly. Asphalt. My field dream vanished and I was just scared: this place reminded me of the first bad place and I looked for the chain I would be tied to.
But then something weird happened: she went up to one of the doors, opened it, and let me inside! Tentatively, I followed her into her den. It smelled wonderful – animals lived in here! A surge of joy flooded me, from the tip of my velvet ear to the length of my tail, because maybe I would be able to stay here, too. What must have been a cat (I’d never seen a real one before) sauntered past, and I tried to get to know her but she hated me right away.
As I explored this strange new interior, the girl set out a bowl of food and water for me. I couldn’t believe it. The man must have told her what to do, because she knew exactly what I like. Kibble and fresh, cool water! After dinner she led me outside again and we tried not to choke me. When I peed and pooped on the grass she danced so extra friendly and even gave me a treat. I liked that.
Back inside, we played catch with a tennis ball and I even found a bone in a corner. It smelled like another dog, but I didn’t see anyone else there to claim it so it was mine. I loved to carry it around and chew on it, it tasted so good.
That first night, the girl took me outside another six times, which was really nice because there were a LOT of interesting smells to pursue. I sensed there were more dogs behind the other doors.
Later, when the girl was putting dishes away, I had to pee again and tried to get her attention so she could throw me another party and treat me. She didn’t notice, which was unfortunate, but I went anyway and felt better. When she finished in the kitchen, I was excited because maybe when she saw the proud puddle I had left in the hallway she would give me another treat? I watched her expectantly, keeping my long body still except for my thumping tail.
But when she saw my work, she didn’t react the way she had before. Her face turned to stone and she just cleaned it up with paper and spray and ignored me. I didn’t understand why she did that, and I didn’t like it as much as the party.
It got dark outside, I could see through the window. The girl started to act sleepy, and I waited for her to take me outside or back past the farms to the cell with the man.
She had something else in mind. With banana treats and a toy, she lured me into an impossibly small cage. I went nose first like a dummy, looking for the treat, and she tucked my long butt in behind me and shut the door! I whimpered with incredulity and turned around to get out of the cramped quarters, but couldn’t because there was no exit. This was way smaller than my other cell, nowhere to poop even, if I needed to.
As I made my case more insistently to be released, she stoically put a blanket over my cage and turned off the light. What had I done wrong? Why had she stuck me in here?
Before she went upstairs and turned out the light, she stuck her hand in and stroked my head softly. It felt really nice, and friendly. Maybe she wasn’t mad at me after all.
I still wanted out, but when I saw her climb the stairs I felt those chances receding along with her. I cried half-heartedly for another 15 minutes, hoping she’d respond, but she didn’t.
Once I stopped feeling upset about being in there, I discovered it was actually rather comfortable. Just the right size for me to curl up and sleep, like I used to do in the corner of my cell. It was dark out and I liked to sleep around this time anyway, plus it had been a big day. I curled up and rested my heavy head on my paws. I was not sure when I would have to leave again, but I felt happy to be in this nice house with a girl who fed me and stroked my head and said friendly things. Even though it was very quiet without the other dogs, I drifted off to sleep easily feeling safe, full, and comfortable.