I wish I could tell them, the people outside the dog cage. I daren’t call it my cage. I don’t want to belong to it. It’s a cage, cement blocks for walls, bare cement with a drain hole in the floor and rusted metal bars with a latch I can’t open. I’ve tried.
I want to tell them the floor is too cold. It pains my paws when the winter chill comes up from outside and makes the ground wet and it burns my skin. That’s why my paws are red. I can’t help licking them even though it makes them worse.
I want to tell them that I miss my person. I miss her smile. I miss her smell. The way she would stroke me behind my ears and look into my eyes. I always felt her love me. I know she did. She loved me right up till she had her baby, then I was too much. I needed walks you see. I needed food and attention. I needed my person but she was always tired. One day I chewed up her shoe and that’s when she snapped.
She packed up my toys and my bed and left me here. In this place where there are too many lost dogs, always barking and crying. I don’t know what happened to my bed. I guess some poor soul needed it more than me. They took most of my toys too; all I have left is a brown rubber bone I used to chew. I don’t really want to play with it anymore. It reminds me of home. It reminds me of her. I hate to look at it, my heart aches for my home, but I don’t think I’m ever going back.
She left me in this place. She handed someone my beat up leash. Her footsteps echoed as she walked away, I couldn’t stop looking. That’s the last memory I have of her.
There’s no-one to love me where she left me. The people outside the cage don’t dare risk it. How can they love any of us when they know dogs don’t stay long in this shelter. They keep their hearts closed. Their faces set in stone. No one laughs here. No one sings. No one pets us. Except maybe the girl with the yellow ponytail. She’s the one that hoses down the cages. They don’t let us out and she just washes our stink down drain holes. It takes hours for the floor to dry but we don’t mind that much. She tries to leave a dry corner for us.
I usually press my face to the wall and wait for her to finish. Most of the time when she’s here, her thoughts are somewhere else. Her eyes never make contact. But once, just once, I saw her looking at me. Her eyes were wet, and her face was blotchy. She looked away quickly. Since then, maybe once a week, she brings me something nice to eat. Rawhide sometimes. Maybe a biscuit. But she doesn’t stay long, and her eyes are always wet. I like her even though she’s always sad. Maybe she doesn’t have a person either.
And every day I notice the other dogs disappear. They took the shaggy red lab with the brown eyes across from me. Two men, one with a short chain dragged her down the corridor. I smelt her fright. It was sharp and cold as ice on a winter sidewalk. She didn’t look back when they took her. She knew something was wrong. She felt it in the way they avoided her eyes. The way they pulled her so hard. So rough. It broke my heart to see her short tail try to wag. It soon stopped when the chain cut into her neck as she pulled away. But it was no use. I heard her breathing quicken as they got closer to the red door at the end of the corridor. It clanged behind them, and all the dogs inside their cages barked. I never saw her again, even her smell disappeared. Her name was Bitsy. I hope she’s o.k. or at least not in this bad place with the cold cages and the people with frozen hearts.
I’m next I guess. The men worked their way down the corridor, marching us one at a time to whatever lay behind the red door. What’s could I do? Without a home, without a person, I’m nothing. A black and white dog with sad hazel eyes and paws rubbed raw and red on the cold hard floor. I’m taking up space. I’m nothing but meat. And all I can think about every minute of every day I have left, is the smile my person used to have when she saw me. I hope one day I get to see her again. Just to tell her how much I loved her when she was all I had.
Footsteps now, coming down the corridor. I pressed my face deep into the far wall. I couldn’t look. They would open the rusty door and put the chain around my neck at any moment. They would drag me hard through the door. I hoped I wouldn’t pee myself. Some dogs peed. They would force me down the passageway and open the red door. What lay beyond? I wanted it to be an open field. Maybe I could play in the sun for a little bit. Maybe I could smell the fresh air instead of the sour stink of stale urine and wet poop.
But the hands on my neck were gentle. A quiet voice spoke to me. “Come on buddy, come on, let’s get out of here.” My entire body trembled. I couldn’t feel my paws. What was happening?
A soft leash wrapped around my neck. “Come on sweetie. It’s time to go.”
I opened my eyes. It was the girl with the yellow ponytail. Her eyes were dry today. Her face bright and smiling. “We gotta go buddy. That’s your new name. Buddy. Come on, let’s go.”
Could it be? Could it be that she wanted to take me out of here? If only.
I took one tentative step. My heart beat so hard, I bet the other dogs could hear it.
“That’s it. You can do it. Come on now.” I’d never heard her voice before. It was soft and sweet like the sound of birds on a warm summer’s day. I took another shaky step. I think my tail wagged. I don’t remember now.
But we walked away from the cage, down the corridor, away from the red door. All the dogs barked for me. How I wished I could take them with me.
I think the girl with the yellow ponytail wants to be my person. I’m o.k. with that. In fact, that’s all a dog can hope for. To belong with someone who loves them. Maybe she’ll love me. I certainly will love her. After all, that’s what dogs are for.