This short story is based on my own dog’s past.
I lie here on a threadbare rug. Far upstairs, faint shrieks and giggles resonate in my ears. The smell of roasting potatoes from the warm kitchen fills my nostrils. I drool in anticipation. But I have already learnt that that food is seldom for me.
With a heavy sigh, I rest my chin upon my crossed paws, watching my family go about their daily business. That pesky budgie is twittering nonstop in the lounge. Maybe I will go and worry it later. But for now, I am content to stay here.
Ever so slowly, I feel my eyes start to close and I begin to dream. I dream of my puphood. Of my mother. Of my siblings. And I drift away into the past.
Darkness. It was warm and quiet in my mother’s belly. Sounds were muffled and I was enveloped in my own little bubble. Suddenly, I felt my mother’s muscles contract. There was a blast of frigid air and I slid out. Almost immediately, I smelt the sweet aroma of milk and my mother’s comforting scent. I paddled my two front paws eagerly, trying to grasp the teat. I latched on and the first trickle of liquid gushed into my waiting mouth. I sucked and sucked until I could suck no more, then I curled up against my mother’s stomach and fell into the dreamless sleep of the truly innocent.
Slits of sunlight forced their way through my eyelids. I blinked, revealing a bright and blurry world that I had never seen before. I yawned, looking upwards, and I saw a black dog with brown markings watching me fondly. Mother. She reached down and gently licked me on the head with a pink tongue. I sniffed her carefully and she thumped her tail.
I heard a squeal and glanced round. I was not alone. My other family members were rough-and-tumbling in a patch of sunlight. I stumbled over to greet them. A burly brown puppy with a mischievous gleam in his eye tottered towards me. He stared at me straight in the eyes and with a playful growl, knocked me sideways. I rolled away and, getting the gist of the game, charged towards him, and bowled him over. I pinned him down and we squabbled in the sand, having the time of our lives.
I was stopped by a sharp yap from another of the puppies, a tall, imposing white female with pricked ears and a confident swagger. She was obviously the alpha. What would she make of me?
She padded over and I revealed my vulnerable belly, in a position of complete and utter subservience. A kind of I am not worthy greeting. In a moment of puppyish pleasure, she bent down and nipped my hindquarters, inviting me to play. She waggled her bum in the air, tail whirling, and pounced on me. We tussled gleefully.
Abruptly, our mother stood. She was upright and alert, fur bristling. There was a stranger in our midst. And our mother was not taking any chances. She gathered all us puppies to her and crouched down, ears pinned back and tail stiff. A low, menacing growl escaped her throat. And that is when I saw a person for the first time.
A huge two-legged monster loomed overhead, its fleshy face leering down at us. I squeaked with terror, and me and my siblings lumped into a pile, trembling uncontrollably. Then I heard a snarl of fury.
There was a blur as my mother leapt at the monster, teeth bared. She sank her jaws into the monster’s arm, and it howled in pain. Droplets of blood stained the sand scarlet.
With a roar, it flung her sideways, causing her to lose her grip and crash into some wooden boards, which creaked and splintered with the impact. She crumpled to the ground, unmoving.
After what seemed like an eternity, the monster stormed off, cursing loudly. I crept out from beneath my brothers and sisters and staggered over to my mother. Her fur was cold. Icy cold. I felt no quiver of life. She’s hurt. She’s just hurt. I told myself numbly, but even I could smell the death scent on my beloved mother. I crouched down and buried my nose into her belly, longing to feel her tongue lick my head one last time.
It was morning. A cool wind tugged at my fur. I shivered and staggered away from my mother’s body, my eyes bleary from sleep, whimpering as I remembered yesterday’s events. A heavyweight had settled in my stomach overnight.
My siblings were still in an awkward pile, breathing shallowly. The cocky white female stared at me with glazed eyes. Her exhausted gaze met mine. She didn’t seem like much of an alpha now.
Just then, we heard footsteps. The sound we had been dreading for the entire night. A monster strode towards me. I cowered pitifully, completely at its mercy. But the scent of this monster was strange. It smelt of dog, of food. I crawled towards it and laid my head in its hands. It smiled, charmed. Then it gently scooped me up. I struggled in protest, legs churning desperately in mid-air.
It placed me carefully into a towel-lined cardboard box and then went away. A moment later it returned, this time carrying one of my terrified siblings. It went back and forth until all thirteen of us were crammed into the box. The lid came down and we were plunged into darkness…
A gentle hand is stroking my head. “Maxy? Are you awake?” says one of the children. I gaze up into her face as she fondles my ears. The building site seems like a world away from my life now. I still miss my mother and my brothers and sisters. But now I have a home. A family. I wag my tail as the child kisses me on the nose. “I love you.” She whispers. I close my eyes and hold those words close to my heart.