| Fiction | Many Paths | Connecting | What's New |
He woke up shivering. He opened his eyes and blinked in the pouring rain. It had been raining steadily the whole night, and his fur was soaked clear through. He got up and walked a few steps toward the door of the house, a sliding glass door that looked out onto the muddy back yard. He hesitated, shivered again, then took another step toward the house before the chain attached to his collar stopped him.
His stomach growled loudly. He looked longingly at his food bowl, just a few feet from him, now filled with rain water. His stomach growled again, and he padded wetly over to the bowl, hoping a drink of the cold water would ease his hunger. A noise from the house caused him to jerk his head up in hope… and alarm. He saw the woman standing at the door looking out at him. Her hand reached for the door handle, and then suddenly she jerked it back and moved away from the window. The man appeared, scowling, and Jake's heart beat faster. If only the woman had come out to get him. If only the man wasn't there. If only they would come to feed him. But the man moved away too, and the curtains swung shut.
The rain continued to pour. Jake shook himself, trying to get rid of that thick, wet feeling, but it did no good. He was soaking wet again in a few minutes. He padded softly around the yard, as far as the chain would reach, looking for a place to lie down. He scratched at the muddy ground with his big puppy paws, but only succeeded in pulling up clumps of muck.
He looked down at his paws, still much too big for his body. He felt so clumsy and awkward. The last time they had let him in the house he had bumped into tables and knocked over a lamp, and the man had dragged him out to the yard, yelling and hitting him over and over again. That was days ago, Jake wasn't sure how many. Since then, the man had filled his bowl once with a handful of crunchy tasteless food, but Jake had been so hungry he had eaten it all in minutes without hardly chewing.
His stomach growled again, thinking of his last meal, and he hung his head in misery. He gave up looking for a comfortable spot and lay down where he was. He closed his eyes and slipped into wet, muddy dreams.
His own whimpering woke him up. The rain had stopped and he was lying in a warm patch of sun. He couldn't remember the dream that woke him, but he had the uneasy feeling that the man was in it. He got up and stretched his cramped muscles. It had been a long time since he'd had a good long run. His strong back leg muscles ached and he stretched them out behind him, one at a time, then shook himself all over. Little chunks of dried mud flew all around him, though some clung stubbornly to his fur. He couldn't worry about that now, he had to check his food bowl. He walked quickly over to the bowl, and sniffed around the edges hopefully, then sighed and walked away. He'd have to ignore his growling stomach... Again.
Some time later he heard the sound of a car starting from the front of the house. He lifted his head and his ears twitched. The car drove off and then Jake heard the sound of the glass door sliding open. He swung around toward the sound, lowering his head in a submissive stance.
It was the woman, and she was carrying the bag that held his food! He jumped up and charged over to her, only to be jerked back by the chain. He hated that chain, he hated it!! He was so hungry - he whimpered and shivered in anticipation, his mouth watered, he strained at the chain. The woman emptied the rain water out of his bowl and filled it with food. Food! He jumped and whined, and flipped his head, trying to get free of the chain. She came over to him and spoke in soft tones at first. She fumbled with the chain at his collar, trying to free him, but he couldn't hold still to help her. He wanted free, he wanted that food, he couldn't stop wiggling and squirming. The woman finally lost patience with him and smacked him hard across the top of his head. That got his attention, and fearing worse, he crouched down and held still. She finally managed to undo the chain and he bolted over to the food bowl, oblivious to everything except the wonderful glorious tasteless food!
He looked up from the bowl, still licking around the edges of his muzzle for any stray crumbs, and realized the woman had gone back inside. She had gone back inside and hadn't put the chain back on him! He couldn't believe his luck. After one more sniff at the empty bowl, just in case he'd missed anything, he began to explore the edges of the yard.
There was no grass, but there was a small tree in one corner, which he took advantage of, sniffing all around its base before finally lifting his leg. He sniffed along the edges of the fence, finding nothing of interest until he got to the gate. There he smelled something enticing… something that beckoned to him… another dog. Then he heard the snuffling from the other side of the gate. The stranger was right over there, right on the other side of the gate! He whuffed once softly, then again, louder. He was about to bark again, when he remember how the man had beaten him before for barking, and he stopped himself. The stranger moved along the fence and Jake followed along on his side… back and forth, snuffling and sniffing. And then the stranger offered his challenge. He lifted his leg and peed on the base of the gate!!! Unthinkable! Unacceptable! Jake ran in a circle and then back to the gate, where the trespasser had left his mark. Another small circle, faster this time, and back to the gate. Out to the middle of the yard, and this time Jake ran at the gate full speed. Just before he reached it, he launched himself over the gate in one mightly manful leap.
He landed rather awkwardly, but never having jumped over a gate before, he was still proud of himself. He looked around, stunned at what he had done and where he was. The Outside World! He felt a joy that he'd never felt in all his sad puppy life. He looked for the stranger and saw a fluffy tail disappearing around the corner. He was torn. He had to follow, but he had business to attend to first. He trotted over to the gate, found the spot, and marked it with his own scent. There, that'll show him, he thought.
That taken care of, Jake turned and ran off after the strange dog.
He spent several hours exploring the neighborhood. He and the other dog had traveled together for awhile, until they had arrived at a house, where the stranger went right up to the front door, barking and scratching at it until a man came and let him in. Jake had gazed at the closed door for a moment, and then continued with his exploration of the neighborhood until he finally found himself back in front of his own house. He felt a moment of alarm when he saw the car in the driveway, and turned to run away. But he was too late. The man came rushing out the front door and grabbed his collar, jerking it tight and pulling up and up until Jake's front paws were lifted off the ground. The man's face was close and his loud, harsh voice made Jake's ears ring. He couldn't understand all the words, but the repeated phrase "bad dog" didn't bode well.
Jake's body began trembling. He knew he was in for it. He tried to pull away, but the man held him tight. He was jerked and dragged in the front door, through the house, and out into the back yard. His collar was once again attached to the hated chain, and he took a few deep breaths, hoping that would be the end of it. But the man grabbed a shovel leaning against the side of the house and brought it down on Jake's back with a sharp crack. He collapsed onto his belly, yelping at the pain that spread through him. Again the shovel came down, and again, this time on his head, and Jake tried to roll away. The next blow came sideways and the edge of the shovel sliced his back leg. Yelping, blood dripping from his leg, he gave up trying to get away. The shovel came down again on his skull and he fell down, unconscious.
He drifted in and out of consciousness for some time. He was dimly aware of the woman bringing him food, but he couldn't get up to eat it, even as hungry as he was. The man didn't come out at all. Jake felt loneliness filling him up, like a darkness that crept into the corners of his whole self. His leg ached, and his heart ached. He craned his head around to lick the wound on his leg, trying to clean it gently, but even so, he whimpered and yelped, and finally gave up. He put his head down and drifted away again.
In his dreams he was with his mother and brothers and sisters. He smelled his mother's warm comforting milky fur. He was very small, and he burrowed his head under her, just for the sheer safe comfort of it. Her milk was always there for him, he was never hungry, and he could fall asleep snuggled up to the warmth of his brothers and sisters, without fear. He wished that he didn't have to wake up.