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Snuffling warmth, in a pile of furry paws and tails the others shift hoping for a bit of mom’s affection. Stretching and yawning, falling out of the pile and into the sunlight something new, foreign snakes across my path. Curious, my teeth worry the intruder until it’s pulled sharply from my mouth causing pain and a yip as I scurry back to my worried mother.
Only the opening to the box has been closed. My nose bumps into a solid wall. Scared, I whine as my bladder lets go, it’s instinct to show I’m not top dog. There are loud noises above me – thunderous. My body shakes harder. My tail tucks hard against my belly, I’m all wet and scared.
Hands reach down and pick me up, dragging me up towards those loud frightening noises. Please, just let me go back to my mother. Just let me go back to where it’s safe and warm, my heart cries. Lifted up, the world sways, sickeningly so, but I can see for a heart-stopping moment the nest I knew, the warmth, the love all the licks of her tongue, the nips of her teeth, the liquid love of her eyes. Then came the slam of the door and the cold bite of air as the swaying noisome things clutching me made for a foul smelling box that hurt my eyes. But it was strange this air, it burned my nose, made it sneeze and itch. I wanted to cry but the creature holding me made growling sounds that scared me. Sounds that made my heart tremble and beat crazy fast.
Clambering into the shining box, I couldn’t hold in my cries, the creature holding me wrapped something around me, they closed us in and my howls echoed back making me even more afraid. I felt like the only dog in the world. Light glinted, reflected and exploded, heat built up, and I bark and cried, but it only made me exhausted. The creature held me tight, the shining box swayed and bucked and lurched. Pant…pant…pant…
Awake! What is this thing around my neck and why is it so heavy?! The creature put me down – outside! In the grass and dirt – yes! But I have this heavy thing around my neck. I try to step and for every third step I fall on my face. Looking down I can see I’m dragging something. What…? The creature picks me up and puts me in this huge cold box with a roof. It smells of another dog. Slowly I investigate. The creature keeps chanting some noise.
“Hope, Hope, c’mere here, girl. Hope, come on,” the rattle of something gets my attention and I look up. It smells like food, I try to bite but the pieces are too big and too hard. Loud noises sound over my head as I worry at the pieces of food, treating them as toys. Feeling thirsty, I look for another bowl, but don’t see any water.
Thirsty, I lift my head and sniff the air. So many scents! Grass, wood, rot, the creatures, and more, but my belly rumbled and my mouth was dry so I sniffed and scented again and again looking for the tang of water, whimpering when I couldn’t find what I wanted. Hopping down, I walked out until I couldn’t go anymore then dragged myself one way then the other looking for water. In the end there was something that slaked my thirst, but it wasn’t very good and it made my belly hurt.
The light was getting low. I was all alone. It was cold. The food was no good. I wanted to go home. Turning I saw the covered box I had left. Tail low, I drag/tripped back inside and cried my sadness to the heavens. Still not a dog replied. Was I the only dog left?
“Hope, c’mon, wake up Hope…” the noise started again today. So tired. So hungry. So cold. Shivering and stumbling, I made my way over to the two-legged one crouched by the food pan. Maybe today it put something there I could eat? Hope bloomed in my heart only long enough to see that nothing new was there. Just the same too hard to eat pieces. Not even water. Crying, I went and stood over the pan, but the creature didn’t seem to understand. It touched my head and walked away.
Three days later…
Rain pattered on the top of the box. The smell of water surrounded was everywhere, wriggling forward; she licked the food pan and whined at the salty flavor. Her stomach ached from too many days of drinking out of the polluted puddles in the yard. No food to balance out the toxic mix hadn’t helped. Now the rain water softened up the old hard dry so her milk teeth could tear it to bits.
Bright lights flashed in her eyes and she growled at the sharp invasion, barking madly defending her only meal in so long. A two-legged creature stood in the rain leaning over, peering into her box. It spoke low, calmly. Still she barked, this was her meal!
* * *
A week on the road and he had to come home to this, no doubt his wife was having hysterics already. Knocking on the neighbor’s door, he plastered a fake smile on his face. “Heya, Earl. Didn’t know ya got a new dog.”
“Yeah, got me a beagle pup, named her, Hope ‘cause I hope she’s a good one.”
“Well, don’t forget you got to train her up properly, and they need a special diet. You can’t just take them out in the woods and instantly get rabbits and birds, you know.” Jim smiled affably wanting nothing more than to punch this moron right square in the face.
“Nah, it ain’t all that, Jimbo,” he brayed like a jackass swatting his knee. “You just take ‘em out into the woods, let ‘em do their thing. It’s second nature.”
James sighed. He hated the “Jimbo” thing. “And what if it isn’t ‘second nature’ Earl, what then?”
“Why then it’s even easier,” his neighbor smiled in that loose way that signaled no one was home at all, “you just come home empty handed.” With that he shut the door in his face.
James was almost home before he realized that was what happened with the last hound, Pete. The hunting trip where Earl had gone out with a dog and come home with ‘empty hands.’