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SISTERS ARE NOT DOGS by Chelsea Houghton

My sister ran away when she was fifteen. She disagreed with my parents about something – she’d been a bad girl most likely, I don’t know, I was too young to be included. We’d never really got along. I was happy, it was quiet without her. No bitching or barking in the middle of the night. Always taking the best bits and leaving me with the scraps.

We didn’t hear from her for weeks. She’d been sleeping in friend’s rooms, once in a neighbour’s garage. She was fed and cared for from place to place, until her friend’s parents found they didn’t want a stray around.

We found her one night out the back of the liquor store, standing in the floodlights. We’d been searching for a long time, catching glimpses of a mirage of her brunette ponytail walking with some friends.

Then suddenly, there she was. Her hair was tangled and droopy and her oversized hoody made her frame look small as it hung over her jeans. She’d been sleeping among the pallets behind the skip in the carpark.

She emerged, hackles raised, poised for attack or escape. We moved slowly and calmly, finding a blanket to herd her towards the car. When you got up close you could see the swollen belly beneath the thick fabric.

She came, tail between her legs, sighing with her head submissively leaning against the car seat. It was that or impoundment. For months, we could hear her whimpering into the night.

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