The sirens wail and I howl along with them. My human sleeps. I lick his face and feel coldness. Why doesn’t he get up? I bark and lick. He doesn’t pet me. Something is wrong. My tail hangs low and I whimper. I spin in circles, but not happy ones.
The door is banged open and two men come in with a bed on wheels. I stand in front of my owner and growl.
“It’s okay.” One says while the other one grabs me. I am small. He puts me in another room and shuts the door, but I stick my nose in at the last second and it doesn’t shut tight. They wheel my owner out and I follow onto the street. The truck drives away with sirens and lights flashing.
My small sore legs can’t keep up and I am lost. I lose the smell and can’t find him. My tail hangs low and my legs hurt. I find home. A woman there says words that sound bad. I recognize two of them.
“I’m sorry.” She picks me up and takes me to a building with a lot of cages. Barks fill the air.
I whimper. “Sorry,” she says again.
She is gone. Another person puts me in a cage. It is cold, but there is water and I drink for a long time. A blanket in a corner is not a bed. Tiredness overcomes fear and I sleep on it. My owners face fills my dreams and I whimper through the night.
People come and bring food. Once in a while, a kind hand is extended and I lick it.
The cage has an outdoor opening and the sun is shinning, but I stay inside on the blanket.
My hearing and seeing are not like they once were, but I see people come inside. Some pet me, some read the papers on the cage, while others shake their heads.
Days go by. Dogs that I recognize from smell vanish. Others leave on a leash with people, some are led toward the back of the building and never return. I whimper.
My bones are sore and a chill is inside me. I can’t live much longer.
The coldest day that I ever knew feels like it could be my last. The door opens and someone walks toward me with a crate. They smile. I know when someone is happy, but are they kind.
They stop and reach out a hand. “You’re a good girl.” The woman opens the door.
I back away, but she is quick and scoops me up in her arms.
“We’re taking you out of here.”
Inside a crate, I whimper and my legs start to shake. I can’t stop them.
A hand occasionally reaches in and rubs my ears. It’s not enough to take my fear away. I remember the dogs who vanished.
Before long, I am inside a house. A woman opens the crate and lets me out. I shiver, but the house is warm. There are other people here too. Some have uniforms on and others stand by themselves. The woman picks me up and brings me over to one of them.
His hands shake and he doesn’t try to pet me.
“Jake,” she says. “It’s okay. This dog has been through a lot. Her owner died and she was left at a shelter.”
He reaches out his shaking hand and rubs my ear. “She’s not too bad for a dog.” He gives a slight smile.
Another man came up and pets me too. He has only one arm, before long I was in the lap of a man in a chair with wheels.
“Anna. Thank you.” He says to the woman who brought me here.
She takes me to a woman who stayed away from all the others. Her dark hair covers her eyes and she doesn’t look at me.
“Emma, I have a dog here.”
“I know you used to like them.”
Emma looks at me. She isn’t happy. I sniff toward her and smell blood. A line of recent cuts covers her arms and I try to lick them, but she pulls away.
“Take him away,” Emma says.
“She was living in a shelter alone for a long time. Her owner died. They were going to euthanize her soon.”
“You saved her?”
“Because someone needed to and I’m going to bring her here every day.”
“A therapy dog? Will I be able to take her home?”
“Maybe, but first I got to teach her.”
Emma reached out and I was put in her arms. She rubs her hands through my fur. Tears fell down and she wouldn’t let go of me for a long time.
“Will you bring him back tomorrow?” Emma hands me back.
“Yes. I promise.”
“I’ll be here.”
“Great.” Anna walks out with me in her arms.
“You made a great impression tonight. This place is for people suffering from all kind of mental disorders including PTSD and depression. Someone told me Emma was suicidal and we got her in here. She was abused and refused to talk to anyone before, but I knew she had a dog once. I hoped.” Anna stops and wipes her eyes. “I think she will look forward to seeing you tomorrow. You may rescue her.”
She drives to her house. Inside, I lay down in a soft bed.
“Tomorrow I start training you to be a therapy dog.”
Before she finishes talking, my eyes close and I see my owner’s face and feel his hand going through my fur. I hear him speaking.
“You’re safe now. You’re a good girl.”
When I open my eyes, he is not there, but I notice that my fur is ruffled. I close my eyes and drift back to sleep. I am safe now.