Monday, December 29, 2008

The story of 3 dogs

Brown Dog is of the earth and he is digging a hole in the semi-frozen ground, mining after a barely there odor of rancid flesh and bone, something possibly edible, possibly delicious, though what edible thing wouldn't be the most succulent manna in his present state of protruding ribs starvation? He's been hungry for weeks now and thirsty too but the thirst has been kept in check by licking the dew off grass or lapping stagnant oil laced puddles or drinking carefully of rusty rain water in open tin cans. His hunger, though, cannot be satiated from eating grass or chewing the leather on a thrown away boot or gnawing on an old rubber tire that had a scent of blood on it. His hunger is a beast within and if he does not feed it, it will devour him instead.

The prize he receives for his digging efforts is a partial earthworm which he eats along with a mouthful of damp, icy dirt and though he is deathly ravenous, he knows that eating frozen dirt with flecks of worm flesh will not save him and so he moves on.

White Dog is of the moon and she travels alongside Brown Dog as he makes his way through the late night in search of food. He cannot see her but as sure as there are invisible scents in the air, he knows that she is there beside him. He hadn't sensed her until a few weeks ago when the hunger became a living thing in his belly but once he realized she was there, he understood that she had always been close and wondered why he had never perceived her presence before. She is like something at the other end of a leash but she doesn't pull at him to go faster or slower. Instead, she keeps pace with him, stopping whenever he stops, running whenever he runs. Sometimes, he turns his head and barks at her but she remains silent.

Brown Dog has been foraging well into the night and the balance between exhaustion and hunger is tipping in favour of exhaustion so he lies down to rest beneath some bushes still holding onto their dead, almost grey leaves. He sniffs the leaves and eats a couple of them but they taste bitter and mean. He licks up some of the snow that has begun to accumulate on the ground and then he gives in to his tired body and lies still, curled up with his nose buried in his tail. His eyes slowly shut then open, then shut, each time bringing him closer to a sleep from which he's not sure he'll awaken. Just before he finally closes his eyes completely, he thinks he sees the White Dog beside him but when he raises his head to look, the shimmer is gone. With the snow falling harder now, Brown Dog surrenders himself to sleep.

He dreams of his former life.

He dreams of the dogs that passed him by on the sidewalk while he spent his days in a backyard chained to a broken swing set. He dreams of stale, dry kibble which tasted of dust and ash but which he would chew his tail off for now. He dreams of the hated twelve foot chain that kept him prisoner. He dreams of the squirrels and cats that ran by him, just out of reach. He dreams of sharp chicken bones and stale bread crusts. He dreams of the one time a stranger threw him a pizza crust through the chain link fence. He dreams of the box of dog biscuits he was given when he was a year old. He dreams of the red haired boy who spent a few minutes with him every day on the way to school, who gave him pieces of apples, bananas, ham and cheese sandwiches, cookies. He dreams of burnt potato skins in crumpled sheets of shrill-against-his-teeth aluminum foil. He dreams of the older kids who yelled at him and threw firecrackers at him and poked at him through the fence with pocket knives. He dreams of shriveled carrots and wilted celery. He dreams of the day the family moved out and left him behind. He dreams of soggy potato chips. He dreams of listening for the family's return, trying to get a hint of their scent, of waiting and waiting and eventually thirst and hunger taking over and barking and barking but still no one coming and then desperation. He dreams of licking spoons and soup bowls. He dreams of pulling so hard on his restraint that he choked himself and rubbed all the fur off the back of his neck and ears and then started to bleed and the blood welled up and made him slick and then he finally pulled free. He dreams of moldy cheese and melted ice cream and ketchup covered hot dog buns. He dreams of discarded leftovers thrown to him from Sunday barbeques and Thanksgiving dinners. He dreams of morsels from the hands of kind strangers and he would keep on dreaming but there is something on the periphery of his dreams which pulls him from his sleep. Something demands his wakeful attention. It's fuzzy at first but then he makes out a distant barking and then nearer, footsteps, and then nearer still, a warm breathe.

Brown Dog blinks open his eyes and exposes them to the sharp gnashing cold. It has stopped snowing and the clouds have thinned to the point where he can see the glow of the moon. He is covered in snow interspersed with a few leaves fallen from the bush. His joints and muscles still ache, even more so now with the cold. He could very easily slip back to sleep and avoid the full onslaught of his hunger but he doesn't because standing there in front of him is the White Dog.

She is like no dog he has seen before. She is there but not there. She is a perfect memory come to life. She fills up his lungs when he breathes. She is translucent, almost transparent, almost thinner than air but when she shows him her teeth, he knows she could easily kill him with one quick bite.

Brown Dog has no fight in him and slowly rolls over on his back, exposing his belly and his throat and he resigns himself to pain but instead White Dog growls at him and swipes him across the face with her paw for him to get up. He hesitates and this time she steps on his ear and digs a claw in which makes him yelp and he whips his head up and then rolls over upright and stands and shakes off the snow and leaves.

White Dog stares at him with her silver moonlit eyes but he dares not look back. He keeps his tail down and looks away from her into the clearing night. White Dog barks and steps in front of him and then barks again and takes several steps and looks back so Brown Dog, though still avoiding her gaze, starts to follow.

She leaves no tracks through the fallen snow but there is a scent or maybe just the memory of a scent, maybe that of his mother or maybe of his mother's mother or maybe something even older still and there are stretches of time, as he follows her through the last night of this life, when he is so tired that he closes his eyes and walks and stumbles and walks just following that scent.

It's near morning when they reach the house. It's the same size and shape as the dozens surrounding it but White Dog has lead him to this one. Brown Dog is near death so White Dog is gentler with him now and nuzzles him onto the front porch and then watches as he collapses and is still.

Yellow Dog is of the sun and just as the morning blooms and White Dog retreats, he descends and lies over Brown Dog and covers his body with life sustaining warmth and enters his dreams with golden light.

"Mom, Dad, hey wake up. Wake up!"

The man slowly looks over at his son then at the clock.

"Wake up, wake up!" The boy shakes his mom. "There's a dog outside. It's on the porch. There's a dog."

"What, honey?" asks the woman.

"Mom, there's a dog lying on our porch! There's a big brown dog there."

The man and the woman get out of bed and grab their fleece robes. They rush downstairs and open the front door.

"Oh my God, it is a dog," the woman says.

"I think it's sleeping or frozen or something," the boy says.

"Is it alright?" asks the woman. "Is it alive?"

The man bends down and looks at it then touches it then puts his hand in front of the dog's nose.

"Yeah, it's still breathing but it must be suffering from hypothermia or something. It's hardly moving," the man says. The man looks back at his wife.

"Well, get him inside then. We'll have to wrap him up in something, then we'll call a vet," the woman says.

The man slowly helps the dog to its feet and half carries him inside the house.

"Will he be alright?" the boy asks.

The woman looks down at her son and gives him a smile.

"Dogs are pretty tough," she says as she tussles his red hair and then runs upstairs to get some towels.


Barb said...

This is beautifully written!

And I am waiting impatiently to hear what happened to Brown Dog! I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he is OK.

Fred said...

I hadn't actually thought about continuing this story but as the woman said, dogs are pretty tough.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely wonderful! More, please.

FrogDogz said...

This made me cry.

And if you'd killed him, I think I might have driven to Toronto and smacked you. So, thanks for that -- I hate driving in the snow, and I hate stories where the dog dies, even if they are the true ones.

As others have said, more please.

Anonymous said...

Fred, this is beautiful writing. Lovely blog too.

Fred said...

Thank you. I'm glad you like it.

Elizabeth Abbott said...

Months too late, I have read your heart-wrenching story - love it!