Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: The Family Pet (05/15/08)
TITLE: It's A Hard Dog's Life
By Joshua Janoski
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She's left me heeeeere to staaaaaayaaay!
Won't throw her maaaan a bone!
She's sentenced me to die aloooone!
The sound of Old Ben's baritone voice reverberated against the concrete walls. A deep despondence could be seen in the bloodhound's wilted eyes as he belted out his bluesy tune. Night after night, the other prisoners lay silently listening to Ben sing about his lost love - a cocker spaniel named Stella. The only interruption to Ben's singing came from his harmonica solo that he interposed between verses.
Ben sat on hind legs against the cold wall of his cell, holding the small silver instrument between his paws. His cellmate, Petey the Beagle, lay sleeping in front of him amidst pieces of loose kibbles that found their way out of the food bowl.
I said she’s sentenced meeeeeeeeee…to die aloooooone!
The room’s silence stood out as Ben finished his melody. Bones, a bulldog occupying the cell on the left of Ben, finally broke the hush.
“You still miss her don’t you Old Ben?” Bones asked while scratching the skin underneath his spiked collar.
“Of course he does! Why else would he drone on and on every night about her?” CeCe the poodle snapped. She was Bones’ cellmate and was never a comfort to anyone around her. “He really needs to accept the fact that she’s not coming back for him.”
Words like that hurt Old Ben, but he never said anything. Instead, he just slumped down against the corner of his cell issuing a long drawn out sigh. Petey’s leg twitched as he continued to lay in slumber, oblivious to the conversation going on around him.
“Leave him alone, CeCe. Can’t you see that the poor bloke is hurting?”
CeCe stuck her nose up in the air and lay with her back away from the other dogs. Bones peered through the metal bars and into Old Ben’s eyes. Those deep hazel spheres told his entire sad story. Abandoned as a pup, he was forced to live the life of a vagabond. His keen sense of smell helped him scavenge food, but the scraps he found did not satisfy the hunger within his heart – the craving to be loved.
He found himself a master, but being man’s best friend does not work so well when that man is an alcoholic. The scars on Ben’s side proved that. He escaped the beatings and continued wandering from one back road to another. The chocolate brown hound spent many a night howling at the moon in despair, until something changed…Ben met Stella.
The cute little lady had wandered far from her suburban neighborhood and ended up lost in the country cornfields. It was love at first sight, and for the first time, Ben felt happiness.
That happiness was cut short after only three short days. Stella and Ben were trapped by the muzzles of the canine cops and transported to the prison that he now occupied. Stella’s owners soon bailed her out, but Ben was left to sit in the same cell for nearly a year, thinking about Stella’s last words to him as she was taken away…
“I’ll return for you Ben. Someday I’ll return.”
Ben was getting old, and sadly, no one had use for an elderly hound. It was the young pups that received homes, and Ben’s youthful days were long gone.
Bones took his eyes off Ben and looked up at the weak halogen bulb that hung high above the otherwise dark room.
Ben felt a paw against his side. The paw came from the cell on the right. Sitting there was a young retriever with golden fur that shined as a light of hope against otherwise unpromising surroundings.
“It’s ok, Ben. I got put here this morning, and I know that my master cares for me. He’s going to come bail me out, and when he does, I’m going to find a way to get him to take you with us. We’ll find Stella.”
“Puuuhleese! If your master really cared that much for you, then he would have made sure that he kept a tag around your neck.”
“Hush, CeCe!” Bones scolded. “Maybe the bloke is right. Maybe there is hope that someday we will get back home.”
Ben turned to the retriever and with a glint of water in his eye, he said…
“Thank you for caring, Kid.”
He picked his harmonica up and began to play again.
***Author’s Note: This is a no-kill shelter, which is why Ben has been able to stay there for a year.
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