Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Happy (07/12/07)
TITLE: Dog Heaven
By Teri Wilson
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“I was afraid you wouldn’t come.” Sheila, the kennel worker at our local pound, looked at me pleadingly.
“You’re right. I don’t rescue pitbulls. They’re dangerous dogs and no one wants them.”
“Please just take a peek. It’s her last day.”
Last day. The words hung in the space between us, heavy with their sinister implications.
I’m not sure what made me agree to see the dog. I pictured my tranquil country home sitting atop its carpet of wild sunflowers, my three rescue dogs peering beyond the white picket fence as they waited for someone to pluck them up and take them to their forever homes. Nowhere in this pastoral setting could I imagine a pitbull.
Still, somehow the words escaped my mouth. “Okay, I’ll take a quick look.”
“Great. I’ll go get the key.”
I stood in the hallway and looked at all the lapdogs in their stacked cages lining the walls. Chihuahuas, Malti-poos, Cocka-poos. The sort of dogs people wanted to adopt. Tiny dogs women could carry around in their handbags. Yet, there I stood waiting to see a dog who remained behind locked doors.
Sheila fumbled with the doorknob. “She’s in pretty bad shape, but seems to be a real sweetheart.”
That’s all she said before she opened the door. Sometimes I wonder why she didn’t try harder to warn me. But, in retrospect, nothing she could have said would have prepared me for the sight of that dog.
She was curled up in a ball in the corner of the room, but rose to greet us when we entered. Her coat was covered in deep puncture wounds, swollen and purple. She would have been pure white, if not for the dried, crusty blood caked on her body. She would have been beautiful, but she was maimed. Her ears were gone, ripped from her skull by some unnamed instrument. In their place were ragged stumps.
Sheila was talking, but her words barely registered in my consciousness. I heard her say something about the dog being dumped by a dog fighting ring. She was too submissive and gentle for their “sport.”
I tried to speak, choking on my words. “What’s her name?”
“We’ve been calling her Snow White.”
Oh, the irony. Clearly life had been no fairy tale for this dog. No one would ever want her.
“I’ll take her.” And I spun on my heels to get the dog crate from my truck. I hadn’t even touched the dog or looked her in the eyes.
As I guided the truck up the drive to my house, stone-cold fear settled in the pit of my stomach. What had I done? A dog this tortured, this abused would never be capable of trusting a human again. She would be better off dead. These thoughts drifted through my mind as I heaved the dog crate through the gate of my picket fence. I plunked it down amidst the tall, golden flowers and opened the door then stood and waited. Nothing.
I was hardly surprised. Who could blame the poor thing? But the trauma of seeing another living creature in that condition suddenly overwhelmed me and I sunk into the sea of sunflowers, burying my face in my hands. I stayed there until the sun’s rays fell from the sky and melted, soft and shimmering into the horizon, turning every petal around me into a tiny sparkling flame.
Then I heard the shuffle of paws on moist earth. I felt her breath, like a whisper, against my flesh. I looked up at the pitbull in my meadow, into her eyes, one chocolate brown and the other a brilliant blue. She wagged her stump of a tail and pressed her soft, pink nose into the palm of my hand.
With that first touch I knew Snow had come home. She would live here forever, in my little white house, in my field of flowers, in my life. Here where the warm summer breeze would gently blow closed her many cuts and gouges. In this place where sticks were for chewing and hands were for petting. Where majestic flowers tilted their faces toward the sun, lifted their leafy arms and stood sentry over the wounded. Where there were no dangerous dogs, no bad dogs - only happy ones.
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