The cage is a prison of grey mesh, cold iron and the odour of a thousand dogs. I’ve been here for a week now and hope is seeping from my heart. For some of us dogs, this is the end of the road. The humans don’t realise it but the lingering smell of death hangs thick in the air. The death chamber is a dull concrete building to the left of our enclosure.
The gate bangs open and I sit up, alert, trying to look my best. “Look Daddy! Here’s a small doggy!” Eager hands poke through the mesh and I lick them, hoping this might be my answer.
The father reads the sign on my cage door. “Jones. Jack Russell Terrier, six years old.” He bends to give my ears a rub through the fence. “Sorry, boy. You’re a little too old, besides there’s a reserved sign on your gate. Hope you go to a good home.”
They wander off and I put my head on one side. Reserved? No one has bothered with me, never mind shown an interest. I can’t be reserved. Maybe this is the end. The day I take the final walk to the death chamber.
I collapse in a heap and drop my head onto my paws. I don’t know if God hears doggy prayers but I’ve done a lot of praying this week. Ben, my first master used to pray every night with his mom. I can still see him, kneeling by his bed and asking God to keep his family and friends safe.
I wonder if he’s ever prayed for me.
I loved being part of Ben’s family. Every day I would go walking with them and oh, the smells I came across. Pungent rat holes, ragged old socks, fresh duck droppings, old burger wrappers. Each day was a great adventure.
Ben’s heart broke when he said goodbye to me. “I’m sorry, Jones. Daddy’s lost his job and we have to go and live in an apartment.” That afternoon, Ben’s dad put me in the car and drove me across town. He talked as we went and told me he was sorry too. “I’ve found you a good home, Jones. The lady’s name is Martha and she’ll take good care of you.”
I was two when I moved in with Martha and to begin with, she did take good care of me. She was an old lady –75 in human years – and didn’t get out much but I grew to love her. I missed the excitement of my walks and rough and tumbling with Ben but life was good. It was only in the last few months that things went wrong. Martha was sick and I would go for days without being fed properly.
The gate bangs open again and a strange yet familiar smell invades my despondency. I lie for a moment trying to place it and then it suddenly dawns on me.
I surge to my feet and throw myself at the fence barking and jumping. “I’m here, Ben. Remember me? This way, Ben. Please! Please!”
They stop in front of my cage; Ben, his dad and one of the attendants. Ben has changed; filled out and grown taller but I know it’s him with the splash of freckles and hair the colour of my favourite dog pellets.
“Here he is.” The attendant is saying. “He was very thin when he came in but looks much better now.”
Ben unlatches the gate. “Hello, Jones. Do you remember me?”
Do I ever!
I hurl myself at him and we fall in a heap of laughter and barks, of licking tongues and firm hands patting me all over. “Oh, Jones. I missed you so much. Even when Dad got a job and a house, we never replaced you.” I bark loudly and he smiles. “He remembers me, Dad.”
His dad laughs. “It certainly looks like it.” He turns to the attendant. “That’s definitely our Jones. What a blessing that Martha’s son took the time to track me down.”
Ben picks me up and his arms are strong and comforting as he hugs me close. “Come on, boy. Let’s go home.” My tail is wagging non-stop and I know one thing for sure. God really does answer doggy prayers.
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