This story is by Hannah Tussing and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
My world explodes in pain. I do not know what has happened except that everything hurts. I open my eyes; everything spins. My tongue lolls out the side of my mouth, caked with blood and gravel. The harsh scent of hot tarmac and fresh blood cloys in my nostrils.
Human screams and the hollow whoop of brakes mix in my ears. Where is my little girl? Is she safe? I try to lift my head, but sharp pain spikes through my skull. Blackness encroaches on my vision. Each beat of my heart pulses fresh pain through my battered body. Each breath is labored; my chest is tight. I close my eyes. Perhaps the darkness that draws near will ease the pain.
My ears perk. I recognize my little girl’s voice instantly. I open my eyes and look for her. Her feet hit the pavement with a dull thud.
“Lucy, are you hurt?” My master calls.
“No, but Jax is!” She skids on her knees beside me.
She reaches her hands toward me and I smell blood. Her palms are covered in crisscrossed lacerations and a smear of blood mars her left cheek. Her pink shirt is ripped and covered in dirt and blood. My heart thumps hard against my ribcage. My little girl is hurt. I have failed her.
A sob catches in her throat as she looks at me. “Daddy, we have to help Jax!”
Hands touch my sides, my head. A weak cry parts my lips. My wounded body is jarred as hands slip beneath me and lift me into the air. I open my jaws and yelp. I am not a biter, but the pain is too great. I want it to stop. My master’s scent wreaths around me and I realize he is the human that carries me.
My body jostles in my master’s arms as he places me in the backseat of a car. I slide across a wrinkled towel. My little girl crawls in beside me and pulls my head into her lap. The movement is excruciating, but I do not protest except with a soft whimper. I do not want to be apart from my little girl. She is hurt and I must protect her. Her small fingers slip into the thick fur of my scruff.
“Please be okay, Jax,” she whispers between sobs.
The car ride is painful. Every bump and turn sends spikes of pain through my limbs to the tips of my paws. My little girl’s sobs are muffled in my fur. I do not remember much.
The next thing I know I am in my master’s arms again. His gait is rushed and panicky and does nothing to ease my pain. Bright light explodes across my blurry vision. The strong scent of chemicals and sick animals overwhelms my nostrils.
“Jax is hurt!” My little girl cries as she runs beside my master.
A human girl rushes out with a wheeled table. “What happened?”
My master’s arms tremble. “He was hit by a car. Please save him.”
“We’ll do everything we can, sir.”
My master lays me on the wheeled table and the human pushes me away. I lift my head and whine. I cannot leave my little girl alone. She is hurt and I do not know if she will be okay. My master keeps her from running to me and I lose sight of her. Her desperate cries ring in my ears. Doors open and walls and people whiz past my vision. I lay my head back down. I am too tired to fight anymore.
An object buzzes over my front leg, shaving away my fur. A whitecoat hovers over me. “Give a shock bolus and check his blood pressure.”
Slight pain stabs my leg and then as quickly as it comes, it eases. My breathing slows; it is not so difficult to draw each breath anymore.
More strange humans move around me, touching my body, my paws, my tail.
“Blood pressure is low,” says one of the human girls.
“Repeat the bolus,” the whitecoat replies.
Machines buzz and beep all around me. Clear tubes run from a bag into my leg. The whitecoat lays a cold metal circle on my chest and listens to my breathing.
The whitecoat frowns. “I want chest x-rays.”
The human girl pushes me into a dark room and onto another table. Though I feel no pain as they extend my broken legs, I am exhausted. It is difficult to draw each breath. The darkness comes for me again. Will I go without knowing if my little girl is safe? I lift my head and cry.
The human girl scoops me up and carries me back out into the bright room. “His respiratory effort is increasing.”
Another human places a mask over my muzzle. Plastic-smelling air blasts into my nostrils.
The whitecoat listens to my breathing again. “I need to talk to his owners.” He hurries out of the room and is gone for a long stretch of heartbeats.
When he returns, his face is grim. “They would like to say goodbye.”
The human girl nods and carries me down the hall and into a dimly-lit room. Here, the smothering scent of chemical freshness masks the true odor of the room. The human girl kneels and places me onto a soft bed of blankets.
“I’m so sorry,” she whispers before leaving the room.
My little girl cries above me. Her warm tears splash against my muzzle. I whine and wag my tail. Though she is crying, she is safe. Her hands are wrapped in thick bandages and she wears a baggy shirt that smells of another human. I am happy to see her safe again. I have not failed to protect her after all.
She wraps her arms around my neck, burying her face in my thick scruff. Her sobs reverberate against my skin. I inhale. Her normal scent of fresh air and sugar cookies is gone. Now she smells of asphalt, gasoline, and fear.
“Lucy.” There is a quake in my master’s voice that is not normally present.
My little girl chokes on a sob and raises her head. Tears roll down her cheeks as she looks up at my master. He touches her shoulder. “The doctor is coming soon.”
“No!” She tightens her hold on my neck. I am too glad to be in her arms to protest her constricting grip.
My master kneels beside my little girl on the floor. Her warm hand caresses my head, scratches behind my ear just where I like it. I close my eyes at the pleasurable sensation. My tail thumps harder against the floor.
“Jax saved me, Daddy.” Her words are muffled against my fur.
“I know, Lucy. He’s a good dog.” His larger hands stroke my body, shaking with the movement.
The door opens and the whitecoat walks in. His steps are solemn and heavy. He bends down on the opposite side of my Master and my little girl.
“Are you ready?” he asks in a low voice.
“Don’t take my Jax!” My little girl cries in such distress it shocks me. I move my head and lick her tear-stained cheeks. She sobs harder.
My master hugs her shoulders. “It’s best for him, Lucy. He’s suffering.”
My little girl gasps for breath between sobs and nods slowly. She lowers her face next to mine and kisses my muzzle.
“Thank you for saving me, Jax,” she whispers. “I’m gonna be okay.”
I lick her again, her tears salty on my tongue. Her words send waves of warmth down my spine to the tip of my tail. I do not have to worry about her. She will heal.
The whitecoat lays a gentle hand on my front leg and inserts a needle into the plastic object taped into my leg. He injects a syringe of milky white liquid into my leg. It feels strange, but I do not fight it. My little girl buries her face in my scruff again, still crying.
My master pets me. “Good boy, Jax.”
I wag my tail until I feel sleepy. My eyelids are heavy and flutter closed. My little girl’s scent is strong in my nostrils. Her voice is sweet in my ears.
“I love you, Jax,” she says. Her sobbing breaths tickle the hair in my ears.
My heart, though it slows in my chest, swells with love for her. She is my little girl. I have kept her safe. Nothing else matters. My movements are sluggish but I manage to lick her face once more. My head falls back on the blanket and a sudden coldness overtakes my body. My thoughts are jumbled and I am fading fast. Where I am going I am not sure, but the last thing I hear is my little girl’s beautiful voice as she tells me she loves me more than anything in the world. When the darkness comes, I am not afraid. There is no more pain.