This story is by Angela Trammell and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“The news wouldn’t lie,” said Lana.
“Mom you’re being ridiculous,” Britney said. She brought both hands down slapping her thighs. “You can’t do this!”
Teddy looked up from his bed. They were yelling back and forth as they often did. He kept his eyes open to watch Lana pace back and forth in the kitchen. Her hair was a mess from the numerous times she ran her hands through it.
Because the leash bumped the laundry room, Teddy was up and at Lana’s feet in three big bounds. Wagging his big, fluffy tail, he waited patiently at the door. He hopped up and down as she struggled to get the latch on the metal ring of his collar. His front paws patting the tiles with a rhythmic beat.
“He doesn’t even look sick,” Britney said.
“We can’t take any chances. On channel five news, they said our pets can get the virus and pass it to us. We’ve been over this.” As she headed towards the door, she grabbed her wallet and keys. She gave one last look at her daughter before walking out. The tears on her face were too much to bear. She bit her lip to keep her own from flowing.
“Take this.” Britney handed her mom the toy she bought him for Christmas. It was a stuffed duck with rubber feet. It was his favorite.
Teddy pulled on his leash until he coughed from the pressure but it didn’t slow his pace. Lana opened the back door and he hopped in. He slapped the leather seats with every wag. A small sigh escaped her lips as she struggled with her thoughts. He thinks he is going to the park to play and walk. It’s his favorite place. As she thinks about the first time she brought him when he was a puppy, her eyes begin to burn and a single tear runs down her cheek. She wipes it away.
Because she was lost in thought, her subconscious took over driving. She did this often and wondered how she made it to her destination without causing an accident. The car came to a stop in front of the county dog shelter and she turned off the engine. Teddy put his head between the seats. Lana placed her palm on the side of his brown furry snout and gave him a kiss and an unwanted lick to the cheek was returned. She grabbed his duck she tossed on the passenger seat.
“Come on.” He sniffed the bushes lining the entry way leaving his scent on as many bushes as she would let him. He pulled at the leash as he bounded up the three steps. Her foot caught on the bottom one causing her to lose her balance. As she stumbled, she grabbed the handrail. He never noticed as he kept his nose planted to the ground.
“Just sign right here,” the lady behind the counter said. She pointed at the bottom of the sheet of paper. Lana had Teddy close to her leg. He sat there looking around the room sniffing at the air.
Lana handed the leash and the duck to the lady. He kept looking back as she pulled him down the long hallway. When the guilt was too much, she wiped her eyes and walked out of view. He stopped short causing a hard tug on his collar. A bark followed by a whine could be heard by Lana as she exited the building. Because he was struggling, the volunteer gave him a quick tug on the leash.
“Let’s go.” She pushed through a large swinging door. She had to use a little force to keep him going. The concrete floor was cold on his paws. They walked past cages with different size dogs. Some of them barked and some just sat there staring. Teddy tried to get closer to a cage that had a medium sized black and white dog in it. As if he was in a daze, the dog sat there with blank eyes and shoulders slumped. Just as he was about to sniff the dog, his neck was pulled back and the leash shortened. His tail went between his legs.
A gate near the end was opened and he was led in. “This one is yours.” He walked inside and she released his leash and tossed his duck in behind him. As he tried to walk back through the gate to follow her, it was slammed in his face. She walked away leaving him alone.
There was a bowl with water and an empty bowl next to it. Teddy sniffed them, lifted his head and looked around. It was cold and dark in the kennel. He tried to look down the aisle by placing his cheek against the fence. She was gone. Several of the dogs were still barking so Teddy joined in.
After several minutes, the barking ceased. He took a sip of the water left for him. The bowl was silver with a rubber bottom and you could see green splotches in it. Even though he was thirsty, he didn’t drink much. He sauntered over to the thin blanket in the corner. As soon as he got to it, he walked a circle on it before lying down and rested his head on the duck.
It was dark when he woke to the sound of the cage doors being opened and shut. He stood up and was at the gate in two bounds. His face pressed against it trying to see what was going on. There were two people coming down the aisle. One on each side throwing one scoop of dry food into each kennel.
His tail wagged when he got to his kennel. When he opened the gate, Teddy tried to walk out towards the man. He pushed him back in and dropped the scoop of food in his bowl and closed the gate without a word. His wag got slower and slower until it stopped. He held his nose up to sniff. No Lana or Britney. A few whines escaped him. Though he was hungry, he rejected the food. No pat on the head. Sometimes Britney would give him bites of her food. He needed to get to his family. It was the only thing on his mind. Maybe if he barks, she will hear him and so it began. Teddy jumped back sliding to a stop. The man slammed the empty bucket against the gate.
The lights in the building began to shut off one by one. The sounds of whimpers filled the air. He was quiet. As he lay cold in the dark, the thought of home was agony. Sleep didn’t come easy. He needs his bed. Why is he here? He would sleep while his family watched T.V. then follow Britney to her room. She let him sleep on the foot of her bed.
His stomach was in knots. A few bites here and there was enough to push the hunger pangs away. Between nerves and the awful food, it was a wonder any of the dogs ate.
After his third day, there was a commotion in the lobby. Voices sounded like thunder. Most of the dogs perked up including Teddy. Since he couldn’t see anything, he ran back and forth along the gate. The swinging doors opened to let a group of people in. They were stopping at the gates of the dogs petting and talking to them. Teddy was at the end of the twenty cages on the right. He was bouncing and wagging his tail. The children moved so fast. They would stop long enough for a quick pet then move on to the next dog.
“Look at this one, Dad,” a little boy said. He was letting the little black puppy lick his face. He giggled and told the puppy he loved him. “Can we get him?”
The little boy’s father waved until he got the attention of a volunteer. The gate was opened and out he ran. As soon as the puppy was released, he bounced, jumped, and barked around the boy. They walked away with the puppy in the little boy’s arms.
Teddy wagged his tail and looked around. He could see a young girl coming his way.
“He’s too old. I want a puppy,” she said.
“I don’t see any more puppies, dear,” her father said.
“He’s clean and probably house trained,” the mother said. The girl had already turned around and headed up the aisle. Teddy’s tail slumped. Families had come in for a couple of hours. A few people came down to pet him. He grew tired and slept in a ball at the gate.
“Where is he?” Teddy picked his ears up. Sniffed the air.
“He’s on the end,” the volunteer said.
Teddy ran back to the gate wagged his tail and howled.