The Dog

I walk my dog every morning. Our path changes daily, but my exhaustion is always the same. Meanwhile, my dog acts like she had the six shot latte from Cup A Jane.

It’s usually around 6am that my Maxy wakes me and begs for potty time. Since my job keeps me up till 2am every night, I immediately go back to bed when we get back inside at 6:20am. By the time I wake up, around noon, the whole thing only seems real because of the change of clothes I’m in. I can’t walk my dog wearing only boxers in the middle of winter. If it weren’t for the uncomfortable jeans, and equally uncomfortable bra, the whole experience would seem like a dream.

Now I can actually wake up and start my day.

Before I can think about standing up I’m greeted by a very excited Maxy who immediately starts to lick my hands.

“Who’s a good girl?” I say in my best perky tone. Petting her and giving her space to move on the bed with me.

We usually lay in bed watching TikTok together for an hour while fighting over my small shark toy that she’s claimed as her own. Eventually we both get hungry so I get up, serve her fresh food and water, and start my routine. Since I have about two hours before work, that really just means Maxy watching me workout and then frantically get ready. Before I leave home I make myself breakfast and lunch, where I’m forced to give her some of the meat that I’m working with. My girlfriend says that I’m spoiling her, but come on, who can resist that perfect little face.

This is our morning routine. She disturbs my sleep, so she can have a ridiculously cold and early walk, and I give her attention until the moment I leave the front door. As hard as it can sometimes be to afford her things, I wouldn’t give her up for the world.

That’s why this incident disturbed me so badly.

I can’t explain how horrible I felt learning about what was going on so close to me all this time, and I still wish that I had done something sooner.

Maybe they would be if I had been a little more alert on our morning walks. Things could’ve gone differently if I had thought more one of the 215 days I walked past that old house.

I forgot to mention something about our morning walks earlier. I didn’t intentionally leave this detail out. It seemed insignificant and unimportant at the time. I never thought much of it when I walked her. It would’ve been like explaining how I had to hike up her pajamas before she peed. Did you need to know all that?

Maxy has stopped by this small old house everyday for the last two months. We’ll be walking like normal, Maxy sniffing everything in sight and pointing out all the other dog feces while I’m thinking about how nice it would’ve been if I’d taken two minutes to find a bigger jacket before going outside, and then out of nowhere she’d stop dead in her tracks and turn her face to look at the house.

She’s not a very sociable dog, so I figured she just heard another dog around and got anxious. Though, I did note how odd it was that she never barked. She always barked when she suspected another dog was around, but I told myself it was nothing and would gently tug on her collar until she broke out of her trance and walked along. Once the house was out of sight she would go back to her normal scheduled program of extreme sniffing.

Today was different.

Things started out the same.

EAHHHHHH EEEEHHHHHH

“Please Maxy, I’m tired. Can we do this in an hour?”

Her whining was merely a warning that the barking was starting soon.

RAUGH RAUGH RAUGH

That was faster than normal.

“Okay okay, I’ll get up.”

I stood up to get dressed, but before I could move far Maxy was jumping all over me. Whining and barking like crazy. This isn’t like her, even if she does need to pee bad. Which would be odd since I took her out at 2am. I couldn’t sleep.

The morning was more of a struggle than normal. Usually Maxy whines a bit while I’m getting ready as if to say “Hurry up human, I can’t be late”, but today it was really bad. She was barking the entire time and jumped around as if she was ready to attack. I was nervous to take her out in this state, fearing she might try to run or jump at some innocent rabbit outside, but as soon as I got her collar on her she stopped and started acting normally.

“What’s going on Maxy?” I said excitedly while petting her “What’s up girly?”

She smiled big and panted in anticipation. I was feeling tired as normal, but also alert because of her unusually high aggression this morning.

The walk went as normal, Maxy was acting as usual. I hiked up her PJs so she could pee comfortably and did the same two minutes later when she squatted to poop. I got a bit excited at this point. She’s usually cool with going back inside if she pooped quickly. I wasn’t the only one who felt the cold air after all.

I tugged on her collar to go back home, but instead of following she planted her body weight. Somehow making 30 pounds feel like 600 pounds.

“What Maxy?” Now I was the one whining. “I’m tired, can we please go back.”

She glared at me with a look that clearly meant “Only if we finish this walk.”

I can’t believe I let a tiny french bulldog bully me.

We walked on and I counted the steps until I could lay back in my cozy weighted blanket where heat would wash over my freezing fingers. I started to daydream about how nice it would feel to be inside right now. Having Maxy in my arms, and five more hours of sleep ahead of me, until suddenly Maxy started going insane.

RAUGH RAUGH RAUUUUGHHHHHH

I made the mistake of trying to pick her up during her panic. During her barking fit she elbowed me hard in the face. I could feel an intense sting ring through my temple and then felt a slow trickle fall from my nose. It all happened so fast I didn’t realize I was bleeding until it was all over. She continued to freak out, and I noticed, for the first time ever, that there was a beat up silver Nissan Altima parked by the house. I always assumed the house was empty and the dogs Maxy reacted to were strays.

There was no upkeep to the yard and I’d never seen anyone come or go in my three years of living in that neighborhood. I was almost sure I’d never seen this car until today. The more I stared the more unfamiliar the house looked to me. That’s when I saw what Maxy was freaking out about. As Maxy tried to pull us toward the house, a man ran out, covered in blood, with a gun in hand.

As soon as I saw the weapon I grabbed Maxy by the scruff and ducked. He never aimed at me, all I heard was him yelling “FUCK OFF!”. I did.

We were about four houses away when I found a nice hiding spot. I waited until I saw his car leave.

As soon as he sped off, the panic set in. Both for me and Maxy. My mind scrambled as I thought of what would be the appropriate next move. While I was thinking Maxy whined and continued to stare at the home. As I thought about calling the cops, and wondered if that was an appropriate response for the situation, the guy had a gun and was covered in blood (was that enough to warrant the cops?), Maxy decided we were going back toward the home.

I tugged back on her harness as I pulled out my phone. I dialed, and when the dispatcher picked up and asked me what the emergency was, I told her that I’d just seen a man in my neighborhood run out of his house covered in blood holding a pistol. She asked if it looked like his blood, and if I could identify anyone else at the scene that may be injured.

“No, it didn’t look like he was injured at all. I’m sure that he’s covered in someone else’s blood. I didn’t see anyone else though. He just told me to FUCK OFF! and drove away the opposite direction that I ran.”

“Okay. Where are you right now? Do you have an address for his house?”

“I’m three houses down at…” I looked around for a house number and street sign, “362 Morris Lane. I don’t know the exact address but the numbers go up toward his house so probably 366 or something. Should I go back and look.”

“Please, stay put. We do not know if the scene is safe. Police are on their way.”

Right on cue Maxy started to pull me toward the house. I didn’t resist. For reasons I can’t explain, I wanted to know what was in that house. If I were in a rational state of mind, I would’ve stayed back, but my adrenaline was high and something other than Maxy made me want to go back to where I came from.

“Okay. Should I stay on the line?”

“Yes. You should let me know if anything happens and I will stay on the line with you until the police arrive.”

“Okay.”

Maxy and I inched towards the house. She wasn’t barking or whining, almost like she knew that what we were doing was wrong and we didn’t want to get caught.

We were about a house away when Maxy started whining again. It was a loud and desperate whine, as if she were trying to talk to someone, but it wasn’t directed at me. She would’ve looked back at some point if it were. She was staring straight ahead at the old house and whining at someone inside.

I couldn’t know for sure, but my first instinct was that someone inside was hurt. The bloody man probably made that clear already, but my instincts told me they were still alive and needed help. Before I could even process the thought fully we broke out into a sprint toward the home. Maxy continued her whine as if to say “We’re coming human! We’re here for you!”

We got to the house in under ten seconds. I remember standing there, in front of the side door, wondering if this was the dumbest thing I’d ever do. And for a damning moment, I wondered if it was the last thing I’d ever do.

I was so focused on Maxy I didn’t hear the “Hello? Are you still there? It sounds like you are on the move. Please stay put.” coming from my phone. I only knew about this part of the call after the fact, when I was questioned by the police.

Blood still dripping from my face, I grab for the small black door handle. The door itself had scratches all over it. It looked like a cat’s scratching board. There were also burgundy stains covering it. I didn’t even have to guess what it was, it was clearly more blood.

I was scared of what I might see, but I was urged on by the whining I heard. Right as I got my hand near the door knob, I realized that Maxy was sitting completely silent staring at the door in anticipation.

The whining was coming from inside.

I slowly grabbed the door handle, my blood mixing with the blood on the frame, and opened up.

It was nearly pitch black inside. I didn’t realize until now that every window in the place had been covered with black blinds. They were actually black blankets, but I hadn’t realized that yet. I couldn’t see anything, but I could hear the whine grow louder and more desperate. It also smelled horrible inside, like vomit and rotting cheese. Maxy moved slowly in front of me and guided the way.

It suddenly dawned on me that I should use my phone flashlight to check out the scene. That’s also when I finally heard the dispatcher who was trying to get a hold of me.

“Ma’am?! What is going on?”

“My dog pulled me toward the house. I thought someone inside might be hurt. It’s dark here, so I’m going to use my flashlight to see what’s wrong.”

“You were supposed to stay away from the home. Please leave the area. We do not know if it’s safe yet. Police will be there soon.”

I ignored her and pulled up the flashlight.

“Oh God.”

Was all I could get out.

“What is it? What do you see?”

What I saw before me was the saddest thing I’d ever seen. I didn’t even know this dog, but I immediately began to weep as I ran to her side.

I used my flashlight to inspect the black french bulldog as I got closer to her.

Her entire body laid limp on the floor. Blood was strewn on the floor and wall where she lay. I saw three deep wounds on the side of her body that was facing up. One where a collar should have been, one where most dogs would start jerking their legs, and one right on her back left thigh.

“What do you see?”

“A dog. She’s been beaten badly. She’s lost a lot of blood and is covered in wounds.”

“Is anyone else there?”

“No. Not that I can see.” I said it all through quiet sobs.

I took notice of the full scene as I heard the sirens outside indicating the arrival of the police.

The dog was severely malnourished. She looked like she was meant to be 30 pounds, based on her build, but I guessed she was somewhere closer to 15. The ground was covered in dog waste and old dirty food was scattered all over the place.

As I heard footsteps approaching outside I got on the ground to feel for the dog’s heart beat. It was slow. I gave her some pets and said “I’m so sorry this happened to you girly. I love you. I swear I’ll get to the bottom of this for you.” For the first time her eyes opened and she looked at me. She acknowledged my proposal and accepted the offer.

A moment later, an officer was asking me to go outside.

It took three officers to pull Maxy away from the dog’s side. She was trying to comfort the frenchie, and she was good at weighing 600 pounds when she needed to.

Now we were outside, waiting to hear updates on what was going to happen next.

“What happened? We need to know all of the details?”

“What happens to the frenchie inside?”

“Please answer my question.”

“Is she going to live? If she does, what happens next?”

“We don’t know if she’s going to live.”

“You’re going to take her to the vet though, right? Try everything before giving up?”

“I don’t know what they’re going to do. But in order to catch the man who did this we need your cooperation.”

“Promise me that you’ll keep me updated on the dog.”

He sighed.


“I will personally keep you updated on the dog.”

I told him everything I knew. Even tried my best guess on the gunned man’s license plate.

By the time I was done telling my story I saw the dog get pulled away in a stretcher. I asked if I could come along. To my surprise, they allowed it.

Maxy was calm the whole time. She just sat staring at the dog and gently nudging her head against the frenchies as if to say “You’re fine now buddy.”

On the ride to the emergency vet I couldn’t help but remember all those times I’d walked Maxy by the home. Was Maxy stopping because she knew something was wrong? Was every one of my pleasant mornings with Maxy a torture session for this poor girl?

As my mind wondered, and Maxy and I tried our best to comfort the frenchie, it dawned on me that Maxy had saved her life today. She urgently woke me up, directed me to that house, and barked her head off outside. He had a gun in his hand. What if he was going to shoot this poor frenchie? What if he was super close to doing so, and then he heard Maxy outside and realized there was a witness on scene. He probably started to run hoping no one would notice him. A gunshot would attract too much attention with someone outside.

“Good girls” I said to Maxy and the frenchie as the ambulance continued moving.

For the first time, frenchie attempted to smile at me.

The visit took several hours. I ended up calling my job and using some of my paid time off to get today and tomorrow off. It was Thursday, so I figured Maxy and I could use a four day weekend together after all this. I was also secretly hoping that I could see the frenchie more this weekend.

__

“We got him.”

A tall tan man said to me. It was the same guy who’d asked me questions earlier. He looked Latin, just like me. Could be my cousin if he was a little shorter. There are no tall people in my family.

I looked up at him dumbfounded.

“He’s in a holding cell right now. He’ll be questioned later.” He sat down next to me “Lucky thing you got there when you did. He kept screaming “I just wanted to kill that fucker!” when we found him.”

“That was all Maxy.” I said.

“What do you mean?”

“He’s been looking at that house everyday for the last couple of months. I never thought much of it. Now I’m almost sure these two have been silently communicating. I’ve never seen Maxy so fond of a dog the first time they meet.”

“Maybe it’s because they look so similar.”

“All frenchies look a little similar.”

“Where’d you get yours?”

“I met Maxy at the shelter down in Auburn. We’ve been together for about a year now.”

The officer’s eyes met mine. “Talley’s barn?”

“Yeah. Did you get a dog there?”

“No. But Brett Mayor did.”

“Who?”

“The fucker I intend to lock up for animal cruelty. The vet had her in their system. All of Talley’s pets come here before they go home.”

The connection was too close not to think about it. “Do you think they’re related?”

“Shit. Could be. You could always ask the receptionist for vet records. Actually, I better come with you, the police are the only ones who can ask about the frenchie right now. She was given a name there you know. Wanna know what it is?”

“Yeah.”

“Maggie.”

__

“PLEASE STOP I’M CRYING”

Cut to the dog park I’m at, six months later. Sitting on a park bench with a lady I’ve seen a few times before.

“I’ve cried about this a lot too.” I said through a laugh.

“So what happened?”

“Brett’s behind bars. His girlfriend left him for domestic abuse months prior to the incident, but she never had the courage to come out about it. She was afraid no one would believe her. He took Maggie from her when she left. Thanks to the case she was able to testify about her abuse and he was put away for animal cruelty, domestic abuse, and assaulting an officer.That was a rough day for everyone involved”

“She didn’t want Maggie back?”

“No. She loves Maggie still, but the pain that man caused her made it hard for her to see Maggie. She gave me her blessing when I asked if I could adopt her. She also didn’t want to break up the siblings. Maxy has been like Maggie’s therapy dog. It’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen.”

“Who’s your therapy dog? Sounds like you had quite the day too.”

“They both are.” I started to tear up, but choked it back. Didn’t need two ladies crying on the park bench. Someone had to watch our puppies. “Everyday they remind me of how precious life is, how to be there for other people, and how important family is. I actually ended up calling my brother and apologized for the petty argument we had the day before the incident.”

“Looks like I might have some phone calls to make. My sister and I have been beefing over Christmas plans for two months now.”

“Do it.” I said through tears. “You just never know what someone’s going through.”

I blushed when the lady gently reached for my hand. I might have jerked back a bit too, since she jumped back and looked at me nervously before she asked “Is it okay if I hold your hand?”

“Yes.”

__

That was the beginning of another life changing story.

Author’s Afterword,

This story is dedicated to Louise Diaz. She is the dog that changed me and my family for the better. We had 15 amazing years with her. May she rest in peace in heaven.

Real photo of Louise

The day after I finished the first draft of this story, something strange happened to me.

I woke up one morning bright and early to walk my dog. I do, just like the nameless main character, work a night job. I was very tired when my dog woke me up to walk her. She was also more frantic then usual that day.

The walk was going fairly normal, until she saw another dog in the distance. She started barking, as she always does, so I turned her around and had her start walking toward our apartment to keep her calm. A minute later a dark bulldog approached us.

This was strange to me, since I thought I’d seen this dog with another person moments earlier. No one was around now. I panicked for a split second, since my dog isn’t amazing with other dogs yet, but all they did was sniff each other. That is, of course, until my dog got defensive and growled at the bulldog. I should mention now that my dog is a mut, part bulldog. Why does that matter? In that moment, when they were next to each other, it dawned on me that they are similar breed dogs and that this dog is darker then mine. Just like Maxy and Maggie.

That thought quickly escaped my mind as I worried that their growling could become more aggressive. I didn’t know this dog so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I screamed out to see if the dogs owner was around but no one came. After a minute a man screamed at me “IS THAT YOUR DOG?” I screamed back “NO, HE JUST RAN UP TO US!”. In this moment the stray dog got curious and ran toward the man. That man ran so fast you’d think he was facing a life or death situation. I bet in that moment, he thought he was.

I took the opportunity to turn around and run with my dog back home. I wasn’t afraid of the stray, but I’d be damned if I ever took a chance and let anything happen to my precious Mango.

After returning home I woke my fiance up and told her what happened. It only took about 2 minutes to catch her up to speed, and after we agreed I should go back out and look for the lost dog.

People act funny around pitbulls, and we didn’t want something to happen to him.

I grabbed a spare lead we owned and went out to look for the dog. It took me another 2 minutes or so to go back to where I originally found him. To my surprise, he was back in that same place again. This time there were two working men from my apartment complex staring at him as if they were trying to decide which one would approach the big scary wolf. I took the opportunity to walk up to the pitty and see how he felt about me. He had a huge smile on his face when he walked up to me and let me pet him immediately. After a second, I held up the lead for him to see and he sat down as if saying “Please Leeann, I’ve been trying to find someone to take me home all day! Put me on that leash!”

To make an even longer story short, we took him to my mother in law’s place and he’s been in our care since. The real life Maggie, who we do not believe was ever abused like Maggie (based on his love for people and his good physical state), made my week. I couldn’t help but notice how similar Mango, and the dog now referred to as Pork Chop, are to Maxy and Maggie.

The timing of his find was just too serendipitous not to share. This is Pork and Mango.

I hope you enjoyed the story. I haven’t written a short story in quite a while, but I’m excited to see where things go. Also, for any long term supporters – I haven’t given up on Monster’s Inside, but I’m not sure when that story will be updated.

Until next time, stay psyched.

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