I barked once and felt my ears lay flat as my voice echoed out and up to the ceiling. The space where Rain brought me was a long table against a wall. She had looped a line around my neck. I could have told her she didn’t need to. I wasn’t going anywhere without her.
“Now, baby, you have to be quiet for a bit. I have to get some work done.”
Her hand stroked my head. I sat on her foot nearest me and kept watch. The bread and water earlier on the steps had settled my tummy, and the hum of equipment was causing my eyelids to droop. Lots of strange noises here, but Rain was calm. I didn’t think any of the weird objects would hurt me if I stayed close to her. She began tapping her fingers very fast on a piece of plastic on the table, and I sensed her focus turn away from me. I shifted a little more of my body onto her feet, leaning against her legs. I was so tired. Before I knew it, I was lying on her feet. Still watchful though. I didn’t want to fall asleep. Once in a while, a man would come near Rain to talk. I would growl, a low rumble.
“You’re safe. He’s fine.” Rain’s gentle voice reassured me. Okay. As long as the men didn’t reach toward me or Rain. That was okay.
Rain stood up and walked across the room. Was she leaving me? I scrambled to my feet and whined. I wanted to follow but the line kept me near the table. I whined louder and struggled a little, starting feel panic racing into my feet from my chest. I licked my mouth, then turned my head to bite at the line.
“Shush now. I’m right here.”
Rain pulled my attention to her as she spoke from across the room. Her voice wasn’t loud so I don’t think she was angry. And her voice didn’t shake so I don’t think she was panicking like me. I stopped squirming as she continued to talk softly in the distance. I just listened to the rhythm of her voice soothing my nerves. I could feel the thread of energy between us flowing steady and sure. I lifted my nose a little and caught her scent as the breeze from an opening door drifted my way then traveled on down the shadowy hall.
The morning continued in this pattern. And I started to feel okay when Rain would get up to walk around the room. Once, though, she walked down the hall into a room where I couldn’t see her and when I heard a door shut, I freaked out. I started barking, lunging and then biting at the line. Where did she go? Quick as a flash of light from the sky, Rain came running back to me as the door slammed behind her and a loud male voice yelled.
“Sorry, Bill.” Rain raised her voice louder than normal. But then she hugged me close to her.
“I’m sorry, baby. You can some with me.”
I followed her into a small, windowless room and stood anxiously as the door closed us inside. She messed with her clothes and, wait, I smelled urine. We weren’t outside and there wasn’t any dirt. Why was she peeing here? Is this where I am supposed to pee, too? I looked at the floor, then stared at Rain and tilted my head sideways. She laughed. I liked how she laughed a lot with me. I wagged my tail, then sniffed all along the tile floor, the walls, the metal pipes, and the shiny white ‘bucket’ she was sitting on. I sneezed as a strong odor burned my delicate nose on its inside. Sneezed again.
“Oops. Must be the ammonia the janitor uses, huh?”
I didn’t much like this room, but if Rain was here, I would deal with it.
“Okay. Let’s go see if we can find your family.”
Rain untied the line from the table leg and we were out in the sunshine real fast. Cold, fresh air tickled my face. Joy! And soon, dry brown grass was prickling under my paws. I could pee. Joy! I kept my eyes on Rain but I really did need to pee, squatting and letting loose a flood.
All I did was pee, but Rain was using a happy, high-pitched voice so I guess I did good. I wiggled all over and she was laughing and rubbing me up and talking. Talking to me! She was treating me like I was important. Strange but made me feel really good. And safe.
We walked across a big field to another parking lot but this one was much bigger than the one where Rain’s building was. And lots of noisy cars and trucks were moving around. Voices were loud and all mixed up, running together, and I couldn’t understand any words. I stayed close to Rain’s legs, my tail tucked up under my belly. I didn’t like this place either. So I stuck with Rain.
“Here we are.”
Opening a door that I almost ran into -- I would have if Rain hadn’t pulled back on the line just in time, because I could see through to the other side -- we walked into a building that smelled great. Food smells were everywhere and other dogs had been here, too. Rain laughed as my nose went to the floor and stayed there as I sniffed and wobbled and darted here and all over. She just followed me. Once, I almost forgot about her and scared myself. My toenails scrabbled on the slippery floor as a skidded back around a corner that hid her from my view for a minute. She knelt and gave me a hug.
“It’s okay. I’m here, baby.”
A wall of leather and cloth loops, all sizes and colors, loomed ahead. A short woman with stinky shoes walked over and stretched her hand out to me but I shrank back and hid behind Rain. The two of them started talking. I stretched my nose toward the woman’s shoes. Not cow. Horse. Rain was telling Stinky Shoes about finding me. I started sniffing again. I felt better when no one tried to touch me. Except Rain. I loved it when she touched me.
“Hey, baby, how about this one?”
Rain knelt and put a pretty red collar around my neck. It jingled when the matching lead was attached to it. I liked it because it was wide and easy on my neck. Big Man used to just loop a chain around my neck. That was yucky. This is nice, though.
“Look how pretty you are!”
Rain was happy and that made me wag my tail. I almost bowed to her, but caught myself. Maybe she wouldn’t like that. Big Man never did. But both Rain and Stinky Shoes were making over me. I hovered between liking the attention and being nervous because they were staring at me. Big Man used to ignore me except when I got to work the cattle. Me and Crazy Ass -- that’s what he called the other dog who was older than me and grumpy, who walked with a limp -- got to go out and bring in the cows regular. Big Man once said I was “a natural.” It sounded like a good thing but I got dumped anyway. But I like Rain ever so much better so I don’t want to mess up and have to go somewhere else. So I watched Rain closely, trying to please her.
I discovered that life moves very fast off the farm. Rain stopped a minute and gave some papers to Stinky Shoes. The machine Stinky Shoes tapped on made bell noises that jarred my taught nerves. I was happy when Rain rushed me out of there, carrying a small bag, but leaving behind a paper that I saw the woman putting in the window.
“That’s you, baby. I don’t know if someone is looking for you or not. But I have a plan if they aren’t. Don’t you worry.” Rain patted me on my side and, with her lips puckered, made a noise that sounded sort of like the ground squirrels that used to tease me. Funny for her to do that but it got my attention quickly.
“This way. We still have to get to the vet’s office down the street before my lunch hour is up.”
Uh-oh. I recognize that word -- vet. Yuck.
The rest of the day passed in a whirl of sights and sounds. Men started coming back to the building so I scrunched up under the table with just my chin on Rain’s feet. She couldn’t pet me easily but I could breathe in her scent so I was okay. My hip itched from a sharp prick I got at the vet’s office but I didn’t yelp when it happened. Rain had cooed at me, and kissed my face.
One time, the machine on the table rang and she picked up the plastic bone, putting it to her ear and mouth. Was she going to chew on it? No. An angry, loud voice seemed to be coming from inside the bone and I felt my hackles rise. It didn’t make sense. Where was the person? Whatever it was, Rain’s heart rate increased, and I could smell fear seeping from her skin. Her voice wasn’t the same as when she talked to me.
“I have to work late ... no, I won’t bring her home ... I know they don’t allow dogs ... did you hear back from the realtor?”
I tried to hear the words coming out of the bone but they were hard to understand because Wolfie was warning me to be careful. I kept nudging Rain’s thigh with my nose and she seemed to relax just a bit by sinking her fingers into my fur. I licked her wrist. She was helping me. I knew I could help her, too. We had to stick together.
~ to be continued ~