This story is dedicated to the memory of Lucky, a real little pup who was dumped by the side of the road and didn’t make it through the day. And to all those good people who are having trouble in their relationships, and to all those who have been mugged. ❤ shortlink http://wp.me/s1BAlV-lucky
Lucky September 7, 2011 Louise Sorensen
“Why do you say he’s a Golden Retriever?” Dr. Paul asked.
Jake looked at the vet, then looked at his puppy sitting on the metal table and scratched his head. Lucky, grinned back at him.
“I dunno. He and Gurdie get along so well… they play like … I just assumed he was a Golden like her…”
“He’s gray, not golden. If anything, he looks a little like a wolf.” The vet removed the thermometer and the puppy glared at him. “Hmm. His temperature’s a little low. Be sure to keep him warm. Do you have a hot water bottle at home?“
“Hot water bottle…sure. Mostly I‘ve been keeping him next to my skin. My mom gave me a baby sling to carry him in.“ The vet gave him a quizzical look. Jake rested his hands around the pup to warm him.
“Where did you get him?”
“I was walking Gurdie along Mountain Trail, and we heard this… it sounded like a kitten screaming. She jerked the lead right out of my hand and ran… haven’t seen her move that fast in years. I followed her and found Lucky. His umbilical cord was caught around a raspberry cane. It looked like someone had dumped him like garbage with a lot other litter.” He held out his hand, remembering the heft of the little creature. “He was screaming so loud… I couldn’t tell if he was a puppy or a kitten. I held him to my chest and he quieted down…”
“And this was a week ago? Don’t worry, he looks good.“ Dr. Paul patted Jake on the shoulder. “What have you been feeding him?”
“Oh, he eats anything. Oops! Watch out. Yeah, you have to be careful, he nips.”
The vet held up his bleeding finger. “Occupational hazard. Unusual for a pup this young to have teeth. And his eyes open. You little turkey,” he shook his finger at the pup, “No biting!” He went over to a cupboard, bandaged his finger and came back with a tin. “Here’s some puppy milk mix. Follow the directions and make sure he gets enough.”
“You just cost me two days of work,“ Jake said as he put the pup into the front passenger seat of his old car. Before they were out of the parking lot, Lucky had crawled into his lap and fallen asleep.
When he got home, he found Kirsten crying on the sofa. “What‘s the matter, Babe?” he asked his girlfriend.
“Lucky chewed up my favourite shoes.” She held up the remnants of a pair of white sneakers.
“If you ask me, he was doing you a favour. You should throw those away… they were old before they were wrecked.”
“They were really comfortable. I could run really well in them. And I can‘t afford another pair.”
“I‘m sorry, Babe…are you sure it was Lucky? He was in his cage all night… I don‘t think he would have had time to chew them this morning.”
“I seriously don‘t think a phantom dog came in and chewed the crap out of my running shoes.” She flung them down and stomped out of the apartment barefoot.
“She‘ll be back,’ Jake said to Lucky. He heard a rustle in the wall and banged on it. “Damn squirrels. Maybe the squirrels chewed her shoes.” Lucky looked up at him with innocent eyes and a toothy grin.
“You sure got a lot of teeth there, Buddy,” Jake said, taking a close look at Lucky’s mouth. “More like a shark than a dog…” He frowned, then sat back on the sofa and turned on the TV.
Kristen didn‘t return, so Jake went out at two o’clock in the morning to look for her. Lucky, next to Jake‘s heart in his baby sling, was a cool weight against his skin.
“Can you track her boy?”
The pup stuck his head out of the sling and Jake followed the point of his nose. The warm foggy air muffled sound. They were walking along a dark street when Lucky growled and swiveled around. Jake turned just as someone hit him in the back of the head. Lucky jumped out of the sling with a loud growl and went for the attackers as Jake hit the ground. Two men held Jake down as a third kicked him. The kicks turned to screams as Lucky savaged the thugs and chased them off, their screams fading into the distance.
“What the hell was that all about?” Jake’s head was bleeding and his ribs were on fire. He sat on the damp asphalt until Lucky finally trotted back, then wobbled to his feet and put him in the sling. Lucky licked his paws and muzzle and rumbled a happy song.
“Thanks Buddy. But aren‘t you a little small to be a vicious guard dog?” He looked down at the little creature. “The two pound monster.” He winced as he laughed.
At home, he settled Lucky in his cage for the night.
“You missed all the excitement old girl.“ He patted Gurdie on the head. She thumped her tail at him and smiled. Kristen was asleep in bed, so he climbed under the covers and kissed her on the shoulder.
The next morning, he woke to violent shaking and screams.
“That stupid puppy of yours ate my purse!” Kristen was yelling and hitting him. His ribs stabbed him with pain as he struggled awake.
‘Oh shit… look at the time!” He got out of bed as fast as he could manage and pulled on his clothes.
“I don‘t know how he could have chewed your purse, Babe… he was in his cage all night.”
“I left it close enough he could drag it in.” Her face was wet with tears as she held up the remains of her cell phone, wallet, and purse. “This was a gift from my parents. I‘ll never be able to afford another one like this.” She stomped out of the bedroom and he heard the apartment door slam.
“I‘ll buy you another one, I promise.” Lucky was still in his cage in the living room, surrounded by shreds of Kirsten‘s purse, cosmetics and cheque book.
“You, sir, are a lot of trouble.” He let Lucky out and looked around for Gurdie. She lay asleep with her nose against the cage.
“ Gurdie, come on… breakfast.” He hurried into the kitchen, gave Lucky his breakfast, spooned canned dog food into Gurdie’s dish, rinsed her water bowl out and gave her fresh. When she didn‘t come in for breakfast, he went out to check on her. She wasn‘t breathing.
“Oh Gurdie,” he sat down beside her, ran his hand over her soft fur; she was cold and stiff. He wiped his eyes and thought about what to do. Took his cell phone out of his pocket and phoned his boss.
“Yeah. Hi Mike… look… something‘s come up, I‘m going to be a little late for work. Yeah… Gurdie died. I gotta bury her. Yeah… I‘ll be there as soon as I can.”
He wrapped her in an old sheet and carried her down the back stairs of the apartment building to the parking lot. Lucky sniffed at her while Jake, tears streaming down his face, dug her grave in a secluded area surrounded by trees. When he was finished, he put Lucky in his sling.
“Rest in peace, old girl. You were a good dog.” He left a large stone that had come up with the digging on top, to mark her grave and went to work.
Mike clapped him on the shoulder. “Sorry about Gurdie, Jake.”
Summer was over, the tourists had left; they were closing up cottages for the winter. Lucky slept in the sling until late afternoon, then wriggled to be let out. Jake and Mike went outside for lunch. The air was brisk despite the bright sun. Lucky played down by the river for awhile, then wandered back to the two men. Jake made a joke and Mike gave a loud laugh. Lucky froze and looked at Mike, then walked over to him stiff legged and bit him on the ankle. Mike roared in pain and kicked him away.
“Ow… you damned little bugger!“ Lucky bared his teeth and stalked towards him again.
“No!” Mike said firmly. “No biting.” he pointed his finger at the pup. Lucky licked the blood off of his lips, then sat down. “Good boy,” Mike wrapped a tissue around his bleeding ankle and secured it with electrical tape. “Do you think I should go see a doc?”
“Nah. Dogs’ mouths are really clean. Except… Nah… he‘s bitten me plenty of times and it‘s never gotten infected.” He held up his sore fingers for Mike’s inspection and told him about the attempted mugging the night before.
“Wow. And here I thought Kirsten hit you. That’s a good shiner, boy. But you really should train the little bugger not to bite, you know. It ain‘t civilized.” Mike finished his coffee.
“Yeah… I know.”
Jake and Lucky watched television with Kirsten until she went to bed. She had been quiet all night and Jake didn‘t feel like pushing his luck so he left her alone. They all missed Gurdie.
The next morning he went into the living room with his morning coffee. Kirsten was sitting on the sofa, a coffee cup in her hand, staring off into the distance. Lucky was in his cage. The room looked like a tornado had swept though. Shreds of books littered the floor, the furniture was chewed to splinters, and every one of Kirsten’s ceramic knick knacks had been shattered. Jake looked at the damage, then looked at his girlfriend.
“He has some way of getting out of his cage at night,” she said. “The door was locked. Nobody broke in. I‘m leaving. Call me at my mother’s place when you get El Destructo under control.” She finished her coffee and walked out.
Jake spent most of the day puzzling over Lucky‘s Houdini act.
“It don’t make sense,” Mike said. “I can see him getting out to chew things up, but I can’t see him locking himself in again after.”
Jake shook his head. “Makes no sense at all.”
That night, Jake and Lucky ate alone. No Gurdie, no Kirsten. The squirrels were rustling in the wall again and Jake went over and banged on it.
“Shut the hell up… damn squirrels.” Lucky peered at the wall and bared his teeth. They sat down on the what was left of the sofa to watch television.
“I‘m real glad you didn‘t chew up the TV, little buddy,” Jake said. Lucky snuggled down beside him. “I guess I’ll clean this place up tomorrow.” Lucky opened one eye, shut it and went to sleep.
Jake was in the middle of a TV program on dinosaurs when Lucky woke up. The animation was realistic. Jake was enjoying the antics of a young velociraptor when he felt a nudge under his arm and looked down. Lucky‘s puppy face was elongating; the grey fur shrinking into his skin. As Jake watched in horror, his skin roughened and took on the colour of the creature on TV. Jake thought of Gurdie and the cute puppy he had rescued, and Lucky morphed into a Golden Retriever pup. Jake eased himself away from the pup and looked back at the TV screen. The cute little velociraptor was still there. He looked down at Lucky, who was changing back into a duplicate of the little dinosaur.
“Golden Retriever pup, Golden Retriever pup,” Jake muttered. Lucky morphed back in to a Retriever pup and Jake ran for his camera, took a hasty picture of Lucky while he resembled a Retriever, and printed it off. He held the picture in his hand. As long as he thought of Lucky as a Golden Retriever pup, Lucky retained that shape.
“See this?” he said, holding the photo up to Lucky‘s nose. “You are a Golden Retriever pup. Not a dinosaur, Okay? A Golden Retriever pup.” Lucky sniffed the photo. Jake was still adjusting to this new situation when there was a rustling in the wall. Lucky looked up, all Golden Retriever pup. He jumped down from the sofa and toddled over to the wall. Sniffing along the baseboards, he found a small hole in the corner. Jake watched in disbelief as Lucky stretched out like a snake and entered the hole. The rustling in the wall exploded into shrieks and thumps. Then silence. Lucky flowed out of the hole, resumed the shape of a Golden Retriever pup, and scrambled up beside him. Jake sat rigid and wide eyed most of the night. Lucky slept peacefully beside him, a golden ball of fur.
The next day was a Friday. Jake couldn’t take the day off, so he took Lucky to work with him.
“What’s up? You don’t seem like yourself today,” Mike said.
“Lucky’s been acting really weird lately, and Kirsten left,” he said.
“Sorry to hear that.“ Mike shook his head. “Maybe you should take him to obedience school.” Jake looked at him, opened his mouth, then closed it again.
The next day, Jake drove out to the country and retraced his steps to the exact place where he had found Lucky. The crushed blue pupae and assortment of unearthly eggs that had been strewn all over the forest floor now looked like rotten banana skins. The leathery gray shell that Lucky had been lying beside was still there.
“I guess you’re not a happy story like E.T., eh Bud?” Jake said. He walked further into the woods, Lucky trotting at his feet. Further in, he found scorch marks over a wide area; overhead, there was a great round hole in the canopy where something big had come down.
“This must be where somebody landed and dumped you out, along with a whole bunch of your littermates. Or egg mates. What am I going to do with you?” He sat down and put his head in his hands. Lucky sat beside him and licked his hands. The sun moved far into the west before Jake finally stood up.
“I don’t know if I can trust you, but I‘m going to give you another chance. You deserve at least that for saving me from those muggers. Maybe obedience school is the right idea after all.”
Sunday he enrolled them both in obedience school. After six months, he knew how to correct the pup gently but firmly.
“Good boy. You are a Golden Retriever. Keep that shape. Good boy.” He had a sudden flash of him walking down the street; Lucky beside him wearing a baseball cap, sunglasses, and a tan furry coat, a long thin reptilian tail swaying behind him.
“What are you?”
“Good boy. You’re a dog. You’ll always be a dog. You’ll always remember to be a dog. You got that Buddy?”
“Good boy! And good dogs respect other peoples’ possessions, don’t they? They don’t chew things up and they don’t bite people.“
“Okay, use your best judgment on the biting people.”
“Tomorrow I’m going to phone Kirsten and see if she’ll give us another chance.” He ruffled the hair on Lucky‘s golden head.