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The Runaway Stray


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Ohhhh, so we can post stories on here now, too? That's awesome. I think I might have gotten the courage to post some of my writing on here. For those of you who don't know, one of my goals in life is to become a published author. Anyway, here it goes... I wrote this story a few months ago, and it kind of has a Christmas theme at the end. I actually don't really like this story anymore, but I never like my writing after three months. Erm... yeah, so Merry Christmas!!


The Runaway Stray


The dog shivered. She was chained to a pole in her owner’s backyard on a cold, snowy day in December. The yard was filled with a bunch of junk: old tires, the hood of a car, a rusty shovel, a pile of aluminum cans next to the back door, and, of course, the pole. A poorly made fence surrounded the whole yard except for on the one side where there was a plank missing.


A caring owner would have made a nice bed for her close to a warm fireplace inside the house. Her owner didn‘t do that. She was stuck outside with nothing protecting her from the winter‘s icy blast. Her owner was rarely ever home, and when he was, the golden retriever was either ignored or abused.


The years of neglect were clearly evident on the dog. She appeared to be old, although in reality was actually only two or three years of age. You could see most of her bones protruding out from underneath a thin layer of skin, the frail structure of her body. One eyelid was half closed; the eye underneath was bloodshot. There was a limp in her right leg when she walked and her collar was severely embedded into her neck.


And she was pregnant.


Several months had passed since she had managed to get loose and roam around the neighborhood. While on her adventure, she met another golden retriever, a male. After cautiously approaching one another, they soon became friends. One thing led to another, and then she became pregnant.


Soon after she met the other dog, her owner drove on past in his old Chevy pickup. He immediately saw her and got out of the truck to recapture his dog. Of course, she did not give in to him without attempting to put up a fight and run away from him. She was weak; he was strong. Naturally, he always won the battles.


The poor dog was punished. Her owner bought a stronger chain to prevent her from escaping. Her collar was tightened. She was not fed for three days. Why the man even kept the dog in the first place was a mystery.


Now, as the dog stood up to shake a coating of fresh snow from its fur, she began pondering if it was worth running away again. She was starving and couldn’t get herself to stop shaking; she longed for warmth and something hot to eat. She was exposed to the direct cold; there was no doghouse, just a chain fastened around a pole. It seemed impossible to break free. If she wanted to escape, it appeared she would have to somehow tear apart the restraint around her neck.


The dog gently used her good hind leg to try to get at her collar. She yowled in pain and looked down to see a few drops of blood on her paw. The collar was implanted in her skin deeper than she had thought. She lay back down on the cold, hard ground with her head on her paws. Maybe she would try again later, after she tried to get some rest.


* * * * *


A few hours later, the dog awoke to the sound of a loud engine rumbling along the road and coming closer. Her owner was back. From where he was coming from, she did not know. It wasn’t uncommon for him to be gone for days at a time. The truck screeched to a halt in the driveway and the dog heard the door open and slam shut. He was angry at something. This wasn’t uncommon, either.


He seemed more infuriated than the dog could ever remember. Things were being knocked all over inside the house and the sounds were earsplitting to the dog. Papers were being thrown everywhere and a string of obscenities could be heard proceeding every crash.


Suddenly without warning, he appeared at the back door. The dog cowered at the sight of him and curled up near the pole. He opened the door and started walking down the old porch. In his hand was a crowbar, and fury flashed in his eyes.


“You filthy mongrel,” he said menacingly as he made his way slowly toward the dog, taking his time. It was apparent that he was drunk. “You filthy mongrel. You were never good for anything. I don’t know why I never got rid of you after she left. She didn’t want you, and I didn’t want you. Every day I look out here at you and all I can think about is her. How she betrayed me. How she went and married that man.”


By now he was in arms reach of the dog. He stopped speaking and abruptly raised the crowbar. The dog knew that now was her chance to do something, before it was too late. She had to protect herself and she had to protect her puppies. All in one motion, the dog leaped up and ripped at the man’s stomach while the crowbar came crashing down.


The crowbar missed the dog’s head by inches. Instead, it hit her square in the back. She disregarded the pain and continued attacking the man. It was a mad frenzy to the finish. She was terrified but determined to win the last battle. The man, that horrendous owner of hers, started screaming and dropped the crowbar into the snow.


“You filthy son-of-a-:censored: dog!” he repeated this several times and continued shouting in pain. Noticing that he had lost the crowbar, he swung his arms wildly at the dog and kicked her in the ribs. The kick had served its purpose. The dog yelped in agony and fell down.


“I’ll be back out here tomorrow, dog. If you ain’t dead by then, you sure as hell will be by the time I’m through with you!” he started off in the direction of the house, stumbling, but finally managing to climb up the porch steps and inside. The crowbar was left abandoned on the ground. The dog lay motionless next to it.


* * * * *


The golden retriever was in an extreme amount of pain. After regaining consciousness, she opened her eyes with great effort. It was dark but the moon was shining bright. She hurt in a million places. There was a broken rib but luckily she had not been paralyzed from the blow of the crowbar. Her neck was bleeding and the snow around her was covered in blood.


Her collar had somehow started to come free. It took her a moment to realize this, but then the curiosity got the better of her. With her left leg, her good leg, she tried once more to see if she could remove the collar. It hurt badly, but after what she had already suffered that day, she was ready to endure more pain.


Within minutes, the whole collar was loose. The problem that the dog now faced was how she was going to get the collar off of her head. This proved to be a more difficult and painful task. It took her the better part of an hour, but finally, the collar lay at her feet, dirty and soaked with blood. She would have never gotten it off if it had not been so worn down from use. The collar had managed to loosen up a bit as she tried to remove it off of her head.


The dog was tired, there was no doubt about that. All she wanted to do at this point was to lie back down on the cold snow and never get back up. However, she was ravenous and knew she had to leave before the drunken man came out in the morning, sober and ready to put up a fight. She was now free, and this gave her the motivation to get out of there. Slowly but steadily, she made her way to the part of the fence that had the missing plank and entered a new life: the life of a stray.


After leaving the place that she used to call home, she searched for a new location to live. That night, she only made it about half of a mile before she had to rest. The back alley to a place called “Welsh’s Family Restaurant” served just fine as a temporary residence. The dumpster located there was overflowing with all kinds of delicious things to eat - things that she had never been allowed to have while being held prisoner by that rotten man.


Life had changed dramatically during those past few hours. She ate so much from the dumpster that she threw it all up. Never before had she been completely full. There was also another surprise in this alley: a cardboard box. Now the dog really had a place to call home; a shelter from the sleet and snow.


All was good for several days. Gradually, some of the dog’s wounds began to heal. She was able to explore new and exciting places every day and even started to gain weight, not a lot, but enough. However, she had a feeling that her puppies would soon be born. She was not far enough away from that man to feel safe.


The dog knew what she had to do. She had to find another home, this one a lot farther away from her enemy. For three days, she walked, only stopping when she absolutely had to. Some days, it snowed for hours. Every day it was freezing, the wind lashing at her body. She still kept walking.


On the third day, she came to a nice town about 75 miles east of where she had come from. As she approached the outskirts of the quiet municipality, she knew this was where she wanted to end her journey. Kids raced about throwing snowballs at each other, building snowmen and making snow forts. This was a peaceful community where everybody knew everybody, where neighbors went next door for a cup of hot chocolate and for a nice conversation.


Christmas decorations and an array of lights covered each and every foundation. It was like heaven, like a dream come true. Some of the children looked at the dog, but most kept a safe distance away from her. This was perfectly fine, she didn’t want anything to do with humans. She had a very good reason not to.


Eventually, the golden retriever found a nice place to rest. Somebody had left an empty box in their backyard, which had probably been filled with Christmas decorations just a few hours before. She could faintly hear the sounds of a television set and laughter coming from the living room. Almost instantly, the dog fell asleep, exhausted from such a long and enduring voyage.


* * * * *


The Lehman household was restless that night. The two twins, Brian and Ryan, could not fall asleep. They were both too excited about Santa coming. Would they get everything they had asked for? Would mommy and daddy like their presents? Would Santa remember to eat the cookies and milk? Was Santa even going to come? These questions and a whole lot more raced through their heads all night long.


Finally, the sun started to rise and they couldn’t keep still for any longer. The two of them got out of bed and chased each other down the stairs.


“I beat you!” Brian yelled gleefully, reaching the living room first. He stopped in his tracks with his mouth wide open. Ryan caught up to him and saw what his brother was gaping about.


“He came! You didn’t believe me, but he did. I told you so.” Ryan jumped up and down, glad that he was finally right about something and his brother wasn’t. They both raced over to the Christmas tree as their parents finally made their way sleepily into the room.


“Merry Christmas, guys! Who gets to open their presents first this year?”


Just as they were about to answer their father’s question with a shout of “Me!”, they heard the faint sounds of whimpering from outside the living room window. Silence filled the room.


The father got up from his recliner and peered out the window. His face lit up as he took in the scene before his eyes. By now, the whole family was gazing out the window. The twins gasped in astonishment.


Outside in the empty cardboard box that Mr. Lehman had placed near the garbage can, was a present for the entire family. A golden retriever with a red bow tied around its neck stared back at them, her two puppies busy nursing on their mother’s milk. In the distance, church bells began to chime the new hour. From up above, snowflakes started to fall gently towards the earth.

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