With my tongue flapping in the wind, I saw that the trees I passed were black and white. The buildings were black and white; the sky was black and white; everything was black and white. I’m a dog.
I didn’t mean to run away from home; I swear on bacon. It was all Idiot’s fault. (Idiot is the name I have given to a neighborhood squirrel and I hate him.)
Anyway, Idiot was running down a tree, with his bushy brown tail billowing behind him, and I just had this feeling – this gut feeling that I had to chase after him and bark. Call it what you will: fate, a muse, intuition.
Next thing you know, I was in a different part of town. Idiot scampered away and my ears perked up, not in joy but in fear. Now, I felt truly alone. Studying my surroundings, I saw a huge row of cars and a big building with a light-up sign. Panic rose in my throat, and I decided to take a lap before pausing on my hind legs. Staring up at the sky, I watched as the stars twinkled above me. I felt like there was some trick to getting home using the North Star, but I’m a dog, you see.
“Look at the puppy!” I heard someone shout from behind me.
I took offense to this as I am two and three-quarters years-old.
A small human child with pale ringlets scampered towards me, her hands outstretched. In fear, I backed away from this girl. I didn’t want her touching me; who knew where her hands had been?
“Katie, we don’t touch stray dogs,” a more mature voice said.
Someone with some sense, I thought.
“But he’s so cute!” this ‘Katie’ said.
Cocking my head, I decided to approach this small child. Clearly, she had phenomenal taste. This is why I believe in the youth of America.
Placing her hand under my snout, I gave Katie’s hand a sniff. She smelled of sugar, like the sickly-sweet cotton candy smell that Nancy smelled like when she came home from the circus after one whole afternoon of me missing her. Staring up at this little girl, I studied her dimples and how she laughed when my tongue made contact with her wrist. But this wasn’t my human. My human was a girl named Nancy, who had braces and let me sleep on the corner of her bed, even when her mother said I couldn’t. My Nancy went to school on weekdays and had soccer games on weekends.
“He seems like he’s all alone,” Katie’s mother said, kneeling down to run her hands through my coat.
“Can we take him with us?” Katie asked her mother. I was too afraid to bark.
“It’s a long drive,” the mother said. That was when I noticed that they were holding suitcases. Looking at the building, I could see a shiny luggage cart through black sliding doors. Idiot seemed to have led me to a nearby hotel. It seemed that Katie and her mother were not from the neighborhood I grew up in but were merely visitors.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see that Katie was giving her mother a puppy dog pout. Now, I’m a dog with puppy experience, but even I would have fallen for that. With that adorable look, Katie’s mother nodded. As they prepared to load me into their gigantic truck, I got a view of myself in the glossy exterior. My neck was absolutely bare. I don’t know when my collar fell off, but it was long gone. And all I could think was that I hoped Nancy had won her soccer game.
It had been a month and Katie’s home was nice, but it wasn’t mine. She lived in a three-story house with a big yard to run around in, but I missed my Nancy. I missed how she used to pretend to throw a ball and I would go chase it and then realize that there wasn’t a ball, and I would come back and she would do it again, and I would forget again and go running after the ball.
Yeah. I missed that.
I think the worst part of Katie’s house was the cat. If you look through Google, you can see images of what a demon should look like: two pointy horns, a fanged tail, a cruel demeanor. Ask any dog and we will tell you that a demon has four legs, a set of whiskers, and is a cat. Katie’s cat would try to ruin my fun, no matter what.
Like one day, Katie and her mother were out of the house, and I found some peanut butter haphazardly left open on the counter. I started going through scenarios in my mind on how to get the jar from the counter with the least amount of damage. I mean, there would be damage. That was a given. Before I could even move, I heard it. A meow. My ears flopped back down and my tail froze midair as I slowly shift my paws to face the cat.
Meow. She hollered at me again, a bit louder and a bit shriller this time. The whiskers above her eyes were pinched together as she glared at me. I knew that she wanted me to stop but that was not happening. There was peanut butter involved.
Later, when Katie and her mother got back to the house, they scolded me for the blobs of peanut butter I left around the house and the bits matted into my fur, but I couldn’t pay attention. All I could focus on was that Katie’s mother held a poster with my face on it and some letters (I don’t know what it said; I’m a dog.)
Katie sniffled as her mother packed me up into a different car. I wanted to comfort her, but I was being taken to a new place and I didn’t know where that was.
“You have to understand, sweetie. This Nancy is a little girl just like you, and she’s missing her dog.” Nancy missed me? My tail wagged. That was settled then; I had to get back pronto. “Rick is going to take him a third of the way, but we’ll get him home.” I supposed that this man with a baseball cap was Rick. No one ever formally introduced themselves to me; it was tiring. “I don’t understand why the airline won’t let us take him on a plane.” She said this part more to herself, but I’m pretty good at hearing.
Closing the door, Katie waved goodbye to me. I could see that there was something between Katie’s legs. The cat. It seemed to smirk as I was driven away.
Rick was Katie’s mom’s coworker who had a good falsetto when he tried to do all the parts to “Bohemian Rhapsody.” He had this scratchy beard starting from his cheekbone and going downwards – I wondered if his face ever got too warm. Even though he had calloused hands, he was pretty good at petting. When we stopped at a gas station, he gave me a bite of a Slim Jim. It was gross.
A little while later, I was passed into a different car. This was Rick’s cousin, Julia, who would take me more of the way back to Nancy. Julia was a petite woman who wore dangly hoops and had her nails painted a pretty pink. But when she got angry, she would curse more than anyone I ever heard. This is how I learned that everyone on the road is incompetent.
After Julia, I was passed to a guy named Matt, who took my leash hesitantly. I felt like he had a crush on Julia. After all, he told me so for a solid 40 minutes. Matt placed down a tarp on the seat of his car. I took that as a challenge, and I got rid of it in minutes.
When we started nearing a pond, I barked. I knew that pond. This was my home! Matt with the tarp had brought me home!
“Hello, squirrels!” I shouted even though they suck, as we neared closer to the street I lived on.
When we got closer to the house, I saw the rope swing, the basketball net that has chewing marks on the base (not my fault), and a pot of flowers with the ceramic broken and soil spilling out (my fault). But most important, I saw a little girl. Dark hair and braces. My Nancy!
“Let me out, Matt! Let me out!” I barked.
When Matt finally stopped the car, I pawed at the window. He let me out and I ran out to my human. She always gives the best hugs. Katie was nice, but her home was just a house to me. Licking Nancy’s face repeatedly, I realized that I was finally home.