I think that Pet Shop owner was disturbed because we weren’t selling – especially since it was the holiday season. Now, I would have loved for all of us to find a home, even if it meant we were separated. We could be happy apart if our homes were happy – what else could a dog want but a happy home, belly rubs and a good bone to gnaw. We live for that love. However, there must have been something about us, because no one wanted to buy just one, and no one could buy us all.
It wasn’t good for business, but neither was threatening us. More than once, I found myself wishing for my Mammy. But, I couldn’t mope for long; I was the alpha, her biggest and best boy. I would take care of it.
So, I staged a breakout.
It’s not as drastic as you might think. Puppies and kittens – even gerbils – have been doing it since there were pet stores. It took me three days to plan the breakout. I spent two days convincing my siblings it was for the best, and one to plan.
On Wednesdays, the Pet Shop owner took an afternoon off, leaving his assistant in charge. All my sisters had to do was loll on the ground, acting cute, while my brothers and I swung open the gate. I scampered to the rear of the shop to check on the back door. Billy – the assistant – had a bad habit of leaving the doors slightly ajar and he did not disappoint.
I gave the signal – a single bark. My brothers rushed at Billy from behind and my sisters ran under his legs. They told me the result was hysterical. All five of us ran out the back and into the alleyway.
We made it. We kept running – we are lucky we are small. We can duck under hedges and behind car tires and no one really knows we are there unless we make too much noise. While we were young, and it wasn’t easy being quiet, my little family made me proud that day.
Of course, there was a flaw in my plan. I hadn’t decided where we would go once we were free from the shop. Although we lived where it was always green, the nights at this time of year did get chilly. I’m not sure how long we’d been scampering along, but I knew I was getting tired, and my family were beginning to lag behind me. We ducked in a little alley and huddled behind a trashcan. I had spied a patch of green, with great big trees and birdsong across the road. The area wasn’t busy and I thought we could make it if we were careful.
We crossed. I acted as the guard, barking commands to my brothers and sisters, guiding them safely. Then it was my turn.
The car came from nowhere. I was nearly across, too, when I saw it. It didn’t see me. It was all noise and rushing air and smells – from the tires, the road, the car’s faulty exhaust system. I froze.
Then, so did the car.
I felt it. God. Love. My heart was full of it. I didn’t see anything; puppies – and to be generous, some cats – have no need to see heaven or God, I suppose. We are love. We have a direct connection to the Almighty; we are little bright spots of divine grace here on earth. Well, most of the time – I’m pretty sure that surly hound down the way was a fluke.
I felt my body fill with warmth and the fear of the car, the fear for my brothers and sisters, disappeared.
Claude, my sweet little Claude. Why are you out here in the cold?
“That Pet Shop owner, he threatened my brothers and sisters. We had to leave.”
And is it better out here? That car is about to take your life. Where would your family be without you?
I almost felt fear, but it was soothed so fast I wasn’t sure. I didn’t have anything to say to God, except: “I’m sorry.”
I don’t think God wanted my remorse. Claude, you are a special pup, and you take great risks for those you love. We will watch you, and We will see.
My interview with heaven was over and everything sped up, including me. I was on the sidewalk and the car, the one that had nearly squished me underneath its tires, had flown by. My brothers and sisters were all in a row, gaping at me. I stared back, breathing hard.
“Daddy! Daddy! Look at the puppies! Look!”
We were all too shocked to run, and none of us really wanted to. The little girl looked sweet, and her father, a Santa hat stuck in his back pocket, had kindness radiating from his eyes.
To be continued…
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