S Barizon Dog Gone

Dog Gone The last two scratches at the screen door were loud enough to startle Sandy out of a sound sleep. Although, her...

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Dog Gone The last two scratches at the screen door were loud enough to startle Sandy out of a sound sleep. Although, her muscle memory insisted there had been a third. She sat straight up in bed, throwing her arm against her snoring husband’s back. “Charlie, did you hear that?” Obviously, not, but the urgency in her voice jerked him awake in time to hear what came next. Scratch. Scratch. Scratch *

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Sandy met Baldo at the local animal rescue shelter. She wanted to do some preliminary scouting before dragging her husband in to “help” pick out the family’s first and only dog. She didn’t need his help. She knew exactly what she wanted; a sweet tempered, medium sized, yellow lab, just like the one she passed on her early morning walks. The dog’s owner readily obliged Sandy a few moments with her pet. Sandy reveled in the animal’s eager greetings, and nose nudges - inviting her to cup his snout. “Your dog has the most soulful eyes,” Sandy gushed. “Where did you get him?” Sandy was dubious when the owner suggested the Peninsula Humane Society. What were the chances she’d be lucky enough to find such a popular breed waiting to be adopted? So, she did what she did best. She “put it out there.” Her sons called her “New Age.” Her husband called her “Oprah.” Sandy had a gift for wishing upon stars. That’s how she got her husband, Charlie. He was the reluctant one, afraid of becoming too attached to a dog. Luckily, Charlie was too attached to Sandy. He was not fond of seeing her start off alone on her walks when he left for work at 5:00AM. She had been through a number of walking partners through the years, but morning people are hard to come by, especially 5:00 in the morning people. Charlie acquiesced. She needed a reliable, live-in walking companion. All he asked was that the dog be a male. Sandy had made her way down the corridor, scanning the open stalls like a prison guard performing a bed check on the inmates. When a pair of eyes looked up at her, she felt the dogs trepidation. “Would you like to come home with me?”

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Their responses varied from skittish indifference, to clueless enthusiasm. Then, she came upon a promising pair of eyes. They fixed on each other for a few telling moments. Sandy was taken with the penetrating dark brown pupils, searching with hopeful intensity. There was a comforting familiarity about those eyes. “Would you like to come home with me?” The answer came with a soft whimper, a wagging tail, and a reverent lick to Sandy’s fingers curled through the fence that separated them. They had both made their choice. It wasn’t until their eyes finally disengaged that Sandy stepped back to get a good look at the rest of her soonto-be walking companion. What appeared to be a medium sized, yellow retriever pranced back and forth while she read the ID card on the stall. The breed was listed as a Lab mix, the sex, male. The dog’s name was “Buttercup.” The next day, Charlie and their two sons accompanied Sandy to the shelter’s clinic. Buttercup had had a mandatory neutering procedure. The three men sat caucusing in the waiting room. They determined that their dog was not going by the name of “Buttercup.” After brief deliberation, the new addition to the family was renamed “Baldo.” When the volunteer brought Baldo out into the waiting room, she explained that he was still a bit “loopy” from the anesthesia. Charlie bent down and gave Baldo a pat on the head then looked up at me and winked. “He’s got your eyes,” he teased. On our way out the door, Baldo stopped short, lifted his leg, and shot a stream of pee across the entrance that landed into a potted ficus without spilling a drop. I turned to my husband and countered. “He’s got your aim!”

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I smelled her coming. She smelled like bacon. She looked like my kind of food source. I wanted out of this cold, hard place and away from that wire-haired mongrel who refused to share his bowl. Naturally, I sat up and fixed my eyes on hers. My tail went into high gear making it hard for me to sit. I heard something in her voice that made me want to shift back and forth like I do when I’m waiting to be fed. She kept showing her teeth, but I didn’t feel threatened. She was a Beta. I put my paw up on the separation between us. She did the same. When I licked her, I knew I was “in.” I didn’t take my eyes off hers for a second. It was that easy. I met the Alpha when the whole pack of them came to get me. He smelled like BBQ. I knew I impressed him when I let go with a good one, watering the greenery, neat as you please. I couldn’t help myself after what that place put me through. I was jumping when Alpha and Beta brought me to their den. The whole place smelled like food!

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It was an easy gig. Get the Beta up at precisely the same time every morning when it was still dark. First, I’d nudge her paw with my cold nose. Then, fix my eyes on her until she opened hers. Sometimes, I’d have to let out a few whimpers. Occasionally, I’d be sent back to my pillow. “Go back to bed-bed, Baldo. It’s Sunday.” She’d say. But, I always got fed first; it was the law. Naturally, the Alpha got too attached. He took me everywhere with him in the truck. My place was on the passenger side with the window rolled down - even when the Beta came with us. She sat in the middle straddling the hump on the floor board and the gear shift. But, I stayed close to the her. She’d toss me roasted chicken skin and Sunday leftovers when Alpha wasn’t looking. Alpha always fed me the same old stuff from a bag. Sometimes, I’d hear him say, “Sandy, did you feed Baldo?” I never let on. I always looked like I had never been fed. At exactly the same time every night, I’d start herding them into the bedroom. I’d stand by the door and look back at them with my big browns as they sat staring into a flickering light box. If they didn’t come, I’d stand in front of the light box. Most of the time they obeyed, but sometimes I had to wait, and wait, and wait. When I saw to it that they were in bed, I went over to my pillow, circled it three times, and laid myself out. The same time every night, I’d get the urge, trot over to the sliding door leading to the backyard and scratch three times for out. When I was done, I did the same thing. Three perfectly spaced scratches at the screen door let me back in - what a system. Too many feedings and too many walks later, I started having a hard time getting up from my pillow. My hind legs weren’t working. Beta kept wiping pee off her hardwood floors. Alpha started feeling around this big lump on my belly. The lump felt hot to the touch and it kept getting bigger and bigger. The look on his face made me want to lick his hand. I felt bad for him, he was that attached. After a while, I’d look into their eyes, and feel myself pulling away. Then, they were gone. *

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Scratch. Scratch. Scratch. They shot each other a wide-eyed look. The deliberate strokes, the spacing, even the timing of a quarter to five in the morning, caused the hairs on the back of their necks to stand on end. They knew those scratches. Hadn’t they been responding to them, day and night, for the past fourteen

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years? It was Baldo’s signal after answering nature’s call; three scratches at the screen door when he wanted back in. “Go see what it is,” Sandy whispered. Obediently, Charlie grabbed the flashlight, unlocked the sliding glass door, and disappeared through the curtains. Sandy sat up in the dark, holding her breath. She listened for Charlie’s padded footsteps on the deck, then down the steps to the dew-covered lawn. He returned with flashlight in hand. “So, what was out there?” Charlie crawled into bed avoiding eye contact with his wife. He lay back onto his pillow, his hands cradling his head behind him, and stared straight up at the ceiling. “I saw paw prints on the steps.” The words hung heavy in the darkness. They lay in each other’s arms questioning the impossibility. Just this morning, the vet had assured them, “It was his time.” They’d held Baldo all the way through the procedure. Their eyes fixed on one another to the end.

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Pdf Entry Information Exhibitor Name: Sue Barizon WEN: 8F4C12 Division: FA - 357 - SF/Peninsula Writers Cl Class: 01 San Francisso/Peninsula Writers Title: Dog Gone Description: A dog leaves its owner a sign after its put to sleep.

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