“We don’t have much time, Daisy,” he said. Well, he didn’t call me Daisy, a name I was given later. But explaining the names dogs use for each other would be like trying to teach you the nuance of Cantonese. Even if you learn it, you won’t quite get it.
“It’s a dangerous world out there. This could save your life. Wherever you go, no matter what happens, if you’re ever in trouble and you can’t make a run for it… tilt your head slightly to the right and twitch your ear, like this.”
He demonstrated. It was the most endearing thing I’d ever seen. Before I could test it out in response, I was scooped up by unseen hands, and I was gone from the hoarder house forever.
We knew we had it good at the Atlanta Humane Society. We’d heard the horror stories about dogs sent to kill shelters, or cosmetics testing facilities, or Britney Spears’ house. We lived a comfortable, if slightly sterile, existence, and we rooted for all the dogs to find a new home. Not the cats. Screw cats. They’ll murder you in your sleep by lying on your face and smothering you. This is common knowledge among dogs. Why can’t people see this? We’re trying to protect you.
Anyway, the dogs all gave each other pep talks and cheered when an adoption happened. But really, we were like those kids on The Glee Project. Sure, you put a camera on me and I’d tell you we’re like a family and we all loved each other, but the truth was: Screw them. I was there to WIN, and time was not on my side.
Once you’re out of the puppy room, you’ve lost a certain edge of adorability. Plus we were competing against canine breeders, with their claims of providing a pedigreed companion. Those dogs have more inbreeding than the British royals. They’ve all got bad hips and emotional problems. Plus, there’s a name for beautiful creatures who command top-dollar for affection and companionship. They’re called whores.
I’d been at the Humane Society almost three months the day I first heard their voices. I perked up at the sound — they didn’t sound like Atlanta. They sounded like Mississippi. The big goofy redhead was obviously a soft sell. I was watching him melt into a puddle of goo at every cage. He’d adopt all of us if given the chance. No thanks, pal. I’ve lived that.
The other one in the sweater vest had a kind face, but was clearly calling the shots. I knew a Chow Chow just like him. Loveable, but firm. He was telling the staff they wouldn’t consider any dog under a year old. No puppies. Crap. It was time to pull out the big guns.
The boys stopped in front of me. I tried to look as mature as possible. Casual. Refined. My tail started thumping. Stupid tail, it betrays every emotion. I gazed at each of them individually. I was certain. These would be my people.
“She’s not even four months,” said Sweater Vest. “You do not want to train a puppy, Topher. Trust me.”
I wanted to scream. I’d managed to get out of Mississippi and make it all the way to Atlanta. I needed to believe that when the right person came along, I would stand out, and they’d take a chance on me. I just wanted to make a family, even if it was made up of unexpected components. If only they knew what that was like.
And then they looked back at me. I gazed into their eyes. I tilted my head to the right. I twitched my ear.
And we went home.
Daisy lives in a brick house with her people, one of whom is author Topher Payne, who can be reached at topherpayne.com. Her interests include digging, stealing socks, and protecting her people from cats.