As I sit, staring in to his his big brown eyes, I see my reflection staring back at me. He bows his head and looks to the floor before slinking off to curl up on his bed. I still don’t think he likes me. He hates me in fact. All my life I’ve been a cat person, used to their mannerisms and their cattish ways, so I can’t speak his language. He lets out a soft whine from across the room but I don’t know what he wants. All those horror stories I’ve read in the past about detached mothers not loving their offspring are now my reality. I’m panicking inside. The gravity of what I’ve got myself in to hits me full force. I’m now responsible for something else for the first time in my life. This living, breathing bundle of bones is mine for the next ten years.
The smell of dog piss still lingers in the air. I stare at the large, dark stain on the carpet and then I stare at him. I watch the ribcage of his white belly rise and fall slowly with each breath. I see his soft, black paws twitch and shake as he’s off somewhere else in his dreams – in a happy place chasing squirrels. The battered fury toys I spent a fortune on lie torn and discarded around his bed. None of them lasted longer than a day. He senses me looking at him and opens his eyes to stare back. I feel like I need to say something but I don’t know what. The silence of the room grows tense. I offer him a weak smile, half expecting him to smile back, and look away.
The time arrives for our morning walk. I’m sick of this routine already. I want to be able to come and go as I please, to go meet my friends or stay out partying for days. Not that I ever did any of these things before. I’m missing a life that I never even had. He stands calmly as I fiddle with his collar and leash. I finally get them on and he leads me out the door.
The grassy field at the end of my road is still damp from yesterday’s downpour. There’s not a person in sight, the strong wind keeping the crowds away. I feel him pick up speed next to my legs as he has the park in his sights. His tail wags and his pink tongue hangs out of his mouth. He sniffs the trees, the leaves, the flowers, the empty drink cans, the crisp packets and – his favourite of all – the plastic bags that float past him in the breeze. Everything is amazing to him. Everything is new. After a lifetime spent in caged kennels he’s living his life for the very first time.
I unclip his leash and he stays close to me, leaning in to my body. I take his favourite ball from my pocket and he follows it with his eyes that are now so alert. The tennis ball soars through the air and he’s gone quick as a flash. I watch his slender black body dart through the grass like his life depends on it. He grabs the ball in his slobbery mouth and races back to me, dropping it at my feet. His tail bats to and fro like crazy. In this very moment he wants one thing from me and nothing else. I send the ball hurling through the air again and he’s gone. Every time he leaves my side I’m scared he’ll never be back. But he is.
A panting mess he follows me over to a graffiti covered black bench that overlooks the park. I sit down and he stops between my legs, staring up at me with those heartbreaking hazel eyes. He is a living being, with a mind and soul just like me. The breeze lets up for the first time in days and I can feel myself breathe again. I clutch his fury face between my hands and kiss his forehead, hoping it means as much to him as it does to me. He looks away, across the fields and in to the park. He can see further than me, maybe he’s spotted a rabbit, but he stays with me. Leaning in to my thighs with my hands around his belly. For the first time in my life I feel my heart expand and I know in that moment that I would throw myself in front of a moving train for this creature. I stroke his floppy ears and say in to them “we’re alright, aren’t we?” He responds by gazing back in to my eyes and I know that we are going to be just fine.