Darkness descends early tonight. I know I won’t survive another night in these woods. I feel much bigger than my three pounds, but out here, things are different.
I peer warily through the trees, and something catches my eye. A light glimmers in the distance, beckoning me into the dripping twilight.
I make my decision immediately. My journey will end there, come what may.
My legs tremble from cold and exhaustion, but I will them to move. As I watch my crusted paws on the dirt, I feel as though I am watching myself from above.
Up, down, up, down. I barely make a sound as I push through the undergrowth.
Up, down, up, down. Twigs and leaves infuse my coat, knots sting my skin as they pull.
Up, down, up, down. Something alive swarms on my body; in my nose, my ears, even in my tail. My long, curled claws dig into my pads, making me wince.
I keep going. At last, I reach the edge of the trees. I see a house. I see a door. I see my last chance.
I don’t care if I am spotted now – I propel myself from the bushes with the last of my energy, skittering across the yard on throbbing paws.
I reach the door! The thought of Inside makes me whimper with longing. I shakily raise my paw, scratching once.
The door swings open, and warmth envelops me. Gazing up, I can barely make out a woman’s face against the brilliant light. Her lips seem to gently curve up, and as hope rises in my chest, everything goes black.
A stream of sounds and images blur together. A woman’s concerned voice. A soft, dry towel – I may be in heaven after all. Bright, buzzing lights – now I am at the vet. The heavy scent of fear barely masks the pungent smell of medicine and antiseptic. A light in my eyes, water poured over me, soapy bubbles at my feet. It doesn’t do much good, my coat is a mess.
A pill in my mouth, gentle hands coax it down my throat. I don’t care. If this is the end, it’s better than Outside.
And then with a startling rush, I am back in my own body. I am outside a building, in a mesh bag. My fur is damp, and the sun warms me. I hear voices talking quietly.
“I wish I could keep her.”
“Do you know anyone?”
“Poor thing, she’s so darling.”
I understand; my fate hangs in the balance. Pondering this, I hear footsteps on the concrete. I swivel my head in my bag and see her just as she sees me.
As our eyes lock, an electric jolt of understanding passes between us, I am sure of it.
I was right. When she leaves, she takes me with her. We arrive at another home. I pick up the scent of other dogs; I can tell they are happy to live here. I begin to relax.
The people that surround us smell like her. This is her family.
The girl places me on a towel and talks quietly to me. Suddenly, I feel tension release on my back as a clump of my fur falls next to me. My head sags in relief.
Snip, snip, snip. I stay very still. My skin slowly loosens, and I rejoice!
Another bath. Little black bodies swirl down the drain.
Then a man with a kind face holds one of my paws as the girl gently holds me down.
“These haven’t been trimmed in at least six months,” he tells the girl, shocked.
Snip, snip, snip. I squirm, but I don’t fight.
At last I am on the hard ground. I am afraid to walk, but the girl is calling to me. I must go to her. I step, bracing myself – but there is no pain. Another step, no pain. I run!
I am scooped up, passed around, petted and hugged. Face after face smiles at me, kisses me. They call me a survivor. They say I am beautiful. My heart swells with gratitude and love.
My life before this is inconsequential. My story begins here.
At last, I am home.
Melissa Frink is one of five reader columnists whose work appears on these pages. She lives in North Tacoma with her feline daughter, Moxie Moo Frink. She has no human children at this time. Email her at melissa.j.frink@ gmail.com.