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“The Stray” a short story by Conal Gallant

I am SO honored to share today’s guest post with you. I had an article on Breed Specific Legislation ready to go but changed the schedule as soon as I received permission to share this story with you (you will be able to read about BSL next Tuesday).

What you are about to read is a short story by a hugely talented young writer. The story is about a stray dog and the writer is 15 year old, Conal Gallant.

The Stray

by Conal Gallant

Everyday I wake up and go to the same place, the park. Not the dog park like my native brethren because to them and the humans I’m an outcast, a danger, a stray. And like all other strays I’m looked down upon by the evil humans, I am not their equal. Instead, I’m just cast off by anyone who peeks a glance at my lonely, skinny, scarred figure, which to most depicts an image of an untamed beast. I also have to watch out for myself because of the police, or in other words, the dog pound. They always act like a friend so as to get your guard down but really they just want to imprison you. Being sent there is as good as admitting defeat, defeat to the hunger I have everyday, defeat to the ridicule I face, defeat to the whole world who only sees me as a problem needing to be fixed. I don’t see it this way though, I think I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m not enslaved like my brothers and sisters. No… I am free! Being free is a wonderful thing no matter what ignorant “pets” says to object to this claim. “We get fed” or “we are loved”. Who needs that when you can use your brain and think for yourself? All housebroken pets think about is the scent of other dogs’ butts.

Today on my way to the park, where I go most days to sulk and scavenge for food, I ran into a woman and her slave pet dog with the name of Rufus (I noticed the name on the collar). While walking by the dog and the human, the human bent down and tried to grab me, speaking nonsense about “Where’s your owner!” and “What should I do?” You know what I did? I bit her hand and ran away, I know my rights! After that moment of unfaltering righteousness the human’s dog started to chase me like I was a common squirrel. Noticing the size difference between myself and the large, well fed dog, I ran as quickly as possible and shouted at the dog. “Hey! What are you doing? You no longer have to obey your inferior.” The dog responded with a gigantic smile that told me it was only looking to smell my butt and to become friends with me.

I did not know what to say back or even what to think. What if it’s a trap and this dog is just looking to attack me when my guard is down? Or what if this dog really wants to be friends with me and will help me with my plan to eventually take over the world for the dog community? It’s hopeless to think someone would ever take my side. He’s probably just a dull idiot who, after smelling me, will chase his short tail? Thinking this makes me want to chase my tail but I fight the urge of succumbing to the banality of every other pet. With all of these thoughts spinning around in my head I feel like my separate ideas are playing spin the bottle, merging my original ideas into more options, further making my head spin, continuing this game forever. All of this, plus my energy being depleted from running, makes me stop and lay down on the cool pavement of the parking lot by the park.

After a short break I get up, wincing at the sight of my scarred left paw. I start to limp all the way to my home, a tunnel by a railroad track. On my way there I stop at an alleyway with lots and lots of trash cans outside of a restaurant. As I cut through the street to make towards the alleyway I feel unstoppable. No human can stop me! I take my time to eat my dinner (mud water and dead squirrel), not fearing that any employees of the restaurant will come out and attack me with a broom. While strategizing in my head what I would do if an employee did come outside, a van pops out of nowhere, blocking the only exit I have. I get up preparing to fight to the death when I see a human throw an object towards me that smells delicious. I try to fight the urge but the whiff of meat is too powerful for me. I succumb to their mind games and take a bite of the treat and before you know it, I’m headed to the dog pound van with the evil humans. The ride is short and far from sweet. I bark the whole way to the destination, yelling for other dogs to hear that I am being imprisoned and need help from some intelligent, free thinking dogs. “Turn on your humans” I yelled, “Turn on man’s best friend!” Nobody seemed to listen, care, or help me with my dilemma and when all hope felt lost the car stopped. Am I a fool for hoping it was someone who had come to save me? Probably. Nobody’s ever been there for me to trust that everything will be okay.

Myself and my captors move into the old, wood chipping building where inside there are many dogs. Some barking, some sleeping, some eating, but all to me, look happy.

“How are ya?” One older looking bulldog asks me. I don’t answer. This is just another dumb dog like the one at the park who thinks that interacting with me will change me.

“My name’s Max” The bulldog says as if I had just responded to his original question, “What’s your name? How old are you? What’s your favorite kind of food? What’s-”

“Enough!” I respond angrily, “I do not need to tell you anything!”

“Someone sounds mad.” Max says as his upbeat smile fades.“Of course I’m mad, why isn’t everyone else? We’re trapped in this prison with no future.”

“You could always be adopted” Max says with a tone of greater knowledge.

“What makes you so hopeful” I retort back to him, expecting a zero percent thoughtful answer.

“I’m hopeful because… Hope is better than sorrow… it keeps you going.” I turn away from Max, deciding that I will not invite him to join my army tasked with taking over the world.

I’ve been locked up for five hours, but it feels like five years. Each dog I see, each tile on the floor I count, each bar on my cell doesn’t make me feel hope. I haven’t felt hope much before, but I know this ain’t it. I hear the door of the dog pound open, and after looking up I see a little boy walking in with a woman.

“This one auntie Ruth! This one!” The boy says excitedly.

“Are you sure, Conal?” The woman says with a smile on her face.

“Yes” the boy says nearly jumping up and down after taking a glance at the dogs collar, “I’ll take good care of Jake.”

The woman’s smile grows even wider. After several minutes of the woman filling out paperwork and the boy patting the dog I see Max looking at me.

“What?” I say.

“You see the look on that dog’s face? That’s the sign of hope being fulfilled.”And on that note, I smile slightly, finally understanding what hope means.


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