The steel cage bars were all I knew. All I'd ever know. Born then soon after brought into captivity, it's how I've always known life to be. That doesn't make it any easier, but it does set me apart from those that get brought in from the outside. At night, they'll whine and whimper and growl, jumping at the cage bars in a fruitless attempt to get away, and when someone comes in, looking to find a pup to take home, they'll bark and wiggle all over, trying to draw attention to themselves.
I'm not like that. Not anymore, anyway. Not that I want to spend my life in this cage, watching others be picked out and taken home but never leaving myself, oh no. But no one has ever taken a specific interest in me before. So here I am, laying in my cage with my head on my paws, staring at these steel bars and wondering, not for the first time, just why no one seems interested in me.
I'm not that old; not the youngest dog in the Kennel, but still a puppy. My tail and ears had been cropped, so they aren't floppy and fluffy and wagging, but others' I'd seen, who'd been taken from here, had been too. Maybe I should resume barking and wiggling for those who come looking, like I used to do. Was it that they wanted an energetic and excitable pup to take home? If so, why had I not been chosen when I used to get excited?
As I ponder this, I hear the faint clink, clink, of the Kennel door and prick my ears in its direction, without raising my head from my paws. It's too early to be feeding time, so that must mean
The yelping and whining that started up in the cages by the door spread and filled the room, confirming my thoughts. Another potential owner had arrived.
I can't see the patron, for my cage is set toward the back of the Kennel, but this doesn't bother me. After so many people have come through and overlooked me, I take little interest in the humans that come in. I know this is not the way of things, but all the same, I remain laying with my head on my paws, listening to the whines and barks as the person moves through the Kennel.
Without thinking about it, I wrap my teeth around the cage bars and begin to gnaw. It's a habit I started when I began teething that I never grew out of. Closing my eyes, I focus on the feeling of the vibrations through my teeth as they grind against the steel. Slowly, everything else fades away: all sound, every smell. My mind wanders until I am no longer aware of what is going on around me; all I am aware of is my teeth on the bars.
A strange smell penetrates my otherwise senseless state. My brow furrows and I begin to sniff at it, trying to understand the odd scent. With a start, recognition slams into my mind and I yelp in surprise, leaping back from the bars of the cage.
Shaking in both surprise and fear, I raise my eyes to the face peering in on me. Besides the people that come to bring us food and walk and bathe us, no human has ever been so close to me before. There have been the few that will stand back and look me over, but none have ever come up to the bars like this one has.
Cautiously, I step forward and sniff at the face looking in on me. The corners of its mouth turn upward and the person smiles at me, crooning, "Hey there pretty puppy. Don't be afraid, I'm not going to hurt you."
The voice is soft and comforting, soothing me and drawing me nearer. Edging closer, I sniff cautiously and take in the sight of bright green eyes partially hidden behind light brown hair. When my nose is less than an inch away from brushing the human's cheek, they draw away.
I whimper softly, hurt that they've so quickly disregarded me. Not surprised, however. This is the closest I've ever been to finding a home, yet even here, I am rejected.
As I begin to back away to the far reaches of my cage, I hear the person call out to the Kennel Master on duty. "Do you have a play-room I could take him," she pointed to me "to?"
My mind swam and I stared, wide-eyed, at the human in front of me. She wanted to take me to a play-room! That was where many potential owners took dogs before adopting them. I let out a little woof and the human turned back to me, smiling.
For the first time in ages, my tail wagged in excited anticipation.
As my cage was carried down the hall to the play-rooms, I did the best I could to keep still. It took both the Kennel Master and the girl's combined efforts to lift the cage, making it tip and rock awkwardly as they walked.
When they reached the door, the two set the cage on the ground and the Kennel Master held the door open, allowing the girl to push the cage through. I whimpered and turned a circle as she did so, disliking the feeling of the bottom of my cage scraping the floor because it sent uncomfortable chills through my paws.
The Kennel Master closed the door behind him and I stood and stared up at the two, my tail swishing in anticipation. "Alright; 'ave fun," he grunts, leaning back on the door "Tell me when you're done playin' wit' 'im an' I'll 'elp you cage 'im back up." I see the girl nod to him and then turn to me, kneeling down and slowly undoing the latches on my cage's door.
The open cage yawned before me, tempting me, daring me to make the leap into the open space of the room, but I held back. Letting out a soft whimper, I tucked my tail between my legs and backed against the far wall of the cage. The girl, pouting slightly, rose from where she'd kneeled to unlatch the cage and walked across the room. Whimpering again, I watched her go, too afraid to follow but still reluctant to leave the safety of my cage. She kneeled again and picked something up off the floor, then began walking back toward me.
"Here! Come here, boy!" She called, holding the object out in front of her and giving it a shake. I cocked my head, eyeing the object. "Commear, puppy; common." She shook the object again, reaching it further out to me. Very slowly, I edged forward, sniffing at the object, curious about it. The girl pulled it toward her and I gave a little yip, following it forward.
Steadily she pulled it away and I, totally engrossed in the curious object, followed, forgetting my unease and fear. She stopped when we stood in roughly the center of the room and I lunged forward, taking the object in my jaws. It made a loud squeak as my teeth clamped down around it and I shook it vigorously from side to side, gnawing on it to make the noise again and again. The girl laughed as she watched me and placed a hand on the top of my head, tussling my ears. I froze at her touch, suddenly reminded of my fear.
"Shhh. Don't be afraid, puppy." Her voice was as soothing as it had been back in the Cage Room and it worked to slowly calm me. Shakily, I bit down on the object again and shivered in delight when it rewarded me with yet another squeak. The girl smiled and patted me on the back. "Good boy." She crooned.
After that, I happily trotted after her as she walked about the room picking up objects and tossing them to me, scratching my ears whenever I caught one out of the air. My tail wagged nonstop; never before had I enjoyed myself so thoroughly. This was the most perfect person imaginable for an owner; she was nice and had a playfulness to her that I loved, and she was interested in me! In taking me home! Letting out a bark of joy, I pounced on another of the squeaking objects and scooped it up in my teeth. Biting down satisfactorily I turned around, searching for the girl. I spotted her walking back toward the Kennel Master and my heart swelled with joy. She was going to ask for adoption papers! She was going to take me home!
No one had ever taken an interest in me like that girl had. No one had ever looked me over so closely nor taken me into a play-room so to get to know me. No one before, and no one again.
As I stood and waited, feeling euphoria pump through my veins, I heard that soft, soothing voice say to the Kennel Master, "I'm sorry, but he's just not for me."
The only person to have ever raised my hopes so high, to make me believe that I would ever have a home where I was loved, was just another person that rejected me.
Fear enveloped me, I knew I would not be going home with her; I would be put back in my cage to sit out the rest of my days in confinement, never finding a family, never getting a home. She was going to leave and I would be alone for the rest of my life. Desperation pushed me forward and I charged at the Kennel Master and the girl, a growl pulling back my lips.
My teeth cut deep into her hand when I reached her, and though she cried out in pain and surprise, I held on relentlessly. I couldn't let her go. She couldn't leave.
I don't want to be alone.