After what seemed like an eternity, I heard a noise. I pricked my ears and lifted my head, straining to hear through the dark, enclosed box I was trapped in. The noise grew closer, and my sharp hearing depicted footsteps. My heartbeat increased, and I whimpered, wanting to escape the never-ending blackness my eyes had roamed for the last few hours. A delighted gasp sounded outside, and the approaching footsteps quickened into the pitter-patter of little feet sprinting. My damp nose quivered as the pounding feet stopped. Suddenly, a beam of light pierced the darkness. I squinted, then yelped in excitement as a young girl with golden hair and soft blue eyes came into sight. Her face was alight with joy as her chubby hands closed around me, lifting me out of the claustrophobic box. The four-year old clutched my slender, fragile body to hers and squeezed me into a hug. There was a sudden flash, and I immediately became aware of my surroundings.
The spacious living room was awash with a warm, golden light. Everywhere I looked, I saw more candles, fairy lights and festive cheer. Banners hung from the walls, and ceramic figures of a jolly man in a red suit with white trim decorated every surface. The main feature of the living room was a massive dark-green pine tree, adorned with glittering tinsel, colourful baubles and golden fairy lights. Boxes decorated with paper in red, green and white tones were piled under and around the christmas tree. I glanced over in the direction of the flare of light, and found two adults, both standing together with a camera. I determined these to be the parents of the young child, which was now running her chubby hands over my fuzzy golden puppy fluff.
“Oh Mummy, Daddy, she’s just the puppy I wanted. Look at her, she is so cute!” The girl squealed. I agreed with her. My golden body was silky and shiny, gleaming in the light. I didn’t know what my face looked like, but I could imagine my wavy, floppy ears, and my deep brown eyes, filled with love and trust at every human they met.
“You should be happy with it. We got it from an award-winning breeder, and it’s a purebred labrador. It cost us over five hundred dollars, so you’d better look after it,” the male adult muttered. Immediately, a sudden surge of wariness surged over me. My hackles raised, ever so slightly. I didn’t know what it was about the man, but my sixth sense was telling me to keep an eye on him.
After a few more minutes, the girl left me while she opened the rest of her gifts under the tree. The mother of the child was on her hands and knees with the girl, helping unwrap presents, while the father stood back with his arms crossed, scowling. To amuse myself, I laid down near the Christmas tree to watch the boxes being torn apart. After a few moments, it was clear to see I had been bought into a wealthy family. The presents the child opened consisted of expensive china dolls, stuffed toys and hundreds of dollars. The money notes were tossed to the side without a second glance, until a money-box encrusted with semi-precious stones was unwrapped. Even then, there were still notes sticking out of the slot. By this point, my puppy mind had wandered, so I stood up and started playing with some discarded wrapping paper. The girl and her mother laughed at my antics, but the father sighed loudly, took the paper out of my grip and walked off.
Time passed. The Christmas tree and decorations were stored away. The ceramic dolls ended up shoved underneath the girl’s bed, forgotten. The pile of stuffed animals joined the mountain that was displayed in the girl’s bookcase. Everything else was forgotten, except me. Each day, I would follow my best friend around the house as she pestered her parents for attention. Each time, when she got the blind eye from them, I would thrust my damp nose into her hand, letting her know I was there for her. She would turn around with a radiant smile on her face, the smile she only ever showed to me. We would chase each other around the house, then, when we were tired, curl up together and sleep. When I’d awake, I would grab a blanket and gently drag it over her sleeping form.
As the months went by, I noticed myself changing too. My puppy fluff was replaced with coarser adult fur. My baby teeth were pushed from their sockets, and replaced by strong canine teeth. My size grew too, and I soon found out I couldn’t go under chairs anymore. The girl noticed too. The first time was when we were playing. She crawled under the table and squealed, expecting me to go in there and lick her. I tried to squeeze underneath the table, but my back grated against the top. Instead, I sat down and stared at her, willing her to realize I was too big. She crawled back out and sat next to me, an unreadable expression on her face. Finally, she nutted something out.
“You’re getting old, aren’t you?” The child’s deep blue eyes searched mine. I huffed in frustration and whined. I wasn’t getting old, I was getting older!
“Are you going to die soon?” She whispered. I rolled my eyes as much as I could, stood up, and shook. I was a healthy dog that had just hit adulthood, and here I was, being accused of becoming old? I looked at her once more, but she was already on her feet and running off. Following her at a jog, I traced her to her parent’s study. As usual, they were working away on their laptops, the pitter-pattering of the keyboards the only noise in the silent, dark room. My best friend tugged at her father’s sleeve, and asked the unforgivable.
“Hey Daddy, can I have a new puppy for Christmas? This one is too big and old.”
I stopped dead. I could not believe that she had asked that. With all of the fun times and memories we shared, I did not know how she could discard of me in favour of another puppy. I was barely out of puppyhood myself! Her father barely turned from the computer screen for his reply.
“Whatever your mother says.”
At that point, my mouth dropped to the ground. I yelped as she skipped over to her mother, earning a “Shut up!” from both parents. My only friend relayed the information to her mother. I held my breath. The mother closed her eyes in weariness, and I noticed the dark circles hanging heavily beneath her eyes.
“Whatever makes you happy. If you want a new puppy, you can have one this Christmas.”
The rest of that day was a blur. I somehow walked out of the study and into my owner’s bedroom, where I faced the corner and whimpered. There was a continuous train of thoughts and questions traveling full-speed through my canine brain. Why would she do this? Why can’t she see I am not old, that I have just become an adult dog? Why hadn’t the parent’s put their foot down and vocalized what I couldn’t? But, most importantly, what would happen to me next? The person who bred me wouldn’t want a desexed adult from a previous litter. What would the breeder do with me? He wouldn’t be able to sell me again, because of the high demand of puppies. I stared at the wall for hours, unable to think about anything except how I would be given away by the person that had loved me, yet was now sitting on her bed, writing about her next puppy.
All of a sudden, it was that time of year again. The tree went up. All of the decorations and banners plastered every surface. The mountain of new wrapped presents grew. The final question reared and pranced in my head like a wild stallion that would never be tamed. As each day passed, I was forgotten about more and more. A month ago, my owner would have fed me twice a day herself and sat with me as I ate. Now, it was the mother that hastily placed my food in my uncleaned bowl once a day. It would’ve been that little girl that brushed my silky fur every night before bedtime. Now, it was the father that yanked the matts out of my unwashed, tangled fur. As my condition deteriorated, so did my hope of convincing the family I wanted to stay and love them.
I was fighting a losing battle.
The day came. The last package was placed under the tree, smelling of another living animal. As soon as the package was there, I was harnessed by the father. I followed him dutifully, still trying desperately to show that I wanted to stay and love that girl for the rest of my life. He was unforgiving. I was jerked into the spare bedroom in the far corner of the house. Hastily, he threw my lead onto the bed and shut the door. There was a click, then footsteps, headed back to the study. I was shocked. Never in my life had I been locked away like this. I whined and pawed gently at the door, as I didn’t want to be blamed for gouges in the wood. But, when no one came, I curled up as close to the door as I could, trying to sleep while listening to the girl telling her parents exactly what she would do with her new puppy.
I don’t know how long I rested in the uneasy doze, but I was awoken by the door flying open. It slammed into my shoulder, and I howled as the pain flashed through my entire front leg. Immediately I was reprimanded by the father, who tightly strapped a cage around my mouth. It prevented me from opening my mouth in any way, and I struggled to breathe as the metal bars cut into my nose. He clipped on my leash and led me out of the dark bedroom. We tiptoed throughout the rest of the house, which was awash with the warm, golden light it had been when I was first brought here. I was being led quietly past the living room door when I stopped.
My previous owner and her mother had their backs to me. I could immediately tell it was her by the lithe figure and golden curls. She was cradling something to her chest, and I strained to see what it was. When the father yanked sharply on my lead and dragged me out the front door, I caught a glimpse. It was a tiny puppy, with golden fuzz and floppy, gleaming ears. It’s dark brown eyes were trusting and full of love as it looked around at it’s surroundings and new owner. I barely heard my best and only friend’s last words as I was hauled out the door for the last time.
“She’s just the puppy I wanted Mummy. She is so cute.”
By Amber Ryan