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| There, in the middle of the street, a broken and battered animal. I felt his heart and found only a slight
murmur. As I pulled him into my lap, he turned his head to me. Sniffed my scent and then turned away. I
was not who he had spent the last months and weeks searching for. I was not the one for whom he had
I was the one, however, who, if I ever found the driver of that pickup, was going to neuter him with two
quick kicks to the groin. And then add a busted mouth for good measure.
It was not until I had carried him in my arms to my SUV and loaded him into the rear seating area that
I actually learned his name and began to comprehend a little of his terrible pain and discontent.
His nametag read Jake, and gave a phone number and an address half way across the country in Sioux City,
Iowa. It took a while to unravel the mystery of why he was here in the middle of the street in Palo Alto,
California. His emaciated body and bloody paws were quick clues. He had traveled a long distance retracing
his way home and then back again to the very spot where he had been dumped in the street, some 3,400
miles to complete the startling round trip.
He had waited here in the middle of the street for his master to return after he had been put out of a car
or truck or van, or maybe an SUV like mine. The cold and rain and the sound of the angry horns that passed
him by the first time eventually told him his master was not coming back.
Had it taken a day, a week, a month of dodging from the street to the sidewalk and back again until he had
finally given up on his master's return and begun his long trek home? Who knows? I know, because I work
with an animal shelter, that he did not start the trip home immediately.
It must have frightened him greatly to feel so abandoned. Then had come the heartbreak of knowing it
was true. So there had been nothing left to do except find his way home.
Some say dogs can follow a scent more than 20,000 miles away. So it must have been easy enough for
Jake to put his head down and start the trip across country back home. That had been the easy part.
Then had come living through the heat of summer followed by the cold of winter-- the discomfort of which
for a house dog was greatly heightened by rain, thunder and lightening. Until, now at the slightest rumble
across the sky, his entire body would begin to tremble and shake uncontrollably.
The hunger and thirst had been unbearable. Used to having two free meals a day, drinking fresh water
from his bowl, and then sleeping upon his bead, Jake had almost succumbed to hunger before beginning to
forage for birds, squirrels and even a cat or two.
By the time he had reached Bolder, Colorado, he had been shot at several times; suffering a puncture
wound of his left hind leg, while scavengering for leftovers in dirty trash cans. The wound and the constant
dysentery from such a drastic change in diet, including eating rotting food and drinking whatever water he
could find, had made his travels even more difficult.
The frequent and vicious dogfights had added to his misery, for he was ill equipped to take on the pack
and not the least bit interested in joining them. The attack by the black lab that had left a deep gash in his
side and had torn away all of the claws on his front paw weighed heavily upon his memory. He had to lie on
his back and offer his throat to avoid being hut even more. After that he limped away, not towards, the scent
of a fellow dog. One can only imagine his heightened misery when upon finally arriving back at 100 Robin
Hood Road, Sioux City, Iowa no one was home.
Confused and dejected, Jake had waited there too. All too soon to realize that his return had been
meaningless. There were no familiar smells there now. Only the smells of defeat and desertion.
He paced the yard, front to back, hoping for some familiar scent. Stopping now and again to sit perfectly
erect and sniff the air. What was it that had changed so drastically?
He liked to remember the peaceful times when he sat by the man and received gentle strokes along his head
and soft, tingling scratches behind his ears. And the occasional rough pat on his shoulder made him feel
appreciated. The woman had called him "lover" and "her handsome man" in a voice so soft and caring he
had wanted to cry. The children had chased after him in the yard and thrown sticks and their favorite
Frisbee for him to catch.
Then had come the anger, shouts, and abuse. Abuse of the woman, then the children. And finally him.
He did not understand the concepts of "job loss" or "substance abuse," although he had begun to pull away
from the man's breath then. Even so he had gone with him when the man left the others behind, happy to
jump in the back of the man's truck thinking it might be a pleasure ride to hunt some coons or deer.
But the ride had been very long. The man had stopped several times leaving him in the truck overnight.
Then moving farther away from home the next morning until finally a deep sense of dread had fallen upon
him that had foretold the end of days of happiness, home, and unconditional love.
The worst moment of all coming when the man had called for him to get down and he had cringed
backwards against the cab of the truck, only to have the man grab him by his collar and throw him into the
street. When the man slammed the rear hatch closed and got back in the truck, he had run to the
passenger's side and danced up and down to be allowed in. But the truck had sped away almost crushing his
front paws under its heavy wheels. He stood staring after the truck. And then he had just sat down very
erect, in the street, at the end of time, in the rain.
He rested at the house quietly for several days anyway, feeding on the neighbors’ garbage and drinking
water from the street and a nearby pond that he remembered from before. Until he heard the gunshots
again and decided to go back now to where he had last been with the only person he could fully love. The
very thought of the long trek back to California enough to break the will of the strongest animal. And yet, he
had succeeded. Somehow.
Only to suffer a double torture to his mind and body as he sat there a second time, ears up, tail in an
involuntary wag, and eyes bright for the first time in a long time, watching a different, dirty, pickup truck
approach, hoping desperately that it might be the man. But this truck had aimed its headlights straight at
him with a vastly different purpose than reunion. Too broken to move now, he had welcomed the crash of
the front bumper and the terrible bounces under the truck’s chassis. When it had passed, he just lay down to
die, unaware of the ugly laugh and cackles of that real smartass truck driver.
I had found Jake emaciated, scarred and bruised, flea and tick ridden, infected with heartworm, and
favoring a broken left leg. After a period for treatment, including surgery to repair his leg and stitches for his
wounds at our nearby animal hospital, Jake had endured an extended stay at the shelter to recover from
heartworm. The treatment to cure heartworm was potentially as deadly a threat to life as all of his wounds.
I saw that he recovered from his tribulations, if not from his broken heart. During that time, I made
inquiries about the truck driver who had deliberately run over him and if any one had seen the vehicle that
had left Jake behind on that street originally.
The time I spent sharpening my hunting knife and picturing it slicing away at the groins of both of Jake’s
traitors ending in nothing more than wasted fantasies.
Today Jake rides shotgun with me in my SUV, loves to surf, gets "two-free-a-day" with fresh water,
and sleeps on his own bed . . . sometimes. (Some of the time, he sleeps with me.)
So, for the most part, Jake is a well and happy dog once again. But, I often wonder just what he is thinking as
we ride along a rain-swept, deserted street or out into the countryside.
For whenever Jake turns and looks at me with his sad eyes, I know I am not the one he had waited for.
©2016 David M. Ackerman [All Rights Reserved]
|NEW REVIEWS: A story filled with so much sorrow and love. I could not stop crying. I have a dog named
Toby, and I cannot imagine ever leaving him to such danger and heartbreak. Thanks for a lovely if
heartbreaking story, and welcome to LMI, David. *****__Su Chang-Wu.
A powerful and poignant story surly written by someone who must own a dog and love it deeply. Welcome
David! There are so many moments in your story that broke my heart. I appreciate the kind ending, but I
can never forget the pain dispensed to that poor animal. Sometimes we are a very hard people who need to
be reminded of our humanity, as your story so aptly does. Thank you, and keep on writing.*****__Michelle
WOW! You got ink, man! A most powerfully written piece that made me cringe and brought tears to my
eyes. Not easy for me to say because I am the kind of man who would still be hunting down those bastards
even now, ready to shove a Glock-17 up their asses. Welcome to LMI, David. It is a pleasure
to read such a stirring piece from a real man.*****__Anthony M. Gullatta.
I like a good heart-wrenching story, which this certainly is. Reminds me of some of the high energy tales
that my Great Uncle Jack often told about the animal kingdom. It is a true art to explain with such care and
tenderness what goes on in the heart and mind of a dog. Welcome, David, and send us more of the same.
*****__David W. Carpenter.