One Good Dog

March 4, 2008
By Indira Gutierrez, West Valley City, UT

He wore the collar loyally and tightly, each painful inhale a struggle. The scabbed wounds around his neck irritated the fresh open ones still moist with blood and exposed flesh; flies took advantage of this and pestered him constantly; biting at the soft and dangling tissue, the sound of their wings drilling into his ears. The suffocating mid-day summer heat created foul odors which smothered his nasal passages and churned his stomach unpleasantly. But he knew he must endure, be a good, loyal dog and stay put for his master no matter what.
Two hot dry weeks of misery had gone by, each day seemingly longer and lonelier than the last, but his loyalty and love for his master held him steadfastly fastened to a thin wooden spike driven into the cracked clay earth below. The rope holding his collar was old and worn, unraveling in places. He could easily break away and be free, even the old leather collar which had grown into his flesh causing those nasty wounds, was cracked and peeling. He could have easily removed it with a quick tug, yet these dangerous thoughts of liberation, dare not cross his mind. He could never betray his master.
A few feet away lay another loyal pet, which was not tied to anything physical at all. He lay deeply panting from the heat, eyes slightly dilated, exhausted by the glaring shine and the fierce, furnace like heat waves radiating from the sun. The great ball of fire rested against the cool blue sky, mocking their torment.
The fellow dog gasped, “I’m dying,” looking old, gray, and faded; indeed as if he were dying.
“All my life I have been a good dog. I have never left my place though I could have many times.”
The other replied in a solemn tone, “That is very noble and loyal.”
“No,” growled the other, “I’m dying, and all my life I’ve been foolishly waiting for a master who is never here, and when he is, I am just as neglected and forgotten as when he was gone.”
Anger rose in the first, igniting a furious flame within the darkness of his eyes. Teeth bared he barked, “You are a fool- but only for saying such a thing!”
The empty lot was silent but for the whistles of the dry wind stirring up dust. The dying dog paused his continual panting, and lightly closed his eyes.
“Maybe I’m wrong and our master has been as loyal to us, as we have been to him, why then are you wounded?”
Sadness filled the first, but he managed to summon a stubborn and false strength in his voice as he said, “Because we are good dogs.”
A shadow fell over the yard as a lonely cloud rolled before the sun. Briefly it’s once tormenting warmth was gone and replaced by a silent and still nothingness, as if the air itself had be snuffed out and ceased to exist.
“Do you know what is beyond that gate - beyond this infernal torment?” The stillness in the air persisted even as once again the sun shone brightly its cancerous rays stabbing at the first’s exposed and damaged flesh. The pain of this was ignored as the question posed by the dying dog took over his mind. Was there such as thing as “beyond the gate?” this left him at a loss for words.
“Neither do I.”
With that, the older dog gave a deep shuddering sigh, his body sagging wearily into a slump. Death came quickly and quietly as the sun gloated mightily from above.
This newfound loneliness swept through the remaining animal awakening a once hidden or at least, controlled panic. His heart beat wildly, and his paws paced nervously.
“My master will come…” He thought observing the corpse beside him.
The corpse within him was growing weary, nagging him with fatigue. A seductive warm breeze blew about lifting a fine veil of sand into the air, through which the dog could see a little bird fly into the yard and perch itself on the rusted tin gate.
A deep growl of jealously grew within him, slowly his panic, sadness, and puzzlement all concentrated and focused themselves into the primal instinct to defend his territory, overpowering all other emotions or rational thought. With a fierce snarl, and thundering bark, he charged kicking up clouds of dust. The frail rope and collar broke almost instantly, falling away in pieces. The startled bird quickly flew away.
The dog just as startled at what he had done, stopped abruptly in the middle of the yard. Beyond he saw the gate, rusted, old, and swaying slightly in the breeze offering teasing glimpses of what lay ahead. He knew that behind him lay a good dog, and hopes of his master’s return. He stood between the gate and the corpse. Something about the breeze coolly licking the moist wounds around his neck and the way the sky stretched above him; blue, vast, and deep; told him, that in that moment he had no master.
The cruel red sun died on the horizon, bathing the landscape in a fiery orange hue. With a jaunty little trot, despite his exhaustion, and the evening air filling his lungs, the dog made his way down the dusty dirt road into the world beyond. His master had finally set him free.

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