Birdie jumped up against the chain linked cage, wagging his tail furiously. But the family walked on by. Down the long, cemented, and bitter smelling hallway. They walked past rows and rows of caged dogs, the dogs doing their best to charm the couple and two kids. Birdie had lived in the same cage for many years. He had seen many canines come and go. Many had become sick or were too old, or had gotten adopted. Birdie’s first wish was to go beyond that cold, metal door that all the humans came and went from. The adopted dogs too. Birdie had arrived long ago when he was a puppy. The only memory of his mother were her dark chocolate eyes staring lovingly into his and her soft pink tongue. He also vaguely remembered some other puppies jumping on him and biting softly on his ear. He’d guessed those had to been his siblings. “What had happened?” Birdie asked himself that over and over as he got older. His second wish was to find his mother.
After the family had left, Birdie turned to the cage beside his. His best friend, Bully, was a middle-aged bulldog that had also lived in the same cage for years. Bully was nothing like his name, but the humans had named him that where they lived. Bully never reacted to humans well, for his old owner had beaten him badly. He had a scar across his forehead. “I lived through it all.” Bully would boast to the other homeless dogs. But Birdie knew him better. At night, when the other dogs were asleep, Bully would whimper to himself softly. Birdie always wanted to help his friend.
“Did you see that family? They looked so nice!” Birdie yipped.
Bully just sighed. “No humans are nice, Birdie.”
Bully turned away to try and get some rest. It had been a long day. Birdie went to the small window in the back of the cage and looked out. He looked up at the stars and wondered whether his mother and his future family were looking at the same ones. Tomorrow, he decided, he and Bully would try their escaping plan again. Birdie was never going to give up hope. Not ever.
The next morning, after some serious talking and re-planning, Birdie and Bully waited patiently for feeding time. Finally, the feeder came down to Bully’s cage. Birdie grinned at him and Bully nodded. The feeder opened the cage and Bully quickly used his hind legs to swing the cage all the way open, making the shocked feeder fall to the ground. The bulldog then came over and unlatched Birdie’s cage door.
“Help! The dogs have gotten loose!” The feeder yelled.
The big metal door swung opened and a man figure appeared.
“Joe, what on earth-”
Perfect. Birdie and Bully ran between the man’s legs.
“Hey!” the man yelled.
The two canines raced out the door and into the street, narrowly missing cars. They jumped into a bush and waited while they watched the two men run out of the building and call someone on their phone. For a moment, Bully and Birdie could hardly believe it. They were free! Birdie had never thought he would feel like that again.
“Isn’t it amazing Bully?” Birdie said happily as he looked around.
Bully had to agree. All around them were odd noises and sounds, some they’ve never heard or smelt before.
“Let’s look around,” Birdie decided.
After walking for a good amount of time, they came across a hot dog stand.
“Mmmmm,” Bully licked his chops. “Those look so delicious.”
Birdie studied the stand. Then, without warning, he jumped onto the stand.
“Birdie! What are you doing?”
Bully snapped out of his sausage daydream. A teenage boy, who was running the stand, had noticed Birdie and accidently shoved him too hard off the stand. Birdie fell face first onto the hard cement. The tip of his nose peeled back to reveal red.
Bully trotted over. “Are you okay?”
Birdie looked up at him and smiled. “I’m fine.”
Then he rolled away carrying two long lines of sausages.
“You got them!” Bully said while wagging his stumpy tail.
In the late evening, after the two had enjoyed their lunch, they found a park bench to sleep under. Bully licked Birdie’s wound gingerly and it reminded him of his mother.
“Bully,” Birdie said finally, “Why was your owner so mean to you?”
Bully stopped tending to Birdie’s wound and laid down.
“He was always so angry. He only kept me as a guard dog, but I couldn’t do it. So...so he would hurt me. He tried to make me mean to humans, but the thing is, I didn’t want to be cruel.”
Birdie felt sympathy for his friend.
“Do you think there are any nice humans in the world?”
Bully looked to the park thoughtfully.
“I’m not sure. But when you find one, you’ll know.”
Birdie hoped he would know soon.
Finally they curled up next to each other.
“Goodnight Bully,” Birdie said.
“Goodnight Birdie,” Bully said.
“I’m glad we left.”
When Birdie opened his eyes, he half expected to be in his cage. But it was different. The sun was shining and he could hear birds chirping. He sleepily looked beside and panic filled up inside him. Bully was gone. Birdie crawled out from under the bench and started walking. Looking around for Bully. Then he saw him. Bully was standing on the side of the road. Birdie walked up next to him.
“Morning! I’ve found breakfast! I just gotta cross the street.” Bully said proudly.
“I don’t think-” Birdie started but Bully leapt into the road.
“Bully wait!” Birdie barked after him but Bully pranced across until he saw the huge semi coming straight forward. There was a scream from Bully and then silence.
“No!” Birdie didn’t know what the huge thing that had just hit his friend was, but he knew something was wrong.
The driver got out and fell to his knees. “Oh I’m so sorry dog, I didn’t see you… Somebody help!”
Then people started coming onto the scene.
“Did you call 911?”
“Don’t touch it, it doesn't have a collar.”
“Oh, I can’t watch this!”
Birdie slipped into a nearby bush. He felt water trickle down his nose to his tongue. The water tasted of salt. Birdie had never truly cried before. He was frightened. He couldn’t see Bully anymore and large rectangle boxes had arrived with sirens blaring away on the top. He never saw his beloved friend again.
After that, Birdie changed. For days he looked for Bully, but Bully was nowhere to be found. After awhile, he realized and stopped looking for him. But he always kept Bully in his mind.
Months passed, and Birdie was now very skinny. He’s meals were mostly from a garbage can, if he was lucky. One day, Birdie was scavenging for food when he came across a trash can beside an apartment. The door to the apartment opened. A young man looked down at Birdie.
“Well, well, what do we have here? Are you alright little guy?” Birdie looked into his eyes. He knew. The man opened his door and Birdie timidly walked in. The man got him some leftovers and a bowl of water. He knew. When he had his first bath in months, and actually enjoyed it, he knew. When the man took him to the park and threw sticks for him, he knew. When that soft, loving hand petted him, he knew. This was his beginning. This is what he and Bully escaped for, this is what Bully had talked about. And now, Birdie finally knew.
He didn’t find a whole family, but he found a loving, happy companion. Maybe he would have a family one day, but for now, it was just him and the man. His mother and Bully would stay in his heart forever. He would never forget his mother’s eyes or Bully’s kindness. A month later, when the two new friends were riding in the man’s car, the man reached over to pet Birdie.
“I’m so glad you and I found each other.” Birdie smiled back at the man. He was glad too.