I Hate My Dog

One morning, a young hermit dubbing himself YOUNGHERMITCRAB07 took to Orangeit--an Internet forum--on his laptop to make a confession to the entire online community:

Hey, Orangeit community. So I’ve been holding this story in for months and it’s finally time to get my feelings out.
I hate my dog. Here’s why:
Okay, let me back up a little. It all started when I was strolling through the village and I happened across a pound. In the back, they had a bunch of dogs that needed to be adopted or they’d be put down right there. (You gotta understand, my parents are dead, my girlfriend left me, I have no friends, so I thought “Why not?”)
I saw that there was this Akita, solo, in the corner. He didn’t look like he had any friends, so I was instantly drawn to him. He was in this cone of shame, except I didn’t know why at the time. I decided to take him in. I named him Phoenix because Phoenix was the bird who got burned to death and rose from the ashes, and I wanted my dog to be exactly like that. (And plus I was proud of myself for still remembering that from Mythology class all those years ago.)
The trouble started the first day, when we got home.
Not only did Phoenix knock over one of my lamps and butt-scoot all over my carpet and chase his tail to the point where it was not funny anymore… but he’d chew holes in himself. I mean he would bite at his own flesh like he didn’t have any self-control, and I couldn’t do anything to stop it. It was a grisly sight; the scars were red and deep and just really, really gross. The pound conveniently forgot to mention this little detail that I now had to deal with, but three guesses why he was in that cone of shame. Anxiety from being behind bars for so long, I guess.
But, anyway.
So I’d take him to the vet and get these massive bills all because Phoenix wanted to chow down on himself. And the annoying thing was that Phoenix ate all my food but wouldn’t touch anything I bought him from the supermarket, which also cost me a lot of money that I didn’t have. He ate my shoes, he ate my socks… Phoenix ate my bedroom slippers. He kind of reminded me of a greedy little monster who was never satisfied, no matter how much you fed him.
I couldn’t even take Phoenix out on a walk without people pointing at the scars on my dog and whispering to each other that I was some kind of abusive tool.
Eventually, I was at my wit’s end, and when one day I found Phoenix in that cone of shame, gnawing away at a hole in the wall like a little rat, I admit it.
I hit my dog.
And it didn’t stop there; it turned into a regular thing, me beating Phoenix, and it became a way for me to get my anger out.
And, if I’m being honest, I was kinda starting to like it.
I’d use bats and belts, but it didn’t break him down; if anything Phoenix tried to show me more love as if that could stop me from beating him.
As if the two sentiments would cancel out.
But his constant nuzzling served to only make me madder, and one day, I snapped. Phoenix was circling my legs so that I couldn’t even walk around my own apartment, and I grabbed him by the collar as hard as I could and dragged him back to the pound, where I dropped him off.
Finally, I was free.
No more dogs romping around, eating all my food, knocking over my lamps, chewing holes in himself. I had nothing to worry about.
There. That’s the whole ugly story. It felt good to get that off my chest.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

One evening, YOUNGHERMITCRAB07, or as he is known in the real world, Reed, was loitering outside his apartment building, enjoying a good smoke. He was reveling in the relief that came from finally getting that story out in the open, finally shutting his conscience up. Suddenly, his reverie was interrupted as a little boy walked up to him and parked himself right in the middle of Reed’s view of nothing. “Shoo,” Reed said.
The boy didn’t move.
“Go away,” Reed tried again, but the boy still didn’t move. “Hey, what’s the matter with you?” Reed looked around. “Where are your parents?”
The boy said nothing, just kept right on staring at him.
Reed turned away and scoffed. “Pssht. Kids.”
The boy pointed at him. “You’re a monster.”
Reed almost burnt his tongue on his cigarette.“Excuse me?”
“I’m a member of the Orangeit community--” the boy was saying “--li.i.am., that’s my username--and are you the one who hit your dog, then took him back to the shelter?”
“Yeah?”
“Then you’re an idiot!”
“Yeah, I’m a freaking moron. Now get out of my face.”
“We’re going to the shelter right now.”
“I’d rather not. How did you even find my address?”
“That is irrelevant; what matters is that people on Orangeit want your head. Dogs are innocent creatures and should be treated as such. That’s why we’re going to the shelter; so you can finally realize that. Oh, by the way, my name is Liam.”
“Hi, Liam. Now get off my back.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

But Liam could hardly be shaken so easily, and he eventually convinced Reed to come with him to the pound to see Phoenix. Or what would be left of him, anyhow.
They took the subway. Liam took the window seat and Reed sat awkwardly next to him. So awkwardly, in fact, that it had people on the Metro were wondering about the dynamic between them.
“So, Reed,” Liam began. “Why are you so miserable?”
“What?”
“‘Why are you so miserable?’ It’s a simple question.”
Reed shrugged, irritated, trying to ignore Liam and his silly questions. But Liam would not be ignored.
“Normally, if a person finds out that their dog has some kind of anxiety problem and chews on himself to feel good, their first reaction is not anger. Which indicates that you are not well.”
Reed snorted. “Okay, Dr. Phil, spare me a lecture.” He shook his head, trying to clear it. “I don’t know, I guess I sort of just gave up on everyone. Animals and people both. Grinning in peoples’ face, trying to be their friend, you know what I mean?”
“I could be your friend.”
Reed did a double-take, trying to discern if Liam was being genuine or not; Liam put his hand on Reed’s, smiling warmly. And, as most mean people are when something nice happens to them, Reed was speechless.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Finally, after the forty-five and a half minute Metro ride, Reed and Liam arrived at the shelter where Phoenix was dumped all those years ago. The receptionist, a great big friendly woman, greeted them warmly. “Liam!”
Immediately Reed turned on him. “You know this creep?”
“Everyone at the pound knows me,” Liam responded.
“Good to know.” He turned to the receptionist. “Would you happen to have an Akita dog with a cone of shame on his head?”
“Ask Liam,” she said proudly. “He comes by here all the time.”
“Yep. I volunteer here in my free time when I’m not at school.”
“Oh, come on,” Reed jeered.
“Anything for you, Liam,” the receptionist said. “Go ahead and walk your dad back there.”
Reed’s mouth dropped as Liam burst out laughing. “Oh, he’s not my dad. Come along, Reed.” He took his “father’s” hand and, dare Reed say, dragged him to the back where the cells were.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

“So many forgotten animals here,” Liam said, looking at all the dogs in all kinds of their shapes, sizes and states, behind bars. A piteous chorus of whimpers echoed throughout the stingy, stone room. “It kinda makes me sad.”
“So why don’t we just leave?” Reed asked bluntly. It was cold in there and the jeans he was wearing weren’t terribly clean and he just wanted to go home.
“Because I told you; we’re not leaving until you find Phoenix and makes amends with him. Because that story you told on Orangeit was just awful.”
Reed shrugged. “I’m a hermit. What are you gonna do?”
The guard to the pound was about to walk past. “Excuse me,” Liam said. “Is there a hungry Akita here with a cone of shame on his head but with unfortunate holes chewed into himself?”
The guard rolled his eyes. “This way.”
He lead them down to where Phoenix’s cell was, then he left the room; either because he couldn’t stand to see the state of the dog, or simply to handle further pound business. Phoenix was sulking in the corner; he had a black eye, a limp barely-functioning leg, and the cone of shame on his head. He was going to town, gnawing on himself to the point where he was almost bald. “Wow,” Reed said, stunned. “Looks just like he did when I first saw him.”
“Except for the fact that he’s got a black eye, a lame leg, and he’s almost completely bald,” Liam reminded. “Call out to him.”
Reed sighed. “Phoenix. Oh, Phoenix,” he said, not making much of an effort.
Liam elbowed him. “Like you mean it.”
Reed heaved, growing frustrated. “Look, this is stupid, okay? I’m outta here.” He blustered out of the room, almost bumping into the guard, who was just coming in.
“I’m guessing the reunion didn’t go well with Firebird, Fireball, Whatever His Name Is That You Told Me About?”
“Phoenix,” Liam corrected, glancing over at the poor dog. “Hopefully not for long. Am I allowed to adopt?”

* * * * * * * * * * * *

That evening, Reed moped and brooded in his apartment with a bottle of Jack Daniels until the sun set. All of a sudden, his laptop dinged. A notification from Orangeit. However, it was Liam writing a post this time. Or, as he is more commonly known on the world wide web, li.i.am:

Recently, I tracked down and met up with The Monster Who Abused His Dog and Took Him Back to the Pound, or as he is more commonly known, Reed Ross. Who lives at the Shay apartment, on Drudgery Boulevard, Room 113B. But anyway I digress.
We can all agree that the way he treated Phoenix was awful. That’s why I went back to where he dumped him and I adopted Phoenix myself.
My new dog has been an absolute joy so far--he eats all the food I set out for him and he always wants to play and he gives me non-stop kisses. But the thing that stood out to me was at the pound, that precious pup was breaking my heart, because he was still sad about what happened with his old owner. I just hope that I can do my part help him to heal and that I’m always patient with him.
I still don’t have a name for him yet. I think I’m going to call him Nussbaum but Jed, Dilbert, and Chapman are also on the table as well.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

The next morning--out of curiousity, maybe, but certainly not out of habit--Reed went to the mailroom downstairs.
“Anything for me today?” he asked the person in charge.
He looked at the young hermit strangely. “Reed Ross? You never come down here. Nobody sends you mail.”
“Yeah, I get that. Thanks.”
The mail guy returned from the back with a huge bag, addressed to Reed, of all people. “Wow…” he was saying, shaking his head in disbelief. “Looks like a hefty load. Have fun sifting through this!”
Oh, I will, Reed thought sullenly.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Reed took the hefty load upstairs to his room--he took the stairs because he liked to get a little exercise in his day--and ended up pouring it all out in the middle of his living room. Big mistake. One letter hurled:

Hello, Reed Ross. Just wrote to say how much I despise dog leaver-behinders more than dog-abusers, which is a new level of hate for me.

Another lovely letter wrote:

Dear Reed Ross: what is the matter with you? I can hardly understand dumping your dog at the pound once, but twice? And now Phoenix has been taken away from you, and you can’t do anything about it. And I’m reveling in that fact.

And the last one:

Dear Reed Ross: Someone should drop you off at the pound. The People Pound. But there is no such thing, as if you didn’t already know.

Why was Reed not surprised, granted, but why was Reed not thrilled to pieces either, saying “Hot diggity; just what I’ve always wanted”? He hadn’t even made a dent in his hate mail, there was lots more, but Reed was not in the mood to scour them all.
And there was a big mess scattered all over his floor.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Needless to say, Reed needed to get out of the house. So that evening, he took a The Night Is Still Young man trip into downtown.
To… a park. Whodathunkit?
Sitting on the bench in the park, he watched all the people walk their dogs. Of course. Reed did not want to go there in his mind, not today. So he took out his phone and scrolled through his phone as he sometimes did when he wanted to get his mind off something. The last picture he took was of his ex-man’s best friend: he and Phoenix were cheek to cheek, in a carefree selfie. Oddly enough, this didn’t make Reed feel any better, and he stuffed the phone back into his pocket in a huff.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

After that not-so-distracting trip to the park, Reed was back at his little apartment, fingers flying over the keys on his laptop. On Orangeit, once again, younghermitcrab07 started to write a post:

Okay, Confession #2 to all you Orangeit users.
The reason I took to posting in the first place was not for you good people to judge me; I just felt really bad.
I hurt someone I care about, and now I’m paying the price. I’m not gonna say his name, but for security reasons, we’ll call him Chapman.
Sometimes he comes to me in my dreams. And then they turn into nightmares. And then I wake up and pace around the apartment because I can’t sleep. Then I turn to drinking, and I go overboard drink myself into a stupor and I wake up on the kitchen floor, but that’s only happened a couple times.
It’s not like I meant to hurt him. Not at all. I wasn’t really ready for a pet and Chapman didn’t deserve to be treated like he did. I know I was a crappy owner; I have no problem admitting that. But what was I supposed to do? I couldn’t give him anything then and I can’t now.
I was a real jerk.
I’m supposed to be Catholic, so. There’s my penance for you.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

A few evenings after the semi-cathartic Orangeit post, Reed was loitering outside his apartment, when Liam strolled by, walking who else but good ole dog Phoenix. Chapman. Whoever.
The Akita dog was noticeably healthier; he looked fuller, rounder, with fur covering the spots he once had. He had a spring in his step, but still walked with a slight limp.
Reed immediately straightened up, calling out to him. “Phoenix!”
Phoenix looks up, recognizing his old owner, and he bolted. Reed took off after him… and Liam took off after him. To make sure no harm would come to his new best friend, of course.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

After about half a mile, Phoenix slowed down and set into trotting along the road, trying to lose his former owner. Reed was behind him, trying to make a connection.
“Phoenix, come on,” Reed was saying. “I’m trying to apologize, alright, buddy? This isn’t easy for me.” He inhaled, gathering courage. “I know I beat you, okay? And you didn’t deserve any of it. You’re a good dog, you really are.”
The words he had been waiting for; Phoenix immediately stopped walking--Reed’s heart jumped, thinking that his dog was coming back to him. But he planted himself at the front door of a nearby hut.
“What is it, boy?” Reed asked, Liam catching up to them.
Phoenix starts to howl. Then, an old man came to the door. “Kaka?” he said. “Kaka, is that you?”
“Kaka?” Liam and Reed repeated, incredulous.
The old man kneeled down, hugging him. “Oh, Kaka! I’ve been looking everywhere for you!”
“The twists just keep on coming,” Liam muttered.
“This is your dog?” Reed asked the old man.
“You bet your sweet tush it is! I traveled all day and night to find you, boy…”
The old man explained to the two how the dog always had a knack for wandering off, how he was going to take Kaka to get neutered and that’s why he ran away. Liam was nodding like he understood; Reed’s head stayed right where it was.
“Well, I’m glad you got Chapman--I mean, your dog back,” Liam said, an out-of-place little boy. “This is awkward. I think I’m gonna go now…” And he ran away.
“Thank you so much for finding my dogey,” the old man said to Reed, and he meant it.
Reed nodded curtly, but didn’t show any sign of leaving. He wasn’t ready to let Phoenix out of his sight, let alone his life. The old man looked up from his reunion with Kaka and asked, frankly, “Why haven’t you left yet?”
“Uh, sorry. He doesn’t…I don’t…” Reed was hemming and hawing, he knew, but he couldn’t help it.
Suddenly, the old woman came out of the hut, pointing a shaky finger at Reed. “I heard him say he beat this dog. The window was open.” She turned to Reed. “Did you beat our dog?”
Reed broke into a cold sweat. “Uh…”
The old man looked up from Kaka. “You beat our dog?”
When Reed didn’t respond right away, the old woman lifted the fragile paw of her pet. “Look, he’s crippled…”
The old man stood up, advancing on Reed. “Did you beat my dog?!”
Reed was no fool; he knew when he couldn’t take someone on--no matter that he was fifty years older. He wasted no time and hightailed it out of there.
The old woman shouted after him: “Yeah, you better run! Whippersnapper.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Reed was back in his apartment, back on Orangeit’s community forum as Younghermitcrab07, despite himself:

So not only am I an utter d*****bag, but I’m a loser. I just got the one thing I started to care about in life taken away, and I have no one to blame but myself.

I could really use a kind word right now.



Fifteen minutes passed. There was no response. And then…

Well, you ain’t gettin’ one.

People like you don’t deserve kind words.

Sorry I don’t have any kind words, but I can give you a hug. With a belt. Around your neck.

Reed sighed with disgust and slammed his laptop shut.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

A few months later on Orangeit.com, a random user girl called Rayliottaisbae, who had been following the story posted what she knew about this whole dog debacle.

Hey, I don’t know how many of you Orangeit users have been following this sad story and I didn’t want to report on it until I had all the details. But a hermit crab of a man beat his dog in the past and now the dog has returned to his original owner.
But they were a very old couple who (emergency update!!!) just died last week. The old man had a heart attack and his wife had a stroke when she found him. And now not only was the poor dog taken to the pound YET AGAIN, but the dog-beater has the nerve to want him back.
Poor, sweet, beautiful doggie. The nerve.
The nerve, like… If I were that dog, I’d be all like “No you’re not getting me back. Hitting and hating on me because I have anxiety from being in the pound; that doesn’t even make any sense. My feelings are hurt. And I want an apology in writing!” That’s what I would say if I were that dog!!!!

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

The next morning, Reed was in the area of the pound where they kept the dogs. But Liam was already there, watching the Akita behind bars, looking considerably worse than the last time they visited. The scars were deeper, the cone of shame was more prominent, and the dog had taken to the corner, where he was whimpering softly, grieving the loss of his original owners.
“You again?” Reed barked at Liam. “What do you want?”
Liam narrowed his eyes. “I could ask you the same question. You dog abuser, you.”
“Whatever. I’m just here to get him back.”
“Like anyone will let that happen. News on the web spreads faster than melted butter and now everyone in town knows what you did to Chapman.” Liam shook his head. “The entire Orangeit community is really mad at you now.”
“Well, I don’t care what you think,” Reed told him outright. “I gotta set things right. I’ll get a better job and everything; I can make it up to him.” Reed faced the dog, trying to appease. “Come here, Phoenix. Come here, boy.”
Phoenix, recognizing Reed’s voice, turned and faced the wall.
“He’s mad at you too,” Liam said.
“Phoenix…” Reed sighed. “Phoenix, you know I feel horrible about…” he lowered his voice, “what I did to you before. Can we just go? Come on. We can get behind this; we can get behind all of it.”
Phoenix didn’t respond. Reed’s shoulders fell like a brick.
“Let me try. Phoenix, boy.” Phoenix turned toward Liam’s voice and ran to the bars. “See, he still responds to the name you gave him.” Was Liam was trying to cheer Reed up, or punish him further? “That means that even though you said all that stuff about your dog on the Internet, he still sees you in a good light.”
“Yeah…” In spite of himself, Reed was slightly jealous.
“Phoenix, you want to come home with me, don’t you?” Phoenix’s response was quick: barking, jumping up and down. This encouraged Liam. “Right? You like my house. You don’t like being in this cold, dank and dingy pound, do you? And you especially don’t like living in a cramped little apartment, yes?”
“Oh, come on,” Reed said. “Will you stop?”
“Phoenix, you don’t like that mean old man mistreating you, do you?”
Phoenix began to whine, setting Reed on edge. “Alright. Enough.”
“I’d even go so far as to say that Phoenix was afraid of you.” Liam didn’t stop. “Still is, most likely. The way he's acting is like a traumatized little kid after his parents batter and berate him for months on end. Sulking in the corner, quiet… It's a shame. Only one way to find out; Phoenix, are you afraid of--”
“Knock it off!”
Reed banged on the bars of the cell, making Phoenix and Liam--who thought he’d seen everything--jump. Liam looked up to see that Reed had tears in his eyes.
“Please,” he begged. “Just stop.”
Reed turned and stormed out, almost colliding with the pound guard once again. He looked at Liam, expectant.
“Want to adopt again?”
“Yes, please.” Liam turned to his new dog. “Alrighty, Chapman. Like the sound of that?” And Chapman jumped up and down, yapping excitedly that he was familiar his pound springer. Now that there was no threat.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Several days later, Reed was on the bench in the park again, having a smoke. Seeing all the dogs being walked, he felt a little lonesome for… Speak of the devil. Liam was walking by with a happy and healthy-looking Chapman on a leash, and he stopped.
“Hey!” Liam cheered. “Speak of the devil; it’s your ex-owner! Chapman, where are your manners?”
“Hi, buddy,” he greeted, trying to be friendly. “How’s it going?”
Chapman completely turned the other way, making Reed crush the cigarette in his hand.
Liam’s eyes darted between them, noticing the tension. “Try rubbing him under the stomach,” he recommended. “He likes that.”
Reed got off the bench and knelt, sending Chapman running off into the park, in search of fun and adventure. Defeated, he sat down hard on the bench. “What are you doing here, Liam.”
“Just taking my dog for a walk in the park, is all.”
Reed winced at the word. “Your dog. Of course.”
They both looked after Chapman, who was by now running further and further into the park, and none of them wanted him to get lost.
“Funny,” Liam commented. “I thought for sure Chapman would have forgiven you by now.”
Reed half-smiled, but his heart was not in it. “You'd think so, wouldn't you.”
They watched Chapman some more, jumping up and down with glee at the sight of other dogs. Of course they had leashes on, but not Chapman. Liam had faith in his dog. A long time passed before either of them spoke again.
“Can you just tell him…” Reed began, and his voice caught, to his horror. He cleared his throat, but it was still dry. “Tell him I love him, alright?”
Liam nodded. “Of course. Absolutely, I’ll do that. Hey, Chappie?”
Liam ran off into the park, finding Chapman playing with the other dogs. And Reed sat back on the bench, watching them both, taking a long drag.

 


The End.






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