December 15, 2017

This is a story about how fast something can be taken from you, something you love, something you cherish, and something that has been with you for such a short time it seemed unfair. This is a story about how fast the most perfect prize I ever got was taken so quickly from me, and it was my fault.

It was the first day of October that I got the best gift I could ask for. I walked into the musty kennel that morning, greeted by furry faces that all looked so happy to see a new person. I looked at all of the dogs, and kept thinking to myself which one I would finally find and take home with me that very day. As I walked to the end of the third row of the energetic puppies, I saw a sad looking German Shepherd sitting at the very back of the cage it was in. I stopped for a second, and looked at it. Duke, Male, 6 years old, was what the name tag read. Duke looked at me for only a second, then turned to face the other way.

“Oh my,” my grandma said, “What a shy one, come on now.” But I couldn’t turn away from Duke, he was so sad to leave him by himself, “Sophie,” she said again, “Come on, now.” But I wouldn’t follow her.

“Grandma,” I said, “This is the one I want, and he’s just perfect.” I finally looked up from Duke and stood to face her. She took a glance at Duke, and looked at my face again, but she could tell I was serious about my decision. “Hey, Duke,” I said, looking into the sad, lonely eyes of the dog that would soon become mine. Mine, what a word it is, something would belong to me. I turned to the lady who was walking with us through the rows, and saw a nervous expression on her face.

“Ma’am, this is Duke, he was taken in about a year ago from the nearby police station. We had to take him, as you can see,” She paused and snapped twice, which made Duke stand up and take a step closer to the front of the cage door, which made him limp on one of his back legs, “Duke was wounded protecting his owner on a crime scene and took a gun shot to his back left leg. He is a scared dog, and won’t go inside loud places, because he’ll get nervous and panic.”

I looked at Duke again, and realized that he needed me, so I turned to my grandmother and said, “This is the dog, Grandma, trust me.” My grandma took one more glance at Duke and told the woman that we would take him, and she got a leash and collar for us. I opened the door of the sad little cage with the concrete floor and stuck out my hand for Duke to smell, and he did. Then I reached my hand to the top of his head and pet him for the first time. Duke took a step closer to me and I slipped the collar around his neck and attached the leash to it. I then stood up and said, “Come on Duke!” Hesitantly, he followed me, taking one last look around the place that had been his home for the past year, and limped out of the kennel and, with encouragement, into our car.

Weeks flew by with Duke, and I learned a couple things about him. He is loyal, kind, and smart. I felt as if time was kind of taken because school just started up last month, and during my free time my life was crowded with so many different things. I, of course, made time for him, I would never neglect Duke or his needs. He really is a smart dog, though. I taught him tricks, how to walk without a leash, and what words he should obey at my order. Sometimes we go to the park with my best friend, Dallie, she loves Duke just as much as I do.

“Duke!” I said, holding a treat in the air, “crawl!” At the command, Duke got on his stomach and maneuvered his way on the ground to me, even though I kept taking a step back so he would go further for it. At last, I dropped the treat on the ground for him and he gladly came and ate it. “Good job, Duke, good boy.” He looked up at me, and I saw the big brown eyes, which told such a horrible past. It made me grimace, but not fully in sorrow, but in wonder, just to think what this dog went through, only to stay loyal to his owner, was crazy, and it made me love him even more.

“Hey,” I turned around at the sound of my grandmother’s voice to see her standing there with Dallie, “Dallie wanted to see you. I’m going to make dinner soon, so don’t be too long.” She then turned around and headed downstairs, each one having audible creaks even though the door was closed.

“Hey,” Dallie said, coming in to pet Duke on top of the head, “Hey Duke, missed ya.” At his name Duke sat up and barked, which made her giggle. She then turned around to face me, “So I got this really cool thing I have to show you, my mom got it for me for my birthday.”

“Cool,” I said, not knowing if I really meant it, after all, sometimes she can get excited practically over anything, “What is it?”

“No, it isn’t boring, but I can’t tell you. Come on, I want to show you.” Dallie got up and headed towards the door, “You can bring Duke along too, I’m sure he would love to come see what it is!”

“I’m not too sure, my grandma just said that dinner will be read in a couple minutes, and you know how much she hates it when I’m late to dinner.”

“Oh, you’ll be fine! Trust me! How about you just ask her real fast, and we won’t even take too long!” As much as I didn’t want to ask my grandma about going to Dallies house, I didn’t want Dallie to be upset about me not coming, since she was so excited about whatever it was.

“Fine,” I told her exasperatedly, and then went downstairs on the short flight of stairs to the kitchen, where I found my grandmother searching through cabinets, trying to find something. “Hey grandma, can I go to Dallie’s house real fast? She wants to show me something that her mom got her for her birthday.”

“Sure,” she said, “I have to go to the store anyways because I don’t have a couple of the things I need to make dinner, so you can take your time, but I’ll be leaving right now actually, so have fun!” She walked out to our garage door, and hastily speed off to the grocery store.

“Well, at least you asked, now you can come!” Dallie started through the door, and paused for a second to see if Duke could come now, but I told her no because I don’t want to be too long anyways. “Alright, lets go then!”
“One second,” I said, “I’ll be right out, just have to grab my key.”

“Gotcha, be quick.” I turned and headed up the creaky stairs, avoiding the giant laundry piles heaped against the wall, grabbed my keys, and ran back downstairs and quickly through the front door, where Dallie was standing.

“Race ya,” I said, and sped off after seeing her grin of challenge. Even though it wasn’t far to her house, maybe a seven-minute run, she still won, “Man, I got a head start and you still won by a whole ten seconds.”
“Yep, you lost, suck it up. Anyways, I want to show you what the surprise is, I’m positive you’ll love it, Duke too, if I he was here.” I grinned, and regretted not bringing Duke with me, sure he would have loved to go running with us and to see whatever the surprise is.

“Yeah, I bet he would have. Anyways, show me what it is, I’m excited to see it.”

“Ok, be quiet though, my mom only showed me, not my dad or my brothers.”

“Got it, quiet, I can do quiet.” She led me through the front door into a small room just a couple feet to the right of it.

After closing the door, Dallie turned around and whispered, “Ready? You’re going to freak out, but don’t scream, just be quiet.” I nodded, and she opened another door that lead to a smaller room, with a lonely sad window that only faced into the garage, which made it hard to see, but Dallie turned on the light, which cast a yellow glow onto the pale walls, and I saw a small, brown kitten sleeping, wrapped up in a blanket on a small cushioned chair in the room.

“Oh my gosh! Wow, I never would have expected this! Is it a boy or girl? When did you get her? Awe, she’s adorable! Man, I should’ve brought duke, you were right! He would’ve loved to come.” I stooped over the small kitten and pet the top of its head, causing it wake up and purr.

“She’s a girl, and we got her yesterday. It’s sort of sad for her to be left in here, but we have nowhere else to hide her from my brothers,” I looked up at her in confusion and she added, “Don’t worry, were not hiding her for too long, just until this weekend when my dad gets back in town.”

“Ok, good,” Immediately after I said this, my phone in my back pocket buzzed, and I saw that it was my grandmother calling me.

“Hello?” I asked into the phone, “What is it?”

“The door is open, Sophie, and Duke is gone.” At the last words, I felt as if the world caved in on me, falling, crashing, caving in; with a merciless nature. I quickly said that I was going to be there as soon as I could, and bolted out of Dallies house, leaving no time for an explanation to her. I ran as hard and as fast as I could go, not stopping for a single second, not stopping from the cramps in my legs and stomach, fueled by the millions of questions that were in my head, and the panic that was in my heart. I covered the run in about four minutes, and when I reached my house I sped through the door to my grandmother, who was sitting down at the kitchen table, crying.

“Grandma,” I gasped, “Where is he, where did he go, and is he still in the house?” But even with any question I asked her, it only made her weep more and more. “He isn’t gone, grandma. I’ve only been away for a little bit, he isn’t far. I’ll go look for him, right now.” She grabbed my wrist, and stared at me with her puffy eyes and told me I better be careful, it isn’t always safe outside at dark, and I promised I would be. I was about to leave when the truth hit me, making me lose my breath for a couple seconds. “It’s my fault. It’s my… fault! I left the door open when I was in a rush to race Dallie out of the house. Oh no, this is my fault, all my fault. I have to find him now; I just have to.” Just when I turned to leave, Dallie came in through the door, looked around at the ransacked house and at my face and understood our problem. Duke was gone.

“Lets go,” she said, “Now.” She ran back outside, and I followed her. we were both so determined, so sure we would find him, reality never set in. Duke was gone, and it would be a miracle to find him. But when I looked in her eyes, hoping to see a ray of light, all that was in them was the terrible picture of the cold, hard, unforgiving truth lying in them, and I’m sure she saw them in mine, for a single tear slipped down her cheek, and she didn’t bother wiping it away. “We will find him, Sophie. Right?”

“Right.” I said, hoping so much that it wasn’t a lie, pleading for it to be the truth. “Lets hurry.” She nodded again, and we continued our search, calling his name, asking anyone we could find if they saw him, and searching every single place we could look in. Under a house, behind a bush, in every park, in every building complex, behind every house, near every pond, lake, or pool, but nothing was good enough, and Duke was still gone.

Dallie and I did this for three weeks straight, after every day of school, skipping anything that was planned for that day, on weekends, and every second of free time we had. But Duke, the amazing dog I fell in love with, was lost, gone to be alone, scared, without a home, probably ending up in another shelter to be someone else’s dog. But I never will forget Duke, or how much I loved him. He’ll always be with me, even though it was my fault he is gone.

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