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Change

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You called me Trouble. You said it was because of all the ruckus I caused when I was a puppy, but I never thought that was the truth. Despite my feeble howls when you left me in the cold, damp basement, I was a fairly shy puppy. You taught me to be shy.
Whenever I ran up to lick your hand, you slapped my nose. When I barked at those evil squirrels for trespassing, you kicked my stomach. When I whined for my dinner, you didn’t feed me for days. I was locked up with a biting chain I strived to escape. I was Idiot, I was Stupid, I was Mutt. Sometimes I forgot my real name. You would beat me when someone angered you. When you were sad, I wasn’t allowed to be happy. My fur is permanently flattened from where a muzzle was constantly too tight. I have scars on my back from you hitting me with a chain, and my tail is missing because you saw it fit to cut it off. Despite all this, I tried to be a good dog. I hopped that you would one day say, “Good boy.” I thought it was my fault.
The other dogs in the neighborhood were too afraid of you to visit me. When you took me on my monthly walk, they ran from us. Only an old tom cat ever went near me, and that was to claw at my left eye, which now doesn’t work. You would laugh when that cat scratched me. I was a lonely puppy, and an even lonelier dog. Constant pain and constant weakness plagued me because of you. With no vet visits, I was constantly ill, and you blamed me.
Then I noticed the other dogs and their masters. The dogs would do what I do, and their owners would laugh and cuddle them. The dogs would do a trick, and the owners feed them a treat. No beatings were ever handed out, although a gently slap and a firm no kept them from doing bad things. I began to wonder if it was me doing something wrong, or if it was you doing something wrong.
After that realization, I became mean and tough. I growled at everyone, barked at everyone, bit dogs that dared to go near me. The tom cat didn’t stand a chance. It was then you took an interest in me, starting calling me good dog, and feeding me treats. I just got madder at that, but you quickly taught me not to take my anger out on you. Instead you took me to a dark, moldy place. Many humans and dogs of all sorts were gathered there, but they all acted like you and me.
I saw fight after fight between dogs. Disgustingly, one dog always died. Even in my mad state, I could tell this was wrong. You didn’t care. You thrust me into the fenced area, where a huge mastiff awaited me. It was a long, bloody fight, full of pain and remorse. I learned a lesson that day: kill or be killed. So I killed and killed, and the more I killed the more you liked me, until everyone in the neighborhood liked us because it seemed you were no longer abusive.
When the night came, however, you drove me to that cold, cruel place, and I fought. You told people the wounds were from hunting tips, a car accident, a broken window, anything that made me look clumsy and you good. Soon, though, I got so good wounds were a rare thing.
Then came the day I lost, making you so mad you beat me until I was nearly dead. You threw me in the middle of a forest, were I stared at the stars until someone found me. He had a human pup with him, and they seemed sorry for my state, but there was nothing to be done. I was too close to death, to full of pain, to live. The human pup cried and screamed and hugged my neck while the man got out a gun. Sighing mournfully, he checked my dog tags.
He looked into my eyes and whispered, “I’m sorry.”
I managed one tail wag, my first and last, although my eyes said, “Don’t let this happen again, to any dog, to any animal. Fight for a change.”
He nodded, as if he understood, and then a shot rang out, a child screamed, and my last thought was, “My name isn’t Trouble, it’s Change.”



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