The Rainbow Stories, Part 2: Survivor
“Come on, boy. Let’s go.”
“Yay! Are we going out? For a walk!? Right now!? Play fetch? I want to know!” My nose already smells the world outside. The smell of wet grass and dogs walking past… I can’t not jump up and down.
“Quit barking, you idiot. That’s the reason we gotta to do this in the first place!” Why is he angry? I thought we were going for a walk. I’m just happy. I’d go anywhere with him, do anything.
He walks towards the door, my leash in his hand. I follow, head down, tail almost touching my belly. The scent of rain on grass pulls me forward. The leash in his hand pulls me back. I just want to please him. I look up at him and softly wag my tail as he walk me towards the car. He is going to put me in the trunk. It’s dark in there and I know he’ll get angry again if I jump back out. The lid comes down and I can’t help it. Hands hold me down as the darkness closes in.
I don’t know how long it takes. How long I lie in moving, shaking darkness and the metal-and-paint scent of the car. He finally stops and I hear the engine shutting down.
I’m so happy to see his face when he opens the trunk. I’ll remember not to bark, I really will! I promise! He takes a backpack out of the car and walks into the woods with me. New scents tease and tickle my nose, pulling me on to explore a bush here, a tree there. The trail of a rabbit across the path where my human and I walk and the sweet scents of flowers everywhere.
My human walks up to a large tree and I mark it for him. This will be our place from now on. He takes off the backpack and pulls out two bowls, a little bag of food and a water bottle. Oh! He brought me food and water! He was like this all the time when I was a pup. He was nice to me then. I walk up to him and lick his hand.
He puts down the bowls and I have a drink. I hear the rattling of chain links and look up at him. He hooks it to my collar and ties it to our tree. What is happening? Is he leaving? It must be a game. He’ll be back soon enough. I eat, and lie down to wait. He hates it when I bark, so I just stay quiet and wait for him. I desperately want to show him what a good boy I can be.
Darkness falls like in the car trunk. The scents and the noises are different. The woods become a scary place. I look around and try to be smaller. I whimper. Can’t be much longer. He’ll be back any time now.
I wake up to the sound of whistling birds and I jump up. Is my human here yet? I knock over my water bowl in my hurry to greet him. He’s not there. If being silent didn’t bring him back, maybe he wants me to call out to him? “Human! Where are you? Please come back!” My barks don’t bring him back. I turn back to our tree, the one I marked for him and curl up against it. His scent still clings there. I close my eyes and dream of when I was little, when he always smiled at me.
The sun is out when I wake up. I’m hungry. I ate all of my food yesterday and I spilled my water this morning. I smell water though. There is a puddle not far away and it smells amazing. My chain is too short to reach it. I bark again, as loudly as I can with my parched throat.
Night falls and I return to the tree where my human’s scent has begun to fade.
The darkness comes and goes and I wait for him. I hear footsteps in the distance. They are not his. They are different. The scent is not his either. My throat is dry and sore but I manage to bark. “I’m here!” Please, find me…
“Look, Aunt Jen. Up ahead! There he is. I knew I’d heard right.” The two humans come closer, and the boy smiles at me. “It’s OK, boy. We won’t hurt you.” I hope they have water. I wag my tail and try to be quiet. Humans don’t like barking. I remember that.
The woman is tall and her hair is the colour of the sunset. She looks at my empty bowls and says a word I’ve never heard. The look on the boy’s face makes me think it’s a very, very bad word. They won’t leave me behind again, will they?
I whine, and lower myself to the ground, tail firmly pressed between my legs. Please don’t get mad. I promise I’ll be good. Will you take me with you? I don’t want to be alone in the darkness anymore.
She looks at me and the frown melts. “Oh honey, don’t be scared. It’s not you I’m mad at. I just wish I could get my hands on the idiot who left you here.”
Idiot. That’s what my human always called me! She knows my name!
I lick her hand. “Did my human send you? I miss him so much. Will you take me back to him?” Oh no, I barked! I’ll remember next time, I promise!
She doesn’t seem to mind and lets me sniff her hand. Her scent reminds me of horses and of… Of other dogs. She knows other dogs!
The chain is badly tangled, but they work at it. In the end, she unhooks it from my collar and she carefully picks me up. I didn’t think I was small enough to carry like that, but she does look strong.
I lick her face and I put my head on her shoulder. Her hair hangs down her shoulders and tickles my nose. It smells like flowers. “Come on, buddy, let’s get you home. Patrick, run home and tell Grams. We’ll be right behind you.”
After days of hunger and thirst, in the sun and in the darkness, she carries me home and gives me water, food, and safety.
I live with them now. Grams and Gramps. Aunt Jen. They live on a farm. Patrick comes to visit me here. There are horses, sheep, chickens and cats to play with. And other dogs. There is grass, shaded by trees. There are always new scents to explore and adventures to be had. And there is kindness here. They don’t mind my voice. They don’t mind my insecurity. Sometimes when they leave I’m scared they won’t come back, just like my first human. But they always do.
They named me Rocky. Because they say I’m a fighter, a survivor. I don’t know who this Rocky person is. I like the name because they gave it to me.
This, together with Rainbow—which gave the series its name—is both based on the stories of dogs I know in person. My sister owns a little poodle who was saved from a puppy mill, called Dorothy.
Four years ago, my nephew and I found a dog, chained to a tree in the woods behind my parents’ house. My parents ended up adopting Rocky. Obviously, I didn’t know enough of the dogs’ stories to write an entire story, but I know enough about dogs in general to fill in the gaps and turn the nuggets of background I had into cohesive short stories.
As always, I hope you liked it. Thank you so much for sharing this with me.