The Kennel, part five: Meeting Jane Pawsten

Trigger warning: animal abuse (mentioned, not depicted)

The door is made of wire and the noise it makes hurts my ears. I can’t help but flinch, and then I want to cry, because flinching isn’t allowed.

It just hurts. Loud noises hurt.

Everything hurts.

I press against the wall. My body won’t stop shaking and my paws slip on the floor. When my claws slip, they leave marks, and I hope that the humans know I didn’t mean it. Eventually, I give up and lay down. I keep my arms tense so that I can get up and run if they come for me.

They came for me at night. Put me in a wheelie cage with the other dogs I used to fight with. I don’t know what they did with my humans. Here, the noises are loud, the other dogs scream and cry and eat like they’ve starved their whole lives. Every morning, a human comes to clean my cage and I try my best to be as small as possible. Not a threat. No reason to send me to the ring.

I haven’t seen any fights yet. Some of the other dogs seem to be waiting for a fight, while others don’t seem to know what fighting is. What are these humans planning to do with all of us?

Noises. Voices, actually. Footsteps of humans as they walk down the echoey room, with its line of cages on either side. The other dogs bark when they hear the stepping. The terrier across from me leaps at the door of his cage.

I cringe and try to hide my face. Don’t they know what happens to dogs who bark when they’re not asked to?

The steps keep coming. They stop once or twice. Two humans, I think. One female. I didn’t see many females back home. Only males who smelled like sweat and skunk, who would throw me birds to play with, and then throw me to bigger dogs for them to play with, and then beat me when I cried. One human would sew up my cuts and smack me when I flinched away from the needle, but he would always give treats when I was done crying.

Eventually, the pair of humans come to my cell.

I can’t look. If I don’t look, maybe they’ll walk away and leave me alone. They won’t decide I’m big enough to fight or small enough to be bait. They won’t –

“She’s had it rough, huh?” the female human says.

I don’t understand most of what humans say. I hear the words, but their meaning is lost. Some words, like ‘fight’, ‘shut up’, ‘move’ – those meanings were beaten into me. But most of their words are just words.

I like her voice, though.

“She was a baitdog.”

The female hisses. I can’t help it – I pee a little.

“Poor darlin’.”

“Might be aggressive with other dogs. Or bite your clients. Rehabing her will be a huge endeavour.”

“You trying to talk me out of it?”

“Just pointing out the facts. You’re welcome to take her, Iris, of course you are. I just don’t want you or your dogs getting hurt.”

“Can I go in?”

The door opens. I whine, deep and low in my throat like it’s being choked out of me. The steps come close and I can smell human food, grass, and other dogs. Does she like to watch dogs fight, too? Will she take me to fight? Are her dogs bigger than me?

She kneels down. Her eyes are right in front of me. She’s got something in her hand. A treat? I lean away.

“It’s ok, sweetheart, you’re ok. I know you’ve had it rough, haven’t you? You’re all covered in cuts and bruises. You didn’t deserve that, darling –”

I don’t know what she’s saying, but I like her voice. It’s gentle and calm. She doesn’t growl or shout. Can human females not shout? No, they must be able to. I can bark, and I’m female.

She tosses the treat to my feet. It smells like cheese and my mouth waters in an instant. I look at the treat, then at her. Can I get it before she grabs me? My mouth is so full of drool that I have to try; I lean over, careful – so careful – and snatch up the treat.

“Good girl!”

Good girl. I know that meaning. It means I did what she wanted. The other humans called me good girl when I won fights. This human likes when I take treats.

When she tosses another one, I take it.

“Good girl.”

She offers a treat in her hand. I hesitate. It smells good, though, and if I take it then I’m a good girl.

I take it.

“Good girl!”

Another treat. She holds it in one hand while she raises the other to reach for me. I lean away, sniff the hand – no treats – but she smells like other dogs and not like blood or birds, so when she lays her hand on my head I don’t cry but I do flinch. She just gently rubs my head.

“Good girl…” She gives me the other treat in her hand.

The gentle rubs keep coming. It’s been years since someone pet me. I was a puppy the last time, playing with human puppies who sometimes pulled a little hard on my ears but didn’t seem to be angry. Anger, I think, is an adult human trait.

Though maybe that’s down to breeding, because this human seems nice.

She calls me good girl again and I let my tail start wagging. I lean into her, and suddenly the smell of human food and other dogs and treats surrounds me. I have to rub myself all over. Get that scent into my fur. When she’s gone, I’ll keep the smell with me.

“Yeah, they didn’t break you all the way, did they?” the human keeps talking while she rubs all over my body, soft and soothing and not at all like the humans before, and lets me curl into her warm, soft body. “Her temperament is good. I’ll try her with the other dogs.”

When she leaves, I cry for the rest of the afternoon.

PS – I love writing and I love eating! If you want to help with the latter (and ONLY if you want) you can maybe buy me a coffee?  🙂

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