Bugsy

When Clark came to take me to my new home, the weather had turned cold. I knew I would like Clark from the first moment I caught his scent. He smelled most strongly of mint and citrus. Clark was a tall man with hardly any head fur. His voice deep and his hands large, but gentle. Perfect for belly rubs. Clark projected a calm, but friendly energy.

As I was still young, my mother reminded me of the essential rules if I wanted to be a good boy for my new family. Firstly, I needed to always read and react appropriately to my humans' moods. If they were upset, that was not the time to beg to go outside. Secondly, I should always follow their commands even if I thought they were dumb. That meant, if my new humans called Bugsy, my name, I was to go to them even if I just settled down for a nap. Dogs obeyed humans. That was the natural order. Lastly, the most crucial rule of all, I must never bite a human. My mother is a pure bred Boston Terrier who had won multiple awards at dog shows. Manners were of the upmost importance to her.

I said goodbye to my mother and the other dogs at my old home without much sadness. All dogs knew that eventually they would leave their mother for a pack of their own. Clark let me sit in the front seat next to him and, despite the cold, cracked the window so I could stick my nose out.

When I got to Clark's home, I was in for the best surprise. The house was full of people and covered in exciting smells. There was so much food, I started to drool. I caught the scent of pork and chicken, sweet dishes, spicy foods, and even fruity things. There even was a tree wrapped in a shiny rope standing in their sitting room! When I lifted my leg to mark the tree they all shouted "no" at me. Humans do the strangest things sometimes.

Mary, Clark's mate, was the first person to greet me after I arrived. She smelled like flowers and paper. She had dark, curly head fur and unusually long human nails great for scratching. Mary had a nervous energy about her, but she was nice enough.

I quickly learned that not all days were going to be as exciting as the first. I was fine with that though. I always had a comfortable place to sleep, food, and water, and toys to play with. Best of all, Clark and Mary were here.

Mary always got home before Clark. Wherever she went all day was full of human puppies. I could smell them all over her. Today, Mary decided to sit at the table with stacks of paper in front of her. I wanted to lay at Mary's feet, but she was still mad at me for yesterday; Mary had left the kitchen to go to the special room humans use to relieve themselves—another human thing I couldn't wrap my head around—and left a plate of beef on the counter's edge. I knew I wasn't allowed to grab things off the counter, but the smell was irresistible. That had gotten me locked in my kennel and, worst of all, made Mary extremely angry.

I was lying in the sitting room, in a patch of sunlight streaming through the window, when I heard Clark approach the house. I ran to front door and pranced in place unable to contain my excitement.

"Bugsy," Clark sang as the door swung open. He crouched down so I could jump into his arms. I licked his face as he rubbed me all over. I was so happy he was home.

"Who's a good boy? Who's a good boy," he asked.

I'm a good boy! I'm a good boy! My tail was wagging so hard my whole butt wiggled. After our greeting was done, Clark went into the kitchen to say hello to Mary. I followed closely sniffing his pant leg.

Clark opened the back door for me. I shot out of the house like a bullet and began to sniff the perimeter of the yard. It was an unusually warm day for winter. There was no wind and the sun was shining brightly. After I patrolled the yard, I bounded over to the hole I had dug a few days ago in an attempt to get to a bug that was crawling around in the dirt. I never got to the bug. Mary had been furious when she saw what I'd done.

Clark came out into the yard and called my name. I looked over at him and my excitement shot from the tips of my ears all the way to my tail. Clark had a ball in his hand! I coiled my muscles in anticipation. Clark drew back his arm and threw the ball. Just before the ball reached me, I sprang into the air trying to catch it. The ball soared over my head and I fell to the ground with a thud. I scrambled after the ball, snatched it up, and sprinted to Clark, eager for him to throw it again.

It was hard work jumping and running. I was panting with the ball between my legs when Clark started to jog over to me. Suddenly, he let out a cry and fell to the ground. He had stepped in my hole by accident. I raced over to him. He was clutching his left knee face twisted in a grimace. Worry immediately welled in me. Clark had a knee injury that often acted up.

I ran to the back door barking frantically for Mary. She came to the door. When she saw Clark she sprinted out to him. Slowly, Mary helped Clark back into the house and onto the couch. I crept after them carefully avoiding Clark's knee while feeling conflicted. All my dog instincts were telling me to hop up next to Clark and comfort him, but the rule was that I was only allowed up on the furniture if Mary was not home. I decided it was best not to risk making Mary any angrier than she already was at me. I curled up against the edge of the couch and Clark reached down to stroke my head.

When the sun went down Mary and Clark began to argue. I heard my name a few times and the word dog, but I didn't grasp what they were saying. That was another thing about humans I didn't understand. They used almost entirely mouth sounds to communicate.

The next morning, Clark's knee was feeling better, but his mood had not improved. Mary didn't give me my good morning pat either. I'd never seen Clark so sad before. I brought him my favorite toys and licked his face to no avail. I remembered my mother's rule. If Clark was melancholy then I needed to be calm. In the afternoon, Clark began to gather all of my toys and treats into a box. He clipped on my leash and took me to the car. At first, I thought we were going to the park and I let out an excited bark, but instead we pulled up to an unfamiliar brick building.

He got out of the car and together, along with the box of my things, we went inside the building. I could smell dogs everywhere! Maybe Clark was taking me here to find me a friend?

A genial woman who smelled strongly of chicken kibble approached us. She shook Clark's hand, gave my head a pat, and took my box from Clark. Together the three of us went into a separate room. The woman said something to Clark and then left. Clark gingerly sat on the floor, his knee was still a bit sore, and unhooked my leash. Sadness was rolling off him in waves now. I crawled into his lap and he began to massage me behind the ears. He kept telling me I was a good boy over and over again. After a while, the kibble woman came back to the room and clipped my leash on. Clarke stood up and trudged from the room. I went to follow after him, but the woman held me back. I whined in confusion. Abruptly, understanding struck me. My box of toys, Clark's bad mood, and all the other dogs here. This was a pound! Clark was going to leave me here.

I lunged after Clark whining desperately. The collar was digging into my throat, but I didn't care. Why was Clark doing this to me? Wasn't he just telling me I was a good boy? Clark was becoming smaller as he hobbled down the hallway. I pulled harder against the leash my claws scrabbling for purchase against the tiles. My whines turned into full blown barks. I tried to tell Clark that I was sorry for whatever I had done. I would be a better boy, but he didn't even turn back to look at me. He limped from my sight and was gone without a word.

Numb with shock I followed the woman when she tugged gently on my leash. She led me down a dark hallway to a big metal door. I could sense dogs behind it. When the door opened, I recoiled in horror. The room stank of stale kibble and dogs. Their fear, boredom, and anxiety washed over me. Was I supposed to live in there now?! I braced myself when the woman made to enter the room. I didn't want anything to do with this horrible place. I belonged with Clark and Mary. The woman gave the leash a yank and told me to "come" her voice ringing with authority. I couldn't disobey such an assertive command from a human. It went against the dog rules. I followed after her, defeated.

As the woman led me down a row of cages, the other dogs began to bark crazily begging to be let out. We passed one cage with a big, brown mutt and the scent of pee became overwhelming. Were the dogs here not even let outside to use the bathroom? Panic welled up in me again. I began to bark desperately for Clark as I turned tail and tried to make my way back to the door.

The woman dragged me down the aisle to a cage. I resisted her with all my might. The other dogs began to howl even louder as I struggled. She forced me inside using her legs to block my escape, locked the door, and walked away. The floor was hard and cold, but there was a bed for me to rest on. My toys were already in the cage. I picked up my favorite plush toy and laid down on the bed. I didn't even have the energy to greet the dogs around me. I sniffed the toy deeply. Already, the scents of the pound were seeping into it, but I could still smell Clark and Mary. What did I do so wrong? I always tried my best to follow the dog rules my mother taught me. I just couldn't understand.