Young Writers On The Web: The Stray

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by: Conal Gallant, Age 15, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Every day I wake up and go to the same place, the park. Not the dog park like my native brethren because to them and the humans, I’m an outcast, a danger, a stray. Like all other strays I’m looked down upon by the evil humans, I am not their equal. Instead, I’m cast off by anyone who takes a glance at my lonely, skinny, scarred figure. It marks me as an untamed beast.

I have to watch out for myself because of the police who will haul me off to the dog pound. They always act like friends to get your guard down but, really, they just want to imprison you. Being sent there is as good as admitting defeat, defeat to the hunger I have every day, defeat to the ridicule I face, defeat to the whole world that sees me as a problem needing to be fixed.

I don’t see it this way, though. I think I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m not enslaved like my brothers and sisters. No… I am free! Being free is a wonderful thing, no matter what ignorant “pets” think. “We get fed” or “we are loved,” they say, like that’s a big deal.

Who needs that when you can use your brain and think for yourself? All housebroken pets think about is the scent of other dogs’ butts.

Do I Dare to Chase My Tail?

Today on my way to the park, where I go most days to sulk and scavenge for food, I ran into a woman and her slave pet dog with the name of Rufus (I noticed the name on the collar). While walking by the dog and the human, the human bent down and tried to grab me, speaking nonsense about “Where’s your owner?” and “What should I do?”

You know what I did? I bit her hand and ran away. I know my rights!

After that moment of unfaltering righteousness, the human’s dog started to chase me like I was a common squirrel. Noticing the size difference between myself and the large, well-fed dog, I ran as quickly as possible and shouted at him. “Hey! What are you doing? You no longer have to obey your inferior.” The dog responded with a gigantic smile that told me he only wanted to smell my butt and be friends.

I did not know what to say or even what to think. What if it’s a trap and this dog is just looking to attack me when my guard is down? Or what if this dog really wants to be friends and will help me with my plan to eventually take over the world for dogs?

But I realize it’s hopeless to think he would ever take my side. He’s probably just a dull idiot who, after smelling me, will chase his short tail.

Thinking about this makes me want to chase my tail, but I fight the urge to succumb to the banality of every other pet.

Captured!

With all of these thoughts spinning around in my head I feel like my ideas are playing spin the bottle, merging my original ideas into more options, further making my head spin, continuing this game forever. All of this, plus having my energy depleted from running, makes me stop and lay down on the cool pavement of the parking lot by the park.

After a short sleep, I get up, wincing at the pain in my scarred left paw. I start to limp my home, a tunnel by a railroad track. On my way there I stop at an alleyway with lots of trash cans outside of a restaurant. As I cut through the street to make towards the alleyway, I feel unstoppable. No human can stop me!

I take my time to eat my dinner (mud water and dead squirrel), not fearing that any restaurant employees will come out and attack me with a broom. While strategizing what I would do if an employee did come outside, a van pops out of nowhere, blocking my only exit.

I get up preparing to fight to the death when I see a human throw an object towards me that smells delicious. I try to resist the urge, but the whiff of meat is too powerful. I succumb to their mind games and take a bite of the treat. Before you know it, I’m headed to the dog-pound van with the evil humans. The ride is short and far from sweet. I bark the whole way to the destination, yelling for other dogs to hear that I am being imprisoned and need help from some intelligent, free-thinking dogs.

“Turn on your humans,” I yell.

Nobody seems to listen, care, or help me. When all hope feels lost the car stops. Am I a fool for hoping it is someone who will save me? Probably. Nobody’s ever been there for me to trust that everything will be okay.

My captors move me into an old wood chipping building. Inside are many dogs, some barking, some sleeping, some eating. But, to me, they all look happy.

Learning a Word

“How are ya?” one older looking bulldog asks me.

 I don’t answer. This is just another dumb dog like the one at the park who thinks that being friendly will change me.

 “My name’s Max,” The bulldog says as if I had just responded to his original question, “What’s your name? How old are you? What’s your favorite kind of food? What’s …”

 “Enough!” I snap, “I do not need to tell you anything!”

 “Someone sounds mad,” Max says as his upbeat smile fades.

 “Of course I’m mad. Why isn’t everyone else? We’re trapped in this prison with no future.”

 “You could always be adopted,” Max says with a tone of greater knowledge.

 “What makes you so hopeful?” I snarl, expecting a zero percent thoughtful answer.

 “I’m hopeful because,” Max pauses then says, “hope is better than sorrow. It keeps you going.”

 I turn away from Max, deciding that I will not invite him to join my army tasked with taking over the world.

I’ve been locked up for five hours, but it feels like five years. Each dog I see, each tile on the floor I count, each bar on my cell doesn’t make me feel hope. I haven’t really ever felt hope before, but I know this ain’t it. I hear the door of the dog pound open, and after looking up, I see a little boy walking in with a woman.

“This one, Auntie Ruth! This one!” the boy says excitedly.

 “Are you sure,  Conal?” The woman says with a smile.

 “Yes,” the boy says, nearly jumping up and down after taking a glance at the dog’s collar. “I’ll take good care of Jake.”

 The woman’s smile grows even wider. After several minutes of the woman filling out paperwork and the boy patting the dog, I see Max looking at me.

 “What?” I say.

 “You see the look on that dog’s face? That’s the sign of hope being fulfilled,” he says.

 With that, I smile slightly, finally understanding what hope means.

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