The dog’s ear twitched and its fleshy edge shook out a fly that buzzed loudly away. The dog’s eyelids quivered and strained open to view his surroundings.
Casper, named fondly by the neighbourhood boys, rested his face on both paws on the pebbled ground that hosted innumerable microscopic creatures. A breeze that carried smells of discarded food in a nearby dumpster trailed past his nostrils and ploughed through his furry back. The fly descended on the bridge of his nose and tickled it as if fondling and lulling him to sleep. Casper shut his eyes as darkness moved in.
His eyes jerked open at a sudden commotion of loud human discord. Casper threw his gaze towards the noise, with teeth parted and saliva dripping—a failed display of ferocity. As the human verbal assault grew physical, other dogs thronged to the arena. Casper propped himself up on four rickety legs, stretching muscles that formed a thin layer over his bony structure. The fly, losing its grip, flapped away. Casper detected a female dog passing, sensing her sensual gait. As a shiver passed through his entire body, he barked to get her attention. The other dog recognized his call and swayed her back end, her face signalling encouragement. Dead leaves covered the street in intricate patterns, and Casper pawed through them, his eyes fixed hopefully on his conquest.
As he trotted toward her, he glanced down and was distracted by a bread crust in a half-torn wrapper. Better, he thought, to grind bread between his teeth. He momentarily lost track of his previous quest—until instinct urged him to follow her. With the bread secure in his teeth, he frantically picked up her scent. A road infested with honking vehicles blocked his way, perhaps making him lose this opportunity. Trying to find a path among the speeding wheels, he ventured forward, then he retreated. After some more attempts, he arrived safely on the other end, which impressed the female. Now, she had taken refuge under an empty shed. Casper’s trotting was now a strong and confident gait, as if he had won his prize over many contenders. He sniffed at the dry ground, cocked his floppy ears, making these extravagant movements before approaching her. The female dog was lying prostrate on the ground, covering her private parts with her slender, furry tail. Casper neared her, his tongue sticking out, now smeared with saliva from his pending lust.
He hesitated, fearful he might offend her; however she was not offended. Rather, she was pleased with his heroism, and yielded to his chivalry. **
Months later, Casper was lying in his usual, head-down, carefree pose. Two little puppies—one dark brown, another white with two dark patches, came running to get their daddy’s attention.
One of the children on the street said, “Look, Casper’s family is growing fat.” The neighbourhood children had fun naming the puppies.
One of the boys said, “What to call them?”
“They are puppies, that’s all”, said another.
“No, no”, said the first boy, “They will be called Brownie and Patcher.”
They all laughed and agreed. Britta, the mother dog, was responsible for their upbringing. She would secure scrape food, teach them how to snatch from others, and how to avoid brawl with stray dogs—all important survival strategies. The puppies spent their days playfully, mostly unaware of things around them. They would harmlessly bite each other, run after fluttering insects, follow the trail of local boys at play, and fall asleep wherever they liked.
A day came when a little girl, a new tenant in the neighbourhood, spied the puppies in the alley below their apartment. Even as they wallowed in the dirt, their beady eyes, puffy body and small legs charmed her.
“Papa, come and look at how cute the puppies are!”
The father came to the window, adjusted his glasses for his weak vision in order to scrutinize the puppies.
“Papa, I want them to be my pet.”
“These are street dogs and are not vaccinated. Are you crazy?”
“Please Papa, let them be my birthday gift.”
“You always behave so childish.”
“Papa, I’m still a child.”
“Okay, but not two. Choose one.”
“Then it’s the white one with brown patches.”
After that, the man came and picked up the little white one, the alley area was much quieter—and certainly a lot less fun. Casper barked and moped around while mother Britta howled for their missing puppy. The remaining brown puppy did not realize what was going on with its parents, but even as little as he was, he felt sadness and loss.
One day a mild bark came out of the upper floor of a house when Casper was loitering nearby. A sudden spark of recognition ran through his body. He sent a signal, barking loudly. It was the white puppy in the lap of the little girl. He looked cleaner, brighter, fed, and satisfied. Casper sent a grave bark upward as if to scold their straying son. Britta and the other puppy came too.
The girl was running her finger through its fur and feeding it from a bottle. As the puppy’s parents and little brother kept their gaze at the window, the girl banged the shutters to close the window that ended their long-distance reunion. Down in the alley, each one drowned in their private silence, wondering if they’d ever again see that sweet little puppy—glad for his new life, but sad for their loss.