By Debbie Robertson

Lucky Dog lived on a boulevard lined with ancient oaks that spread their wide branches to shade the walk where children played.

Birds sang their songs and squirrels chattered merrily as they scrambled up trunks and made flying leaps from tree to tree.

Unlucky Dog lived near a busy street in the entrance to an alleyway littered with a scraggle of weeds and that hid the shards of broken glass embedded in the dirt.

His neighbors were three large gray rats that lay in wait to claim any wrapper of fast food tossed from a passing car.

Lucky Dog had a two-story white brick house, clipped hedges, and a wide lawn edged by splashes of yellow flowers.

Unlucky Dog had the stairs under an abandoned warehouse to keep him out of the rain and heat, and one dim streetlight to make the hours when he huddled there in the night, his tail tightly wrapped into his tense body, not so scary.

Lucky Dog was cared for by a little boy who brushed her every day, gave her tummy rubs whenever she asked for them, and took her to the veterinarian once a year to keep her well.  His whole family loved her dearly and patted her on the head as they said, “You’re such a good dog.” 

Unlucky Dog had no one, not now, and he had never known the wonders of a tummy rub.

He had been left at this place with his sister when they were just tiny puppies, and try as hard as he did to help her survive, she just was not strong enough during those first few weeks.  

Even after she died, he dared not leave, for he believed in his heart that one day the people that had left him would come back.  

His hair was matted and full of burrs.  When people saw him, they said, “Shoo!  Go away!  Go away!” 

Lucky Dog slept on a velvet pillow at the foot of her little boy’s bed.  She loved to hear hum of the air conditioner and the steady rhythm of the little boy’s breathing.  It made her feel warm and happy.

On stormy nights, when lightning tore at the sky, she crawled under the covers with the little boy, and they both found comfort from each other as he snuggled her close.

Unlucky Dog slept on the scraps of a tattered blue sweater that he had dragged in from a pile of trash.  Police sirens would often scream in the distance and the smell of car exhaust would interrupt his dreams.

One dreadfully wet night, the rain fell so hard it flooded his place under the stairs, and he had to scramble to safety, drenched and shivering under an overhang, until the thunder growled only in the distance and the rain drained away.

Lucky Dog would awaken to the smell of bacon frying and the clatter of dishes being set around the kitchen table.  A scratch behind the ears meant her little boy was awake, and together they would go down for breakfast.

Unlucky Dog woke up when sunlight reached into his corner to warm him just a bit.  If he wanted a scratch behind his ear, his own leg would have to do. But every morning, though his heart was pounding, he made his way out into the world.

Lucky Dog ate out of a china bowl that had her name painted on the side.  She always had plenty of fresh water, and a nutritious dog treat every afternoon as a snack.

Unlucky Dog scoured the garbage cans in the back of restaurants for his meals, and licked up water from drains or oil slicked puddles of rain.

Lucky Dog had a walk every day.  The little boy would harness her up and then he and his mother took a special route that wended its way through the park and around the block.  They always let her stop at her favorite fire hydrant.

Unlucky Dog walked himself, scuttling out of the way if cars came too close.  

One time, two boys chased him, throwing rocks at his back.  They laughed as he darted in between the passage between two buildings, his little body low to the ground.  

“Let’s go around the back,” suggested one of the boys.  “You go around one side and I’ll go around the other.”  

But then a car door slammed shut and Unlucky Dog heard a man’s voice telling them, “Stop that!  Get out of here.”  

Unlucky Dog crouched behind an oil can in the back of one of the buildings as he heard footsteps come near.  

“Where are you, fella?”  a voice called.   “I won’t hurt you.”  

But Unlucky Dog did not dare make a move.  Finally the voice went away and Unlucky Dog drooped home.

And so it was: Lucky Dog with her life; Unlucky Dog with his.

But one day, just as Unlucky Dog was waking up, a city van pulled up beside the warehouse and a man with a large net got out.  Unlucky Dog shivered into his sweater as footsteps came nearer.  He didn’t even try to escape as the net came over him.  

The man put him in a cage in the back of the van and drove to a place where there were many other dogs in wire enclosures.  

A woman in a white coat took him into a room where she placed him on a table and looked into his mouth and ears.  He was so still, but when she touched him, the tip of his tail wagged ever so slightly.  “You’re such a good dog,” she said softly.  

Then, a young man gathered him up and gave him his first bath.  He licked the hand that worked the soap into his fur.  “You’re such a good dog,” the young man said, too.

What happened next was a blur, and he never really knew all the details.  He was put into a cage, where he watched with wide eyes and ears prickled forward as the woman talked to the young man in a low voice and then went to the phone to make a call.  When she hung up the phone, she was smiling, and she came over to Unlucky Dog and rubbed his nose through the wires of his cage.

And then, before he knew it, he was being moved again, this time into a car driven by another woman. Her eyes were soft as she smiled at him, and she said something a little puzzling, “Almost there, little fella.”  

After many twists and turns, he arrived at a wide boulevard that was lined with ancient oaks.  They stopped at a two-story house made of stone with a lawn that stretched into flower beds of white and pink and red.

When the door of the house was opened, a little girl came rushing out to greet him.  She took him in her arms and began to show him everything, pointing out her favorite tree and the direction of the park where she loved to play.  

When the car pulled away, he was still in her arms. 

The little girl carried him into the house and up the stairs, and then gently laid him on the velvet pillow at the head of her bed.  

At first, he did not know what to do, but the little girl’s sweet voice reached into him, and as she spoke, he began to relax into the pillow, ever so slightly letting himself go.  Tentatively, he stretched out his neck and then, hesitantly, hopefully, softly rolled onto his side.  The wonders of his first tummy rub were about to begin.

As his closed his eyes in utter bliss, the little girl quietly slipped out of the room and tiptoed into the kitchen, where her mother who was putting two china bowls on the floor.  

“Well,” said her mother, reaching for a paintbrush, “have you decided?”

“Yes, I have.”  The little girl’s smile was ear to ear.  “His name is Ollie.” 

Debbie Robertson divides her year between the United States and France, loving the summer and winter skyline sunrises of Houston, Texas, and reveling in the mountain sunsets of the Alpes de Haute Provence.  Her works have appeared most recently in Toute la Vallée, a French journal. She has written plays and “operas” for children’s theatre, and parallel text (English-French) short stories.


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