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The Hound

Please note: this story was provided by the authors and published as is.

I don’t know if I can accurately describe to you how much I have wanted a dog throughout my entire life. The idea of owning a dog consumed my every waking thought when I was little, which was probably exacerbated by the fact that both of my parents were allergic. Which meant that until I moved out of their house, I was stuck with a goldfish named Goldie until he died when I was ten. Because of that, I grew up fantasizing about the day when I could finally march right into a pet shop (or shelter or wherever) and pick out the one I wanted. When I was older, and my friends wanted to go to the mall to shop for clothes, I would wander over to the pet store, and spend hours just watching their little furry faces from behind the glass, hoping one day one of them would be mine.

Because I had unlimited time growing up to think about this very subject, I spent many years ruminating on the exact breed I would take home with me. If I wanted a large or small dog, short hair or long hair, boxer or bulldog, Dachsund or Doberman. Finally, I settled on the Italian Greyhound. Very exotic I know, but I loved how long and lean and graceful their bodies were. They also looked like weird alien animals from another planet, which for some reason made me want one even more. By the time I realized they were my dream dog, I had turned my obsession into something more than I could even put into words and began to channel my emotions through painting and art as a way to express myself. I would go back to pet store almost every weekend to stare at the puppies. I was in there so much that the boy who worked there knew me – as soon as I’d come in, if it wasn’t too busy,  he’d go pull out one of the greyhound puppies for me to play with in the little meet and greet room.

I think he thought maybe the puppies were just a front and I was really coming in to see him because eventually he asked me out and seemed totally mortified when I turned him down. But I really was there just for the dogs. I was obsessed.

When I graduated high school and moved across the country to attend college for art, I foolishly thought I could bring a dog back to my dorm room. But of course, pets weren’t allowed (neither were candles or hot pots, I also found out). So I spent another four years on top of the first eighteen of my life hoping so desperately I could have one.

Then, when I finally graduated college, I moved back to my hometown with a couple of roommates that put their foot down about having a pet in the house.  I couldn’t argue with them, they were on the lease too.

One day in October, my three roommates were at their respective day jobs across the city. We were a house full of artists, but we had to make a living somehow—which meant that most of us either were waiters at restaurants or worked as a barista at a coffee shop. It was my day off, and I had spent the morning painting in our collective studio in the attic before breaking for lunch. I made myself a bagel and cream cheese sandwich, washing it down with a carton of milk, when I heard the bell ring.

That was odd. Normally the delivery man just left the package at our doorstep—and most of us were too poor to order anything online anyways.

I went to answer the door, but when I did, no one was there. I was about to head back inside when I heard whimpering to my left. Carefully, I followed the sound until I found an animal, clearly injured and in pain, laying in our alleyway behind the house.

Instantly, my body filled with joy when I realized it was a dog. I didn’t know who’s it was or where it had come from, but I knew somehow that the universe had sent it to me to heal it. Who else better equipped or ready to do so than me? No one.

I almost forgot one important thing. It was a greyhound. Yeah, you heard me right. The very dog I’d always wanted to own. I could barely even believe my luck.

I picked up the animal in my arms, cradling it against my body. Surprisingly, it didn’t argue or fight with me, rather, it seemed to collapse into my body as soon as I scooped it up. I could tell it was badly hurt—and it looked like one of its legs was broken. My heart was breaking for the poor thing. I notice the dogs collar and checked for the name of an owner but it just had one word. “Goldie.”

The same name as my goldfish. That was a strange coincidence. I almost wondered if someone was playing a cruel trick on me, but then my thoughts were distracted by something else. As I turned the corner to head in my house, I spotted a strange, dark figure heading towards me down the street. I didn’t know why, but I felt like this person was coming for Goldie. I wondered briefly if this was the same person who hurt the dog in the first place and was coming to finish what they started.

I shuffled inside before the figure could reach the house, maneuvering my hand to the doorknob while still cradling the frightened dog in my arms. Finally, I managed inside, shutting the door with my foot, hoping I wasn’t seen by whoever the person was.

I placed Goldie on the floor gingerly, then quickly double locked the door. But when I moved to peer out the window to see if they were still there, the figure was gone. Had I simply imagined it?

The dog made a howl behind me, and instantly everything else disappeared from my brain—my natural pet owner’s instinct, having been kept dormant my whole life, suddenly kicked in. I ran to the kitchen to fill up a bowl with water and placed it front of the poor thing. At this point I could tell that Goldie was a girl and my heart burst. I had always wanted a girl. 

But how was I going to tell my roommates? They had been firm that none of us were allowed to bring pets into the house—we’d even voted on it, three to one. One night, when I tried to bring home a stray cat I found in the dumpster behind my work, they threw it out onto the street, even as I cried and begged to keep it. In retrospect, I had behaved a little crazily, I admit it—the cat was clearly flea-bitten and mangy. It could’ve brought any number of diseases into the house with it. But what could I say? I loved animals out of my mind.

This time though, I needed to figure out a plan before everyone got home. So I gathered Goldie in my arms again, promising I was going to take care of her, and quickly ascended the steps to the attic. I planned on making a little home for her up there until I could figure out exactly what to do and how I would tell my roommates.

As soon as Goldie was settled amongst my paints, I dashed around the house stockpiling supplies. Extra blankets and pillows were easy but my offerings for food were next to none. I was in the middle of trying to decide if she would like a can of baked beans or a leftover bowl of rice that the doorbell rang. I felt a tingling sensation run up and down my spine. Again, we don’t get many packages, let alone visitors. Two times in one day was basically unheard of, which is why I exercised a certain amount of caution rather than immediately opening the door.

Instead, I crept around to the living room, where I had a slim view of the porch. I peeked through the window, and sure enough, there was the same dark figure on my front step. I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me and the only sound I could make was a gasp for air.

The figure was a man—with long hair and an even longer dark trench coat.. I had no doubt that this was the man who hurt Goldie.

He rang the doorbell again, impatiently, but I knew immediately that I wasn’t going to open the door. A few seconds goes by, and then he pounds on the door with his fist. For a second I’m worried he intends to break down the door, but then he stops. He pauses for a moment and then turns and stalks off the property without another word.

I breathe a sigh of relief, hoping that this was the last time I would ever see him, and quietly lift myself off the couch, away from my vantage point at the window. Back in the kitchen, I decide I can’t feed her any of my offerings. That means I have one option. There’s a corner store just down the street from my home. If I can make it there without running into the dark figure, I can get Goldie the proper dog food she deserves. Hey, it was worth the try.

I gather my hair into a bun and throw a bunch of coats over my body—if the man in the trench coat wanted to look scary, so was I.

I take a deep breath and head out the front door, but it’s still brightly lit outside and I see no one. I make it to the corner store no problem, and have paid for a couple cans of dog food when I see the flyer. It says MISSING DOG: ANSWERS TO GOLDIE, and then a photo of Goldie, my Goldie, a few years younger, healthy and beautiful.

I bit my lip. There was a phone number at the bottom of the flyer. Did I dare call it? What if the mysterious man didn’t have anything to do with Goldie and I was robbing some poor family of their beloved pet? But then again, what if the man did own Goldie and this was his twisted way of trying to get her back?

The guilt is too much for me. I take out my cell phone and dial—deciding that if someone answered I would make up something just to test who was putting up the flyers. I wouldn’t let them know that Goldie was in my house at this very moment. Then I could decide or not to tell them the truth. The phone rings and rings, and I’m about to hang up when a small voice answers. It sounds like a little boy, eight or nine years old.

 “Um, hello? I’m calling about your missing dog.” I say.

The voice on the other end of the phone starts to cry and my heart really starts to break. I think back on all those times when I was younger, and all I wanted was a dog, even though I never had one. I couldn’t imagine being a little kid and finally having the pet of your dreams, only for it to run away and disappear. Who was I to rob this boy of his childhood?

The boy puts me on the phone with his father. The father sounds pleasant enough, and I find it hard to believe that it was the man who followed me before. I tell him I have the dog in my car and I can bring it wherever he wants. The man gives me his address and I make my way back to the house.

When I arrive back at my house, I ascend the steps to the attic slowly, knowing that these were my last moments with Goldie… and I try not to cry or act emotional. Dogs can sense those type of things, and I wanted Goldie to be happy, even if I couldn’t be.

When I finally reach the landing to the attic, I am close to tears, but I keep it together. Goldie is sleeping peacefully on her little bed I made for her, and all I an think is that she will never sleep on that bed again.

An hour later, I’m sitting in front of the house that corresponds to the address I was given. It’s a pleasant enough street, fairly close to my childhood home, weirdly enough. I wonder if I might know the family that lives behind the house I was about to enter, but I racked my brain and couldn’t place it. I tell Goldie that I’ll never forget her, and then I gather her back in my arms for the final time and walk to ring the doorbell.

As soon as the door opens I’m greeted by a tall clean shaven man wearing a simple pair of blue jeans. He’s younger than I expected. I guess because his son sound like 8 or 9 I expected him to be in his 30s but he looked younger…. About my age. And he looks familiar but no one I can place. Again – he’s in my old neighborhood so maybe someone I would have seen around. He greets me with the normal pleasantries and ushers me inside. Once in the living room, I set Goldie down on the ground, but for some reason she yelps out loud and then runs into the next room.

I ask the man where his son is, because I want to see the look on the little boy’s face when he sees Goldie for the first time. But the man tells me he left to visit a friend’s house. I feel disappointed, and then regretful that I came here after all. I should’ve just kept Goldie for myself. This little boy didn’t deserve her if he wasn’t going to bother to wait around her in the first place. Maybe the boy was careless! Maybe Goldie wanted to escape from this house, and that’s why she was on the street in the first place!

I’m interrupted in the middle of my thought when man asks if I want to see Goldies puppies? My stomach drops to the bottom of my feet. If I couldn’t have Goldie, her offspring was the next best thing. Maybe I would actually have my dream dog after all.

I nod my head vigorously and he smiles again. Something about his smile is so familiar, but I was over trying to place him at that point. All I could think of was my future greyhound puppy waiting for me somewhere in the house.

He gestures for me to follow him and I do. The house isn’t that big and we go down a small hallway toward a door on the right at the end. As I walk past the two open doorways in the hall at glance into each of them. One on my left and one on my right. I was looking for Goldie. I wanted to catch one more glimpse of her. He opens the last door and gestures down… “ladies first”

There is a stairway that leads to a basement and as my foot hits the first step what I saw in those room finally registers. One bedroom. One bath. There was no room for a kid… and the bathroom sink had been covered in long hair. Just like the man who followed Goldie. Before I can do anything, the man shoves me down the stairs. I’m so disoriented by the time I hit the floor that I can’t even tell which direction the staircase is in. I’m surrounded by inky blackness but I try to pull myself up onto my feet. Before I can even open my mouth to cry for help his arms are around me…. And His hand is covering my mouth. I struggle with him but he’s stronger than me. And he’s quick. Before I know it my wrists are bound with zip ties – duck tape covers my mouth and he’s thrown me back to the ground.

I hear his footsteps go quickly back up the stairs and the door slam behind him. I didn’t know what to do… I can’t believe I was so stupid…

I can’t see anything, I can’t hear anything. I lay like that for hours, until a light appears above the stairs, and the man is at the landing. Its just his shadow until he throws on the light switch.. The burst of light is violent assault on my eyes which had just gotten used to the darkness of the basement.  I slowly open my eyes back up to look at him. And suddenly I see it. I don’t know how I didn’t see it before. He was the boy that worked at the pet shop. A grown man now. I gasp but its just a muffled noise from behind the duct tape.

And he see’s the recognition… senses my fear. And he just nods.

He starts to move slowly down the steps. Each creaky step drawing closer to where I still lay on the floor. In that moment… that final step he took onto the cement next to where I lay… I instantly knew. I’d never leave this basement.  because I know how he feels. For as long as I have wanted a dog … he’s been wanting me.