THIS ALTERING, THIS LEARNING TO WALK AGAIN

The warm light inches up her body, drawing the dew from her coat.  She closes her eyes to the frequent rush of stale air and grit, there in the gravel and blood at the edge of the highway.

For a while she had lingered unseen, dozing in the deep grass where they left her, paws and muzzle facing the concrete ramp, watching for their return, waking occasionally to forage the air for familiar scents. Memories come to her in senses, smells of soiled dirt and puppies, the rough bottom of a bowl against her tongue, a metal weight tying her to earth.  As day falls away to shadow, a stirring mingles with the emptiness in her belly, urging her to leave the open space before the dark catches up.

Morning brings reprieve from the lonely night, her first without the curled-up comfort of pups and other dogs. She creeps out of hiding and makes her way back to the ramp, raising her brown nose to the wind searching for the smell of them.  Buried instincts tap at her brain: eat when you can, conserve energy, mask your scent, stay hidden; she obeys and follows her stomach to the rotting bags of garbage.

Camouflaged in the foliage of the tree line, she watches the truck leave before lumbering toward the food mounded on the dimpled concrete. She eats quickly and returns to the dugout hole beneath the hull of an old fishing boat.  Drowsy and full she naps, curled around herself in the soft dirt, sleeping away the restless daylight hours.  The sun ebbs, brackish drafts carry sounds of fishermen calling out to one another as they prepare to leave and she is tempted to follow their voices to the smell of fresh fish, but predators are stirring; she burrows deeper in the makeshift den.

The night air along the river is thick and sweet with decay and danger, roiling in waves off the swamp. Faint faraway rustling catches her ears and she freezes as the excited stench and musk drifts closer.  The hair on her back stands up.  In terror she flees the boat, bounding across the turnaround road over broken glass and debris, adrenaline spurring her up the ramp to the noise and blinding lights.  Disoriented, she pauses at the entrance to the roadway, turns left to the oncoming traffic; the world goes dark.

The sun is higher now as she tries to raise her head, pain rebuking the movement. She shivers, willing the benevolent blackness’ return.

A shadow falls across her and unseen hands caress her head and thin broken body.  She feels herself lift from the pavement, crushed and exposed bones grinding and screaming as she’s laid in the truck.

Through the fog she sees nothing, the pain has taken her senses.  She presses closer to the blood-soaked comfort embracing her and her body goes slack and cold, veiling itself in shock.

Nausea scolds her awakening, a haze of white and silver, murmured voices and acrid odors assault her. Through slit eyes she considers a face, but her eyelids are too heavy; she
sleeps.

An unnatural numbness and imbalance confound her efforts to stand.  Dizzy and shaking, she sinks to the cold floor.

This bed is soft and deep, she smells a faintly familiar human.  Someone sits beside her, rubbing her head and offering cheese. She likes the cheese.

It is difficult, this altering, this learning to walk again. She hops, once, twice, and goes down.
Looking back to the woman for encouragement, she wags her tail and wrenches forward again, slow and awkward towards the patch of sunlight she covets a few steps away.  Exhausted, she finally makes it and slumps to the soft sweet grass, rolling to her side, the warmth blankets her body.  She sighs, closes her golden eyes and bathes in the healing light.

UPDATE:  Sandy was a small pittie left to fend for herself beneath a freeway next to the San Jacinto River.  She was spotted by a local rescuer who was providing food until a rescue could be arranged.  Unfortunately, Sandy was hit by a car and discovered the next day with a compound fracture and many cuts and bruises. The vet was unable to save her leg and Sandy lost one of her back legs, but after she healed, she learned to walk and then run again with the help of her fosters.  This sweet girl was adopted by a loving family in Michigan and is living a wonderful life and has left all her pain and tragedy in the past. 

Copyright 2020 Rhonda Alford Owens

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