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  A LIFE WORTH LIVING

  by

  Jennifer Probst

  This book is a work of complete fiction. Any names, places, incidents, characters are products of the authors imagination and creativity or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is fully coincidental.

  All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or any portion thereof in any form whatsoever in any country whatsoever is forbidden.

  A Life Worth Living @ 2011 by Jennifer Probst

  Cover by Dreamstime.com - Photographer Roman Samokhin

  Author's Note

  I'm a dog lover. I own two rescue dogs and received one of them from a pet shelter, Pets Alive, located in Pine Bush, NY. As a published writer of both romance novels and children's books, I always wondered what went through a dog's mind. One day, I was happily writing my book and a dog's voice flashed through my brain, insisting his story be told. Of course, I ignored the voice. What on earth would I do with a short story about a dog?

  But this dog would not be ignored. He remained firmly in my head, knocking me off kilter, until I surrendered. I wrote this story in a few hours, and felt his heartbreakingly strong voice must be heard. I decided to publish this myself and offer it in e-book form. I donate ALL proceeds to my local shelter, Pets Alive. You can check them out at their website:

  https://petsalive.com/

  I dedicate this story to everyone who has ever owned a dog, loved and lost an animal, or felt kinship to any of our furry creatures here on Earth. Be kind to them.

  I invite you to check out my other works at my website, https://www.jenniferprobst.com. I love hearing from my readers so please drop me a line at [email protected]

  Jennifer Probst

  A LIFE WORTH LIVING

  I'm an ordinary dog. I wasn't bad or mischievous like the famous Marley, or perfectly behaved and intelligent like Dean Koontz's golden lab, Trixie.. I haven't saved a life or done anything interesting. I never befriended a handicapped animal or lived in a library or have some awe inspiring lesson to teach anyone. Most days that passed, I realized no one would have cared if I crossed over the mythic Rainbow Bridge - which I still don't think I believe in. But one day I found love. I realized I mattered to someone. And that has made all the difference.

  I don't remember much before the shelter. I've heard humans block out memories that are too disturbing or tragic for the brain to assimilate, but I'm not sure if dogs work the way humans do. All I remember is flashes of my puppyhood; my mother's warm milk, fighting and rolling with my brothers and sisters on a brown fluffy carpet, and a female's tinkling laugh that made me happy. The images change when the man came for me but I was too little to do anything about it, I just remember hating his smell and sensing a badness in his core, nothing like my mom or the female with the laugh.

  The cage was cold and I was stuffed in with a bunch of other small dogs so there wasn't any room to move. I smelled my own feces and the other animals' - usually I rather liked the smell but many of them were sick, and the sickness assaulted my nostrils and bothered me. No place to run or play or roll. We had to fight for water and food, and most nights I'd look out the bars of my cage and watch the other animals whine and look confused. Some seemed to accept it and deal; others surrendered to the ugliness of the place and the man and gave up.

  He beat us. I don't dwell on the pain because I learned if you give in to it, the man wins. I learned to take it and block most of the blows with my rear - it hurt less. The cigarettes terrified me - the stink of the smoke searing my fur and his crazy laughter when I desperately tried to get away. He had a favorite game I dreaded. He'd take out a treat and stand by the door and beckon me with a phony voice. I don't think I'm a very stupid dog, I sensed the danger, but I needed to take a chance for the food. He rarely gave it to me - just took the opportunity to slam the door in my face to make sure I knew I'd never go free. Then he'd strike.

  Those years were a blur, but then the cage was gone and I was trapped in the house with hundreds of other dogs. The man never came back. No one came. Not sure how long we went without food and water. I had two friends: a black poodle and a lab; we stuck together. Found a dirty corner and huddled to keep warm and look out for any of the others who showed signs of madness. The madness ran rampant; the eyes of the dog turned and suddenly the jaws would snap in a fight to the death. Soon, our turn may come. I knew I may die, but had no idea what that really meant. I dealt hour by hour and tried to do my part to keep the three of us alive.

  The day I was rescued was almost as traumatic as my first day at the "house." Suddenly, light poured in from the boarded up windows and blinded me. Humans entered lined up in a row, with face masks and leashes. Their eyes registered an emotion close to horror, but they smelled fresh and clean and had a goodness that emanated from them, reminding me of the female with the laugh. I huddled with my friends, terrified they would split us up, but they made their way through the house with organization. We received water immediately. I remember the way the cold liquid felt against my aching tongue, and I lapped furiously, wanting to drown my crusted fur and body into the stuff. One of the rescuers tried to touch me, but I yanked back, unsure what he meant. He immediately retreated, respecting my space.

  They took us together in the same transporter. The drive terrified me - the unknown could be worse than what I did know. At least I had my friends and the bad man was gone. In the unknown place, there could be lots of bad men ready to beat me. Perhaps, it was a trick. I didn't know much of the human world any longer, so I trusted no one. Survival was key, yet when the new man had touched me my first instinct wasn't to bite, but huddle away. I hated that weakness within me. I wanted to be like the German shepherd before he went mad. He used to stare at the bad man with a determined hate in his eyes and take the beatings without a whimper. Drove the man crazy. But he didn't make it. Still, I think of that German shepherd a lot. I wish I was more like him.

  When I arrived at the place, time passed in a blur. Humans spoke in soft voices and told me things like it would be ok. Wasn't sure what it meant - I had no time to learn the language - but the tone soothed me and didn't seem like the bad man trick. I got food, crunchy, delicious, dry food that filled my stomach. Something they called a bath. At first I fought, but I learned water is good, and warm, and some soapy stuff took the dirty crud and poop away. It hurt a bit where the bad man had burned me, but someone put some sticky substance on it and I felt much better.

  I was examined by some man who seemed very gentle and careful. Again, not like the bad man. It was when they first put me in the cage that I lost my sanity.

  The bars clinked in a terrible way - and my friends were no longer there. I'm embarrassed to say I completely lost it. I howled and spun around in circles, calling for my black poodle and lab, insane with fear that my experience would start all over again, just with nicer people. I know humans can't understand dog language, and I curse my inexperience with their language, but I tried in every way possible to communicate what I needed. They tried to contain me, but this one woman took control and just let me have my tantrum. She watched me with a steady gaze, calm and sure, until I lay panting, and pleading with my eyes.

  The first miracle of my life occurred since I left the female with the laugh.

  Almost as if she understood, she disappeared and came back with my two friends. We greeted each other in sheer relief, clean smelling and dry, a strange new scent in the air. We made sure we were all ok and agreed that this seemed like a better place. The woman nodded and left us with cozy blankets and fresh water and we all collapsed in a heap and slept.

  The days at that place passed in a blur, but I began to feel safe agai