A yellow labrador limped through the quiet alley, trying to avoid the trash strewn around his paws. Something made a noise behind him. He turned his golden head to see a trash can roll slightly. It stopped abruptly and the lab slowly limped toward it. The lid of the can slid across the concrete and landed at the dog’s paws. The dog flinched in surprise. He peered inside, bending his neck to look through the opening that was on it’s side.
There sat an animal the dog had seen only once before. It was a good size and it looked chubby- if it wasn’t, it was due to the fur. It was a smoky grey, but had black rings on it’s bushy tail. It had a white face with a black mask around it’s beady black eyes. It had slightly rounded ears bordered with white fur. It was younger than the one the dog had seen earlier. It spun toward the dog, lips pulling back in a snarl, revealing sharp white teeth. It dropped the half-eaten hot dog bun it had been snacking and lashed out a small paw.
The lab was unable to dodge in time, acquiring a scratch down his golden chest. He growled and took a step forward. He was much larger than the animal, but it was determined. The animal hissed and swung a paw out again, but the dog snapped at it. The raccoon let out a growl in return, then turned and fled.
The dog barked after it but did not pursue. He bent his head to snatch up the rest of the hot dog bun, then sat down to groom his dirty and matted yellow fur. Soon he could hear a voice- a gruff voice of a human, a voice that seemed to emanate a hateful demeanor.
“Yes, I looked down Birch. And no, I found nothing. But I heard some barking from down on the second alley of Plate. No, Plate Road. What other Plate? Am I missing something?”
The dog growled uncertainly as he stood and began to back away.
“Okay, look. I’ll go check it out but I don’t know if whatever it is will be down there. No promises.”
Of course, these words meant nothing to the dog.
The human approached slowly, holding a stick with a loop at the end. The lab growled.
“Wait, Joe,” the human said as it came into view. He was holding a black box to his face while pressing a button on it’s side. “Hang on, I think this is…. Remember that lady who had like five yellow lab puppies that all escaped? One was named Winston, Rose.. I forget the others. Well, we got one. Look at that! Collar and everything. I’m going to try and get it.” He hooked the black box on a loop on his pants and began to approach the lab again.
The lab snarled threateningly, tossing his head about. He continued to back up, but the human took larger steps and the dog was losing ground. The dog felt his hind end hit a wall, and he realized he could go no farther. When the human was above him, he dashed through the gap between his legs, running through the alley and out onto the sidewalk. The human ran after him but tripped on the fallen garbage can.
The lab didn’t stop once. He raced down the sidewalk, crossed the street, ran through the shrub into the park, hurried out of the park, crossed three more streets, dashed down a few more sidewalks, and swerved into a different alley- this alley was tighter than the previous one-before slowing to a stop. The alley was littered with broken glass and worn and discardeed rags. Only one trash can stood tall and full here.
The sun was setting, though it could not be seen beyond the numerous buildings filling the streets. The dog’s stomach growled with hunger. He knocked over the garbage can, finding nothing but a small chunk of corndog and a small dallop of ketchup. It wasn’t nearly enough, but he was so exhausted from his mad dash that he flopped down atop a pile of rags and a smashed cardboard box and closed his tired eyes, letting sleep take him into it’s grip.
The sound of rushing vehicles, honking horns, yelling humans, and many more things wakened the laborador. The city was awake again- not that it hadn’t been the night before- even though the sun wasn’t even up yet. The sky was still dark.
The dog whined with exhaustion and weariness. His mind told him to get up, but his paws refused to move. He lay there for a long time. He rested until people began to crowd the sidewalks. Hundreds of them, second after second. Some wore dainty dresses, others strict suits. Some wore mere jeans and T-shirts. The stray was most interested in the people is jeans and T-shirts. They smelled of many interesting things- most of all, food.
Eventually the hunger that cried in his stomach drove him to get up. His paws were unsteady, but he slowly made his way out of the narrow alley.
The sky now held a tint of orange as the sun rose. Towering buildings looming above his head, casting long shadows across road after road. The dog’s pads were torn and coated with dried blood. He had been out here far too long, and any person, dogcatcher or not, could see that.
He nosed his way toward the entrance to the alleyway, allowing his dirty yellow ears to prick forward at the sound of laughter. There was a boy and a girl on two-wheeled shiny things, things he had heard that had been called “bikes.”
He dashed out just as they came upon him. The girl was ahead of the boy. She swerved just in time. She fell sideways, and the boy landed hard on his side right behind her.
The dog, terrified, tried to scrabble away, but his forepaw gave beneath him and he, too, landed on his flank. He forced himself back up and started backing away from the mess.
“Help! Someone call the dogcatcher! Help! Help, please!” A woman screamed.
“No, stop! You’re scaring him!” The girl that had been on her bike yelled.
“I’m scaring him?!” The woman was clutching a crying little boy. “Hush, Len. It’s okay,” she whispered, staring angrily into the girl’s blue eyes.
“Yes, you are.”
“He’s not yours, so he’ll be taken to the pound this instant!”
The girl swallowed hard, pulling her bike up. Her brother stood behind her. “He’s my dog,” the girl snapped.
“Your dog? Ha! If so, then call him and let him come to you.”
“So be it.” The girl, looking more nervous than ever, turned to the dog. She crouched and patted the concrete in front of her. “Here, honey.. H-here..” She glanced back at the little boy. “Here, Len.. Len..”
The dog shifted.
Her eyes lit up. “Here, Lenny!”
The dog bounded into her open arms.