Living in a small town there were always puppies for sale cheap or even free. It was almost a joke how often there’d be a large cardboard box in front of Town Hall with adorable little whippy tailed puppies in it, tumbling all over one another, biting ears and whining for attention. How many times had she come out during her lunch break to play with the puppies and give the owner a break to run to the bathroom. How many times had she left only to find the bitten cardboard box empty and soiled sitting by the stairs.
She spent her days answering the same three questions over and over again as new tourists arrived in town and needed to know where the bathrooms were, which place was best to eat at, and if there was anything for kids to do. Same questions. Every day. With a lunch break to put a hold on the monotony, and the near weekly set of puppies to bring her joy.
She never went home with a puppy. In all her time working there and seeing dozens of litters, more like a hundred different litters, she never once chose a puppy for herself. It didn’t seem fair to her to have a dog, after all she spent five days a week at work for eight and a half hours plus drive time. What would a puppy do during all that time home alone. Likely destroy her home, and with good reason.
She was surprised then when one evening after turning out the lights, locking the doors, and double checking that the outside lights were still on, she walked down the stairs to find a cardboard box that wasn’t empty. A lump of blanket or towel, perhaps, she thought to herself as she knelt down to dispose of the box. Upon closer inspection the lump of cloth was actually a lump of fur. A lump of very cold fur.
She picked up the tiny puppy, and felt the faintest of heartbeats in her thumb. Could be her own heartbeat, she thought, and then she heard a little whimper and knew the pup was still alive. She shoved the little body down the front of her shirt, using her bra to support its little hind legs and rump, her breasts to warm it quickly. She thought back to who had been there that day and couldn’t picture anyone. She’d come out at lunch as she usually did and there’d been no puppies. There’d been no box.
It was still early for a city but late for her little town. The vet would be closed. She could drive the pup to the next town over, they surely had a vet that would be open for a couple more hours if not an emergency vet. She walked to her car and got inside. Turning the motor on and cranking the thermostat over she waited for the car to get warm while thinking through her options.
The little fuzzball was moving now, it’s sharp nails scratching her skin. She gently gathered the puppy up in her hands and pulled it out to take a look. Being a creature of habit she looked to see if she was dealing with a boy or a girl puppy, and discovered this was a boy. He wasn’t opening his eyes but she suspected it was because he was so exhausted, not because he was too young. He was small, sure, likely the runt of whatever litter he’d come from, but he was old enough to eat solid food and he was probably very hungry and dehydrated.
She decided to take him home and bring him to the local vet the next day. He probably needed immediate assistance more than trained assistance, and she’d been a vet tech for a couple years before moving to the middle of nowhere. She could get the puppy by for one night. She settled him in the passenger seat and moved the air vents so they’d blow on him. Then she headed home doing a mental inventory of her kitchen. She for sure had chicken and rice and she probably had some pumpkin. All of that would make for a fine meal for this little fluff.
Once home she returned the pup to his nest inside her shirt and went about the business of fixing him a meal. She cooked the both a bit of chicken and rice and found a can of pumpkin in the cupboard left over from Thanksgiving pie making but not yet expired. When the chicken and rice were done cooking she made herself a plate and then found a sturdy bowl for the puppy. She put some chicken, rice, and pumpkin in a power blender and let it whir for a minute, then poured everything out into the sturdy bowl. She found a second sturdy bowl and put some fresh water in it.
Sitting on the living room floor with everything spread around her she took a bite of her dinner and while chewing dipped her finger in the water and brought it up to the pups nose. Anyone who tells you water has no smell doesn’t know their you-know-what from a hole in the ground. That puppy started licking and she went back and forth from the water to his nose several times before she decided to take another bite of her own dinner and try giving him a bit of his.
When she brought a finger full of mush to his face the puppy nearly bit her finger clean off. The poor thing was ravenous. She was able to get roughly a half a cups worth in his gut before he passed out. She set the alarm on her phone to go off in two hours. He might sleep for four, but she’d try to get him to drink some more in two. Dehydration was a more likely killer for the puppy at this point than anything else.
She settled the pup in her lap and finished her dinner, scratching away at the pups silky ears and engorged belly. When she was done she grabbed an old towel and made a little bed for the puppy, did the dishes, and picked up a book. No sense going to bed yet when it would be time to give the pup water in an hour. She read until her alarm went off, occasionally stopping to look at the puppy as he snored or farted. He was ridiculously cute and unlike any of the dogs that were usually found in the box at Town Hall.
Black and white with a scruffy beard, he looked like some kind of terrier mix. She tried picturing all the town dogs and couldn’t think of any that looked quite like him. It was possible one of the tourists had brought him up from the city and dropped him off, not wanting to pay a relinquishing fee to the Humane Society. Everyone who knew about her little town also knew about the puppies forever available at Town Hall, so it was possible. It made her heart hurt to think that anyone would abandon this puppy like that though. None of the local people would have left a puppy alone like that. They would have stayed til the last tourist left and then brought the puppy back home to return the next day and try again.
When the alarm went off she offered the puppy water again. She hated to wake the sleepy little guy, but dehydration was serious, and the puppy would certainly be able to fall back asleep. Sure enough he lapped up several more fingers of water and even opened his eyes. He had the sweetest deep brown eyes. When she decided he’d had enough water she took him out to her yard and set him down on the ground. He sniffed around a bit and she was worried he was going to lay down again and sleep, but instead he squatted down and peed. He walked in a little circle around it afterward and then looked at her.
“Good dog,” she said and marveled when he wagged his tail. “Let’s go back inside,” she said, patting her thigh and walking towards the house. He stared at her, unmoving. She made a couple kissing noises and he leaped towards her, his whole body wiggling with joy. It was then she knew he would be just fine and also that he was her dog.
“What are we going to name you?” she asked as they walked in to the warmth of the house, closing the door on the night behind them.
~~~That’s one hour~~~