The following story is a finalist in the Pawsitively Picture Perfect photo contest. The top three finishers will receive $500 in cash, as well as $2,000 in cash and supplies for their favorite shelter. Voting runs through June 1. To read more stories and cast your vote, click here!
On a cold January night in 2022, two young dogs were dumped in the woods that bordered the Rouge River in Detroit. It took me a week to rescue them. This is their story.
“I’m scared,” whispered the young pup.
“I know, so am I,” answered her mom.
“I’m cold. We’ve never been out of the cage this long. Will they come and find us?”
Mom growled under her breath. “I hope not,” she said.
They trotted along the trail that ran next to the river. The night sounds were frightening, the smells more so. They found a space beneath an old stump big enough for the both of them to huddle for the night.
Morning wasn’t an improvement. Wind, dark clouds, more snow. She looked down at her daughter, nuzzled close to her tummy. How was she ever going to keep her safe? A growing sense of hunger and the call of nature drove them out of their shelter. All her young life, food had been dry nuggets tossed into her cage. Even after her pups had been taken away, leaving only the runt, the routine had been the same. Out in the junk filled yard for an hour, back into the cage, kibble scattered across the floor. Now, there was no routine and she felt both thrilled and terrified.
And hungry. She sniffed the air. There were animal scents all around, some she didn’t like the smell of, but the only animals she could see were squirrels and she knew the futility of squirrels. Hearing a sharp bark, she turned and saw her pup hopping around the base of a tree, trying to climb it. The pup had yet to learn that lesson. When she turned back, she spotted a human coming up the trail.
“Run,” she yelled, and they did.
They wandered the woods, seeking food with no success. Having spent most of their young lives indoors, they didn’t have the heavy winter coat needed to keep warm in the single digit air. Returning to their shelter she stopped, sniffing the air. There, across a narrow ravine, was a large pile of… kibble? And something else to either side, the source of the smell. Just then, her pup caught the scent and off it went.
“Wait,” she yelled and the pup halted.
She moved down the hill, wary of danger. The smell was strong, enticing. She remembered the human she’d seen earlier. Him? Why? Hunger overrode her caution and she began to run, her pup right behind.
The man returned the following morning. Instinct saw her leap from her hiding spot, barking furiously. The man stopped, raised the bag he was holding and gestured toward the spot where he had left the food before. Slowly he began to sidestep in that direction. He stayed only long enough to leave the food.
The afternoon was a repeat of the morning, the following morning a repeat of the day before. Both dogs were feeling more at ease, though the pup was still frightened of the man. Unlike her mother, she had no fond memories of humans. On the fourth day, the man came, put out the food as before and then sat on the log between the two makeshift dishes. The two dogs paced nervously.
“I thought,” he began, “that it was time we got to know each other.” He spoke while tossing cookies to them. This frightened the youngest, but soon fear turned to curiosity and curiosity to joy as she ran around, leaping and catching the small biscuits in the air. As he got up to leave, he said, “I think names are in order.” He looked them over, cocking his head. “Hmmm, you have a harness on,” he said, “and you don’t. Harness and None? No, that doesn’t work. Harna, maybe, sounds exotic. None? Nope? No pizzazz. I know, we’ll put an accent mark over the E and give it an A sound, no-nay. What do you think, Noné? That work for you?” And with that he left.
The next two days were much the same. Harna overcame her fear enough to come down to the food while the man was still there, even allowing a quick ear rub. Noné was having none of that, pacing frantically until the man left. It was on the seventh day that everything changed. Morning came but the man didn’t. The two of them waited at the top of the rise, watching the trail as morning slowly passed.
“You think we should go look for him?” Noné asked.
“Yes,” answered Harna, and off they went. They were nearly to the trail when the man appeared.
“Oh,” he said, surprised when he saw them. “Sorry I’m late.” He lowered his package and squatted down. “How would you two like to come home with me?” he asked.
They stood there, looking back at him as he stood. Walking back to his van, he slid the side door open. “It’s a lot warmer there than it is here,” he said.
Hesitantly, Harna moved forward and then leapt into the van. Noné didn’t budge.
“Well, I see we’re going to have a problem here,” the man said. “You’re a pup. She’s your mom and you follow her pretty much everywhere she goes.” He looked around for a moment, getting his bearings. “We’re about a mile from the house. Let’s give this a try.” He pulled a rope leash from his pocket and gently looped it around Harna’s neck. “C’mon, girl, let’s go for a walk.”
As they walked, Harna looked back every few step to make sure Noné was there. They came to a bridge, crossed, walked up a long trail to a street, followed it until they came to a house with a huge fenced in yard. The man opened the gate and they all walked up onto the porch.
“Welcome home,” he said, opening the front door wide.
This story was submitted by EJ Knapp in support of Critter Camp Exotic Pet Sanctuary. To read other stories from the Pawsitively Picture Perfect photo contest, and to cast your vote for your favorite, click here!