I am cold, so I open my eyes, and I am under the kitchen table. I do not remember falling asleep here. I never sleep in the kitchen. I do not like the floor because it is cold and my paws click on it and they scare me.
I stand up and click my way to my dish. It is empty, but the big bag is next to it and open. This is not where it should be. It should be in the cupboard next to the bones. I think that I can knock it over, so I bat at it and it falls, sending kibble everywhere. Celia will be mad and might even get the newspaper, but that’s ok because she forgot to put the food in my bowl and she forgot to put the bag away. I crunch on some kibble and go to get a drink of water, but that bowl is also empty, so I click over to the bathroom and get some water from the toilet. Celia does not like this at all, but she cannot see me so I cannot get caught.
I walk into the living room with the soft rug and sit down on my big pillow. I hear a door slam and I growl a little, but quiet, because there are always doors slamming and Celia says “don’t bark.” But I have to bark, because what if it’s DANGER? Celia tells me to watch out for DANGER. Celia is my special person and I am her special buddy. She asks me who her special buddy is, and I say it’s me, Buddy, my name is Buddy and I am special. And then she says “It’s Buddy” and I lick her face and smile even though I just told her that and why doesn’t she always understand me? She makes so many sounds with her mouth and I can’t do that. Sometimes she knows what I want, though. Sometimes I can sigh and she’ll sigh the same and I think that she must feel how I feel. And if I lick the wart on her knee, she takes me for walks or gives me snuggles. And I put my chin on her lap to tell her I want to go to bed and would she come too and pet my head until I fall asleep?
But sometimes Celia is hurt and I cannot help her. Her eyes make salty water that I tried to lick away, or find the part that hurts her to clean that, but she never shows me. Sometimes she hugs me so tight I feel like I can’t breathe, but I am a special buddy and I never snap at her, sometimes just a little growl to show she’s hugging too tight. Sometimes we hide under the blankets all day, and Gracie comes and takes me for a walk. She rattles my collar and I come running, and Celia stays in bed. Sometimes Celia is in the office with her computer and then later in the day we go to the park together and that is more fun than walking to the corner with Gracie.
My big pillow is warmer than the kitchen floor and it is soft. Usually Celia puts it by the couch so we can sit next to each other but today it is in the spot by the fire place where it goes when company is coming. Celia is not very tidy but last night she cleaned the whole house and when I licked her knee she batted me away. “I have a lot left to do, Bud,” she said, and turned away from me. I was sad, so I went to the kitchen. I must have fallen asleep there.
Buried in my pillow I find Ferdie, my furry friend that Celia gave to me when she became my person. He has red feathers and they tickle my nose and I sneeze. I drop him on the table next to the letters that Celia takes to the big box on our walks. There are a lot of them and I push them off the table with my nose. They smell like Celia.
When I was a puppy I lived in a cage in a room with a bunch of other dogs. I do not remember my mother very much but she was in the cage with me for a while. Then when I got big they moved me to my own spot, and that is when Celia found me. Lots of people came to play with me but no one ever took me home until Celia. She came with Gracie, who is her helper, and we played catch and ran around the yard. I was used to this and did not expect to go home, so when Gracie said “Is he the one?” I didn’t know what she meant. They took me back to my cage, and talked to one of the people that used to feed me and he said that I would make a good companion animal. I didn’t know what that was, but I heard the word “good” so I must have been a good boy. That night they gave me a bath which I did not like, and then in the morning after I went outside Celia came and took me out of my cage. We walked to the car, and she opened the door for me. “Hop in, Buddy. We’ve got a long drive ahead of us.”
Celia and I rode in the car for a long time. Sometimes we got out to take a walk, and sometimes she would leave and come back with food for us. Then finally we arrived at a big building and climbed a bunch of stairs and then we were home.
Nobody really comes to our house except Gracie, who is Celia’s human friend and the one who told her she should get me to help her. I don’t know how I help, usually I am making messes and Celia gets mad, but then she always snuggles me and tells me I’m her special Buddy.
I look at the letters on the floor and think that she will be mad but maybe she will snuggle me after. This makes me miss her, so I click-clack my way across the linoleum to the bedroom door, which is closed. Celia doesn’t like to close the door because the bedroom gets too hot.
It smells funny.
One time, Gracie and Celia got a bunch of paint and put it on the walls and it smelled bad for days. I would not sleep in the bedroom. Celia tried to drag me in by my collar and my nails scratched the wood floor. I did not want to smell that.
Another time Celia threw out some potatoes and I dug them out of the trash can and hid them for later, and she found all of them except the one I put behind the stove and it smelled up the whole kitchen.
Sometimes Celia lets me out on the fire escape and I can smell all sorts of things like food and flowers and smoke and garbage and sunshine.
I don’t know this smell.
The doorknob in the living room rattles and I run to it, growling a little just in case it’s DANGER and not Gracie, but of course it is. She lets herself in and I wag my tail and pant at her. She scratches my ears and drops her keys on the table next to Ferdie. She sees the letters on the floor. “Did you make this mess, Buddy?” I duck my head a little and try to squeeze under the coffee table, but I do not fit. She knows I did it, but she just smiles at me and picks up the letters. She starts to look through them. Gracie smiles a lot, but she stopped and looked at a letter in her hand, then at me. Her voice was low and gravely, like my growls. “Where’s Celia?”
I turn and trot to the bedroom door. Gracie knows how to work doorknobs. I have tried with my teeth once but I ruined the knob and Celia had to get a new one. Gracie follows me, and when she tries the knob it won’t open. “Celia? It’s Grace!” Celia does not say anything. Gracie goes into the kitchen drawer and takes out some keys. I only thought the door in the living room used keys.
Gracie opens the bedroom door and goes into the room. Celia is sleeping on the bed, her covers pulled up around her head. Gracie walks over to the side of the bed and touches Celia’s shoulder as I jump up and lay beside her. The smell is stronger, something I don’t know and don’t like. “Celia?”
Celia doesn’t move. I put my head on her arm. Gracie makes a sound I don’t know and falls back against the wall. She picks a tiny bottle up off the nightstand. One time I knocked it over and it rattled across the floor but when she shakes it there is no noise. “Oh, Celia…” Gracie is crying. She has slid down the wall to the floor. She is making a phone call.
I put my chin on Celia’s shoulder. She is the thing that smells different. She does not move, not even the tiny bit she does when she breathes. She is cold, like the kitchen floor.
Gracie is crying. She is sad like Celia is sad sometimes, so I jump off the bed and lick away her tears. “Don’t worry, Buddy,” she says, “I’ll take care of you.” I nuzzle against her. She is silly. I don’t need her. Celia takes care of me.
Celia always takes care of me.
Brigid Hannon is a writer from Buffalo, NY. She has previously been
published in the Ghost City Press August Review and has work
forthcoming at Street Light Press and Madwomen in the Attic. She can
be found online at hamneggs716.wordpress.com and on Twitter