Soul of the Dog. Dina. Part 4.

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The morning revealed to me the strange rituals of that place. This time Ira woke up first, took me for a short walk in the frosty air and then – inside the house once more – carried me into the bathroom and, to my shock, dumped me unceremoniously into what she called ‘the bathtub’ (“Into the bathtub with YOU, fellow!”) which I saw to my horror was rapidly filling with water! I whined and squealed. Was she going to drown me??? (people sometimes do this to unfortunate puppies) But no, she was gentle. She washed and scrubbed me and, you know?—it felt GOOD! In fact, I soon became the cleanest dog in the world. They washed me every day, and though sometimes I didn’t want it, I cooperated.  I agreed, because already I was happy here, and I kept thinking, “Please, just don’t kick me out!”

At breakfast, Mom asked:
— Why is the dog wet again?
— I washed it — Ira answered cheerfully. — I don’t want it to infect my cat with the fleas. What if they stay in its fur?
— You know I instructed Sveta to take it away this morning… — Mom did not raise her voice when she said this, and that worried me. She sounded like an official at an animal shelter. They talk of death to us in such polite and mechanical terms. They say, for example, euthanasia.
— No, I didn’t hear, Mom. . Maybe, I was out at that moment? — Ira was unflappable. Sveta buried her face into her big mug of tea.
— You are great in your conspiracy against my decision, aren’t you? Mom declared. Yet I heard no anger in her voice. There was an almost reluctant tone of patient…mischief instead. (The gift of life for me perhaps?) —Sure, we can’t kick it in such cold weather when it’s wet. But it will be dry in the evening. (Why do these humans keep referring to me as “IT”? Last time I checked, I was a girl!!!) We’re having guests today and then…
— Who’s coming? — Sveta raised her eyes to Mom.
— Anna and… her husband, — Mom for some reason stumbled.
— Her husband?! Why she’s going to bring him with her? — Ira exclaimed. Both sisters seemed surprised. — You told her not to do it anymore. We don’t like him! I would never let my husband beat me!
— Yes, I told her, but she warned me that they’ll come together, — Mom finished her tea in a final definitive gulp, as if to acknowledge that a crime against humanity had just been authorized.
— Will she again come with a black-eye?—one of the girls demanded to know. “Why don’t they get a divorce?” — the other girl shouted out, equally furious and frustrated.
— Stop, please. None of this is as easy as we would like it to be. NOW….PLEASE don’t be late after school. And don’t let the dog get so wet again.
This meant I had been granted a temporary reprieve. Dog talk, it meant I wouldn’t be thrown to the streets once more. Or to the death. So they left me alone, my fur dried, and gradually I began to feel calmer. Here it was warm and comfortable, these people didn’t mistreat me and they gave me delicious food. Even the cat did not seem so bad…wary, even contemptuous, but not with the stony eyes of an enemy. My hopes returned, but… I was still afraid of doing something wrong. I didn’t dare touch their shoes or slippers, just wandered around the flat to check that everything was in place, and then sneaked a few licks of the empty bowl. I entertained myself by recollecting every rule of that place. So, in the morning I had learned something new: the cat and I always ate from the same bowl, but the cat was first. They didn’t let me drive the cat away, and only when it had fed itself full (Tanya was the cat a he or a she?) and stepped aside, did they say “Go”, and I would jump to the food. It was a hard strain on my patience, but I knew that the cat had (its his/her – and what is the cat’s name?) rights because it had been living here longer than I, and so was more important.
When the long-awaited girls and Mom came back, they walked me again and set the table in the room. It smelled fantastic: the salad, pieces of potatoes, and the top of the Olympus — the irresistible aroma of roasted chicken… I licked myself constantly, it was so hard for me not just to leap up and snatch the chicken from the plate and run under a bed to gobble as much of it up as I could…O such fantasies !!..  instead, I knelt down on my mat like a very good, obedient dog. I am sure that only my eyes gave my true feelings away.
Then the guests came. Anna was a humble young woman in an old overcoat and with a charming smile. She stroked my ears.
— What a nice dog! It will be beautiful when its fur grows again. Its eyes are like a human’s!
Mom said nothing, just smiled. Anna’s husband was so huge that he hardly fit in the hallway. His face was coarse and hostile, and his eyes were like large red marbles that seemed as if they could roll right out of his head. He almost stepped on my tail as he lumbered toward the table, his fat stomach shaking and quivering as he huffed and puffed his way across the room.    I didn’t like him, he reminded me something bad from my past, although I couldn’t remember what it was exactly. And I thought in alarm “How many roasted chickens can he swallow?”
All of them went to the table and closed the door, leaving me and the cat in the hallway. The cat twitched its tail crossly and padded away, then leapt onto the windowsill that overlooked the street. The window was cracked open just enough for the cat to slink through and down onto the street – an old familiar routine for this cat apparently, and then he disappeared along with the asphalt. I gazed about me, at the empty window, at the closed kitchen door, and a wave of sadness swept over me, followed by a sense of uncertainty beyond which floated that succulent smell – a scent that called for action! It started driving me crazy. My agitation was strong enough to make me howl like a starving wolf, but again I reminded myself that I had to be a GOOD DOG! I knew now that if I gnawed on one of the girls’ or Mom’s footwear, they would be furious and the bell of my fatal destiny would begin to toll.  However, I need to do something! So, I got to work…
My ears told me that the family get-together was calm, and everybody was being quite polite, but a dog’s intuition and sense of anticipation are often more sharply refined than a human’s, so I caught the tension in the air. It worried me, and my ears pricked-up, listening for signs of trouble. But finally all the chicken had been eaten, the door finally opened and I gathered myself up on my mat.
— Oh, goddamn! My shoes! — The man thundered. “Shoes? — I thought. — Oh, yeah. It wasn’t a chicken, of course, but not very bad. Natural leather…” There were only soles left on the floor, I just had devoured all the rest. The faces of the girls reddened beyond recognition and they ran to hide from what was sure to follow. The Incredible Hulk glared at me furiously as if he were going to murder me right then and there! However, Mom exclaimed:
— Don’t frighten the dog! It’s not her fault, the dog is just unmannered and doesn’t know how to behave right.
— Honey, please it’s just a little dog… — Anna timidly interfered.
— But… I’ve just bought the damned things! And how the hell can I get home now?! — He spluttered with rage. — Barefoot? In the snow?!
— You can call a taxi, — Mom answered calmly. — Please, get away from the dog. Otherwise, it will pee from fear.
Yes, I could, I was ready to. He was hanging over me like a heavy cloud and it was frightening to imagine that mass falling on top of me!
In several minutes Anna and her husband left by taxi. I still cringed on my mat with my tail set like a frozen rope and ears pinned to the sides of my head. What were they going to do? The girls suddenly appeared in the hallway laughing. Mom smiled too.
— He will never return to us! — Ira cried out in delight.
— I told you she is smart! — Sveta chimed in triumphantly.
— Yeah, she seems like a very gifted dog, — Mom conceded. — OK, OK, what shall we call it? I bet you have already came up with her name.
The sisters had. Since then they have always called me Dina.


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