Soul of the Dog. Just for Fleas. Part 2.

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She lived in an old two-room flat on the first floor. She gave me food — mouth-watering porridge with meat, and I, still trembling, from cold and weakness, swallowed it faster than I could have chased a cat up a tree when I was just past being a puppy, and feeling like a real dog. As I was licking the bowl clean, the door opened and another girl walked in — a little older than mine.

— Hello, Ira, — my girl said. — There is a dog. Please don’t frighten it. It’s very shy and scared.
— Ok, Sveta, — Ira was surprised, — but what are you going to do with it?
— I don’t know. I want to leave it with us but Mom will say no. Look, it so hungry. I’ll give it more food…
— No, you shouldn’t, — Ira stopped her. — If it has been starving for a long time, it would be very harmful to give it a lot of food in one moment.
Conversing with each other about what to tell their mother, they took me into a bathroom and put me right into the bath.
— Do you think the cat’s shampoo for fleas will be good for a dog? — Sveta asked. Yes, I had already felt the slight yet unmistakable smell that to me was summarized in the single word «CAT» — but didn’t see one!
— It’s just for fleas, not for cats or dogs! — Ira laughed. — Sure, give it to me!
They changed the water three times, soaped my fur thoroughly, and every time the water became cleaner. I was used to mud-puddles, so the idea of water I could actually see through, let alone water with soap bubbles in it — well, what was the meaning of all this? My tail, ears, and belly had long fur, but were full of rapiers and spines. The girls couldn’t unravel it, so they cut it and I felt the loosening of a considerable cargo. I wondered where the rest of me had gone, but at the same time I was thinking: «Hey, maybe this is not so bad!»
— Look, it is not gray, it’s black and white! —They laughed while the soapy water leaked out with dead fleas. In the meantime, I was watching those little dead bodies come loose from me. Those were the ones making me itch?
— It’s a crossbreed of spaniel, — Ira said with knowledge of the matter. — And… a girl!
— Her tail! — Sveta exclaimed. — It was fluffy before… but now she looks like a poor rat!
A rat? They compared me to a rat? My feelings were hurt a little, I confess, but maybe they were right! I confusedly tucked up my ears and long thin tail. They laughed again.
Then when I was dry at last, they made a mat for me in a hallway and started to rub me with a towel — No one had ever done THAT to me before, but it sure felt nice. Then I lay on my back, and arched my spine and started waving my legs about; then I turned over and pretended to run, using only my hind legs. They looked surprised — for some reason they liked it and began praising me and laughing; it seemed they had never seen this way of toweling!
Then, just as I was getting calm on the mat in the warmth and quiet, the door opened and Mom appeared. She struck me as being a big person — not only because she was taller than the girls, but more so because of what she stood for. I immediately saw that she was the indisputable leader of that pack (of people). We dogs understand this sort of thing and know that every society needs a leader! We know that the head of pack needs to be responsible for every common decision. It’s not always easy to be the ‘big dog’ – and once in a while a dog towards the back of the pack gets it into his head that he too can be a leader…sometimes we dogs have problems like this too, and also when a new dog arrives in the neighborhood and stakes his claim…then the leader must take up the challenge.
— Mom, don’t swear, please, — Sveta said when Mom made her first step inside a hallway.
— The dog? — Mom pronounced taking off her old coat. — We don’t need a dog.
— Mooom, please! It is hurt.
— Where did you find it? — Mom asked with stern voice.
— In the school, — Sveta stammered, bewildered.
— There are a lot of children in the school. Somebody else can take it. I agree only for one night, but in the morning you must take it back where you found it.
— Mom, it’s so thin and hasn’t even an undercoat. Now is November, it will cold! — Ira supported her sister.
— It is warm in the school, don’t imagine! — Mom cut them short. —I said, only one night!
In the evening the sisters took me on a leash for a walk. However, we were out only a few minutes because I just went to the toilet under the closest bush and pulled them back home. It was too awful for me on the street. I was still cringing from my previous injuries and pain.
All the night I pressed myself on the mat and feared even to move. What if I did something I shouldn’t? I listened very carefully to how the sisters were whispering to each other in their beds, how Mom sighed tossing from side to side. One moment I heard a quiet rustle and something descended softly from the window leaf on a sill, then on the floor, came to me and glanced in the dark with its lightning green eyes. It was a cat which had returned from its walk. I still didn’t move and the cat slowly got closer, sniffed me neatly and in silence went to the sister’s room. It seemed like the cat knew that the dog was not a danger in the home. I heard its slight jump on the bed and the peaceful purr of a cat’s lullaby.
In early morning, when everything was still in the dark and Mom was sleeping yet, Sveta woke up. She came to me and touched my head. I, welcoming her, bumped the mat with my biting, bald tail.
— Hush, my dear, we must be quiet. — Sveta whispered.
She slipped into the bathroom for washing, then put on her jacket and took me on the leash. That night a lot of snow had fallen, turning the black ground into white. I didn’t remember if I had ever seen the snow. It looked wonderful and smelled of freshness, but was covered by crisping ice and the snarl of cold to come. I tried to step there but the margins of my footsteps were soon turned red because the ice was damaging my wounds again. Our walk in the morning twilight, gray and electric-yellow in the light of early windows was very short again. But my pain-laced body was starting to remember and remind me: You are a DOG. Not a MOUSE. So be strong! I told myself that I’m special if my girl took me with her, and now I must meet her expectation. It is unlikely she wants me to be like a poor rat…
Then she somehow again put me into a bath, but didn’t really wash me — she just poured the water over me. While I dried on my rug, Ira and Mom woke up. They slowly headed to the bathroom, then to the kitchen for breakfast. The cat with proudly raised its tail and followed them.
I was lying on the mat and listening the ringing of their mugs and smelling the irresistible scent of well-prepared food. I soon realized that this food was for the cat, and the cat accepted it with a degree of entitlement and ate unhurriedly. Then they poured soup in the empty cat’s bowl and called me. I stealthily hastened and started to gulp the food hungrily. Ira went out to the room to gather herself up for school. And that very moment Mom asked:
— Why is it so wet?
— I washed it again, — Sveta answered.
— But why? — Mom was surprised.
— I wasn’t sure it was finally out of fleas, — Sveta was unflappable, — so I used the cat’s shampoo again.
— Today is much colder than yesterday. Did you think how you will take the wet dog in the snowy street?
— Ouch… I didn’t, —Sveta raised her innocent eyes to Mom. — Really, how? It’s just inhumane. Mom, may I bring it back to school tomorrow?
— Do you understand that we don’t need a dog? — Mom said severely.
— Mooom…
— Ok, tomorrow. However, it must be done!
They got dressed, took their bags and in sequence flew away. Sveta winked at me and patted my ear:
— Don’t afraid, she is not angry. Be a nice dog!
And I stayed alone… Or with the cat?


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