Angela Phillips walked straight into her office in her home, clutching a thick bundle of folders in one hand, and a puppy in the other. Correction — a troublemaker in the other. She couldn’t take it anymore. He was roguish, he was a scoundrel, and he was a brat. He was nothing like the puppy she had as she grew up. Her sweet, little cocker spaniel named Percy was an angel. Percy had never chewed up her shoes, stole all of her toilet paper, or woke her up in the middle of the night every day unlike the new puppy did.
Angela always wanted a puppy. After Percy died when she was fourteen, she never imagined getting another puppy, because it would seem like replacing him. But she missed living in another world. She missed Dogland. She missed how they bark delicately but also firm, and how they all have different personalities, just like humans. It seemed like heaven to live in that world again.
But she snapped herself back to reality. She wasn’t in Dogland anymore. She brought her new puppy into the human world. At least, that’s what it seemed like in her thoughts. Puppies can’t be brought into the human world. They wouldn’t know what to do there. At least humans like Angela know how to take care of dogs in Dogland.
“My parents bought me this scamp, but I wish I could take him back,” she said loudly. She sat down in her favorite swivel chair and sighed hopelessly. The puppy barked gleefully. Oh, of course he would be happy. He doesn’t have to wake up every single day and go through a scavenger hunt for twenty minutes to find her sneakers as her daily morning routine. What a troubled, naughty rascal.
Rascal! An idea went to her mind. “Oh, there is no doubt, little guy! I already know what to name you. You little Rascal!” She set Rascal on his bed next to Angela’s office room. She always had to bring him wherever she went inside the house because once her eyes were on something for a millisecond, a little puppy the size of a mini clock will be making more fuss — either trying to knock some piles of fruit or paint on the ground, or trying to hide her shoes again.
“Rascal! I can’t believe I survived for two days with you. Let me tell myself it’s worth it!” She picked up Rascal again and set him on her lap. She had to concentrate on her work. But she couldn’t help glancing down to see what trouble Rascal could have caused after typing a few words on her document. It became a habit. She couldn’t keep her eyes off of him. Her habit could get her fired. She needed to have the document done in four days.
She needed someone else to take care of him. She couldn’t be like this forever.
Should she put him in his cage for a few hours?
Angela sighed at looked at the puppy’s black, obsidian eyes one last time. “Oh, Rascal. I hate you so much, but I can’t stand seeing you inside your small cage, whimpering. That’s going to make me more distracted than how it is now.”
The puppy was curious. He felt cozy on her lap, but it was the words she said to him. It was sharp, but he could tell the way she was staring at him, she still was feeling something for him. Rascal felt overwhelmed. He was learning too much, and too fast.
Angela gave a small smile. “I trust you, this time. I’ll let you free downstairs. You are much calmer than yesterday. I think you learned something — hopefully.”
Before Angela could set him free downstairs and do her work in peace, she made sure all doors were locked, no paint or glass or anything that could make a mess and hurt him were out of his sight, and also made sure his favorite toys were all in one place, so they could keep Rascal company. She gave him a quick kiss before saying, “Come upstairs if you need me.” He gave a short, sharp bark in reply, and Angela really thought she could trust him. So while she went upstairs, and thought about Rascal all the way, she thought about something else.
Did I really just give Rascal a kiss? That troublemaker? That… that little rascal?
Did I really trust him to be downstairs on his own? I mean, I do have a camera to make sure he stays safe… but why would I do that? Why would I let him go on his own? What kind of party will he be having right now?
Do I love Rascal?
Angela was bewildered. After she cleaned up his messes, scolded him for his mistakes, and was impatient with him and wanted to give him back to the shelter, did she love him?
She couldn’t do her work now. She was always so used to doing work with Rascal, and she liked it that way. Sure, he bothered her a lot and sometimes drooled on her work papers, and jumped on her desk and spilled her coffee, but it was still her puppy, and he was still learning to behave. If she could teach him now, then maybe he wouldn’t turn out to be a rascal after all.
Angela needed to go back downstairs to get Rascal again. She couldn’t focus without him. She could feel him cuddled up in her arms, and the innocent smile that said, I didn’t make that mess! It must have been another puppy! It made her smile. No, scratch that. Rascal made her smile.
Back downstairs, she called, “Rascal!”
But to her surprise, the room was unusually quiet. His toys were left scattered all around the living room, and her shoes were lying perfectly where it was. Not a single scratch mark or drool. That was big news.
“Rascal?” she repeated, more loudly. Reaching desperately into her pockets, she got out a treat. She yelled, “Rascal! Who wants a treat?” She expected some running, some crashing, any noise would relieve her. But it was nothing. Her house was completely empty… Suddenly, Angela seemed to be drowning in loneliness.
Her heart was draining. She had no time to think or to be wary. Her legs controlled her, yelling, Run!
Normal people would have gone out to the front door. But she remembered that the back door was closer to where she was running, so she turned left to open it. Quick. But the door was open, the invisible broom sweeping the air in her face.
Then the memory flashed. It struck her like lightning.
Her heart was pounding now. “My God! I forgot to close the back door!” She felt tears, hot tears coming out of her eyes. “Rascal, I’m going to find you!” Angela never felt more distressed her whole life.
She raced out of there, hoping to find some tracks that belonged to Rascal. Or at least a small bark of Rascal exploring nature. Something like that. Anything like that!
Next to the curb, she ran along, looking to the left, to the right. She even searched around her neighbors’ street, but nothing, not even a small howl — or panting was heard. It’s as if Rascal never existed.
Through the distance, she heard sirens wailing. It’s coming to my house, Angela thought. It’s my only hope. She followed where the loud sound was going — until it stopped. Right there, next to Angela’s house, it stopped. Stopped. This can only mean one thing. Frantic, feeling lost, she cried. Right there, in public. She imagined blood. She imagined darkness. She imagined Rascal, he was glowering in her mind, as if it was an alert. An alert that was marked Red. Sorrows. Blaze. Tears struggled to stop. She didn’t control her tears. She couldn’t. No one could.
Angela thought, This is a dream. No, a nightmare. Wake up, Angela. Wake up! Sadly, she didn’t.
But when she was told what had happened, it made her get all emotional again.
“We have a few witnesses that saw your dog,” they informed Angela. “They saw your dog go out of the back door—”
“How did they see that?” she asked. “We have a fence.” She managed to say the words without shaking.
They answered solemnly, “That’s the problem. There was a hole in your fence, big enough for your puppy to go through and to go to the street. But the witnesses saw two people that weren’t looking when they were about to cross the street. Before the witnesses got to them, the puppy ran in front of them and barked loud enough for them to pay attention! Before the puppy could go back, he found something on the street that caught his eye.”
They didn’t have to say anything else. Angela was already broken.
“Is he going to live?” she whispered like a flea.
One of them nodded. “You may visit the veterinary surgeon. You have to wait a few hours.”
Angela, without hesitating, she answered, “That won’t be a problem.” Then, she added, “Where is it?”
They told her.
Angela thought, Rascal will always be Rascal, and he will always be in my heart, a rocket full of love in my soul.
Then she took off, faster than the speed of light — and more determined than thunder.
“He’s going to live, right?” she asked the veterinary surgeon. They had just finished the operation, which took hours as she was told. But for the first time, she was patient.
“Of course!” the vet smiled at her. “What a strong little guy! What’s his name?”
“Rascal or not, he is still a brave hero,” she said. “He saved two lives!”
Angela peered down at Rascal. He was sleeping, and she was relieved to say he actually looked comfortable, just weak and tired. She replied, “Rascal is a hero.”
The vet smiled at her again. “You are very lucky to have him. And he is very lucky to have you.”
Angela thought bitterly, I can’t believe I treated him like a cactus. My own puppy.
The vet told her, “We will be talking to you again in a few minutes. Please step outside to the waiting area.”
Angela smiled, a thin curve playing on her lips. She thanked the vet.
Rascal or not, he is still a brave hero.
You are very lucky to have him, and he is very lucky to have you.