Ding. The front door of the shelter opened. A tall and strong man stepped in, and I instantly knew he wouldn’t want me. I was a weak and small dog, and he was a strong, healthy man. My old humans abused me, slapped me with their big, strong hands. My mother was thrown out, abandoned in the backyard, not let in again. I don’t want that to ever happen to me again, but something about this human, something about his bright smile and dark hair... It seemed that he was the one. I wanted him to take me away from this shelter. I stood up, trying to be the best dog I could, but then I remembered. The pain, the pain of losing a loved one. The pain of forceful human hands. I shrunk, shivering in the corner of my cold, metal cage.
The human was looking around, at the fish, hamsters, dogs, and cats. He stared at each tank or cage for some time before shaking his head and moving on. He rubbed his clean-shaven face, slowly advancing towards my cage. I sat there, knowing what is going to happen when he approaches my cage. The same old, “too skinny,” or, “the fur looks weird.” I don’t mind. One day, I would find a human that loves me just the way I am, I always thought. He finally approached my cage, took a good look at me, and pointed towards the front desk.
He called to the managers, “I want this one here.”
I gazed up in disbelief, and he looked back. I took it in. I’m going to have a home, I realized. The managers came over, with the metal object that unlocks all of the cages. I have always wanted to take a good look at it. The one with the long nails pointed at me, not like how the nice man pointed at me like I was a cockroach she didn’t want in her home.
“Are you sure you want this one? This one’s a little bit skinny.”
“Yes, I’m very sure, “ he replied, beaming.
The jangle of the cage filled my ears. The sound of freedom that I have heard from afar is now close, wrapping me in a warm hug. The human lifted me into his arms. I settled into the human heat, a type of sensation that I have never felt in a long time. It felt amazing, as I got tingles from comfort. It radiated through me, giving me energy and hope. I dozed off as the human was signing the papers, confirming his ownership of me.
I woke up on a patterned rug. The rug felt like new sandpaper that has never been used. I scratched behind my ear and noticed yelling that was going on. I trotted to the noise, not knowing what it was or who was causing it. The human that picked me up from the shelter and a woman that I have never seen before were bickering.
“You were the one who brought the dog, so YOU have to take care of it,” she yelled.
“Well, we’re together, and it’s both of our responsibilities!” he replied calmly.
I backed up in sheer terror at the look on the woman’s face. It was soft but fierce. She was a fiery woman. I realized that I shouldn’t mess with her, but I couldn’t help myself. I curled up at her feet, and she kicked me away. I made a soft whining noise from the impact. She turned to the man, “That creature probably has fleas, and I do not want it to come near me.” I whimpered, not knowing what to do. The man came over to me, comforting me, scratching behind my ears,
Weeks went by. I played with my human in their backyard, in the middle of nowhere. It seemed that their house was so far away from civilization. It was out near a huge field and forest. My human and I went into the forest occasionally. He doesn’t want to go there often, for fear of losing me. Sometimes, when we go there, the woman yells at us after. The man doesn’t care. When we go there, he always has a happy sparkle in his eyes. We play fetch and run alongside each other. There are sometimes streams where I drink water. The human has a dangerous plastic bottle he takes water from.
I woke up from a quick nap to find both of my humans gone. One of them was always at home, their scent strong. Arising in a panic, I tried following their scent, but it was completely gone, replaced with the strong scent of disinfectant. As I made my way around, I realized that the front door was open. I rushed out, immediately greeted by the scent of freshly cut grass. My humans were here, not too long ago. Where did they go? Suddenly, I heard the sound of screeching tires. A black Jeep showed up. People in black suits showed up, and I hid behind the house. They were coming closer. These humans smelled like anger. They weren’t good people. I had to run away. I ran into the forest, not scared of anything in front of me, but scared of what’s behind.
I plunged into the brush, hearing that familiar crunch of leaves, determined to find my humans, even the woman. I didn’t want to lose a loved one, not again. I was lost in my thoughts as I solemnly trudged around the forest. I was starting to lose hope. The sun was disappearing, and it felt as if I would never see it again This time, I lost the only humans that treated me right. All of the ones before deceived me. It made me believe that they were loving, caring beings. Instead, they slapped and abused me like I was a lesser being. What they did, it certainly gave me the notion that I was a lesser being. The man taught me that there were good people in the world. The woman cared for me, but she didn’t have the same sparkle in her eyes. She had a dullness, the type that humans show when they’re not interested. Her mind was always somewhere else, not in the present time.
I trotted for hours, thinking about my humans. I tried following their scent. Nothing. All I smelled was fresh leaves and water contaminated with algae. My paws started to hurt. Badly. I also started to pant heavily. I decided to take a rest. I laid down in a clear spot with no leaves on it. I parked myself on the cold, hard ground, belly up. I observed the stars, watching them sparkle. One star was very bright. My ancestors called it the guiding star. Everybody said it could take you somewhere. Guide you to whatever you’re looking for. That’s it. I drifted into a sound sleep, knowing what I was going to do when I woke up.
I woke up to the sound of birds chirping and leaves rustling. There was a cool wind. It went through my fur, now spotted with brown from the dirt. I shook the dirt off, leaving my fur golden. I got up and started my journey. After walking for a few minutes, looking at the trees with high canopies and their leaves, I realized that I didn’t know where I was going. The guiding star was gone, nowhere in sight. It left me. It was there for me when I was sleeping, but it left. I don’t know where it went.
Instead, after thinking about my humans and how much I miss them, I realized that I smelled like sadness. A blue smell, that humans wouldn’t understand.
“Humans don’t have a good sense of smell. They can’t smell fear or anger, they just smell sweet things and live their happy lives,” a random voice said.
I looked around, panicking. This was supposed to be our forest. This forest was my human’s and mine. I backed up against a tree and barked back, “Who’s there?”
“My sweet, it’s your mother. A shame that you didn’t recognize me,” answered who was supposed to be my mother.
“Mom, are you there? Is that really you?” I inquired. A rainbow and silver figure appeared, revealing what looked like a holographic image of my mother. I smiled my toothy smile and bounded to hug it. I went right through the image and ran face-first into a tree. She laughed at me.
“My son, I am now a hologram. The humans that threw me out dropped me on the concrete. I got a terrible wound, and I traveled the city with a wounded leg. Alas, I died peacefully in my sleep,” the figure said. She cocked her head at me. “My son, you smell of sadness. Do not worry. I am here to be your guiding star.”
I immediately looked up. “Mother, you, are a star?”
She chuckled. “Well, what do you think that bright star was? I am here to help you.”
“I thought that the bright star is the guiding star!”
“My son, you do not realize that there were two bright stars. Your laziness is not a good trait. You must travel miles to find your loved ones, and you can’t look up at the sky, closely at the stars. They are your best friends when traveling.” She shook her head.
“Mother, that means that you were the one to give me hope,” I lifted my chin, staring right into her eyes.
“Yes, my son. I do not know what you are feeling, but I can smell it. That is a good trait. It is passed down in our family line. We are the only dogs to have it. We are what humans call Golden Retrievers. We are the most respected among humans, but only because of our fur. They do not understand the true meaning of respect. That is not a good trait for them to have.”
I was elated. “Mother, mother! Can you guide me to the humans?”
“Yes, my son. I will help,” she responded with a smile, “but you must figure out some things for yourself. I will only appear when you are in desperate need of something.”
I nodded, and the hologram disappeared. I looked up at the sky, trying to find my mother again, but she was gone. Still shaken up from the experience, I decided that the humans were important, and I had to find them. Without them, I would always smell blue. I could never part ways with any of my loved ones, but I already did, and it was too much to bear, seeing that loved one again. She didn’t seem real. Her eyes were in a different galaxy, where she probably is.
I walked along the riverbanks, around trees, and trotted on twisting trails. The forest seemed endless, a place of scary possibilities, but happy endings. The humans were around here, I knew it. I checked behind bushes. I was checking a tent when I found food. The smell was overwhelming, but it couldn’t be smelled from outside of the tent. There were humans here! The food was fresh and similar to what we had at the house. I took a bite of the ham and lapped up some water. Feeling refreshed, I walked out of the tent, content and happy with a full belly to find a huge, black figure coming right at me.
I ducked inside the tent, heart beating so fast that I felt like I ran one of those 26-mile marathons in one go without stopping. “These creatures were called bears,” said my mother once, “They are very dangerous to dogs.” I peeked outside. The bear was going through a metal cylinder that looked like what humans called a trash can. I was wondering what that smell was before. It turned around, circling right towards me. I ducked inside the tent again, praying to my mother that it would not attack me. She appeared.
“My son, I am afraid it is your time. The countdown has ended.”
The bear charged at me, getting on top of me, ripping my belly with its sharp claws. My lungs filled with blood, and I couldn’t breathe. I tried to fight back, tried for my life, but it didn’t work. I couldn’t attack its eye, for it was hiding its eyes from me. I gasped, and I felt a shooting pain up my back. It threw me, and I landed on the roots.
I heard thunder, and a burst of light surrounded me. I was rising. Rising at speeds faster than sound. Immediately, I was taken outside of Earth and moved around the galaxy. It seemed that a force was finding the right spot to put me as I realized what was happening. I am afraid it is your time. A ringing echoed in my ears, and my mother started talking.
“My son, you are now a star. You are fixed in place, and you mustn't move until daytime for the humans on your side of the Earth, for they will get suspicious and you will be on the news. If you gain fame, you get taken to the Underworld, where you are thrown into a fire pit.”
My body tried to shiver, but it stayed in the same place. It gave me a tingling sensation. “Mother?”
“Yes, my son?” she replied, with a huge smile on her face.
“I love you,” I said, as I closed my eyes, waiting to shine for my humans at night.