Shelby hated walking the dog, almost as much as she hated her mother.
Here was the routine: Shelby would be sitting in bed, minding her own business, when her mother would come in and yell, “Time to walk the dog!”, to which Shelby would groan, sit in bed for a few more minutes, and then give in to her mother’s demands. “It’s your job while you’re home on break,” her mother would retort. “It’s the only thing I ask you to do.”
Today was particularly dreadful, though, due to the blizzard that was taking place outside their home. Shelby begged and begged, but there could be no chances taken on a dog that had only recently been trained and hadn’t done the big Number Two all day. So she went. She put on the hat and coat, stuffed the doggie bags into her pocket, put the leash on the dog, and went.
She let out a whine when she was immediately hit by snow blown in her face. The dog barked.
“Shush, Cooper,” she barked back, having to raise her voice over the noise of tree branches blowing around.
The two walked along the road (or what they assumed was the road – there weren’t sidewalks, and the snowplow hadn’t come through yet) up the street. Shelby raced a bit to keep up with the dog; he was always a bit too fast for her. Cooper found a spot he really liked and began his ritual – sniff for signs of other dogs, decide they are below his ranking, and claim his territory. He completed all steps, and the pair continued up the street.
They made it three blocks before they spotted him – an enemy dog. He was walking towards them with his owner, who was not known at handling her dog particularly well. Dash the Devil, as he was called, had a habit of attacking other neighborhood dogs just about once a week. It was a miracle he was still allowed to walk around. Shelby made the decision to redirect down a side street instead of facing the confrontation.
Cooper quickly found another interesting spot.
Border collie. Male. One week ago.
Was that in her head?
No. She must have been imagining things. It was simply a guess as to what Cooper was thinking. The thought vanished in her head as quickly as it had appeared. Shelby forced a laugh. “You’re getting to me, Cooper.” He turned to look at her for a moment. She patted his head. The pair moved on.
They passed by another couple of houses before Cooper stopped again.
Yorkie. Female. An hour ago.
There it was again. It was such a fast thought that it was practically an instinct – just a knowing. Maybe all the snow blowing in her face was getting to her – the cold was messing with her head. Shelby took a moment to hit her cheek with her hand as Cooper finished his job, and then the pair moved on again.
At the next house, Shelby felt a sort of tension. Cooper was always ahead, but for some reason, she wanted to slow down even more than usual at this house. She turned her head and looked with awe at the blanket of snow on the yard next to her. It was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.
“Don’t you want to stop here, Cooper?”
He kept walking.
He paused. She took in a deep breath.
Boxer. Female. Just minutes ago.
The tension disappeared as she acknowledged it. She shook her head continued walking.
Just then, she heard a noise from behind them. Shelby stopped, turning to face the ominous beast probably lurking behind them. Cooper turned, too. Her fist clenched as she thought about the danger that the beeping could be responsible for. It was coming from near their house. Were they being attacked? Was it one of those monsters that ran loose throughout the neighborhood on all fours?
She looked at Cooper. It was a silent agreement. They had to turn around.
Shelby’s feet were getting cold, anyway.
As they made their way back up the street, Shelby could sense who they were about to encounter. Dash was coming back from the opposite direction. Her grip on Cooper’s leash tightened. She didn’t want anything bad to happen.
Sure enough, as they reached the meeting point between the two streets, there was the Devil Dog himself. Anger radiated from his body. Shelby held onto the leash with all her might as the two dogs passed each other, only ten feet separating Dash’s teeth from Cooper’s neck.
Dash began barking at his loudest possible volume, his helpless human using both hands in an attempt to keep him on their side of the street.
“Hey, stay in your own lane, punk!”
Did Shelby just say that?
“What the fuck?” His human sounded distressed.
“You heard me! Back off!” Shelby was not having this today.
“Are…are you barking at my dog?”
This woman was crazy, so Shelby just faced forward and refused to acknowledge them further. They were neighborhood terrors, the both of them. Luckily, though, the snow had stopped falling. Shelby could see ten feet in front of her again.
When they were far enough away from Dash and the stupid human, Shelby decided to turn back to get a full view of the street covered in snow.
It was truly beautiful. There was so much snow to roll around in, and so many new places to explore in this new environment. On top of that, everything smelled absolutely amazing. Shelby wanted to stay out here forever. But she also wanted to sleep. And eat. So she turned to make her way back to their house.
As she was turning, though, she felt something on her foot. But when she looked down, there wasn’t a foot.
It was a paw. Clear as day – a white paw with brown splotches.
Shelby looked to the snow where they had just walked. There were two sets of pawprints following them.
The world around her began to change as she drifted into a new state of consciousness – one far different than any she had ever experienced. Suddenly, the world felt so big and scary. She could do anything at all and yet wanted to simply be. She was so, so happy.
At least she wouldn't have to walk the dog anymore...