Here Boy...

Hunching low, in order to make himself as small as possible, he watched warily as, one by one, the wooden planks of the fence toppled to the ground with a heavy thud. Alternately growling a cautionary warning and then whimpering fearfully, he attempted to hide in the shadows as they crept nearer.

Cocking his head to one side, he listened intently to the exchange of conversation between the intruders, but none of the words were recognizable...save two.

"Here boy..."

He slunk away. The command was all too familiar and never signified that anything pleasurable was about to happen. It usually meant a whipping...sometimes with a leather strap, but more often with a bicycle chain. He snarled threateningly.

One of the figures knelt down so she was on his level and they were eye-to-eye. "Here boy..."

The tone was uncommon to his ears...much kinder and more compassionate than he was used to hearing. Apprehensively, he skulked forward and sniffed cautiously at the hand which had been extended, palm upward, while making sure he maintained a safe distance. The scent reminded him of the Woman. Though not strictly the same, it was close enough to open the floodgate which released the recollections of far happier days.

The time of the Woman had been a good one. Her touch was gentle when she played with him and she always made sure he had plenty to eat and drink. She gave him his own blanket, a comfortable place to sleep where it was always warm and dry and, when the loud claps of thunder scared him...which they still did...she would carry him into bed with her. He loved the Woman and knew instinctively that the Woman loved him too.

Then, he awoke one morning to find the Woman gone. He looked everywhere for her, scratching at doors and whining softly. That had been a very big mistake. The Man, after kicking him in the ribs, had seized him roughly by the scruff of the neck and thrown him out into the yard. He had never been allowed back inside the house again...not ever! The time of the Woman had come to an end.

Later, after he'd grown a little stronger and a little bigger, he became curious about what lay beyond the fence which surrounded him on all sides...the fence which was now scattered like so many pieces of broken driftwood. He had tried to dig beneath the picket. That's when the Man had beaten him with a baseball bat for the first time. When it was over, he'd crawled into the drainage ditch and cringed there, shivering and shaking, for what seemed an eternity. For a while, he'd hoped the Woman would come fetch him. He pined. He missed her very much.

Eventually, he'd scrambled out of the filth with a crooked spine and painful limp, to realize there was much to be learned from the experience: the Woman was not going to return and it would be in his best interests to give the Man a wide berth from now on.

"Here boy...," coaxed the kneeling figure, which had inched closer.

He looked at her with large, round, mournful eyes and hesitantly nudged at her fingers with his nose. He found it difficult to trust, but wanted desperately to be friendly. She lightly stroked his head and he rubbed against her hand.

She encouraged him. "What a good boy!" she whispered, patting her lap.

With a sudden and despairing movement, he lunged...only to be jerked violently backward by a short length of thick rope attached to a pole set in concrete. Cursing, she reached out and ripped off the ugly and cruel spiked collar, throwing it aside in disgust and scooping him gently into her arms.

"This is a sweet boy," she murmured. "This is such a good boy!"

He nuzzled her neck and pawed lightly at her anguished face. She wasn't the Woman, but she was the next best thing. Over her shoulder, he watched, body stiffening with alarm, as they dragged the struggling Man from the house and tied his hands behind his back. He cowered as the Man spat hatefully into the dirt and ground his bootheels deep into the mud. He whimpered at the angrily raised voices as the Man was pushed, pulled and shoved through the open space...where the fence used to be.

Snuggling further into the cozy safety of her warm, woollen coat, he began to whine very softly. The howl which followed mingled eerily with the sound of the police sirens and almost broke her heart. It was primeval and pathetic, wrenched from the depths of a near-forgotten memory. It was so pitifully human in its suffering.

"M...M...Ma..Ma...Mamma...!"

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