A new, previously unpublished story today that is intended for a collection later in the year.
The policeman brought the dog in to the sanctuary first thing in the morning and Sarah processed the paperwork whilst their volunteer vet John examined the listless dog lying on the table. She was horrified to read how this emaciated dog had been found in a filthy shed chained up and barely alive.
She could tell from the grim set of the policeman’s lips that he was affected by the terrible condition of the animal and shared her anger.
‘What is going to happen to the owner of the dog, this is appalling cruelty and surely he should be prosecuted and sent to jail?’
‘I agree with you as I have dogs myself, but unfortunately at the moment the most that usually happens is a fine and a ban on owning animals for five or ten years, very few are imprisoned. They are monitored by the animal welfare groups but they move house or even the town, and then we lose touch with them.’
The policeman left and Sarah joined John who had attached a drip to the dog having shaved some of the matted fur on his foreleg. She stroked the dogs ears and they twitched beneath her fingers. As she ran her hand gently down his long nose, his tongue licked her fingers and tears ran down her cheeks.
Over the next few days the team worked to re-hydrate and hand feed the dog soft foods that would be easy to digest. When he was showing a slight improvement, the staff removed his matted coat to reveal his wasted body, washing him gently to remove the dirt that had accumulated over the years. John thought he was around three years old and that he was barely half the weight he should be. Throughout this handling the dog would occasionally lick a hand that stroked his face, and the staff were amazed at his gentle nature, despite the abuse he had suffered.
They had taken photographs at every stage of treatment from his original condition on arrival, and as more signs of abuse were discovered in X-rays. There were forwarded to the police and the animal welfare group dealing with the case, hopeful that some form of custodial sentence would result.
Several weeks passed, and the dog now named Danny, continued to improve as he received loving attention from all the staff. They tried not to have favourites, as so many of the dogs and cars in their care had endured abuse; all needing their time and care to recover. As with all their rescue pets they hoped to find a loving home for this new addition to the kennels, but something about Danny’s temperament made them even more attached.
Eventually it was time to find a foster home where he could begin to adapt to a normal life as part of a family. Because the court case was still pending, it was decided that Sarah, who had recently lost her elderly dog Simon, would take him home until a more permanent solution could be found.
As predicted Danny’s former owner, a twenty-five year old plumber, was fined and banned from owning any animals for ten years. Sarah had attended court and waited outside as he left and joined his cheering mates as they crowded around him. They walked off down the road towards the nearest pub and disappeared inside to celebrate.
Danny continued to thrive and having put on weight and grown back his shining black and white coat, it was easy to see that he was a collie cross, probably with a retriever. Sarah brought him to work with her everyday where he spent time in the office giving any staff on hand his loving attention. It was decided that Sarah would formerly adopt him, and having signed the paperwork, a party was held with a tail wagging dog the guest of honour.
A year later, Sarah and Danny were walking in the local park enjoying a beautiful spring day, when she spotted a man and a dog across the grass. Although he was wearing a baseball cap he looked vaguely familiar and Sarah became concerned at the way he was hauling on the lead attached to the dog. He then raised a stick and hit the dog on the back and it yelped loudly enough for her to hear it across the park. Beside her Danny growled, something she had never heard before and she looked down as he strained against his leash.
‘What is it Danny?’ She looked back at the man who was now walking in their direction with a subdued dog by his side with its head down. Danny gave an even more aggressive growl as the man lifted his head as he neared them, and Sarah recognised him.
She held onto Danny’s lead tightly as she wasn’t sure what he might do, but he just moved between her and the approaching man and dog protectively. As the man passed them he leered at her.
‘Nice dog, want to swap?’
Sarah and Danny followed the pair at a distance to the entrance to the park and saw a van with a local plumbing company logo on the side. The man opened the passenger side door and hauled the dog into the seat by its collar and turned to walk around to the driver’s side.
Unaware that he had been under surveillance for the last few minutes, he started the engine and drove away. Sarah stopped recording and put her phone away, watching as the van pulled into traffic. She headed back to the sanctuary with Danny now calmly walking beside her.
Following enquiries online, Sarah discovered that the plumbing company had a head office in the centre of town, and after she finished work that day she put Danny in the car and drove to their address. She posted an envelope through the door and then dropped off another at the local police station for the attention of the officer Parry who had brought Danny to the sanctuary.
The next day as she manned the reception desk at the sanctuary the door opened and the policeman smiled as he walked across reception.
‘I shouldn’t really be telling you this, but we arrested a suspect this morning for breaking the ban on owning an animal, and we also found in his van several items of stolen property from homes he has worked in over the last few weeks.’
Sarah nodded in satisfaction.
‘What about his dog that he was with yesterday?’
‘He has been removed and is being looked after at a vet’s clinic in the centre of town but I have recommended that he be brought to you to care for until the case comes to court. I hope that is okay with you?’
Later that afternoon a burly middle-aged man came through the front doors and approached the desk. He had a grim look on his face and Sarah reached for Danny who was sat by her side, reassured by his nearness.
‘I want to speak to Sarah; I understand that she works here?’
Not sure how this angry man had got her name, Sarah hesitated.
‘Officer Parry gave me her details and I want to talk to her.’
Feeling a little less threatened she stood up behind the counter.
‘I’m Sarah, how can I help you?’
I just wanted to let you have this.’ The man slipped an envelope across to her.
She reached for it and looked inside. There was a cheque for a thousand pounds made out to the sanctuary.
She looked up at the man who was staring down at Danny leaning against Sarah’s legs.
‘You sent photographs of the dog that had been abused and photographs of my son and his new dog yesterday.’ He looked up at Sarah. ‘Is this the dog in the first photographs?’
‘Yes, this is Danny.’
‘He told me the dog had been run over just over a year ago and I had no idea that he was capable of such things.’ Tears formed in the man’s eyes and he turned away.
‘I’m really sorry and I hope that the money will be put to good use to help other animals.’
He opened the door and turned to look at her once more before closing it behind him. Sarah could tell that he was deeply affected by the discovery of his son’s cruelty.
She looked down at Danny as he sat leaning against her leg and stroked his head. She may not be able to save them all, but at least this gentle dog’s search for a loving home was over.
©Sally Cronin 2021
My latest short story collection is Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet.
One of the recent reviews for the collection
We have all enjoyed a bowl of cherries and came across the sour ones which elicited a shudder…This little book of short stories and poems has the perfect title as it delights, enthrals and brings a tear to the eye at times as some of the stories tug at the heartstrings and long-buried memories resurface and leave us the reader both happy and a touch sad in a nice way.
There are stories and poems of hope and long lost love my favourite from the very beginning was “The Weekly Shopping” it made me smile at the shopper’s frustration I could feel her anger and disbelief…I love it!
However, it also made me think…that scenario which played out could well be not so very far away…Think Alexis and Suri…Just saying!
A very pleasurable read which left me with a smile on my face and some memories
You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2021
Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you enjoyed the story.. .Sally.