The pups’ warm bodies wiggled against each other, searching for warmth. Five of them squished in a small dirt den their mother had made for them. They whimpered as they sniffed for a scent of her. Although all they could smell was cars and dirt. Heavy breathing approached the den and the pups froze in fear. Their mother cast a shadow into the den as she climbed in. She lay down with a sigh as all the pups crowded around her. Warm milk quickly flowed into their stomachs as they fed.
The mother growled softly, signalling there was danger nearby. They leaned against their mother as footsteps could be heard outside of the den. She growled louder as the figure outside shuffled and a padded hand quickly dove into the den, snatching the mother by her neck. She fought aggressively as she got lifted out of the den and managed to bite the man on his right arm. He threw her on the ground in shock and grabbed his arm in pain. She bit one of her pups by the scruff of the neck and kicked up snow as she sped off into the trail nearby. The man bent down to the den to hear the last four pups crying loudly. He scooped them out one by one, examining their fluffy black tummies before he put them into a box. He gently put the box in the front seat of his truck and secured the seat belt around it. Their cries quieted down as hot air flooded through the vents and the rocking of the truck put them to sleep. The man drove up a long dirt road surrounded by trees until he reached a large cabin.
The cold air awoke the pups as he pulled them out of the truck and walked into the house. He laid them onto a fuzzy carpet and put a blanket onto them as he started up a fire. He cleaned up his wound and bandaged it while he dialled the phone.
“Hello? Yes, can I please talk to a veterinarian? Hi there, I have four lab puppies that I rescued and I believe the mom is a stray. I’m not sure where she is but she grabbed one of the pups and ran into River’s Reach Trail. Yes I’ll bring them in today for a check. Great, thank you.”
He hung up the phone and walked down the hallway and into his spacious bedroom. He dug through his drawers looking for his favourite red flannel shirt. He changed into a white shirt and put the flannel over top and threw on his black jeans. He left his room and quietly walked by the puppies making sure he didn’t wake them.
Shutting the front door behind him slowly and as he walked down the stairs the cold winter breeze hit his face. He spotted wood slats covered in snow in the yard and marched over. He wiped off the snow, exposing the colourful drawing underneath and memories flooded into his mind and he rubbed the hot tears off his face. “If only you could see what trouble I brought home” he said sadly. He stood up with a sigh and struggled with the large slats of wood.
As he opened the door the puppies ran over to his feet crying. He laid the boards on the ground cautiously, making sure he wouldn’t squish the curious pups. The four boards were around one meter wide and three feet high, perfect for a puppy run. The man got to work hammering together the slats as the puppies attempted to chew on the hammer. He moved the box into his room so he could watch over the pups. He filled the box with his daughter’s old blankets and a few socks for toys.
As he admired the puppy run with satisfaction his phone went off loudly. “The appointment! It’s in 5 minutes!” He ran around in panic trying to round up all the puppies. He ran out to the truck as the puppies slipped inside the cardboard box he held. The engine roared and the tires skidded down the dirt road.
The truck pulled up to the animal hospital after a 10 minute drive. He grabbed the puppies from the passenger seat and strutted into the hospital. He looked up to see his ex and froze in shock as memories filled his head. The lady behind the counter gave him a grin as she pointed to the watch on her wrist.
“I didn’t know you worked here! I’m really sorry I’m late.” he said sincerely.
“Don’t worry about it, Ryan. How have you been? I’m so sorry about your loss. You must be going through so much,” she said with empathy as she gently touched his shoulder.
He shivered and managed to crack a smile. “I’m getting better, thank you. Did they find their mama?”
“They did, but unfortunately the puppy didn’t make it, poor thing couldn’t maintain her body heat. Also the mother is extremely aggressive but we need to send her back with you and the puppies. I will come over a few times a week to train her.”
“Oh alright. So when are you coming over?” he said as his cheeks turned light pink.
“After we look at the puppies. Follow me this way” she said as she grabbed the box of puppies and turned down a long white hallway. White framed pictures of animals hung on the light grey wall. She opened the door to a bright room with a man standing beside an exam table.
“Hello, I’m Josh. I’ll be looking at your puppies today. Do they have any unusual symptoms or behaviour?” he asked while he examined a puppy in his hands.
“Uh, I don’t think so. I’ve never had dogs before,” he said as he scratched the back of his head.
“Really? Oh boy you’re going to need some help with all these puppies. This is Emily, she will be able to help you until they go to their forever homes.” He smiled as Josh talked.
They drove back in silence with the puppies in Emily’s lap and the mother dog in a kennel in the back. His throat tightened when he attempted to start conversation. She cooed and smiled down at the puppies in her lap as the truck halted in front of his house. He got out and opened the passenger door for Emily.
“Wow I haven’t been here in a long time” she chuckled. Ryan laughed at her words as he opened the kennel in the back of the truck. The mother dog dipped her head down nervously and jumped down from the truck. “They must be starving! Let’s try to calm her down so she can nurse the pups.”
They walked up the frosty stairs and stepped inside the warm house. He lead the dog to the room and she submissively climbed into the puppy run. Emily grabbed each puppy from the box and set them into the run with their mother and they quickly nursed.
Ryan looked at Emily like they have never been apart, the feelings of loss and grieving numbed when he was with her. Her dark brown hair flowed nicely over her shoulder and her soft hazel eyes looked down at the puppies.
She interrupted his thoughts, “Do you have any coffee? I could really use some.”