The large metal door rumbles open. My humans are finally home. A yip squeaks out.
The man enters clutching a piece of fabric. He presents it to me. Sniffing, I identify traces of blood and feces and a new scent. The man is showing his teeth in a big smile. Maybe this is a new toy and he wants to play. I catch the fabric in my mouth and pull. But the man scolds, “No, Wallace. Let go.” I release the toy.
My lady appears sheltering a bundle. Tail wagging rapidly, I trot over and press my nose into her leg. Rather than her normal greeting of pets and scratches, she tightens her arms and says “Careful pup.”
She lowers to my level. Wrapped in fabric-- like what the man gave me-- is the smallest human I have ever seen. Wrinkly and pink, it is the new smell. Glancing from my lady to the man, their faces show joy and something else-- maybe fatigue.
Investigating the tiny human, I am not sure what my humans are expecting. They want me to do something. I give the thing a gentle lick. Both of my humans scold together, “No Wallace.”
With my tail tucked, I escape to my sunny spot on the carpet. I am not sure why this little human is here, but hopefully, it will be leaving soon.
As daylight fades, our house normally becomes quiet. I sleep on my small bed while the humans sleep on their large bed. We all rest until the house smells of coffee. Then my lady rises with the sun and gives me food. We have been doing this same routine for years-- ever since I joined their pack.
My life as a pup consisted of fear and hunger.
Some humans are cruel and other dogs cannot be trusted. The site of a fly swatter still terrifies me. Many of those young days were spent in a small cage until I met my humans. They rescued me from that place and now their house is my house. They feed me every day. I am no longer tormented by fear and hunger. Instead, I know joy and love.
But the little human is ruining our routine. Last night, it wouldn’t stop whimpering. My humans held it and fed it, but nothing calmed the noise. No one slept. I don’t understand why they brought it home. We had such a good thing going. Why change it?
Today the lady speaks my favorite word- walk.
She asks, “Wallace, should we try a walk today with Sammy?”
I don’t know much human talk, but I know my name and walk. Yelping and prancing around the room, I frantically hunt for my leash. Nostrils twitching, I check the usual spots. Maybe it is by the backdoor or the garage? I can’t find a trace. Hopefully, the lady has located it.
Circling back, she hasn’t even started searching. She is holding the little human—again. I trot over and do a few yaps reminding the lady about our walk. We both need a break from the tiny, noisy human. Every day my lady moves a little slower and smiles a little less. Yet, instead of leaving it behind, she straps it snuggly to her chest. She finds my leash easily. It was hiding in the closet by the front door.
Together we exit our house to explore the outside territory. Whiffs of other creatures swirl around me. My muscles thrum with excitement. I would love to chase a few bunnies or squirrels. While I discover traces of their scent, they don’t show themselves. Even though it is the cold season, the sun shines bright and warmth radiates through my fur.
I love walks. So does my lady.
My favorite days are when we journey to the lake. There are so many good smells by the lake. As we venture on, I mark my territory frequently, so the other animals don’t forget that this is my land. Before we even cross the street, the little human starts whining again. My lady lets out a long breath and turns back toward our house.
But it is too soon.
Our walk was not long enough. I don’t sense any joy coming from my lady.
The little thing is ruining everything- even walks.
Many sunsets have passed and the little human is still in the house. It even has its own bed. I suspect they want to add it to our pack permanently. My humans lay the tiny thing on the floor and just stare at it. The fragrance of love and joy is so strong that I want to be close to them too. If I cozy up next to the little human, they tell me “Off Wallace.”
Tonight, the small human has been howling for most of the night. Drifting back and forth in the moving chair, my lady is whimpering. She smells so sad. I want to help. I wish I knew how to make the thing be quiet. All I can do is rest my nose on her leg.
Stroking my fur, she says, “Sorry Wallace… Sorry, we woke you. I don’t know what to do. I thought I would be good at this.” Her sad noises get louder. “But I’m not good at this. Nothing I do helps.” She wipes her tears and stares into my eyes. “I miss our long walks. I miss sleep. I miss feeling like a human.”
My ears perk up briefly at walk, but the sun is not out. She must not mean now. The scent of pain is becoming stronger. I nose her leg again. My lady holds the small human and they both howl. I tip my head to the side.
What can I do?
After nuzzling her leg one more time, I curl up next to the chair. She is so frustrated, yet she is doing all the things the little human needs. She is feeding it and keeping it safe. Most importantly, she is teaching it love. Just how she taught me.
I won’t sleep in my bed tonight. My lady needs me.
She needs to know that she is loved too.
My lady and the little human are gone all morning. Resting in my sunny spot, I doze and enjoy the quiet. When the lady finally returns, the older woman enters the house too, holding the tiny human. My lady greets me and smooths my fur. The older woman says, “Go lay down hun. Sammy and I can manage for a few hours. Get some rest.”
I follow my lady upstairs. She opens a bottle and puts a small piece of food in her mouth. Tears are running down her face as she takes a sip of water. She is breathing fast. My ears perk up and I inspect the room. Why does she seem so worried-- even scared? I don’t spy or hear any threats in the room.
Scratching under my chin, my lady whispers, “Hopefully this will help.”
Letting out a long sigh, she collapses back onto the big bed and rolls to her side. There are many small pieces of food inside the bottle. I hope it’s a treat and I can try some too. But they do not smell tasty. Rather, there is a chemical scent. I guess I am OK if she doesn’t want to share.
Ever since the little human came home, the stench of sadness often surrounds my lady. Now, I sense something new.
Maybe it is hope.
The lake is an amazing bouquet of smells-- even better than I remembered. I chase some ducks and discover where a raccoon is hiding. I try to show my lady, but she forces me back onto the hard path. This is our longest walk since we started including the little human.
Up ahead another dog is coming. I bark to warn my lady. We move off into the grass. She says, “Quiet pup” in a gentle voice. Fear always returns in the presence of another dog. I can’t help growling. After the other dog passes, we move back onto the trail. Sunlight warms us. My paws are rhythmically striking the ground.
My lady smells of joy.
Ahead of us is another lady. She is pushing two young humans in some sort of contraption. They are small but bigger than our little human. There is even a medium one rolling behind her. The ladies share smiles as they pass each other and I catch a quick whiff of the other’s scent.
Like my lady, I smell exhaustion but also happiness.
The little human has grown. It has rolls of flesh on its arm and legs-- and big round cheeks that raise into a smile as it giggles. With all the new skills it is learning, I find the small thing increasingly entertaining. I might understand why they decided to make our pack a little bigger.
My little human coos and grins at my lady.
The scent of love surrounds us. Turning my head, I watch the other lady with the three children. Adding one has changed so much. I don’t think it would be wise to add any more. Still, I wonder, “Does adding more humans, add more joy?”
I don’t want to find out.