Breaking the Chain

Fred leaned away from Edna when she bent down, and he saw what she held in her other hand. That coiled leather collar meant Edna was going to put him on a chain. She reached for him, and he couldn’t help it. He bolted and ran.

He hid under the table, trembling and whining with fear.

Edna sat on the floor and patted her leg. “Fred, come here. What are you so worried about? Don’t you want to go for a nice walk?”

Fred didn’t know about walk, but he knew about chains. And collars, to Fred, meant that chains weren’t far behind. Seized by a fear so powerful he couldn’t bring himself to move, Fred plastered himself to the floor. Even when all the pee in his body came streaming out, making a puddle under his newly clean fur, all he could do was sit in his pee puddle and shiver.

“Oh, Fred,” Edna said in a soft voice. “I’m so sorry.” She stood and walked into another room, and Fred heard her talking to someone. He could even hear the other person’s replies, though Fred knew they weren’t in the house.

“Reva,” Edna said. “Can you talk to Fred and find out what’s wrong? I just tried to put a collar on him so we could go for a walk, but he’s so terrified that he peed himself. I feel horrible. I wish I knew what to do.”

“Let’s do a video chat,” the woman who wasn’t there said. “Put the collar away where he can’t see it, and sit close enough for me to see him, but not as close as you were sitting before.”

Edna came back into the room, but she didn’t have the coiled leather. She sat some distance away from him and spoke in a low tone. “I’m sorry I scared you, Fred.”

He closed his eyes and turned his head away. Maybe if he didn’t look at her, she would go away and leave him alone.

But then, the most amazing thing happened. He heard a soft voice in his head, a voice that wasn’t making a sound. “Fred,” the voice in his head said. “I’m Reva. I want to talk to you if it’s okay. Will you tell me why you’re so scared?”

Fred shivered. He didn’t know how to talk to the Reva-voice in his head, but he couldn’t help remembering all the years he had spent with a collar around his neck, chained to a patch of dirt, stuck there day and night, whether it rained, or got so cold his water bucket froze, or got so hot that the dirt under his feet cracked and split open. He couldn’t help thinking of all the times that hunger clawed at his belly or thirst made his tongue stick to the roof of his mouth and his dust-dry throat made him gag.

“Oh, my…” the Reva-voice in his head said, only this time, the out-loud voice came from the flat box Edna held in her hand. She said some more things to Edna that Fred didn’t understand, and Edna got up and left the room. He heard her rummaging around nearby, opening and closing doors, but Fred forgot to pay attention to what Edna was doing. He got distracted by the images that came like thoughts into his head.

The images were of him doing things he’d only seen other dogs doing. But he wasn’t like the kind of dogs he’d seen walking with their people down the sidewalk outside his fenced prison. Their humans held thin, brightly colored strips that attached to their collars. Some dogs wore shirts or dresses or more of those thin bands that wrapped around their bodies, held in place by shiny metal buckles. Those dogs all seemed happy to be walking down the sidewalk with their people, and Fred remembered thinking that those dogs probably weren’t stuck on chains when they got wherever they were going.

So maybe Edna wasn’t planning to put Fred on a chain after all.

And once he thought about that, it occurred to him that when he’d gone out into the fenced backyard to “do his business” as Edna called it, there hadn’t been a chain in sight.

Edna came back into the room carrying a multicolored wad of straps and buckles, but she didn’t try to approach Fred with it. Instead, she bent down and put a delicious-smelling treat in front of him. “A peace offering.”