Impact (Short Story)

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By: Aaron B.

PLOT: A Police Dog’s life is forever altered by a gruesome and unpreventable accident.

Note: The following was written as an assigned project for my Driver’s Ed class. 

He was down, I knew it. Right as my jaw clamped around his wrist-my partner stood behind me, pistol raised and getting ready to get his handcuffs and get yet another baddie in the city of Boston, I knew the name of the city because I had heard it so many times on Mike’s radio.

The room we’re in is quite musty, smells awful – a one floor apartment. The lighting not very good, floors made of hardwood. The living room has one TV in the corner and one ripped up leather couch. Underneath the floorboards is where I smell the worse smell of all; drugs. Meth, coke, anything you can conjure up and perhaps more. As I leave the dank apartment with my buddy, my four legs start to ache. A lot of running, sniffing and jumping was doing a number on me. Mike made everything better, with a simple rub between the ears or a treat once we got into our cruiser. I know after catching this drug seller, we’ll get a good night’s sleep tonight once everything is called in and we’re home.

My friend and fellow officer, in his 30’s. He loves animals. He is divorced, but hey that doesn’t matter, I’d like to think he’s much happier with me anyway. We live together in a two story home, no kids, only trusted friends and other officers come to hang and have a BBQ or spend the day relaxing if the job allows it. Could I live an easier life as a dog? Sure. I’ve seen dogs at home with no job, but resting all day and thumping my tail uselessly on the floor just is not my thing. Running, getting dirty, catching those who probably deserve it is my thing. I like to feel needed and maybe others of Mike’s species seem to think I’m doing a good job. All the schools we go to, I can tell Mike speaks nicely. Can I understand all he says? Nah, but tone is everything with me.  Tone and whether you’ll give me food or not can determine how good of friends we’ll be.

The ride home is quiet, sitting in the passenger side.  The bad guy thrown in a locked cell at the station.  A content feeling washes over the two of us. Since the evening is cool, he lets me stick my head out the window.  It feels freeing and I like the feeling of surveying my entire city. If other dogs are walking, I do get stares, from smaller canines especially. Always like they’ve done something wrong, when probably all they did was urinate in their neighbors’ yard and are internally saying ‘hope that’s not illegal, hope that’s not illegal!’. Mike and I aren’t after them, so they’re pretty safe.

As we enter our house, my black police vest is slipped off, Mike gives me some supper as he sits to watch TV. He lets me outside back, with a nice long chain – I hate the chain and the rubbing on my neck, but it’s better than being cooped up.

I lie on my stomach, looking at how much of the porch light illuminates the ground beneath me, fooling with my paws, smelling them, sniffing the deck and listening to the sounds of cars going by in the far distance. Very fun stuff. Try it next time you’re at home with nothing to do. My triangular ears perk however, when I hear the sound of someone I know. I sit on my haunches, my tail thumps a bit back and forth, two eyes look at me and the pitter patter of paws approach a few feet from me. A white dog, about 18 pounds with V-shaped ears, narrowing to the eyes and slightly flat between the ears. A defined but not over pronounced stop at the end of the muzzle where it meets the head and a black nose.

Her name is Chloe, a smooth coated Jack Russell Terrier. Her tone sweet and very hyper. “Hey Caine! You smell nice!” I know. You might think that’s weird, but smell is what everything is about with us. She looks at me with such positivity, such light in her almond eyes. She nuzzled my brown and black coat, being that I’m a German Shepherd, I am quite larger than her. I give her a smirk. “I’m good! Tired, but good.” I don’t know what it is she likes about me. That I’m a cop? My deep voice? The muscles? All of the above? She speaks again, this time taking a seat next to me, ears cocking, exchanging glances. “Catch any bad guys?” I shrug. “Some guy on drugs; nothing huge I suppose. City is full of dopes and fiends, ready to sell or do things that they know they shouldn’t.” Chloe maybe only got half of that. “Caine? How do you know so much about humans? I love my companion. He feeds me, houses me, pats me, rubs my belly, but you say things that I just don’t get.” I think a bit. “With my line of work, you meet so many of them, maybe my mind is trained to examine them.”

The pup lied on her back now, among the grass, scratching bugs maybe. “You’re special, Caine. Unlike any other of our species I’ve ever met.” I think I blushed. “Thank you, just a regular dog doing what he likes.”

As the morning rolled around, I waited for Mike to get dressed and head back for a hopefully non-threatening day. I said a brief goodbye to my neighbor Chloe before getting into the cruiser. So many other cars on the road, I wonder how he keeps track of everything. I don’t even pretend to know what he’s doing that actually gets us from point A to point B.

Looking out the window and smelling all the restaurants we pass or the occasional coffee shop we stop at is quite enough to keep me occupied. I like to hear the faint sound of the police radio on the ‘dashboard’ I think Mike calls it. The back seat of course is caged, so I’m usually not back there. It’s not for dogs or law abiding citizens, that’s for sure.  I like to look at others walking there dogs. Funny how oblivious most of my kind is to violence. Well, I hope they’re oblivious. As I stare out the passenger side window, sitting straight up and hopefully giving a good impression, I do remember a few details. Not that we have great memories, but when I see a certain species I’ve worked with on a case, it tends to stick and I’m reminded of things. One of my first cases with him was when I saw what a great heart he had.

We had been driving for a long while, we had gotten a call of a disturbance near a warehouse, and it was pitch dark. Mike ordered me to silently stand to his side as we walked the sidewalk and approached the dirty, dingy building. It was our second year working together, we’re now on our eighth.

I smell hotdogs. Sorry, as I say, we pass a lot of food places and Mike was just getting himself a coffee. Ahhh…I’d bark for one of those beefy beauties!

Anyway, we approached this building I was a bit tenser and more growly than usual. I had no idea what to expect. My priority is him and those around me. I knew that, and whatever was going on here was dangerous. My gut told me so.  Mike told me to pipe down. I was about to bark and didn’t even know it. I needed to shut it. That bark could have ruined everything if a perp happened to be hiding and ran for it.

The large metal door creaks, we hear the sounds of crying. Crying puppies. The inside of this warehouse, covered in large wooden boxes, dust covers the floor. The only light that bounces off the area is the flashlight my buddy held. My paws click against the wooden surface, sniffing each and every crate, staying a few feet in front of Mike. As we walked the place, I started to smell blood on the floor. I could see it, but vision is not a dog’s specialty usually. No, I don’t see in black and white – a common human error. As soon as my human friend saw the drips of blood, back up was called in.

Well, we walked to the end of the building and I ran over to the sound of whining. Turns out, it was a litter of puppies. Some jerk had left a bunch of pups in the warehouse, unfed, malnourished. Why? Did he or she not want them? What would the reason be? I remember that image and it sent my heart to the pit of my stomach. Who was the human who left them there? They were obviously hurt by someone, judging by the bruises I inspected on them.

Those pups were so happy to see a cop dog, hopping on me the moment they knew it was safe and acting all excited. THAT was a moment that said to me, stay on the force because there’s true evil in the world. If I can stop one less crime that makes the world a better place. Mike still calls the owners who decided to adopt those cute pups to this day. That’s why I said he truly cares. Always keeping up with those who have been victimized…

BANG. Damnit! My eyes snap open, back to reality. A terrifying reality. Our cruiser was spinning uncontrollably. I didn’t see anything. I was busy in my own world, sort of falling in and out of sleep, reminiscing on the puppy case.

I notice the driver’s side door, busted, glass everywhere. I let out a few barks. I hear Mike scream. I had never heard a grown man scream so loud in my life. The cruiser tumbled to one side, with an equally loud smash. I whimper as I slam onto my friend’s body…I take deep breaths. My vision is a bit off. My head hurts immensely. Where are my bearings? Nowhere, whatever happened it was quick and vicious.

The driver’s side pinned down to the pavement, leaving the passenger door sticking straight up into the air. The sound of the car horn, going off and on. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. I don’t cry, even though out of pure terror I feel like I could give in. This is no time for panicking. I don’t think my friend is alive. I try to stand up to remove myself from the vehicle that would definitely never move again. Okay, well I know nothing about the cars that humans drive, but I KNEW I would never see that cruiser again. A sharp pain suddenly hits my back leg. I feel warm liquid pool down, I take one look and my left leg has a shard of glass sticking out from it from the shattered back window. Jammed in among the fur and right into my pink skin. Another deep breath, the sound of the horn is becoming deafening. I nuzzle Mike’s face, not standing, but still lying on my side. His body contorted in a way I knew human bodies weren’t supposed to look. Mangled is how I’d describe it. Brown coffee is all over the vehicle, the radio no longer works and just sends out static. My ears twitch as I hear from outside the sound of another blood curdling scream. As I remove myself from the vehicle, it is a slow and painful process hobbling on only three legs. I cussed more times than I ever had.

As I roll onto the pavement, I’m able to look at the destroyed cruiser. Steam rises from the engine, the car’s metal bent, broken, glass covered the asphalt. I hear the scream again, smelling a human and dog I never had before. I turn, looking directly in back of me, hoping that what was there was not this horrible.

Another car is flipped completely over. The underside of the vehicle is what I can see, it’s what’s sticking up in the air. The top of the car is smashed into the cement, the girl and the dog upside down. A blue four door car, the driver is a teenage girl. Beside her in the passenger side is a beagle. I limp as quickly as I can, my left hind leg bleeding and stinging more and more, luckily the car and police cruiser were extremely close together.

I heard her screaming, to a dog that sound is just about the worst as far as noise level. As my snout meets her teary eyed and bloody face, I see she is panicking. Her eyes big, her skin pale and covered in red liquid. The dog beside her was not moving. I didn’t dare look to see what he looked like, but blood was spitting out like a geyser from the poor dog’s mouth and I think his jaw had nearly split in two. The sun was just at an angle that I just saw the shadow. I needed to see no more. I didn’t stop to think why this had happened. I don’t know why bad things happen to good people or good animals. I now see a bleeding teenager in front of me.  I need to get her out.

I bend down low to the open window of the driver’s side. Sticking my rear end up in the air and using my front paws to balance myself like I’m about to stretch the way dogs do, my jaws wrap around the sleeve of her sweatshirt and I pull, thanking whatever dog or human God might be out there that the window was open. I don’t think I could have gotten it open. I pull more, she screams more. I wish I could calm her and talk to her. Her legs exit the car and I keep her lying down on the side of the highway. I laid down fully next to her, keeping my front paw on her stomach and licking her hand gently, she grasps onto my K9 vest like it’s a life-line. I think it was her life line. She looked up at my large face and black wet nose, breathing heavily, but not screaming as much. I wait there with her until an ambulance picks her up. I cock my head left and right, seeing Mike’s car and seeing this girl’s car. Bits of blood, flesh and bone sat between the two vehicles. I take a last deep breath, making my heart rate slow. Most of the bodily debris was from Mike. I could smell him. I knew I would never see him again.

The light is blinding, lying on my side. My eyes feel like they’re glued shut. I feel nothing but a bit of pressure on my left leg. I hear the sound of a rhythmic beeping, something hooked to my chest. I feel…sleepy again.

2 DAYS LATER

A group of amazing humans had fixed me up. Sure, I spent a lot of time at the vet with my leg bandaged, but I was certainly given lots of treats – who am I to complain? The room I was in was quite calming actually. I wasn’t among the barky dogs who sat in the waiting rooms, I had my own bed. The walls white, warm lights streaming down on me. A male and female vet injecting me with feel-good meds. The smells, so weird. From stale and musty smells, to smells of other breeds of dogs in the room across from me, I really don’t know what to focus on. I felt sick most of the time, threw-up even. Did I know everything would be okay? No. That’s the thing with us, one owner dies and we’re in your hands. No way I can speak up and get a nice owner or one that will at least respect me.

For the first time in a while, I felt scared. Once out of the vet, all bets are off. I could get one of those abusers, I could get someone who has me for a day and the moment I make a mistake they send me to the station or wherever cop dogs go when they are not working for someone. Well, I got lucky.

I wasn’t with another cop at least until my leg heals up. I dip my head into a bowl of food, getting used to the new house is a bit much. Resting off my leg and not being able to run around and exercise leaves me bored. As the lights of the living room get turned off, I lie on the very nice brown couch as a Jack Russell Terrier hops at my feet. Chloe takes a deep breath, staring into the darkness of the house with me. She speaks softly. “Caine? I’m so sorry about Mike. I don’t understand what ‘death’ really means, but I know it does mean never seeing someone again.” Crap, I was so tired. Not of her, but I still feel like the crash or accident or whatever it’s called happened hours ago. I sadly play with a tennis ball between my paws, rolling it gently. “I don’t know if I want to be a cop anymore. In one second, my life changed. I thought Mike would be my buddy until the end.  The end meaning me and him getting too old to work and watching TV all night. I didn’t wake up and jump on his bed to play with him the day it happened, I didn’t lick his face extra that day. I didn’t play ball with him. My last memory was of him getting coffee and my eyes half shut.” Chloe nuzzled my paw. “But you’ve saved that girl. She now has her loving family to go back to because of you. She’s going to live a long and happy life because of one cop dog who cared.”

I nod, I can’t disagree with her on that. I could tell Chloe was not used to me being so down and my tone so uninspired, perhaps now getting rude. “I don’t think you get how empty it is. Losing someone, so quickly. You’ve known them for years, worked with them, gained there trust. How can it all be over in one second?” Chloe rests her head on the arm rest of the couch, we’re both crowded on the couch. I cough gently. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be…so abrasive.” The white and brown dog nodded. “I hope we can give you a good new life and that maybe you can get back on the force if you want to. Or, you can just hang out with me here.” I rest my head as well, rain begins to fall from the sky. The sound of the droplets hitting the roof become a bit calming. Thunder booms slightly, but I don’t flinch. “I’ll never forget the sound of screaming. The sound of the horn blaring. The sound of the metal crashing. I still hear it.” Chloe looked to me, I could feel her bodyweight shift. She said nothing for quite a long time and fell asleep. I heard her gentle snoring, I spent the night looking into the darkness. Waiting to hear another bang that I hope wouldn’t happen. I kept my ears open for Chloe and her owner. I bat the tennis ball a little harder, hoping that it’ll cure my anxiety like it always had. Chewing on it gently, trying to lose myself in the thoughts of being an average dog. In the moment.

The rain fell harder. My ears perk as I hear vehicles driving, miles and miles away, splashing through puddles, some listening to music, nothing sounded out of the ordinary. I stopped playing with the ball…turning my attention to the living room window, listening closer to those distant sounds impossible for human ears to pick up. Not moving, but listening. Every time a car drove by I felt a small shudder. Lightning flashes a bit, the thunder gets closer. The rain now a downpour. I look at the droplets on the window, the blue flash of lightning illuminates the living room for a brief moment in time.

I heard the tone of cars in the distance. They scare me. What should be a fun activity for me – I should associate cars with parks and hanging with my buddies and shedding fur on the back seat – now was met with caution and trepidation. Whether I envisioned Mike, mangled and pinned to his driver’s side door, the lifeless beagle or that screaming teenager. The most terrifying thought hit me. The thought that might keep me off the police force. I think whatever happened to Mike could happen to anyone.

END

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