Ares-doG of War
A Different Kind of Service Dog
I was the second born. We were squished in like sausage meat in a casing. I couldn't wait to get myself out of there, too-tight of quarters for this guy. Unless you've been through it, you have no point of reference. I was the second to be born and the first male. I am a dominant and capable alpha. If I remember correctly, there were five of us. There are parts of my first few weeks that are fuzzy. It is natural. I understand that it happens to humans as well. Forgetting things from the first days of life. Anyway, there were two boys, I think, and three girls in our litter.
You might be thinking now that these things don't matter, but they do.
Because I was the strongest, I was the first to be taken from our Mother. I didn't feel ready to leave. I enjoyed her comfort, the warmth of her belly at nap time, and the joyful play of my siblings. The people that came for me weren't my people. Don't misunderstand; they were likely very good people. This family just wasn't the one intended for me; I knew. It's an instinctual thing. Humans think they know best, but there are times that you don't respect our instincts. You force your will over our understanding. It's just the way it is. You believe as a "superior" species that you know best.
I went reluctantly with them, the people that came for me, looking over my shoulder as they dragged me towards their car. Their scent was off. I knew who I was looking for. I had been here before. This life wasn't my first rodeo if you know what I mean. Reincarnation is easy once you get the hang of it. I have the hang of it. I dug my heels into the ground, as the man pulled on my collar.
"Come on, Boy." He said. He thought he was being kind, but I sensed frustration already. It's all in the tone and delivery. We react to energy more than anything else. This is another thing that humans do not fully comprehend.
"You have to get into the car to make this work. That's how we get home." I heard this putz clearly and saw a straightforward alternative. He had offered it. Don't get in the car.
He picked me up then and lifted me against my will. I was in the vehicle behind the driver's seat. It smelled of sweaty socks and pretzels. I found myself oddly comforted.
They say that dogs reincarnate as dogs until they become perfect. I'm not sure how many times I had been here, but it was enough that I had reached bloody awesomeness. I sat in the back seat of their sedan and shivered, not because I was cold but because I was terrified. I knew who I was supposed to be with, and this was not him. I had no idea how I would go about righting this wrong. The error in my placement was awful.
It took me a few weeks to figure out what I had to do. I could see that the female human had a short fuse. She didn't seem to like me much. It appeared as though she might have preferred a smaller dog. Maybe a breed that required less space or attention. Perhaps a Shih Tzu or a Pomeranian, I was of ample size by ten weeks. My feet were large, and my tail had a superior whip to it. I could take out a candlestick on a coffee table without anyone even fearing my closeness to it.
Nevertheless, my appetite was thriving, and my bowels were active. I relieved myself on the dining room carpet. A natural wool rug she had imported from Morocco, it seemed like an optimal spot to me. She chattered as she was cleaning the mess about how it contained hand-tied sheep's wool. I didn't set out to ruin her rug. I wanted to annoy her, yes that is true. But there's a fine line between negligence and malice. At least I like to see it that way, and it felt nice and soft on my bum. That's for sure.
The next thing I knew, she was on the phone. And then, by chance, I was sitting in the back of her mid-sized SUV, looking out the window, watching the world pass me by, or so I thought.
When we pulled into the driveway, I recognized the yard. We were back where I started. I couldn't have been happier. When she opened the hatch, I jumped out and ran across the green grass for the house. I knew just where I would find my brothers and sisters. It had to be close to dinner time, and I was starving. Except none of them were there. My Mother was there, napping. She raised her head and kissed me. She seemed pleased to see me but not thrilled.
I know a few days went by before anything happened. I could tell by the moon. That's how I knew. When you sleep a lot, you require a marker of time. The moon happens to be mine. It also works as a good nightlight, by the way. I sleep a considerable amount; I believe it has something to do with the rapid rate at which I seemed to be growing. But I digress.
It was a Friday. I know this because I will remember it forever.
He showed up in his truck. I heard him come up the driveway. The diesel engine was doing that knocking thing that they do. You know, they sound different than gasoline engines. I could feel his energy from the back of the house. I knew it was him because I had come for him this time. I was to be here for him. My tail was wagging involuntarily; I couldn't control it. My excitement was uncontainable. I was succeeding at my mission!
When he came around the corner for me, I peed myself. Not a proud moment, but I blamed it on still being a puppy and all. There was urine all over the tile, under my feet and on his, but he didn't seem to care. He reached down and picked me up, allowing me to lick him behind the ears. He didn't mind how big I was; he had grown into a muscular brute of a man. I licked his face through my tears. I had missed him, and I worried for weeks that I wouldn't find him. I needed only to trust like I had been told to do that the Universe would right itself. I should have listened. I can be so stubborn sometimes.
He took my blankets and put me into the truck. And well, that's how we got started. We have a history he and I, as I shall presume you have already picked up on. I was with him when he was a boy. And as dogs do, I got old. And I passed on. But as an adult, he was in desperate need of a companion. He struggled with mental illness and societal labels of disorders. He didn't fit the A-typical man approaching thirty moulds. But, he was still willing to find himself, trying to do the work he needed to, and I was here to help him.
He named me Ares, after the God of War. There are a lot of myths surrounding the Greek God. Some of them are interesting, some of them not. I felt dignified.
He enrolled me in extensive behavioural training, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I must boast that I was always at the top of my group. When it came to chasing treats, I proved to be worthy of any task. I learned quickly and efficiently. My educational difficulties arose only with my stubborn streak. I know myself to be correct. I follow the instincts programmed within me. Unfortunately, as I have previously stated, humans do not always know best. There are times that I refuse to lie down when approached by another male dog. I do not want to take a submissive stance. I am supposed to be protecting. That is my job. I have only one job; to protect. What the actual ducklings do you think I can do from a position of utter surrender? But I am the dense one? Honestly.
Once I had the fancy papers and tags from my classes, I was approved to work with him daily. Working with him is what I was born for. The potential to comprehend this scenario might be too complex for a simple human, but other mutts get me. So my Service Tags became a badge of honour. I was a different Service Dog, not the kind that worked with the blind or physically disabled. My training was even more refined and specialized. For example, I react to my companion's profound anxiety. My training was in energy perception and calming techniques. My expertise allowed him to stay on task.
For a stud like me, it was a cakewalk. We worked together every day. For years I rode with him in his truck. If it were cool outside, he would turn on the seat warmer for me. I enjoyed that very much. The leather felt cool on my bottom. The heat was just enough to eliminate the edge of frigid. Then, in the summer months, I was permitted to swim in the lake. The first few times, he insisted I wear a life jacket. And to be honest, it was a solid choice. My skills in the water became much improved with continued exposure. I learned to love the water. And did I learn to love swimming with him and the girls he brought in bikinis? It was heaven on earth.
He and I bonded more with each day that passed. His vitality became more and more apparent to me—his moods and movements were more second nature. His changing energy was more transparent and less cumbersome for me to perceive. I began to feel him like his decisions were my own.
And then, I began to rely on him, in much the way he did me. He knew when I wanted to walk. He understood my need for exercise and adventure. We were an excellent match, and I thought we were perfect together. Most days on cloud nine, I could be found either suntanning or napping somewhere when I wasn't working. For me, the relationship was utterly ideal.
Imagine my shock on a Monday morning when I was left at his Mother's house. A lovely lady she was. I enjoyed visiting her immensely; she provided delicious treats and long walks in the ravine where I could sniff out wildlife. The beds in her home were splendid, with fluffy duvets and an abundance of pillows. She liked everything in shades of white, which in my opinion, made it even more comfortable.
I thought we had just gone for a visit the way we usually did. Sometimes we would see her and the family for three or four days, and then we'd get back in the truck and drive again. It made for an excellent vacation of sorts. I see a change of environment as an opportunity for growth. I learned a lot while we visited. Hunting gophers, chasing ducks and taking long afternoon naps felt perfect, spending time at Mother's, was always very pleasurable.
I thought nothing of it when he drove away. He had left me with his Mother before, short-term. Once, he had a sleepover with that girl, the one with the long blond hair that liked to sleep on my side of the bed. Unfortunately, she didn't believe there was room enough for both of us, so I had to sleep at Mother's house. But as I said, usually, I was okay with it.
That day that he drove away, I didn't think anything was off. After a few days went by, though, I started to feel his energy from afar. He was anxious, upset, and he wasn't able to settle himself. I too, became nervous. I sat at the front door; I didn't know what else to do. I watched the cars as they drove by and saw the neighbourhood children coming and going to school. I waited for him to return with my nose pressed against the glass of the front window.
The moon had come out four times, and he hadn't come back. It was the longest that he had ever left me with someone. I missed him horribly. What if he didn't come back? What if I had done something wrong?
A part of my chest started to ache. I had never felt anything like it before. Had I disappointed my Master? I cried because I was in pain. It began as a pathetic whimper but escalated quickly to a piercing howl. I wanted to be heard; I needed someone to understand that my heart was breaking. Crying is something that can be controlled only at the beginning. When people tell you to "Stop it, stop that crying." They don't understand how it works. Once it gets going, it manifests into itself, and becomes something pathetic. It then transforms into a howl. Quickly, it becomes something that no one can stop easily. Then, like a freight train running at full speed, it stops for nothing.
When I get to the howling, my eyes leak as human eyes do. My face becomes soaked with what the humans call tears, and my breathing inhibits by my cries. I struggle to catch my breath. I couldn't believe he stopped loving me. I lay on the floor in a puddle of fluid that has escaped my face, a messy synthesis of slobber and tears. Wondering why? Why had he not come back? He had never left me like this before. Not for this long, not like this and not when I could still feel his anxious emotions. He was torturing me without physically hurting me and without any awareness of it.
I couldn't help him from afar. I wasn't able to do my job. My service tags said I was to perform a set number of duties. Specific to his needs. My need to soothe him didn't disappear as he did. It loomed.
For days I waited, walking the neighbourhood with Mother, looking for him. We walked through ravines and parks full of trees with changing colours. I enjoyed seeing the leaves fall to the ground. They made a spectacular crunch beneath my feet. Of course, Mother thought we were out for typical "dog walks," but I was constantly searching, looking for him on every pathway, around every corner, in every laneway and behind every truck and car. My efforts turned up nothing more than additional disappointment. My sadness deepened with every settling of the moon. I knew how many moons had passed, and it was becoming too many. I understood the likelihood of his returning for me now.
Mother became a source of comfort for me. Despite my ample size and her petite human frame, I enjoyed cuddling with her. At night before my bedtime, I would lay my head on her chest so that I could feel her heart beating. I pinched my eyes shut tight so no one could see me silently crying. I was ashamed to believe that my Master didn't need me. Being discarded made me feel ashamed. I based everything I knew on the relationship I built with him. I felt disrespected but lost. I felt lost in the love I had for him because I wanted nothing more than for him to return.
The moons kept coming. Without my Master, there was no work for me. I was a just dog who loved long walks in the park before sunset and romantic movies. I had learned to swim, and I could snuggle with any beach babe he brought me, but without my Master to support, none of it had meaning. My service tags which had been a source of pride, now reminded me of him. It was all worthless.
I had nearly lost all hope until I saw him walking up the driveway. Mother said he would come back. Mother had promised, and she seemed to me to be very trustworthy. She provided everything I needed, and I had prayed that she was correct. I hear humans talk about praying. I wasn't sure how it worked or what value it had, but I tried it anyway.
His silhouette appeared just before the moon came back. I knew it was him instantly. His gait was so familiar I recognized it despite the cresting darkness. He moved towards the house, and my excitement exploded. My body began to wag, first the tail, then the torso, so violently that I nearly peed myself. As a full-grown dog, I would have embarrassed myself should urine have escaped me then. I held it, but just barely.
When he bent down to greet me, I could see that he was crying. Tears that had welled up in his eyes were trickling down his cheeks. My Master felt the same way that I did. He held me there on the porch for a long time. His arms around my neck, his face buried in my chest. I could feel every emotion that he was having then, all of them similar to mine. I wasn't wrong. We did love each other.
In some Greek Mythology, Ares, while still an infant, is captured by two giants and placed inside a bronze jar. He was to have remained there forever, but the giants' Mother spoke of the jar, and The God Hermes rescued Ares.
He offered me no explanation for his absence, and I didn't ask. I felt it wasn't my place. Maybe I didn't want to know, or perhaps I didn't need to. But, the world was right again, the praying had worked, and I found my place. As an infant, I was adopted by the wrong family. I knew it wasn't right. I was rescued, then my Master named me Ares, and I found my way. Today, I am on duty as a different kind of Service Dog.
About the author
Taught by some of the greatest literary minds of this century, Sandra's delivery method is reminiscent of her mentors and yet uniquely her own page-turning style. Her novels are suspenseful, unpredictable, & thought-provokingly colorful.