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Don't Pet the Ugly Dog

Troy Daniels
LAST ROW ON the left, against the wall, second cage from the end." He was the only dog not barking. I had a dog already and wasn't sure about adopting another, but I decided to go see him anyway. A co-worker had asked earlier in the day, "Did you know there is a Standard at the Centerville Animal Shelter?" I couldn't think about anything else for the rest of the day. The dog was emaciated to only forty pounds and was listed as black. He had been brought in a couple of days earlier with a Miniature Schnauzer; both had been "severely neglected and abused." The animal control officer said they had been left outside year-round and had very little socialization. The Schnauzer had already been adopted by a volunteer at the shelter.
When I saw him, he had been given a bath, and it was obvious that he was gray, not black. I talked to him through the noise of the other dogs and the chain-link fence that separated us. He sat quietly and offered his paw. I was hooked. I inquired about adopting him and was told that I would be fourth in line. I didn't leave the shelter with much hope. On Saturday I called to see how he was doing after his surgery (he had to be neutered) and learned that I could have him. I immediately drove to the shelter.
After it was established that he would get along with my existing dog, we loaded him into the car and drove home. He did pretty well on the ride home. But he was afraid of everything the car, stairs, dog door, unfamiliar noises, furniture, even me. He had never been indoors and seemed more comfortable outside. He cowered every time we touched or talked to him. This went on for six months.
We've had Jake for three years now, and it is a little bit of a struggle to remember what he was like. He now weighs around seventy pounds ....

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Please, Can We Keep the Donkey?

Lance Harrington
As a Young child, I was forced to go on Sunday drives with my family to various places in New England. It was normally torture until one Sunday, when everything changed. I was about nine years old at the time; my younger brother was five. We stopped off at a roadside general store in New Hampshire, which happened to have a petting zoo attached to it. Much to our delight, my brother and I were allowed to play with the animals; the owners seemed pretty laid back. We joyfully ran off with a handful of quarters for the machines that dispense animal feed and made our way inside the petting zoo. My little brother had taken off for the goats and sheep, but I took a different path. In the corner of the pen was a donkey, a Sicilian Donkey to be exact. I took a few handfuls of feed and approached him. He seemed a little timid, but once he found out I had a handful of food, we became fast friends. I couldn't believe how quickly he became personable and cuddly. We played with the animals for a little longer before going home.
Unfortunately, the family trips continued for some time. The good thing was, my brother and I were promised a stop at the petting zoo each trip. It was always the highlight of the trip. After about a year, give or take a few months, we stopped at the petting zoo one Sunday and saw a prominent going-out-of business sign on the front door of the shop. At the petting zoo section, there was a sign indicating that the owner was willing to take reasonable offers for the purchase of the animals, provided they get a good home.
As the Sunday rides continued, we would continue stopping at the petting zoo. Each time a couple more animals would be gone, having been sold. The "jungle" was thinning out in this petting zoo. The donkey remained, having no takers. It had gotten to the point where he was the only animal left. During liquidation of the store/petting zoo, the owners had draped a double-sided sign over the donkey's back with a price on it. At first it was $400, which got crossed out and re-priced at $250. This trend continued until the sign said "FREE." This meant trouble for my parents ....

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Ocy for Always

River Adams
MY DAUGHTER DOESN'T love our cat the way most children love their pets-as a toy, a playmate, a confidant for her short-lived secrets. He is all those things, but he is more. A symbol of her childhood. His name is Ocy, though it used to be Jake.
I stepped into the living room a few minutes ago to send her on some silly errand that had seemed so all-important, and found them sleeping on the sofa together, in such inviolable peace that it took my breath away, and all I could do was lower myself onto a carpeted step and hush, and stay, watching innocence like a movie.
She is spread about the sofa, leg on the back cushion, hand hanging off the side, long shiny brown hair covering the armrest and parts of her face. The furry symbol-not so much fat as generously proportioned-is resting on her chest, puffing up his belly in rhythmic breaths. They both have had a hard day. She played basketball, cleared the dishes, solved math problems, and zipped around the neighborhood on her absurdly long legs. He had two naps and a meal.
I am watching them sleep and wondering if she understands consciously what this cat means to her, and why she touches him with such care and gentleness, and why she reaches for him whenever tears are on their way, Does she know that he stands for her happiness, her security of being loved: Does she remember how it all started:
My daughter's name is Katie. It used to be Petra.
I found her seven years ago, in a standard way of the electronic age-on the Net. Her face in the picture yeas round, serious. Absent gaze. Circles under the eyes. She was looking into the camera with the resignation of a condemned soul taking in the barrels of the bring squad. A child prisoner. I searched her face for laugh lines and found none ....

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