A Soldier’s Goal


Ann didn’t know what the fuss was all about. People were flocking the sidewalk outside her windows. Flashes from cameras could be seen going off. She hid behind her old-fashioned curtain; peeking out when she thought it was safe.

Ann worked for the local animal shelter. Six days a week, rain or snow, she walked the six blocks to work. Once there, she cleaned the filled cages, washed water and dog dishes, fed the animals, and did laundry.

She didn’t mind. She lived alone and this gave her something to do. She had never married, and had no children to care for. Her parents had both been killed several years back in a gruesome car accident.

She lived in a small house at the end of Circle Street. She had purchased it with funds that her parents had left her. Ann wanted to  get married; but had never found the right man for her, so since she had such an enormous love for animals, she began this career over ten years ago.

There wasn’t too much excitement at work. The normal things happened day to day. Parents and children would come glue their noses to the glass. They would point at the animals that they thought were the cutest. Parents would request a holding and petting session. Ann would let them pass through the locked, green door and they could spend fifteen minutes with the animals.

Some days were heavy with donations of pet food and toys. Some  people brought in old blankets and others volunteered an hour or so a few times per week. In the afternoons, when it seemed the most quiet, Ann would take a few leashes and attach them to different dogs and take them out for exercise.

It was this one, bright, sunny, Spring day that an other than routine action happened. Ann had the dogs out for their exercise. There were two males and two females, all about the same size. One of the females was expecting.

She never knew what triggered the commotion, but one of the males was sniffing the pregnant dog, and suddenly became aggressive. Teeth showing, standing erect, the female tried hiding behind Ann, but the male was dedicated to chasing her away.

The female, we will call Emma, became frightened. So much frightened that she jumped back, as if it was planned, and jerked with such a force she got loose from Ann’s hand. The leash snapped, knocking Ann to the ground, and took off. In no time, Emma was out of sight.

Ann stood up and wiping off grass and dirt, she raced back to the shelter and ran in telling the other employees that she was leaving. “Emma got loose guys. I have to go get her. She’s pregnant, and we need to rescue her before she gets hurt”.

People nodded in agreement; but no one followed her cue. Ann found another leash and racing back out the door, she started running in the direction that Emma had taken. It seemed she walked for miles.

She walked up and down the streets, looking down alleys. She looked at the dumpsters restaurants had out their back door. Nothing, she saw absolutely nothing. She kept walking, determined to find Emma before someone found her and perhaps would hurt her.

The sun was starting to go over. Work was done and the doors were locked for the day. Ann was getting hungry, but hated to give up. She knew that the longer time passed, the less she would find Emma.

She had no money with her, so she couldn’t stop at any place to eat. She hadn’t eaten much lunch because of so many visitors. Her stomach growling almost made her feel nauseous.

Ann decided she had no other choice. She would return home and begin her adventure at the break of dawn. She felt a heavy heart. She loved Emma. Emma was such a gentle dog, but she was older. Not many people came in for older dogs. This was surely Emma’s last litter of pups. Ann hoped that some nice, older couple would come adopt Emma. She would be a perfect TV companion and she was not a barker either.

Her head hanging low, she walked a couple of blocks, still glancing down the now dusky alleys. The streets were quiet. This is what helped Ann to hear the faint sound of whimpers. It was a dog’s whimper.

Ann found her energy and raced down the alley. There was an alley light shining in the crossroad of the alley. Right there in the middle of the path was a sewer, and the sewer lid was pulled off. That was most likely done by the city workers earlier that day and someone had forgotten to place it in its rightful spot before leaving.

She looked down at the hole. It must have been 50 feet or so down. Ann could see nothing. She called out. “Emma, Emma, is that you? Let me know Emma. It is me, Ann”. A whimper came once again, and then it sounded a little stronger and louder.

Ann had nothing to help her see better. She could go home and get her big flashlight, but that would be taking up valuable time. She looked the hole over and noticed the steel ladder.

She hesitated for only a moment, before beginning her climb down the ladder. The smell, oh it smelled like old water and humidity. She made her mind forget that and made her way to the last step.

She didn’t feel another step and took a chance on jumping down. It ended up only being a few inches from there. She landed on her feet. She stood in place, trying to let her eyes adjust to the darkness. Something ran over her feet. She shivered as she could imagine what might be down here with her.

She called Emma’s name again and the bark came. Not a whimper this time, more like a bark of joy. She followed the sound and bumped into Emma. She started patting her head and then rubbing her belly as she tried soothing Emma with soft words.

She felt something at the bottom of the dog’s stomach. One, two, three and four little fur balls. In the darkness Ann smiled. Emma had fallen down here and somehow managed to not get hurt from what she could tell. She has also made this her time to give birth to four babies.

In her blind sight, Ann did her best to make sure everything was alright. She knew by  Emma’s licking her hands, that the birthing was over. Ann took off her shirt and in her bra and pants, she wrapped the babies up.

She told Emma, “Hold on my friend, just hold on for a few minutes. Let me get these babies up to safety, and then I will come back down and help you up”. Emma seemed to understand her gentle voice and allowed Ann to rescue the fur balls.

Once safe on the bricks above, Ann climbed back down to where Emma waited. ” Now girl, you have to listen to me. I don’t have anything to help pull you up. It is  just you and me. Your babies are just a few feet above us. I need you to help me by being very still when I lift you up, then you will be with your babies”.

Emma didn’t bark nor try to lick. It was as if this dog could understand what Ann said. Emma lay very still and allowed Ann to pick her up. As hard as it was, Ann managed to wrap the dog’s body around her neck. Emma didn’t move. Slowly and cautiously, Ann climbed one stair at a time, holding on to Emma, until she had the two of them back out in the alley.

She laid Emma down gently beside her babies and petted her head. ” Thanks for being such a big help Emma. You are a good dog”. Emma licked her hand and then her face. Ann smiled.

It took time and Ann was starving, but she was a soldier with a goal. She got Emma and her babies back to the shelter. Unlocking the front door, she let them all in. She found an empty cage and placed some fresh water and food, along with a few soft, cuddly blankets.

Emma walked in and  took each pup in with her. Ann sat down in the corner of the cage, and just admired the new pups, talking all the while to Emma about how good she had been.

When she felt the time was right, she told Emma and the pups goodnight. She told her she would be back in the morning. With that being said, she shut the cage door, making sure it was secure. She went to the front and turned the lights out. Locking the door behind her, she walked home.

The next morning at work, everyone wanted to know all about Emma. Where did she find her? The puppies? Who helped you? Ann told her story about what had happened. There was a buzz in the building the entire day. Ann was tired, but she felt good inside.

After work, she walked home.  She took a shower and began her supper preparation. It was going to be an easy supper tonight and an early bedtime. She took her food into the living room and was starting to sit down to eat, when she heard the commotion.

Ann’s curiosity could hold no longer. She opened her front door, to see what was going on. A bouquet of flowers were thrust into her hands. Clapping engulfed her. Photos were being taken.

“Ann, we are all here because we  heard about your story. You are a true hero. You could have got hurt out there all by yourself, but you didn’t wait for help. You knew you had to save an animal’s life. What you did was just nothing short of a miracle”.

Ann didn’t know what to say. Her cheeks blushed, and she sort of rocked from one leg to the other. One of the city councilmen walked up to her. He handed her a plaque. On that plaque, trimmed in gold, were the words, CITY’S BRAVEST WOMAN EVER, 2015. Underneath the wording was a sketch of a key. The gentleman held out the big, gold key. “We all want you to have the key to this city”. With that cheers and whistles rang out through the neighborhood.

Ann smiled. Her heart warmed. She waved at everyone, knowing she had strength she didn’t realize. She knew that for her, marriage may not be in the picture, at least for now, but she had the best darn job in the whole town.

 

Short Story Written by,

Terry Shepherd

06/17/2016

 

puppy

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