Noisy World Before the Doors

Melion Traverse



“No, not that one – it’s too hairy.” The woman tugs at the child’s hand, but the boy is already pointing down the row, finding another love.

I pull back into the corner, feel the tickle of fur shrinking back into the skin. I am glossy, sleek. Somebody will love me now.

A young man and a woman enter, hands joined as they wander at their leisure as though all the din is somewhere beyond their private world.

“This one?” he asks, points to me.

I wag my tail, grin with teeth and a floppy tongue. Of course, this one. This is the one you want.

The woman shakes her head.  “Too big for the apartment. When we get a proper house, you can get a big dog – I promise.” She squeezes his hand, they walk away.

My legs are shorter now, my body is not quite proportioned, but I do not have time. A woman comes in, hands clapped over her ears as the other dogs bark and frenzy in their cages. I am good. I sit and wag my tail. She does not even notice me.

I bark with the others as a family strolls down the row. Pick me! Look at me! Love me! Save me! That is what my bark says. The little girl with uneven pigtails points to a dog across the way who bounds and springs with each bark. I do the same. My furious bouncing brings me trampling down on my cagemate, He yelps – surprised, not hurt, I know because he surprises easily and yelps every time – and the father looks towards me.

“We won’t be getting that one – we don’t want something that’ll hurt Benny.” He turns away, watches a scrambling mess of tiny puppies who are all paws and eagerly-licking tongues.

I slink down, move to a corner.  The one thing I can never be again is a puppy.

The children wriggle about as a Uniform goes into the cage, pulls out a puppy. The puppy goes out the Good Door – the one where dogs go with new people smiling over them. I want out that door. I want a leash looped over my head and people petting me and saying what a perfect friend I’ll be.

I do not want out the Other Door. I even think that word with dread. Every day, I see the dogs go through that door – some bound away with head high and tongue dangling, overjoyed that a human walks with them, so certain that life will begin beautifully now; most know, they go with tails tucked and ears pressed back. Life is not beautiful behind the Other Door.

Three weeks. Three weeks I have been in the Land of Cages. First in one room, now in this. My first cagemate went out the Other Door – he fought the whole way with claws digging at the concrete and mouth gripping the leash, trying to pull his way to freedom. Two Uniforms came and took him through the Other Door. He fought, but he went.

I will go through the Other Door because I cannot be what anybody wants me to be. I will go with dignity. I will have my head high and my eyes ahead, I will not occupy myself with pretend scents or beg my freedom from the watching dogs. And I will not go with tail wagging and tongue lolling. I will not go whimpering and crying and soiling the concrete. Nobody will remember me in the Land Beyond the Other Door, but I will remember myself in those last moments.

Another couple enter, the woman deliberately closing the door behind her, carefully as though all the crescendoing noise will tear it from the hinges. I am not yet through the Other Door, and I must keep trying. I see the man point to a dog with pricked ears. Mine are floppy. It is the work of an eye-blink to fix that. Now I have perfect pointy ears. She is looking at a squish-faced dog. I can be that, too.

“Ha! Look at this silly one over here!” the man says, coming towards my cage.

Do I bounce? Do I hold still? What am I supposed to do? I wag my tail and I stand.

“Have you ever seen such a funny-looking dog?”

“I dunno, I think it’s kinda cute. Do you want to have them take it out for us?”

Oh yes, oh yes! She is looking at my card. She is looking at me! My tail goes as though it will fly off my butt. Thwap-thwap-thwap as it slaps from side to side.

“You kidding me? I couldn’t take something that stupid looking for a walk. Everyone would laugh.”

She drops the card and over the frenzied din, I hear the clang of it hitting the cage and echoing into all the world.

I lengthen my legs. I shorten my ears. I change my color and change it back again and change it once more. I am spotted, then I am brindle. My nose stretches, stretches again. Nobody wants me.

Another family walks by, the girl pokes me through the cage; I don’t like being poked, but I lick at her fingers anyways.

Two more couples walk past. Another woman comes, goes straight for the puppies. Another family but this time without the prodding fingers. A Uniform enters from the opposite side – from the world where the Uniforms live – and I see the lazy swinging of the leash. This is not a good sign, somebody will be taken beyond the Other Door. An elderly woman enters, looks at the puppies. The Uniform walks down the row; they try to be so casual about what is going to happen, but we know. The barking raises as the Uniform walks among us.

And finally I am chosen. Not by a family, not by a woman who wants a jogging partner, not by a man who wants a wrestling buddy. I am chosen by the Uniform who loops the leash and unlatches the cage.

I am going to the Land Beyond the Other Door.

Dignity, I will go into that far, fear-scented world with dignity. The Uniform is saying nice things to me, petting me, saying she is sorry, telling me she had hoped somebody would pick me. She says I’m her favorite and that was why she is coming to get me, to be the last person I know because I deserve to have somebody love me. She makes it hard to hold that dignity.

The cage rattles behind me as my cagemate makes a protesting leap at the wires. I appreciate that gesture, useless as it is.

The walk towards the Other Door begins.

Suddenly, a voice that is heavy with years calls, “Buster!”

We keep walking but the woman calls again, “Oh, you look just like my Buster!”

The Uniform stops and I go tense but my tail remembers to wag – good tail for thinking when I can’t – I do not dare move. The elderly lady who was looking at puppies is coming towards me.

“Of course you can’t be Buster, he was my dog when I was a little girl. But oh! you look so much like him.” She looks at the Uniform, asks, “Is somebody adopting him?”

“No, nobody has adopted him.” Do I hear hope in the Uniform’s voice?

“Is he good with children? I have grandchildren over all the time and they thought I should get another dog now that Belle has passed away.”

“He seems to do well with children,” the Uniform says and then adds with a smile, “Would you like it if we took him to the dog run and you could get to know him?”

I do not go out the Other Door. I go out into the run that smells of happy dogs and happy people. I do not run about, I stay with the elderly lady because I do not want her to escape from me. She pets me, rubs my ears, says again and again how I look like Buster and how much fun I will have with the grandkids.

The leash is looped back over me and the Uniform smiles, tells me what a good dog I am. At last, I go with the elderly lady out through the Good Door and into everything that lays before us.


“Noisy World Before the Door”  ©  Melion Traverse
Melion Traverse lives with one spouse, two dogs and an acceptable amount of chaos. Melion has had works appear in Scarlet Leaf Review and T. Gene Davis’s Speculative Blog. When not writing, Melion practices historical fencing and vacuums dog hair, but not simultaneously. Rarely does Melion refer to Melion’s self in the third person.

“Hopeful” photomanipulation by Fran Eisemann.  Stock used: “Dog in Cage”  by Kim Dae Joong

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