Keeping a Pet

There is a dog chained in a yard. The chain is old, but the links are heavy. It is hooked to a thick leather leash wrapped tight around a large canine neck. There is no fur under the leash because it is too tight. On the other end, the chain is anchored by a big post driven deep into the ground.

The yard is not a nice yard. The grass is long and unkempt; there is detritus that litters the greenscape, car parts from the rusted vehicles in the makeshift driveway and refuse from cans that roll on their sides; the house itself slumps on the yard, like it fell a long time ago and never got back up.

Sometimes the dog investigates the cans, rattling the links of his chain. There is never anything extravagant, but he can find scraps of pizza, or even better, wings. Those do when the man forgets to feed the dog. Lately, the man has forgotten a lot.

The dog is hungry. That is what he thinks about, if he can be said to think, as he lays his massive head on his paws in the dirty yard. Hunger makes the dog angry; it makes everything sharp. Hunger tells him that he is not surviving, and his job is to survive. He is a survival machine.

If the man remembered he had a dog, he might wonder how the dog got so big. The dog weighs almost as much as he does now. But this is not what the man thinks about, if he thinks at all.

When people walk by the house, the dog explodes at them. That is the only word for what happens. One moment, there is a heap of what might be trash; the next, there is a heap of fur and noise and bright, shining hunger. However, the chain was measured. The man did think about that.

Time after time, the dog is stopped just short of the warm, meaty shapes on the sidewalk. He snarls and growls and makes a sound that is too loud for a bark. It would be a roar, but that is ridiculous. Dogs do not roar.

People walk by the yard once. After that, they detour a street down. It does not matter that there is a crack house or maybe two on that street. It is safer.

Because the man does not think and the dog cannot think and people only walk by once, no one notices that the big post driven deep into the ground is slipping a little each day. Neglect and anger and survival and hunger are pulling it up.

Soon, the dog will be free. He will run and eat.

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