The Black Dog
The following story is complicated. It’s sad, eerie, and somehow cathartic. It’ll make more sense later, but understand that I know how crazy it sounds. If anyone told me the same thing, I wouldn’t believe them either. Anyway, here goes....
I moved into an apartment two years ago, and for the most part I enjoyed it there. They asked me about having a pet, to which I told them “no.” That’s because I didn’t have one, but the question always lingered in my mind. Near the end of the first year when I started thinking about renewing my lease I thought again on the pet policy. So I began thinking really hard about it, and finally decided I would get a dog.
I made sure to ask them all the right questions, making sure I understood everything correctly. Unfortunately, the way it was written in the agreement made it sort of vague so I talked to them extensively about it. When I felt satisfied enough to make a decision, I decided I would adopt a dog. There were plenty of great dogs out there in shelters who needed a home, and I could provide that safe space for them.
I was excited as I began perusing the kennels and reading the information on the dogs. Not being too picky or too lenient, I eventually made my decision to adopt Lara. She was a black pitbull with the most beautiful eyes, and I instantly felt some connection when I took her lead and escorted her to the play yard area.
She seemed a bit shy at first, but that all changed when she got to run and play outside. There was no aggression and little to no behavioral problems, leaving me wondering how she ended up there. Apparently the owner dropped her off there because she didn’t get along with their other dog, which I couldn’t believe considering her sweet disposition. After visiting her one more time, I made it official and began signing paperwork.
“You got her just in time.” The woman at the desk said.
“What do you mean?” I responded, already knowing the answer as the words escaped.
“She’s been here for a while, and it was close to her time. I’m glad to see she got a home.”
“That’s so strange to me, her temperament is good!”
“I know. Unfortunately, she has two things going against her. One is the pit bull bias. The second thing is the fact that she’s a black dog. Statistically she had very little chance. I’m so glad you got her. I’ve considered her myself but I’ve adopted more than I ever planned myself.”
“I’m sure that’s easy to do here.”
So I brought her home and registered her with my apartment, gladly paying the pet deposit fee. It took a little adjusting, but Lara fit right and was loving her new life. My family got to know her when they visited and loved her too. Especially my younger sister, who loved dogs and always wanted me to have one since my parents didn’t have one. Lara was a regular part of the family.
The only thing that I hated was people’s obvious fear of Lara. She was a well-built dog as pit bulls are, but she wanted nothing more than to love on people. Whenever I took her for a walk some people would shy away, seeing her excitement as a sign of aggression. The misconception was even worse than I ever thought. I only mention this false bias so much because it led to me having to give her up.
After nine months of having my lovable dog, I got a phone call from the apartment office telling me that there were multiple complaints regarding my dog. It seemed most of them were from two people, claiming that my dog “acted aggressive” and “felt dangerous having a pitbull around.” When the manager read me the claims, I hoped she would dismiss them as completely bogus because there was nothing solid showing my dog was mean. What’s more is both claims were anonymous, meaning that I couldn’t even talk to these people and explain to them how kind my dog was.
My heart sank the more I began to defend Lara because the manager’s responses made it increasingly apparent that she wasn’t fond of pit bulls and that she was just “tired of getting emails.” She said she would speak to someone higher up for advisement, but the way she talked about Lara already told me that she wouldn’t advocate for Lara at all. She was going to talk to them and find any extra reason to justify what she already wanted to do. To make matters worse, if she stuck with her decision then I would have to find Lara a new home by this Sunday.
With a heavy heart, I contacted everyone I knew to try and find her a home. Shockingly, my parents didn’t take her and I didn’t have enough time to get her into a dog rescue. I exhausted all options apart from a shelter, and even worse was that I had to return her to the shelter she came from because apparently all the other shelters were full.
In the end, she told me that the apartment could refuse a dog for any reason. It was the biggest cop-out I’d ever heard, and I was simulatensouly enraged and deeply saddened. I strongly remember the end of the conversation with the apartment manager.
“I’m sorry, but we just have no other option with these complaints.”
“I think we both know that you do, but you just don’t want to.”
“Well, I’m sorry but we can refuse a pet for that reason. That’s the decision we’re going with.”
“I tell you what. How about the decision I got with is to bring my eight-year-old sister in here and you can give her that ridiculous excuse yourself.”
“Yeah, exactly. You wouldn’t want to do that either.”
I stormed out and went back to my apartment and cried my eyes out. Trying to comfort me, Lara laid her head against me but it only deepened my sadness. I thought about getting a lawyer and making this an even bigger deal, but I simply didn’t have the money to hire one. I couldn’t even afford the fee to break the lease. I was left with one option.
As I mentioned to the harpy manager, telling my sister was the hardest part. I endlessly thought of what to say and how to say it, and even when the time came I barely fumbled the words out. My sister took it hard, and I got my first taste of what it’s like to be a parent and make that tough decision that you know your kid is going to hate.
The day I took Lara back was a blur. I vaguely recall taking her into the shelter and going on and on about how good she was and that I truly had no other choice but to bring her back. I told them if there was any chance I could get her again that I would take her. After that I just remember sitting in my car by myself, and I didn’t think I’d ever stop crying.
You can say I’m being dramatic all you want, but you never know how much a pet can mean to you until you have to give them up. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever hard to make, if you can even call it a decision. If only I had more time.
So it then dawned on me that the second renewal was coming up, and if I could just find another place that would allow Lara then it would alright. The more I thought about it, I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay in this place anymore after everything. So I tirelessly looked for a new place, and found a rental home with a tenant that’d be moving out close to the time my lease would end. There were no problems with animals and it seemed that things were looking up.
Two months later, and I just finished moving all my belongings into my new place. Everything was ready to reclaim Lara and I went to the shelter. I came to the front desk and the receptionist recognized me. As soon as I said Lara, her expression changed completely. Before the words even came out, I already knew.
“I’m sorry...she had to be....”
I didn’t even let her finish and drove home, again distraught. Apparently the world was not going to allow Lara more time here. I started going home, but soon changed my mind and drove to a nearby bar. After my first couple of drinks, the rest of them became a blur. The next thing I remember was the bartender telling me that I shouldn’t be driving and I waved him off, stumbling to the door. Fortunately, I sat in my car for a while and became self-aware enough to realize that I shouldn’t drive.
I sat for another ten minutes trying to decide what to do, and in my drunken stupor realized that I could walk home. It was less than a mile away, and I knew a shortcut through an alley. Even despite knowing this was a dangerous move, the drunk part of my brain told me that it was still the best option. Yet, as I traversed through the ominous alley on this cold night, I soon found myself in a sobering situation.
As I neared the end of the alley, three large men came around the corner and began approaching me. I hoped they were friendly, but the closer I got the more I realized they wouldn’t be. One threw a hoodie over his head as he got closer as if he didn’t want me to see him. The other two smiled in a creepy fashion that made my skin crawl. Just when I thought I was already at a low, it seemed the bottom went much deeper.
Much like everything in my life recently, I was out of options. At this point, it seemed futile to run as they seemed athletic enough to catch me. I could scream, but there was no guarantee anyone could hear me let alone jump in to save me. Then I remembered I had a can of pepper spray. Trying to not be obvious, I slipped my hand into my purse for the bottle. I could only feel the leather of my pocketbook and metal of my keys, but no pepper spray. Then I remembered.
I left the pepper spray at the house...
I was probably toing to die here tonight, but the leer on their faces suggested other options that seemed far worse. And then, they could still kill me after. It took everything within me not to throw up as they edged closer.
“Hey, don’t be scared. We don’t mean to harm you, right?” One of them scoffed, nudging another as he said it.
“Yeah, we’re your friends. Say, you are really pretty. Maybe we could even be real good friends.” This one stepped closest to me as I froze, unable to do anything. My legs felt so locked in place, and now I felt disconnected, watching everything taking place from somewhere else.
“Please, just let me walk home.” I realized that the voice was coming from me.
“Well, we could,” Started the hooded man. “But what would be the fun in that?”
The others chuckled, and after their laughter died off they simply looked back at me. I gave a fake grin and nervously chuckled back. then out of nowhere a flood of adrenaline kicked in. I darted forward with a speed that was unexpected for both me and my three assailants. After pushing past them, I heard one of them yell, “Grab her!”
Moving without thinking, I took a hard left and pushed forward....
…to find myself at a dead end.
“Stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid....” I cursed at myself. In my rush, I turned the wrong way.
I practically skidded from stopping myself so hard and turned on my heels. Yet, the men came around the corner before I could pass the intersection. All three rushed me, and the man in the hoodie grabbed me around the neck and placed one hand over my mouth with the other. I slapped and kicked at him, but his strength paired with his friends right beside him made it feeble.
“Scream, and I’ll give you a reason to.” He growled into my ear. “Please feel free to keep struggling though...it’ll just make this that much more fun.”
His weight pressed me into the wall and I waited for what was to happen next....when I heard one of the men scream.
My oppressor’s grip lightened, and we both turned to see one of his friends back up and slowly step away. The other friend looked in the same direction and began to back up. Their eyes were definitely following something, but I couldn’t catch what. The hooded man holding me let go completely, and his eyes widened in terror.
“Come on man, let’s go!” One of them shouted, and in seconds they were bolting it back the way that I came. I looked around, unable to see anyone. Not with a moment to lose, my feet pounded the pavement the entire rest of the way home. Perhaps someone had peered in from the other end of the alley? I never saw anyone.
As I ran home, I pulled out my cell and dialed 911. When I got home, I locked and dead bolted my door. The police arrived with a paramedic to check me out. I showed them my bruises as I relayed my story. They took a description of the men and told me they’d keep a keen eye out for them. I slept so hard that night, exhausted from everything. From then, everything was normal until about a month later.
I read the newspaper and was instantly hooked when I read the front page headline.
“CRIMINAL’S SUICIDE UNDER MYSTERIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES”
Right below the headline, I was shocked to see a picture of the hooded assailant on the front page. When I read the entire article, my blood ran cold....
Apparently the hooded man and his two friends turned themselves in a week after they attacked me. They had not only confessed to my assault, but to every crime they were ever involved in. When asked what made them confess, the hooded man shakily answered.
“Because it followed me....everywhere I went.”
While reluctant to say in the interview, the reporter spoke with his two accomplices and pieced together the whole story. It wasn’t just the hooded man that was followed by something, it was all three of them.
“So it all started after one of our...exploits. We came across this girl in an alley, and planned to do some awful things. Yet that thing showed up and scared us away. But it didn’t stop there. It followed us back, but it followed Jeff mostly, a lot more than us.” One of the three detailed. “Alan and I saw it sometimes, but for Jeff it was all the time. I’m talking day and night, haunting his every step. We got so spooked, we thought it was some kind of sign. It was becoming too much, so we turned ourselves in. Alan and I stopped seeing it, but for Jeff...it never stopped.”
Turns out the thing they kept seeing was a black dog. It would follow them around everywhere they went, but no one else could see it. It would growl at them, sometimes snapping or lunging. Jeff would even wake up with bite marks on his body. It continually taunted them until they could take it no more. For Jeff, it became so much that he had hung himself in his cell.
There was only a scribbled note that read, “I’m sorry...I just wanted it to stop.”
Littered all throughout his cell were black dog hairs, found to be that of a pit bull. As my mind pieced it together, I was riddled with shock, horror, and an odd peace that those awful men were no longer prowling the streets.
I was reminded how strange the universe is, and how we don’t truly know much of anything outside our collective experience.
There is so much knowledge out there that has never been attained or understood, and never will be. That’s because it is the core of its very nature.
It is our greatest fear.
It is our greatest fascination.
It is....the unknown.