The gangly, young hound dog chased the tossed toy with glee. He heard the door slam and the engine race and tried to follow his people.
Panting, he sat down by the roadside. He waited. He laid down. He waited, and he whined. He sniffed the air for a familiar scent. Only the memory of his people lingered in the air. He waited, and he whined.
The sun moved higher overhead.
He was thirsty and hungry. His people were gone, and he was lonely.
He smelled water. He moved into the shady trees, lawns, parked cars, and families of an older subdivision. He found a birdbath and drank. An older woman saw him and started yelling. She threw a rolled up newspaper towards him and missed.
He moved on. He nibbled on grass and a few leaves. He found a little water in the gutter and drank again.
People chased him away and yelled at him.
He hung his head down, then sniffed the ground. He whined.
The sun went down. It came back up. He found water, sometimes. He nibbled on grass. He tested the air for a familiar scent. It was never there.
Several days were like that. His feet hurt. His ribs were showing.
One day, some people spoke together near him. They did not seem to be yelling at him. They seemed young, like him. He wagged his tail tentatively and lowered his head submissively.
One of them laughed. That one picked up a stone and stretched it in a slingshot. The stone hit his shoulder!
He yelped and tried to get away from these people.
They followed, hooping and hollering, enjoying their supremacy over him. Eventually, a black and white vehicle drove nearby. The noisy group disappeared, leaving him alone again.
He laid down near a dumpster. At least it had interesting smells and might hide him from noise people.
Before sunset, he sniffed the air. Another person was nearby. He was carrying water and singing to himself. This person saw him and said, “Hello there, fella.”
He wagged his tail tentatively and lowered his head.
Moving slowly, the man slowly moved his hands towards his nose. “Are you thirsty, fella?”
The man pulled a bottle of water from one of his pockets and unscrewed the lid. He looked around, and shook his head. He cupped his other hand and poured a little into it.
It tasted good. He sniffed the man. He wasn’t his people, but he smelled… Right. He also smelled like he carried something edible.
The man patted another pocket, and unwrapped crackers and cheese. “It isn’t really dog food, but…”
They tasted good.
The man turned to leave, but changed his mind. “I don’t need a pet. Ophelia, our old dog has only been down a few months. My wife likes smaller dogs. Maybe we can just keep you until we find your owners. Come on, fella!”
They walked a little while, then entered the driveway of the house. A woman and four children were watering the lawn and plants with those.
She saw the two of them, smiled and shook her head. “He is going to the vet tomorrow. And yes… If nobody claims him, we will keep this one, too…”
The little ones took turns tossing dry kibble to him. He never missed a bite. They found a large bowl for water for him. He finally fell asleep in the backyard, supporting four small heads.
He found his people.