Exhausted from all the running after the car, Isaac sat in front of James’s clinic, gasping for air. Shark stood next to him in silence, lost for words to console his friend. Marshall’s wounding took them by surprise.

The basset’s eyes got droopier. He felt he disappointed his mentor. Even worse, he felt he betrayed him. 

“How could we let this happen, Shark?’” barked Isaac, squealing under the layers of anger towards himself.

Shark didn’t respond. He carried a sense of guilt, too, eyes fixed at the lit window, where his beloved mentor was getting his treatment. The two stray dogs were too afraid to come closer. 

Who can tell? Maybe if they had the guts to approach the clinic’s door, the people would have let them inside. But not these two. Not tonight. Fear and despair penetrated deeply into their bones.

Shark kept his wits about one, but he was still miffed. He asked himself the same questions. “If our first inhabitation experiment turned out to be a failure, can we get better next time? What if we fail and something happens to Isaac next time?” Shark lost his mischievous rebellious side.

Gloom was in the corners of his eyes, dark and black as the dying night that was already making sharp contrast getting lighter. The indigo blue sky welcomed a distant sun that started showing its first glimpses of the new day waking up at the city outskirts. 

It was 3:30 in the morning. Isaac and Shark had to be patient and hope for the best.

“I’m sorry, Charlene.” James wrapped up his expert opinion as he finished the surgery on Marshall. 

Charlene stood there in silence, watching at the anesthetized pug that was lying powerless on the operating table, listening to James’s words as they rolled out of his mouth in slow motion. James spoke normally, but for Charlene, after the excitement of the day and all that took place, his speech reverberated in another dimension. 

She alternated the focus of her glance from Marshall to Pixie, who was feeling better, and, as far as Charlene was concerned, much better for someone who had just been hit by a car. That was weird.

“All these dogs, and Daniel acting so out of his usual ways, what exactly is happening”? thought Charlene, looking suspiciously at the Spitz who, instead of feeling delighted to see her, looked guilty, hiding her head under the tail and turning her eyes away from the girl. 

Pixie noticed Isaac and Shark tarrying outside. She couldn’t miss the smell of that dog, the basset. She loved those droopy ears to bits, it dawned on her.

But now she had more important things to consider: did she do something to cause Marshall’s accident? Maybe she shouldn’t have gone alone. Maybe she was the main cause for the inhabitation experiment to deviate from the plan. Will Isaac look at her again if something happened to the old dog?

She was worried and helpless. She wanted to escape through the door so badly but even if it had been open, she couldn’t face Isaac outside or leave Charlene. The whole escape could worsen things instead of improving them. For the moment, she tried to portray a calm demeanor, hiding her anxiety behind fur licks.

The prospects for the pug weren’t good. James told Charlene that the dog has lost too much blood and that his age didn’t let him fight with strength. The next 48 hours were crucial for his survival. He did everything he could and now it was up to the dog to fight for his own life. 

“Sometimes, dogs are like people. They fight when they have unfinished things. They fight when someone depends on them. They fight when their purpose task on Earth is not yet complete. But often, they give up, sensing that their time has come. We will see what’s the case with this dog. I don’t want to raise your hopes too high. According to his looks, I assume he must be at least 12 years old. And he is a street dog, they haven’t exactly been fondled by life. Stray dogs take more kicks, less food, and excruciatingly little love compared to home pets.” 

James transferred the dog from the operating table to a more comfortable bed close to the window. Only a small wheeze came from Marshall’s throat, signaling that despite the dire chances, he still showed signs of life. 

Daniel sat quietly in the waiting area. Jo was also there, but they didn’t talk with each other, both feeling too overwhelmed to share their desolation with someone who had been a stranger just a few hours ago.

Besides, Daniel has an additional worry to think about. It was already 5 a.m. In just a few hours, he will be visiting his dad. He sighed sadly, too exhausted to prepare for the horrible meeting that took place once a month. 

He will think about it later. For now, he was here. He felt a sudden urge to wrap his hand around Charlene’s shoulders. But he couldn’t summon the courage. He was too afraid, too tired, and too startled to take such a bold move that came naturally to most people but that was such a challenge for him.  

Featured Image Credit: Marcus Cramer on Unsplash

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