• The Puppy in the Window
    By: Laura B.

       There are so many unwanted puppies in the world, being born into puppy mills each day. They are hungry and alone, wanting nothing more than a warm, friendly hand to reach out to them and pet them gently. All they want is to be loved. I should know. I was one of them.

       I was born in a stinky place, filled with mean, cruel humans. It was very cramped all the time, and they didn’t give us water. Or food. They would yell at us when we whined out. It smelled of sickness. All of the other dogs scared me too. But not because they were horrible and bad as well. It was because they were so desperate, so lonely. I didn’t want to end up like them.
       The only comfort I found in that awful place was from Momma and my two littermates. None of us had names. Momma was always too tired to actually call us by some names. She just called us all “puppy.” But we didn’t mind. She was always licking our heads and murmuring words of encouragement.
       “Someday,” she said one night when the other dogs were all howling that we were doomed to die. “I hope to get out of this prison. We will be petted and loved for dogs, not mindless robots with no souls.” We pups nodded our heads like we understood, but really, we didn’t. At least I didn’t. Why were all the other dogs saying we were going to die? What would the humans do to us?
       Then, I was taken. Me and my siblings, my sister and brother, were all pulled away from Momma. I remember I was small and young. My eyesight was still fuzzy. When the humans picked us up with their rough hands, I protested. I kicked my legs, then jerked back my head and howled. The human that was holding me yelled and I felt his fingers squeeze my sides harder. I yelped, and he slapped me in the side. I whined silently in my head, knowing that he would probably hit me again if I made any noise.
       I had looked back at Momma. Her eyes were sad and tired. She licked her lips and rested her chin on her front paws. I never had noticed how thin she was. She was so lonely. I felt so sorry for her . . . she only had time with us for just a month. But it was later when I realized that was her life. Giving birth, watching her pups leave, giving birth, watching her pups leave -- over and over. That’s why she had hoped. Hoped with all her heart that we would have a better life than her, hoped that we would end up loved and cared for.
       The humans put us into cages. Though I was small, I still felt squished. I felt all of the joy seep out of me, the happiness, the love. What was left were memories of what it felt like to be licked lovingly. Memories of Momma, and her heat and warmth and smell of fresh milk. For as long as I live, I will never forget Momma.
       Me and my siblings were taken to a colorful, cheery place. There were other puppies there. It smelled of chew toys. We thought it was going to be a puppy paradise. Our tails were wagging a mile a minute and mine felt like it was going to fall off with excitement and anticipation.
       But the humans brought us into more cages. These cages didn’t have bars, though. They were small and see through. At first, I didn’t know there was a wall and I walked right into it, bumping my tiny nose and making a smudge.
       Me and my siblings were all put in side-by-side boxes. There weren’t any openings where we saw each other, but sometimes we could hear each other and our distressed calls.
       From then on, we were like pictures on a wall, sculptures to look at. We never got any exercise. The only walking we did was in our boxes. Whenever a family, with human babies or young ones hanging by the adult’s sides, came around, it was a delightful treat. The kids always pointed to us, smiling and saying “Can we get one?” I always tried to look my best. I puffed out my golden chest and barked happily.
       But none of them ever took us home. Never ever. I would see the look on the adult’s faces. The look of pity, of sadness. I could read their lips as they said, “Oh, look. That’s just a poor puppy in the window.” After the store would close each night, I would quietly cry to myself. I would press my muzzle up to the glass separating me from the outside world. I would wonder what life was like outside the box, outside the store.
       One day I woke up to an uneasy smell wafting in through my cage door. Humans came and were talking anxiously amongst themselves. That’s when I saw them reach into my brother’s cage and pull him out. I saw his lifeless body, limp in their arms. His golden fur was matted and his legs flopped as they carried him into a room behind the cash register.
       I spent the rest of that day howling and whining, no matter how many times the humans threatened to kick me.
        Soon, the price on my cage went down. Before, I was being sold for $500, and then it changed to $300. I guess we were getting too old and not as cute.
       But soon, my life changed forever. A woman walked in, her yellow hair was just like my yellow fur. I jumped up and pawed at the glass, wanting to break it to get out. I begged silently, Pick me! Please, pick me!
       And she did.
       That wasn’t all.
       She picked every puppy in that store, Yorkies and labs, shepherds and golden retrievers like me and my sister. She called the pet store “ illegal.” She took every puppy from that terrible prison, and took us to a place called a “shelter.” The moment she set us down on the ground, me and my sister ran like nothing was holding us back. It felt so good to stretch out my muscles and jump up like I was the only puppy in the world! Grass felt so good on my paws; I had never felt it before. And the sun, it was so bright and beautiful. It reminded me of Momma and my lost brother. That night I fell asleep easily, knowing that I was finally safe.
       But soon my whole body began to hurt. The other store puppies began to get sick, including my sister. I became very weak. I couldn’t keep any solid food down, and I always ended up throwing it up.
       The humans brought me and my sister and the other sick puppies into this place with bright lights and loud noises. It reminded me of the store. I cowered in my crate, wondering if the other puppies were doing the same. But there were nice people that worked at the brightly-lit building. They had masks and put me under this sleep that lasted a few hours. When I woke up, I felt so much better. But as the humans from the shelter carried me away from the miracle place, I realized that there were only two other puppies with me, a labrador and a collie.
       My sister didn’t make it.
       Why was it me who was walking down the road of sadness? I remembered lying in my bed at the shelter, feeling alone and afraid. To me, everything was crumbling. My whole world. Without my sister, who would I love? But my heart began to lift a little when the people came. They visited most days of the week, and I always looked forward to when they were around me. I loved people, and I loved when they stroked my ears even more. Nothing had felt any better.
       That is, until the woman with the yellow hair like mine lifted me up and rubbed under my chin. She whispered in my ear, “You’ve had a tough life, pup. But you’re coming home with me, and your new job will be to visit this shelter every day. What do you think, Hope?”
       Hope? She had called me Hope! I had a name. I had a name! Finally, I was loved again. Momma would have been bursting with happiness. I wanted to tell her somehow, that I was safe and healthy. That her hoping had earned me my name. That I had been rescued by the woman with the yellow hair. She was the one who saved me and my sister in the first place. I wanted to woof it all out to my momma, but I couldn’t, so I silently said it. I looked up to the night sky, telling Momma about my good fortune.
       As the woman carried me to her car, I relaxed my head on her shoulder. Her love for me was palpable and I could feel it with my own paws. I loved her just the same, and I knew that for the first time in my whole entire life, everything was going to be alright.

    NOTE: Want to get a puppy? Please, this is a VERY big decision that requires months of thinking and preparation. It’s not something that happens because you see a cute puppy in the window. Pet store puppies usually come from puppy mills. Puppy mills are illegal, and they’re a place where people just breed dogs over and over in unhealthy conditions. As depicted in the story, the dogs most likely don’t get enough water or food. Pet stores buy from puppy mills because they want cute dogs to sell quickly. Puppy mills sometimes separate the pups and mothers too soon. If you’re getting a puppy (or even a kitten too), be sure its at least ten weeks old. I recommend getting a rescued pup. There are tons of shelters around, trying to get dogs adopted. There are so many unwanted puppies, and puppy mills just add to the numbers each year. But if you have your heart set on a specific breed, please don’t go to a pet store, and be sure to do tons of research in the breeder you are thinking of going to.