Hey guys, just wanted to leave a little note here. I was so anxious to finally upload the first chapter that I completely overlooked this part. I just wanted to say, thank you to taking the time to read this. I know there are so many stories uploaded everyday so if you are reading this, I'm honored. Also, just a quick shout out to one of my absolute favorite writers, Invader Johnny. I read your review and it made me so happy! It is an honor to be acknowledged by one of the great! (Okay, sorry for fangirling.) I will Not go on the whole "Fav and review" spiel. I just appreciate people enjoying what I have deliver! Now, please enjoy the first chapter of Good Dog. There will be more to come soon and much shorter author's notes!
A Blossoming Friendship
"I'll be home in a few hours Mom. I'm just hanging out at the park…. Yea, I took it." I roll my eyes and dig through my bag, searching for my good gloves. "I know I forgot yesterday, but I did take it, I promise… Yea, yea, I know. Don't worry, it's been a while since the last time, and it's gotten better…" I sigh and shake my head. "Okay. Okay Mom. I'm going to hang up… I'm hanging up… See you later. Bye." I end the call and huff, tossing my phone in my bad. I know she means well, but geez… She acts a little too Mommyish sometimes. I just want some me time today and there's only one foolproof way to get it.
I pull on my gloves and make sure my bag is secure before grabbing the first thick branch of the tree in front of me. Climbing is second nature to me now. I did it all the time as a kid, even convincing my dad to take me to this badass indoor rock wall in Bakersfield. Knowing this tree perfectly also helps and I get to my usual spot in no time. I can see just about everything in the park from here and since no one comes to this little wooded area, I'm never bothered. Occasionally, a squirrel will show up, but they seem friendly enough and don't bother me, anymore at least. I had to stop bringing my favorite granola bars, which was unfortunate, but it was either that or get chased by a horde of squirrels, every time.
After hooking my bag on to a nearby branch, I finally get settled and start sketching. There's always something to draw here. Birds, people, plants, dogs... especially dogs. There's really nothing better than some alone time at the park. I have a space all to myself, and no one to bother me. Though, I am about 6 feet up and difficult to spot. Nothing gets the creative juices flowing like fresh air and nature, which I'd why I prefer this little secluded spot. The fact that it's close to the dog park is just a bonus. I love dogs. They're my favorite animal ever. They're smart, loyal, and always full of energy. They're just the best. I spend a lot of my free time here in my tree, watching dogs run and play and enjoy life. Sketching them is more of a recent hobby now. My friends think I'm obsessed with dogs and honestly, they might be right, but it doesn't bother me at all. Sometimes, I think dogs are better than people. They don't judge you for anything, they just want to love and be loved.
It's not like I only talk about dogs though. I love so many other things. Games, movies, reading...and music. I absolutely love music, whether it's singing along with it or dancing to it. There's something just so freeing about turning up your favorite song and really jamming to it. It's half the reason why I go to Hollywood Art High School, which is the coolest school ever! Talents of all kinds are accepted and while you might get lightly teased, no one will outright discourage you for liking or doing something. Well, not everyone at least, but a few grunchy apples do not spoil the bunch.
I take a deep breath, enjoying the crisp, cool air. The weather is beautiful today and it's the perfect day to just relax and draw whatever comes to minds. I could be doing my homework, but I can just take care of the before bed. I'll spend all day here if I have no other plans, which is rare usually. Most days, I like to stay until the last dog has left with its owner, then I'll usually head home or stop somewhere and grab a bite to eat. Today however, it seems both plans have gone out the window.
"Stupid mutt!" I look over to the entrance of the dog park and see a man dragging, or attempting to drag, a dog out of the park on a rope leash. "Let's go!" He hits the dog on the nose with something and it yelps, moving faster now to keep up with him. I frown and pack up my things before I start to climb down.
"Hey!" I drop down the last few feet as the guy turns in my direction.
"What do you want kid?" He scowls, yanking the rope and pulling the dog closer.
"What do you think you're doing to that dog? You can't hit a dog like that."
"What do you care? It's not your dog and it's none of your business." He takes a step forward, trying to intimidate me. It doesn't work and I stand my ground.
"It'll be my business when I call the police and report you." He glares and glances down at the dog before looking back up at me. He's nervous, and a little bit suspicious.
"You think you're tough shit, huh? What if I just set him loose and he attacks you. I could just say you were threatening me. I'd get away scot-free, and you'd learn a valuable lesson: Don't stick your nose where it doesn't belong." My stony glare falters a bit and I lean back. He wouldn't. The dog doesn't even look like an attack dog. It looks scared and hurt. Even if it wanted to hurt me, it wouldn't. I reach into my pocket and pull out my phone, dialing the right number. The guy takes a step back and let's go of the rope, shoving the dog towards me.
"Bruno! Attack!" I look up the second I hear that and flinch back when I see the dog running towards me. I tense up and prepare to run, but the dog is faster. He tackles me and knocks me to the ground with a hard thud. I cover my face, ready for whatever biting will happen, but I'm caught off guard by a long, wet tongue being dragged across my cheek. My eyes fly open and I look right at the dog. He...he wants to play! I laugh and try to escape all the wet kisses. He's just a big softie…
This isn't what the guy expects, and it has fully pissed him off. I'm sitting up now, petting the dog and scratching him all over. He loves it and he keeps trying to lick my face in appreciation. I'm so engrossed in playing with the dog that I don't realize that his owner is approaching us, not until something long, thick, and heavy strikes him on the head. A big stick… The dog jumps and tries to back away but the man grabs the rope.
"Stupid dog! I said attack, not play! Can't you do anything right?!" He brings his arm up to hit him again, but I push the dog back, shielding him.
"No! You-" I don't get to finish my sentence. I'm cut off by the guy swinging the stick down on me. I cry out and fall, clutching my cheek. I look over at the man and he's smirking.
"That's what you get for getting in the way, stupid bitch." I take my hand from my face and see that it's covered in blood. I push myself to my feet and start to back away, but the guy grabs my arm, pulling me to him. I instantly tense up and try to pull away, but he has a strong grip.
"Let go! My father's a cop! He'll arrest you for this!" The guy just smiles and keeps pulling me with him. He shoves me against a tree and puts a hand around my neck, squeezing tight. I struggle against his hold, fighting for air, and look up at him just as he's moving to hit me again. I flinch, shutting my eyes, and wait for the blow that's coming but the next thing I know, the guy's letting go of my throat and I'm falling on to the ground.
I cough and suck in as much air as I can before looking up. The guy is on the ground and the dog is biting at his jacket. He shoves the dog off and back off some, grabbing the stick again. He starts to move towards me, but the dog is in front of me instantly. He's growling, his back is bristled, and it's like he's a completely different dog now. He's protecting me… I slowly get up off the ground and look from the dog to the man. The man is tense, backing away while holding the stick up.
"Bruno! You're gonna get it if you don't cut it out." He slowly moves towards the dog and tries to hit him again with the stick but the dog bites down on the stick and yanks it out of his hand. The guy takes a step back, visibly scared now. "Damn it… Fine, you know what? Keep the bastard mutt. He's a garbage dog anyway..." He keeps walking back until he's a good distance away and he turns and takes off running. The dog starts to follow him until I call out to him.
"Wait! Stop!" To my surprise, the dog listens and looks back at me, his head tilted. I kneel and beckon to him, waiting to see if he returns. He's hesitant at first, but as soon as he sees how calm I am, he comes up to me. I slowly pet him to help him calm down and once he's calmed, I throw my arms around him. "Thank you… You're not a bad dog at all, are you?" I untie the rope from his collar and check his tags. It's a basic set. One tag with his name and one tag with Vax information. I sigh, scratching his chin. "Well, at least he cared enough to get you your shots…" How do you mistreat a dog like this and then just give him up? What do I do now? I haven't taken care of an animal in a long time… Will Mom and Dad even let me keep him? Only one way to find out.
I head out of the park, looking down and feeling pleased that the dog is following alongside me, and go through ideas in my head on how I can convince my parents to let him stay. Maybe if I explain the situation to my dad, he'd feel bad for the dog and let me take care of him… At the very least, he needs to be cared for, even if I can't keep him. A bath is certainly in order, and a shower for me. I am covered in dirt and my face is throbbing where the guy hit me…
We get back to my house and I'm happy to see that my parent's cars are gone. One less thing to worry about right now…
"Okay bud, let's get you cleaned up." After leading him up to the bathroom, I get a good look at myself in the mirror. There are bruises forming around my neck where the man tried to choke me, my whole left cheek is bruised and there's a pretty nice gash going down to my jaw. "Jesus…." I touch it lightly, wincing from the pain. I clean the cut as best I can without opening it again and use a butterfly bandage to cover it. Mom is going to freak out when she sees this… I pet the dog and get a clean towel for his bath.
I start filling the tub with warm water and try to coax him in but he's not budging so I resigned to just putting some shorts on and standing in the tub with him. He's not too heavy and doesn't resist when I lift him up so it's easy to get him settled in the water. He stays still throughout the whole process, only moving some when I bring the shower head down to rinse him off. He smells so good now, just like my strawberry shampoo. Well, I did use that on him. It seemed the most pet friendly.
Once sure I've scrubbed every inch of him, I pull the plug in the tub and step out to grab his towel. Unfortunately, he has other ideas and shakes most of the water off, spraying me in the process.
"Hey!" I laugh and dry him off completely before drying the floor. "You're lucky you're cute." I grab my blow-dryer and a comb, smoothing his fur and taking out any snarls that are still there. He cleans up nicely, if I do say so myself. He has a beautiful coat, a mix of black and brown with a cute black patch over his left eye. I open the bathroom door, poke my head out to make sure no one is around, and lead him to my room. I get him to lay down on my bed before I grab some fresh clothes so I can wash up myself. No one goes in my room, so he'll be fine, if he doesn't chew anything… No, he seems trained enough, so he'll be fine.
I take a hot shower, washing away the dirt and bit of blood left on me from the cut. The water stings like hell at first but it's worth it to feel all clean again. I hum a song to myself as I'm finishing up and right when I'm getting dressed, I hear a scream that scares the heck out of me. I throw my clothes into the hamper and run out of the bathroom. My bedroom door is open, and my mom is standing in the doorway.
"Mom?!" I look towards my room and see the dog sitting, hunched in a corner. My mom spins around and looks right at me.
"Victoria Vega, why is there dog in your room? Where did this dog come from? Your father is not-" She stops suddenly, and a look of deep concern replaces the previous look of confusion and anger. She takes a step towards me and cups my cheek, being careful not to touch the cut. "Tori… What happened to your face? What happened to your neck?" I feel myself blush and I don't meet her eyes, knowing she's going to be mad I did call Dad.
"I... got hurt while protecting that dog. His owner was beating him, Mom… H-he went to hit the dog with a stick, and I tried to stop him. He hit me with the stick and… tried to choke me..." She inspects my face and neck before looking me with an angry expression.
"You were attacked, and you didn't call someone once you got away?" Called it.
"I didn't think about it at the time...and the guy had already run off."
"Tori..." She sighs. "You took his dog?" I shake my head, glancing up at her.
"No, the dog got between us and was growling at the guy, keeping him away from me. He got scared and told me to take him, calling him a garbage dog. I couldn't just leave him there…"
"Your father is not going to be happy about this…but I'm proud of you for defending that poor thing." She surprises me with a hug and smile, hugging back.
"Does this…. does this mean I can keep him?" She laughs, shaking her head.
"Oh no, you're going to have to talk to you dad about this. Nice try though."
"It was worth a shot." I grin, pulling out of the hug. "I should go make sure he's okay. He's still really skittish."
"Alright Hun. Just know, if he breaks something, it's coming out of your allowance."
"Awe, what? So not fair…" She just chuckles and follows me into my room. I get down on one knee and call to him softly. His eyes go from me to my mom before slowly moving over to me. "Good boy… It's okay bud, she didn't mean to scare you…" My mom sits on my bed and just watches us interact.
"You really care about this dog, don't you?" I nod, not looking away from the dog as I scratch his ears. "I haven't seen you take to an animal like this since-" I stiffen and stop my scratching.
"Don't! Don't say her name...please." I feel my face get hot and my eyes sting with tears.
"Tori...It'll get better if you talk about Maggie. There's nothing wrong with the good memories, right?" Maggie… My first and only dog. I lost her a year ago and the whole situation killed me inside. I shake my head, pushing out the thought and not wanting to think about it anymore right now. "Honey... I'm sorry, I didn't mean to push you..." She reaches over and strokes my hair. I clear my throat, giving myself the chance to calm down, and look up at her.
"No, I'm sorry. I guess I'm still not ready to talk about it yet…" I sit and lean back against my bed and watch as the dog lays down, resting his head in my lap.
"So," My mom sits beside me as well and pets him. "What's his name?" I stop petting him and turn his collar around to remind myself what his name is.
"It says his name is Bruno." I shrug, not really wanting to call him by the name that guy chose. "It wouldn't feel right calling him that though."
"Hmm, he doesn't look like a Bruno anyway… Well, even if your father doesn't let you keep him, he's gotta be called something." I pet around his face and neck, looking at him as I try to figure out the perfect name for him. I still love that patch of black around his eye. It makes him extra cute. Maybe patch or patches? No, too generic. Besides it makes him look like a pirate, which is even cooler. I loved pirates as a kid. Pirates of the Caribbean was, and still is, my absolute favorite movie. Jack Sparrow was the best. Wait… Jack Sparrow…
"I got it!" My mom looks up from her phone. "I'll call him Jack." The name seems to suit him well. The main thing will be teaching it to him, so he knows it's his name. "What do you think bud, you like the name Jack?" He doesn't respond much, but he does roll over some. I laugh and rub his belly. "I'll just assume that means yes." He wriggles around and even goes up to my mom, nudging her. "I think he likes you mom." She smiles and pets him more.
"He is quite a handsome boy…" She looks at me and I can see a question forming. "Tori…. Are you sure you're ready to take care of another dog? You still haven't gotten over-" I cut her off again.
"I don't know. I don't. But I do know that he needs me right now. He's been mistreated for who knows how long and he's not going to be able to trust anyone until he's around people who want to care for him."
"He seems to trust you just fine. He even turned on his owner, to protect you." That was something I was wondering myself. Why would he immediately protect me like that? Even though his owner was so mean to him, he shouldn't have just turned his back on him. Unless…
"He must have been worse to you than I thought, Jack…" Jack sits up and sniffs around, seemingly looking for something. He pokes his head under my bed and pulls out a bag. My throat tightens as I see what it is. Maggie's old things… I take the bag from him and open it. Her toys, her leash… Her collar… I hold the black leather collar, looking at the tags. I bought this for her myself when I was 8. I had saved my allowance for months to get it, but it was worth it, and I was so proud of myself. I grip it tight and hold it to my chest, failing to fight back the tears this time. Oh god…. Maggie… Mom sets down her phone and I feel her arms wrap around me, pulling me to her and I start bawling.
"It's okay Tori…Just let it out…" I lean against her and just cry, like a dam has broken.
"I miss her so much Mom… She was my best friend…" She strokes my hair and gently rocks me.
"I know sweetheart… We all miss her. She was a good dog." I nod and start to dry my tears, looking over at Jack. He's lying on the floor and chewing on a ball. I feel myself get angry and I pull away from my mom, grabbing the bag of stuff and snatching the ball away from him.
"No! These are Maggie's toys! You can't have them!" I clutch it to my chest and glare at him as he just looks at me, head tilted.
"No. He can play with something else, not these…"
"I don't think we have anything else for him to play with. Don't you think just 1 toy would be okay?" I look at my mom and then back at Jack before looking down at the bag.
"But...these are Maggie's toys... What if he breaks them?"
"Tori, listen to your mother." I leap at the sound of my father's voice.
"Dad!" I push the bag behind me and try, poorly, to hide Jack behind me as well. "W-what are you doing home so early?" He leans against my door frame, arms crossed.
"Tori, it's 6 o'clock." I glance over at my clock and see that he's right. He's always home by 6. "I think the real question is, are you really trying to hide a dog that's half your size?" He smirks and walks in, kneeling by Jack. Jack is hesitant, not sure what to do. Reflexively, I place a hand on his back so show him he's safe and watch as he lets my dad pet him.
"Wait, you're not mad that I brought a dog home?" He chuckles, shaking his head.
"Your mother texted me and explained the situation. I'm not happy that you got hurt, but I'm proud of you for standing up for this dog. Most people will just turn a blind eye to animal abuse."
"Those people are stupid and selfish…" I pet Jack and watch him pushing the bag of toys with his nose. I sigh and pick up the bag, pulling out the ball he was playing with it before. "You really want this ball, huh? Maybe that guy never bought you any toys…" I start to hold it out to him, stopping for a moment when my hand starts shaking. I swallow hard and set it down in front of him. "Here… Maybe Maggie would have wanted you to have it... It was one of her favorites…"
Mom and Dad shared a look and a smile, which does not go unnoticed by me. "Why are you guys so okay about this? Anyone else's parents would have freaked out." I pause. "Well, Mom freaked out, but that was because she didn't expect to see a dog alone in my room." Dad pulls me over and sits me in his lap, something he hasn't done in a long time and no easy feat since I'm bigger now and nearly 18.
"Your mom and I think this might be good for you. After everything that happened last year, you just haven't been yourself." I roll my eyes and look at him. He sighs and rubbing his neck. "That's not to say you haven't been through a lot. You have, but we were starting to worry that you wouldn't go back to being the old Tori."
"The old Tori? You say that like it's a bad thing. I grew up Dad… I had no choice…" I take a deep breath and fold my hands, staring down at them. "I'm...not ready to talk about it yet… I know it's been a year and I know you guys have been patient and have been letting me work through it in my own way, but I just want to forget about it. It still feels too soon, and I just don't know when I'll be ready." I lift my head some and look at both of them. "But I'm okay. I promise." My dad gives me a hug and nods.
"Okay. That's what I was hoping you'd say." Mom turns away for a moment, drying her eyes, and then looks back at me.
"I think we've had enough of a stressful day. I think I'll order some pizza for dinner. Tori, you should take him for a walk before it gets too dark." I nod, standing up and grabbing Maggie's bag, and take out her leash without even thinking.
"Alright. Come on Jack, let's go for a walk." Jack is just playing with the ball, not acknowledging the new name. We'll have to work on that. I clip the leash to his collar, and he stands right up, looking up at me. He must know what's going on now. I give Mom and Dad a kiss on the cheek before heading downstairs and putting my shoes on. There's still plenty light out so we can take a nice long walk. I scratch his ears and smile down at him. "Let's go, bud."