My husband, jaklumen, left a comment challenging me to expand on an idea I wrote about in a previous exercise. This is the result. It’s a bit long. If you can get all the way through it, let me know what you think in the comments section below. I may post a further story continuing my adventures in this role. Who knows?
I am tired and fall asleep. Then there is brightness, a shrill noise and suddenly I am looking down at my body in the hospital ICU, all my tiredness gone. Doctors begin running in. I barely hear them. Instead, my attention is drawn to the figure standing beside me, glowing like a young sun.
“You have to go back,” he says. “They still need you.”
“This body is wrecked,” I reply. “How can I go back?”
“You are being reincarnated into a new body,” he smiles. “Follow me.”
He walks away and, as he does, a kind of tunnel of light appears. Curious, I follow him and find myself in a large house with three big dogs running around it, playing with a trio of teenage kids.
“Kids!” a woman (their mother?) cries from the house. “Rose is in labor!”
Their reaction is immediate. The entire group, dogs and children, run for the house. At the door, the eldest, a tall, brown-haired boy turns to the dogs, points and orders, “Sit!” The dogs immediately stop and plunk their fuzzy bottoms down onto the porch, panting good naturedly with their big, doggy grins. My guide and I enter on the children’s heels and arrive just in time to see the first puppy emerge, blind and gleaming with moisture from his mother’s womb.
“But how will my family find me?” I ask, understanding flooding my mind as my vision begins to grow dark.
“Don’t worry,” my guide whispers. “You’ll find them.”
I am reborn in a flood of water into darkness and virtual silence. Something rough rubs my body’s fur and my stomach growls for food. My sensitive nose helps me find my mother’s teats and I latch on. Warm, sweet milk pours down my throat. Time passes, but I am unaware of it at first. My life is that of any baby; eat, sleep, poop and pee. As time passes, I develop in the way any dog would. The human children have chosen to name me “Cinnamon,” because my golden fur has a kind of ruddy-brown tint to it. The kids often play with me and they say I am the smartest of the entire litter. They decide I must be the pick.
Then, one day, six months into my new life I hear a familiar word.
“Migraines, again?” Nina asks her mother.
“Yeah,” Mom groans, rubbing a spot above her right eye. “I’m gonna go lie down. Can you ask your brothers to turn down their video game please.”
Nina takes a deep breath and opens her mouth.
“Quietly,” Mom adds.
Nina giggles and leaves. I follow Mom to her room and whine when she lies down. I’m just big enough to rather clumsily climb up onto the bed with her.
“Hey, Cinna,” Mom smiles with some difficulty.
I whine again and lick her face.
“Aw, Cinna,” Mom says weakly. “You want to help, huh? Sure wish you could turn the lights out.”
Without thinking, I jump down and amble over to the light switch. Walking up the wall with my forepaws, I paw the switch down. The room is instantly cloaked in darkness. I go back to Mom and jump up on the bed again. I lick her face one more time, whining in worry.
“Cinnamon,” Mom gasps, sitting up to look in my doggy face. “How did you know how to do that?”
That’s the beginning of a new life for me. I’m sent to a special obedience school where dogs are trained as therapy dogs for families with children that have autism. I am constantly reminded of my son as I train.
One day, I and a group of the other dogs my age are put into our kennels early. I have learned that this means we are about to meet a new family. Each of us are generally brought out and introduced to the family. I have been careful to behave in a very doggy way towards the other families. I don’t want just any family to choose me. I want to return to my own family. I gaze out of my kennel and the first thing I see is the familiar faces of my husband, my daughter and my son. A year has passed since the day I died, but it’s felt like only a day and, at the same time, an entire lifetime while I’ve waited to see them again. When I’m released from my kennel, I run to them and just about knock my son down in my excitement. I’m pleased to hear him laugh as I lick his face.
The worker laughs. “We’ve been wondering when Cinnamon would respond to a family,” she says.
“Cinnamon?” my daughter asks. Hearing her speak my name, I stop mauling my son’s face and turn to look at her.
“Sit, Cinnamon!” says the worker. Habits trained over the past six months kick in and my tail hits the floor. “Good Cinnamon!” he adds, patting my head eagerly.
“She’s very obedient,” my husband says, bending to hold out his hand to me. I don’t even bother to sniff him. Instead, I run my head underneath his hand. Almost automatically, his fingers begin to scratch a spot on top of my head that my claws won’t reach. I groan with doggy pleasure.
My daughter laughs. “She’s almost like a cat,” she says.
“Simmin,” my son says, grabbing a stick, “Let’s play!”
“Hold on there, buddy,” my husband says, reaching for his shirt collar.
“It’s okay,” the worker smiles. “Let them get to know each other.”
“In that case,” my husband grins, “Let’s really give her a work out.” He takes the stick from my son, who immediately melts down.
“I wanted to throw it!” he screams. After unsuccessfully trying to take the stick from my husband, he proceeds to beat on his belly with his fists. Not listening, my husband throws the stick. Instantly, both I and my son take off running after the stick. Built low to the ground, I naturally reach the stick first, but rather than return it to my husband, who threw it, I bring it to my son and sit at his feet, waiting for him to take it.
“Thank you, Simmin,” laughs my son. He throws the stick for me. It lands about five feet away. I run after it just as excitedly as I would have if it were thrown further, quickly returning it to him, delighted to hear him laugh as he throws it again. It lands about three feet away this time. I nudge it back to him with my nose.
“Let me try,” my daughter suggests. “Can I try?”
“No,” my son denies, “Simmin is my dog.”
“She’s our dog,” my husband corrects, giving the worker a confirming look.
The worker smiles in response. “She’s probably the smartest dog this organization has trained. Sir, if you would, I have some paperwork for you to complete so we know what extra training Cinnamon will need to benefit you and your children.”
“Are you sure the dog will be all right?” my husband asks. “My son sometimes doesn’t know his own strength.”
“We won’t be far away,” the worker assures him, gesturing to nearby building. “It’s just over here.”
I play with my children for a while. My daughter grows tired first. So we drop the stick chasing game in favor of wrestling, until my son gets tired. Then we devolve into a game of “Pat the Dog.” My daughter starts to remind my son not to pat me too hard. Before she can finish her sentence, I jump on him and roll him onto his back, playfully pretending to wrestle him to the ground before washing his face with my tongue.
“I love you, Simmin,” my son tells me, wrapping his arms around my furry neck. I try to tell him I also love him. All that comes out is a bark. Instead, I lick his face one more time. Then I turn and butt my daughter with my head, letting out a doggy whine of pleasure when she strokes my head and ears. Soon enough, we are joined by my husband.
“Daddy,” my daughter asks, still caressing my head. “Is Cimmy ours to keep forever and ever?”
“Cimmy?” my husband asks, startled at the choice of nickname by my daughter, “Where’d you get that?”
“Well, boy keeps calling her Simmin, so…” she pauses to let this sink in before adding, “anyway, you didn’t answer my question.”
“Well,” my husband smiles, seating himself on the grass by the other side of my head, “we’ll have to bring her back every year for more training, but other than that, yes, she’s all ours.”
Both my children cheer. I bark ecstatically as my tail brushes the ground.