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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Not a pleasant tale but one that needs telling. A rewrite of an earlier version.

Submitted: January 18, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: January 18, 2018





He wasn't a pure-bred but some sort of mix; a mongrel with unknown breeds for parents. But he looked strong. He looked tough; not the sort to shy away from danger. He looked like the ideal dog for training as a fighter when money was too short to buy a pit bull.


The man handed over a wad of notes then picked up the dog, no more than a puppy, and tossed him carelessly into the back of the van, slamming the door behind. He was going to have to learn to land on his feet so better to let his lessons start straight away. If the dog whimpered, cried, he didn't take any notice. The man climbed up into the driving seat and quickly drove away.


There was a small concrete pen waiting in the corner of a walled yard for the dog. Just cold hard concrete, apart from the bars at the front that had a section which slid up to allow for the placing of bowls of food and water. There was no pretence of comfort here.


The dog was dumped unceremoniously inside it. A bowl of water was waiting but a lot got spilt on his entry. The dog did not yet realise just how precious the drops of water that were soaking away into the concrete really were. He had no idea of just how hot it would become in his cell, not once the sun was at its strongest. He certainly did not understand that there would be no more water, or food, until the following day.


The dog had never been well-fed but the rations he now found himself receiving were totally inadequate for his needs. He had no way of knowing how long he had spent in the cell. Nobody talked to him, nobody stroked him; nobody showed him any kindness at all. He was never taken for a walk or let out to run free. The dog just spent his time laying lethargically in his increasingly soiled and stinking concrete box.


His bones were beginning to become obvious, protruding against his filthy coat. He was becoming nearer and nearer to a state of physical starvation; so extreme that at one point he even found himself staring hungrily at his own leg. No matter how many times he licked his food bowl clean there was just never enough food there.


Then there came a day when, instead of a bowl of food, the man threw a live rat into the cage. It was a large one, too big to be able to escape through the bars, as much a prisoner as the dog himself. The animals warily eyed each other, keeping as much distance between them as possible in such a small confined space. The man seemed to be hanging around, waiting, watching to see what would happen next.


The rat made the first move. It shot forward towards the dog and sank its teeth into his front leg, forcing a howl to escape from the dog’s mouth. It had been mistreated but never had it felt such intense pain. He knew that he was going to have to fight back to avoid more attacks and from that moment on, everything seemed to dissolve in to a frantic blood lust for both creatures. There was no control or thought in their attacks; the rules were simple; the fittest and most aggressive would win. Whichever of them showed the least mercy would get to eat.


The dog won, tearing and shredding, it’s greater size finally overpowering the rodent. After hungrily devouring the rat, the dog set to licking its own wounds clean. The rodent had not conceded to defeat without putting up a massive fight and there were many bites to be seen to.


But after that day things seemed to change. As long as the dog reacted ferociously, with more and more extreme aggression, he would be fed. He was given injections to fight off the infections caused by his wounds. Antiseptic salve was applied where it was needed. But, most important to the dog, was the fact that he was no longer entirely ignored. His master wanted him to be aggressive so that was what he would become.


* * * * * * * * * *


The dog could feel himself becoming stronger, healthier. Although still thin, he was no longer emaciated. The raw meat he had been fed on lately had increased his liking for blood and he could now finish off a rat in seconds. Not only that but he could now achieve a kill without receiving even one bite himself.


His master was pleased with him. The dog now received the occasional pat on the head, the occasional kind word. He had no recollection of his life ever having been so good before and he would do anything for his master to keep things this way.


The dog did not know what to expect when it found itself being lifted into the van once more. At least this time he was not actually thrown inside like a bunch of old rags but lifted and put down with some care. Had he done something wrong? Was he being sent away?


The journey did not take long. It must have been along country roads, maybe tracks, as the van bumped along jolting the dog this way and that. When the back of the van was opened he found himself in open country. There was nothing to be seen except for one building, a large plain shed-like structure, that stood right before him.


His master led him to the shut door and banged his hand against it. When the door was finally opened, the dog found himself being led into a room that was almost empty. There was a large pen in the centre of the room, and a light bulb dangling from the ceiling.


Some men hung around in groups and, as his master led him in, the dog found himself being inspected. He felt like he was being judged, weighed up, but had no idea why. He knew he did not like it. There were so many smells that assaulted his senses; one of the most predominant being the scent of blood, both old and new. The other was the scent of dogs other than himself. He had not seen another dog since he had gone to live with his master. He was not sure that he wanted to either, especially not in this strange place.


He stood patiently while the man talked. The dog did not like this other man at all, kept as much of a distance from him as he could. Once his master was satisfied with the discussion he led the dog over to the pen, lifted him over the edge and put him inside. He then produced a blood-soaked rag, put down in front of the dog. The dog could not help but drool, being reminded of how that very smell of blood had stopped him starving.


But this time it was no rat that he was facing. Another snarling dog, also with drool dripping from his open mouth stood opposite him, hackles raised. The dog did not understand for a moment, did not know what he was expected to do. When the other dog leapt at him, teeth bared and ready to bite, the dog finally understood.


The fight was long, hard, painful and brutal. The dog suffered many injuries, some severe, before the pair were parted and he was declared the winner. Thankfully, neither dog had died but his opponent looked to be in a very bad way. The dog felt ashamed. How could he treat a fellow canine in such a malicious way? But then he felt his master’s hand upon his head, sensed his masters approval, and the dog knew he would do the same again if he was asked.


* * * * * * * * * *


The dog was required to do the same thing many more times. Sometimes the opponents would be separated before the physical damage to either became too great, so that both dogs could fight again. Sometimes it was left for one to kill the other, the men cheering them on in a kind of blood lust of their own.


The dog always had his wounds seen to straight away which helped to prevent severe infection from setting in. If he was lucky his wounds would have healed before he was called on to fight again. If not, the smell of blood seeping from still open wounds would add to the blood frenzy and bring on an especially ferocious fight.


Amazingly, the dog kept winning. And while he did that, maintained his position of lead fighter, his master was pleased with him. A lot of money changed hands at these events and he knew that when he won a lot of it was going to his master.


The man knew that his luck would not hold out forever. It never did. This was by no means the first dog that he had trained to become ferocious but its winning streak was probably holding out the longest. No matter how well the injuries were treated, sooner or later their effect would take its toll; once that occurred the dog would lose, become no good as a fighter any more. Already he was keeping his eye out and scouting for a replacement, and this time he had quite a bit of money in his pocket to pay for the best.


The dog had no idea that his master had almost written him off as being way past his prime. He knew that his body hurt nearly all the time, that it was becoming painful even to walk. His head swam because of the amount of infection that was flowing around in his blood stream. Even so, he did not expect to lose his next fight.


The men did not spend much time appraising him. There was no loitering, looking at him from all different angles, assessing his strengths. It was clear that he still had quite a few injuries, severe enough that most owners would not even have considered putting him in that ring. Very little money changed hands and his master was disappointed. There was no kindness or encouragement for the dog this night; if there had of been perhaps things would have turned out differently.


Instead, feeling dejected, when his opponent was set free he did not even have a chance to fight back.


* * * * * * * * * *


The dog regained consciousness to find himself laying against some bushes in an open field. He hurt so much. Where was his master and the medicine he brought? Where was the soothing ointment? There was nobody here with him. There was no scent of a human anywhere nearby. The dog lay his head back down and closed his eyes in pain. He had been abandoned after all he had done to please his master.


When he next opened his eyes, the dog found himself inside another cell or cage. But this one was bigger, warmer. There was a large bowl of water inside with him, and some food. He could not understand was who had dressed his wounds who had bothered to take care of his injuries. He was still in a lot of pain but his head was clearer and he could stand and walk a bit without falling over.


There were other dogs around him, though. Not with him but could smell them, he could hear them. He listened carefully; they did not sound as though they were baying for blood. Some of them sounded sad but there was no hint of aggression.


He could not detect the stale blood smell of the fighting shed but he feared it was soon to return; if not this day than the one following. He did not think that he could face a fight or make a stand against snapping jaws, ripping and tearing at him. It would be better to just submit to his opponent and get it all over with as quickly as possible.


The first person to come into his cell was a woman. He did not remember seeing even one woman before, certainly not at the arena. As she drew near to the bars of his cage he backed away, hackles raised. He didn't mean to let out a growl but he was so afraid of what was in store for him that he lost control, bared his teeth.


She stood inside his cell but did not approach him, kept a safe distance between herself and the dog. If he should leap, she could make it instantly out of the door. She looked into his face; slowly closed and opened her eyes, once, twice, three times. He knew this meant that she was not challenging him, but could he trust her?


She slowly bent down and held out a hand towards him, gently, not trying to grab him. The dog stayed in his corner, sniffing. At least he was containing his growls now, turning them into no more than a rumbling noise in his throat. He stayed alert, watching her intently, but he was no longer showing his sharp teeth.


The woman stood, again blinked slowly, then backed out of the cell. After the door was closed and the woman had gone the dog crept from the corner, walked slowly and warily right up to the bars. No one reached out to grab him. No one launched a kick in his direction. He moved to his food bowl, ate his meal, drank then drifted into an uneasy sleep.


There did not seem to be any threat in this place but the knowledge that other dogs were near him made him nervous. He would have to stay on his guard.


* * * * * * * * * *


The dog came to accept the woman. He came to see her as no threat and over time even found himself looking forward to her visits. She talked to him, and once he would allow her to, she stroked him. It was not long before his tatty and torn stump of a tail started to wag at her approach.


The vet was also a woman. Although some of the things she did to him were uncomfortable, sometimes even painful, he could sense that her intentions were good. He knew she did not mean to cause him any unnecessary pain. At first he could not suppress the rumbles that bubbled up in his throat but as his trust grew he accepted her treatment in silence.


When they first attached a collar around his neck he did not like it. He struggled. He could barely suppress the urge to snap and snarl, but somehow he stayed silent. Once it was fitted firmly into place it irritated. He did not like the feeling of having something around his neck all the time and wanted it gone. He scratched at it. He pawed at it, but he could not get it to come loose. It seemed as though he was just going to have to accept it.


The first time the woman brought in a leash he ran to the back of the cell, shaking in anticipation of being struck. How could these people have betrayed him in such a cruel and callous fashion? He had felt the bite of a whip before, could still recall it clearly.


But what was she doing? She was putting it down on the floor and backing away from it. He wanted, no needed, to get a closer look. Belly low to the ground, he inched his way forward, nose sniffing the whole time. His eyes kept flickering between it and the woman, watching for her to make sure she made no move to pick it up. Whatever it was, it didn't move to strike him but lay there on the ground in a passive heap. As the woman started to draw near he backed away again, but at least this time he was not shaking. He watched curiously as she picked it up and took it with her when she left the pen.


The next time the woman brought the leash into the cell the dog was still nervous. Whatever it was had proved itself not to be a threat; again she put it down on the ground, and again he sniffed at it. She stroked him and talked to him, let him become accustomed to the piece of chain and leather. After they had spent a while together she picked it up and again left the cell.


A few dogs had passed his cell. At first, whenever he caught sight of one approaching, he would hurl himself towards the bars, colliding with them over and over again. And he would dare them, challenge them to take him on. The sight of another dog could still raise the blood lust, still provoke fear.


None of the dogs reacted as he expected. Some were scared and then he felt ashamed of making them feel that way. Some were confused, wanting to know what his problem was. But not one of them reacted ferociously. Not one launched into an attempted attack or even gave so much as a growl. Soon he found that he could stand quietly at the bars as a dog walked past. He might even give a woof of greeting now that he no longer saw them all as threats.


The first time the leash was attached to his collar the dog did not know what to make of it. It followed his every move, dragging along the ground behind him. His initial reaction was to see it as a challenge. He barked, his hackles rose. It did not do anything but follow him so after a while it just became a bit of an annoyance.


And then he felt something he had never felt before. It was a strange feeling, almost the total opposite of the fear he had once felt. The dog felt himself wanting to play. He leapt onto the end of the leash, caught it between his paws. He put it between his teeth and happily shook his head. And the feeling of joy was so intense that the dog found himself running round and round in excited circles. The woman watching from a distance, smiled in relief.


* * * * * * * * * *


Learning to play marked a big breakthrough. It was not long after that that he found himself being led out for walks. He had never been on a leash before so he tended to either lag behind or speed off in front. It didn't take long for him to realise that the most comfortable position to be in was right alongside the woman herself. He had never just walked for exercise, for pleasure. He was suddenly experiencing a whole new world.


At first when he found another dog approaching him he would hide behind the woman's legs, still expecting the presence of another, especially coming towards him, to mean an attack was imminent. He would find himself reliving the pain of his injuries and would become so distressed that she would cut short the walk and return him to his pen.


Other dogs would want to know what his problem was. They had never heard of fights between dogs that were cheered on by people, and although lots of them had been mistreated none seemed to have experienced quite such extreme brutality. They would reassure him that he had nothing to fear from them and eventually he allowed himself to mix with them. But to trust? No. He remained always on his guard.


During his time in the pen there had been many dogs come and go. People would come and look inside the pens, searching for a dog to take home with them and become a part of their family. Nobody lingered by this dog's cell though. If there was a man there he would find himself growling. Men, he had been taught, were brutal, callous. Men meant fighting and pain.


The dog's appearance also worked against him. One of his ears had been almost torn off. He had deep scars all over his face and a small part of his bottom left jaw was missing. One leg was twisted and there were numerous scars all over his body. His tail had been ripped into a tattered stump.


The woman knelt before him one day and put her arms around his neck. The dog licked her face.


Well, it seems your time here is up, boy.” She sounded so serious. “But don't you worry. You are going to come home with me. And I am going to call you Hugo.”


* * * * * * * * * *


Hugo could not believe the luxury of his new home. He had never seen a thick carpet; he had never seen an armchair. But his favourite piece of furniture was the sofa where he could curl up on in the evenings and let his chin rest on the woman's lap.


He had never known such warmth, such comfort. He had never felt so much at ease. Hugo was fed the best food, his remaining fur was groomed regularly and he found himself being loved. He could not help himself, he had to trust her back.


They spent many hours together, playing, sitting, learning to read each others moods. They became the best of friends and Hugo could not get over how much his life had changed. He missed her when she was out and always had an ecstatic welcome waiting for her when she returned back home.


But then it happened. There was a loud crash, banging sounds. Men were shouting, calling to each other. Hugo was terrified. The shouts and the bangs put him straight back into that arena where it was as simple as attack or be killed. And the noise didn't stop.


If anything the banging increased. The shouting increased. Hugo was not Hugo any more but that ferocious dog that would tear and rip anything that was posing a threat to him. The arm he gripped with his teeth was another dog, intent on spilling his blood. The flesh he tore was fur covered. The blood he smelt was canine in his mind; he did not even realise it was human blood that he was spilling.


The woman dragged him off the builder, soothed him, took him back to reality, but it was too late. The damage had been done. The approaching sirens were for both man and dog. The man was taken in an ambulance for emergency treatment on his arm. It was hoped that they would be able to save it.


The dog was being removed by the police. It had proved itself to be a dangerous animal and dangerous animals were not allowed to be kept as pets. Hugo would be put to death, humanely at least.


It was not his fault that he had lived through such a brutal existence, where he had to fight for his very survival. It was not his fault that the noises of the building work had plunged him straight back in to the arena where he had been taught to kill or be killed.


The man that had subjected him to such barbaric treatment had done the same to several other puppies since he had dumped the dog without a care. And he is still out there, free to carry on doing the same thing over and over again.

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