Always in That Well

“What is it? What is it, boy?” The dog’s usual behavior, so easy to interpret, was absent. Where he usually turned left or right to lead Howie to the rescue, he just kept ducking his head then stretching up and pointing his nose to the sky, over and over.

“Something up in the sky?” Howie looked, but he saw nothing. It was a clear, nearly-cloudless day. But the dog kept making that motion.

“Is someone in the well again? Someone’s always in that well.” Henrietta plucked at the grasses on the hill.

“No, he—see? He shook his head! Is it underground? Miners? A cave in?” The dog whined, a curling whine from deep in his throat, a far cry from the usual sharp barks. The dog lay down, the whining growing softer as though his engine were winding down. “Boy, now’s not the time to sleep. Boy?” The dog closed his eyes.

Henrietta yawned. “If only he knew international sign language for ‘I’m choking.'” Howie’s eyes opened wide and grew watery. “Oh, save the saltwater.” She pulled open the still dog’s mouth, reached in, and pulled out a bit of bone. “You shouldn’t feed it leftover chicken.” With one, two firm thumps on its chest, the dog started breathing again.

Howie was all over the dog. “Are you okay? Are you okay, boy? I’ll never give you bones again. Never!”

“It’s fine,” Henrietta said. “Brain damage from oxygen deprivation takes longer than most people think.” But Howie was beyond listening.

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