After they took away my father and Jelly Bean, I’m glad I was sent away too, yipped Mr. Sunshine the labradoodle puppy. He had just been placed into his new front cage at the pet store with the three other dogs he would now have to outshine for a home. It was lonely at the farm by myself, with no one to play with and rest my head upon at naptime. Saying the words out loud, he almost believed them himself. He squeaked bravely, besides, I’m almost two months old, it’s time for me to make my way into the world and find my own family! He sat back on his haunches, satisfied with his origin story, and waited expectantly for the other puppies to share their own. Sure, it had been sad when his puppy farm closed down, but it was probably for the best. Jake and Tina were getting old and they needed the money from the sale of the land to fix the gutters and regrout the bathroom. Tina had had many agonizing discussions with his litter about the decision to close the breeding business, apologizing over and over again for sending them to the pet store in D.C.
Mr. Sunshine tore his mind off the painful memories and panted at his cage mates, trying to prod them to share their own tales of woe or happiness. It was only then that he realized they were all staring at him, eyes glittering, almost in a…feral way, like that fox who had once climbed the tree above their enclosure in Maryland before Jake came out and shot it. That had been a very exciting day, the first time he saw death. These other puppies looked as dirty as that fox’s body, like maybe they had been allowed to roll in their own feces – something Mr. Sunshine freely admitted was a distinct pleasure, but Tina always washed him afterwards while she scolded in her affectionate tone. Who washed these puppies?
The biggest of the three, the one the others had called Jackal, stood up and moved toward Mr. Sunshine. He thumped his tail in anticipation of nose bump or perhaps a rear sniffing, but Jackal got within two inches of his face and drew his lips back in a ghoulish grin. You’re from the puppy farm? He barked in a low, threatening tone, we’re from the puppy MILLS. Mr. Sunshine recoiled in horror – of course! The feces, yellow eyes, aggressive names – these were the products of the puppy mills his father used to threaten him with when he chewed on Jelly Bean’s ears. The other two pups, Bitch and Crotch, stood up next to Jackal and crept forward, eyes focused on Mr. Sunshine’s immaculate fur. He felt a tiny yip of despair rising in his throat but managed to tamp it down – he knew from the urban myths that to show fear was only to mark yourself. Pleased to make your acquaintance, he growled instead, in a voice that shook only a little. Then the bell at the front door dinged and Mr. Sunshine pulled back his ears and made a grotesque face of desperation and hope at the young man who had entered the store. Please, please, I just want to go home!