The Stray Princess
“Grandma! Grandma!” One day the boy enters the store.
“What’s the matter my boy?” the old lady asks; she is in her usual knitting pose. At her side over the small mattress on the floor, Charlotte is sleeping and a green blanket covers her.
The boy has been working as a web designer for over a month now, each weekend comes to talk with his grandparents at the market and tells them his experiences at work.
“You will not believe what happened this week” His voice sounds shocked.
“Oh? What could it be?”
“Remember the guy they found death by the waterfall like four months ago?”
“I really don’t want to, but if you insist… Oh! did I told you that they set up a chain link fence at the area to prevent that from happening again?”
“Like two months ago, the market owners felt that this incident would bring a grim image to the market so they decided to stop any future suicide attempts. About time, I mean, people used to kill themselves jumping from that spot decades ago, before this market even existed. That was the time to put a fence, but they decided to ignore that dark past until it happened again”
“You don’t say…” The boy says while scratching his head and then remembers what he was talking about “Oh right! You see, turns out that my boss knew the guy”
“Really? A familiar? A friend?”
“You could say it was a friend. She told us that the whole idea for the homeless shelter came from when she met him”
“But how was she able to identify the body? It shouldn’t exist anymore”
“Well, she was doing a process with the mortuary so the people in the shelter could have a proper funeral service in case that anything happens and they have an area with pictures of unidentified bodies. She took a look out of curiosity and recognized some clothes she gave him.”
“My… what a horrible way to find out”
“Yeah, right now she is devastated and blames herself for letting him leave. She worked so hard to get a loan to buy and remodel a building and then get the required license, as far as I understood it was so he could have a place to return”
“What a sad story, death is never an easy subject to deal with”
“Yeah, we told her that she needs to take some days off and rest so she’ll be out for a couple of weeks. In the meantime, I’ll be helping the veterinary clinic where she used to work, they want to be able to sell medicine and food in their website”
“I know you’ll do an excellent job”
Charlotte loves to hear people talking, and always pays attention. She started doing it because it usually involved getting food at the end, but evolved into liking how their voices sound. When the boy leaves to help his grandfather, she usually goes with him, sometimes all the way and stays with them and sometimes just decides to explore by her own. Today is one of those days for exploration.
“Hey Charlotte!” A guy from a technology store pats her and gives her a piece of bread.
“Hi! Girl!” A lady from a greengrocer gives her some of the banana she is eating.
“There she is!” A butcher gives her a chunk of meat.
“Poor Doggy, looks hungry” A little girl throws at her a chicken leg from her plate and gets scolded for it.
“Tall dogs are the best” Charlotte thinks “Always ready for head patting, belly rubs and giving me food. The street life is finally over”
She is getting used to this lifestyle, every store owner loves her and treats her as their own pet except when it was time to give her a place to sleep or to stop the dog pound from taking her away. Only the old couple was able to step up in those events, they have discussed the possibility to take her to the farm but never carried out the plan. Even with all the time they spend with Charlotte, they haven’t noticed her cavities or the pain that sometimes she gets from that and even less that thanks to some bones she sometimes has from the butchery or restaurants area she has lost another couple of incisor teeth.
“Here grandma” The boy one day brings a bag of dog food and gives it to the old lady.
“Thank you, sonny, I really need to teach her how to eat this food or she’ll get sick from all the trash that gets from the people here” She looks at the dog at her side, Charlotte is resting in her mattress while showing her stomach.
“I get it, if she ever gets sick, we can bring her to the veterinary clinic that I’m helping”
“That’s a great idea, maybe they can help her to lose weight”
“Oh, and talking about that” The boy puts a serious voice “be careful if you ever find a dog treats brand called ‘Princess’”
“Never heard of it before… is it bad?”
“Well, it was a really popular brand, but this week there was a scandal when some people found out that it contains newspaper in it. Turns out that the creator of the brand is a cheapskate and mixed paper in order to produce more treats at a cheaper cost”
“Really? Thanks for telling me, hope he gets what he deserves”
“Yeah, right now is being sued” The boy gives a loud sigh “This has been a difficult week, there are indigenous groups making a protest march that is blocking roads so moving around the city is difficult right now, next was the dog treats scandal and on a similar topic, yesterday an old guy was arrested because he was giving poisoned food to stray dogs. There is chaos in the city right now”
“That city has always been filled with chaos my dear” The old lady opens the bag of dog food and serves it on a bowl, then leaves it in front of Charlotte.
She gets up and sniffs the food.
“I have eaten this before” She thinks and grabs some of the pebbles with her mouth and starts chewing them, after a couple of seconds she pushes with her tongue the chewed ball of dog food and saliva back to the bowl “It’s not so tasty anymore”
The old lady makes a disappointed look and makes a sound with her mouth. Charlotte stretches her legs and as she does the sound of a fart can be heard, then she gets out from the store leaving behind the old lady and her grandson covering their noses and moving their hands in an attempt to imitate a hand fan.
“This is why she needs to get back to dog food” The lady says.
If a dog doesn’t have a proper diet, it could lead to digestive disorders like diarrhea, regurgitation, constipation or many more. Luckily for this case, Charlotte is just having a hard time digesting all the meat and human food that eats on a daily basis.
Leaving the two humans behind she decides to go to her usual stroll around the market.
“Hello! How are you doing today?” A sweet feminine voice sounds, so she turns around to search who is calling for her and finds a woman trying to gently pat a cat that moves around her legs.
“A fast dog!?” She thinks, this is the way she refers to cats. Charlotte was shocked, she has always been the center of attention, or that is what she believes. Seen a cat, no, seeing another animal makes an uncomfortable feeling to be born inside her, she feels jealousy.
She decides to approach and steal the patting from the cat, so walks moving the head upward and looking at the woman while wagging her tail. It was a perfect plan that haven’t failed before but the cat is a smart one and notices his rival, with a weird expression only comparable to a smirk on his face he begins to purr.
The sound comes from the cat and keeps moving around the woman’s legs. The jealousy inside Charlotte grows and becomes hatred, she looks now directly at the cat and starts showing her teeth. Then with a great impulse runs toward it.
The cat’s eyes turn into lines, his hairs over the spine became needles and starts running away.
BARK! BARK! BARK!
Charlotte runs after him. Dogs have a natural chase instinct, some more than others and is also affected by their breeds, but there exists a tendency to pursuit small and fast creatures deep in their souls that can be tracked all the way to their ancestors, the wolves. Cats are simply part of the group of creatures and things that trigger this instinct, that also mixes with the dog’s personality and for this case Charlotte feels that her territory has been invaded.
She has already some experience with cats, when she was going by the name of “Princess” she saw her first feline, it was a white one that ran in front of her one day at the park. She tried to go after it but its agility and speed were far more superior. In her time at the big city when she was named “Xena” there were a couple of brown Persian cats that usually appeared behind a fence, she tested if there was any possibility to enter between the metal tubes to get to them but it was totally impossible. But this time is different, the cat is near and there is no obstacle between them.
The race passes through many hallways. Charlotte is fast but the feline is faster, her own weight is also responsible for this distance difference. They reach the restaurants area, this area leads to an open space that reaches the cliff where people usually gather to look at the waterfall and take photos of it, there is a yellow guard rail to prevent any type of accidents. In this space there is also some grass near where Charlotte has decided that is her potty spot, the market janitors always clean the place. When they arrive at this space outside, the cat does a great jump and lands over a brick that comes out a little from the wall that surrounds the market, then keeps jumping on similar bricks until he reaches the roof and disappears.
Charlotte tries to bark again but is out of air, the air that enter to her lungs is pushed back and leaves at great speed. She is tired and the sun shines brightly up in the sky, is a hot day. Dogs are unable of sweating like humans do, there exist a method they use in order to regulate the heat in their bodies. They open their mouth, show their tongues, inhale and exhale from it, it’s known as panting and it lets their body to cool down.
“Someday I’ll catch one fast dog” She thinks “Now I’m so thirsty”
She could easily go to the old lady’s store or maybe to the old man’s store, they always have fresh water for her. But right now, the nearest spot is the restaurants area where there’s a place whose specialty are drinks, this spot is located just some meters away and is attended by a bearded and a tall man. He loves dogs and when Charlotte comes near, if he is not busy, serves her a bowl of water. This is the case today, a bowl of water with two ice cubes floating.
“It’s pretty hot today, huh?” Says the man.
She drinks until feeling satisfied and plays in her mouth with the ice cubes. This is a feeling that she has found interesting, a cold object that transforms into liquid on her tongue.
“Look at that” In a nearby table a tall woman whispers to her companion.
“Uh? What?” With his mouth full with spaghetti, a man with a mustache replies and moves his head facing the direction where Charlotte is.
They can only see the back of the dog, and they examine her with their eyes from the distance.
“It’s a female, and judging by her size, I think is pregnant” says the tall woman.
“Looks like a German Shepherd” Adds the mustached man. Then Charlotte, stops drinking and turns around ready to leave “False alarm, looks like it’s just a mongrel… but that face is similar to a retriever, what do you think?”
“I think that her puppies could easily pass as Retrievers”
“Retrievers could be a great addition, should we try and capture her?”
“I don’t think it would be that easy, she could be aggressive and also has that collar...” She stops talking when sees how a kid around 10 years old pats her and she just lays on the floor showing her stomach. “Well, looks like I could be wrong. Still, we must be careful and observe where her owners are”
They finish their meals as fast as possible, get up and start following the dog from a distance. Charlotte decides to go to the greengrocer area and get some snacks from the people there. A lady from one of the stores starts giving her some of the apple that she is peeling.
“It’s my chance” The tall woman says and approaches the dog “Oh, my. What a cute doggy, is it yours?”
“Oh? Hello, no is not” The lady responds with a smile “Is a stray that comes by everyday”
“You don’t say!” The wall woman pretends to be surprised “But doesn’t have a collar with her name on?”
“Oh yes, I think that someone inside the market gave it to her”
“Okay, have a good day” The tall woman waves her hand and turns around. Then makes a thumb up sign with her hand in a way that only the mustached man could see.
They spend the rest of the day after the dog, keeping it in sight. The mustached man gets hungry and buys a hot dog.
Charlotte notices that she is being followed but just doesn’t care, until she sees one of them eating so she turns around and gets closer.
“Hello! Can I have the food you’re eating?” she thinks while looking at the man’s hand and wagging her tail.
“She wants your hot dog” The woman says.
“What? No! It’s mine” The man moves his arms near to his chest protecting his snack.
“Just give me a piece of the damn thing, maybe the dog is dumb enough to follow us is she wants more”
He does as told and it works, the dog eats the piece of bread from the hand of the woman and looks at her after finishing.
“More!” She thinks.
“This is it. Quick! Give me more” the woman extends her hand.
They start moving slowly and offer now and then a piece of the hot dog, Charlotte follows them interested. It’s already time to close the market so there are a lot of empty hallways that they are able to use to get unnoticed. Carefully they arrive to the parking lot and looking in every direction to make sure no one is watching; they open a van, get inside it and start calling the dog.
“Come on doggy, get in” The woman whispers showing the last pieces of bread in her hand.
Charlotte stays in place looking at them, they keep trying but there is no result. Being so close to the van they decide to pick her up and carry her inside. She is too heavy for the mustached man alone so the tall woman helps him, finally inside of the van the door is closed, she stays in the back with the man while the woman starts the engine and the car moves.
“Time to leave my love” says the old man arriving with his grandson to the old lady’s store.
“I’m on it, just leaving the space for Charlotte to enter” The lady says “She didn’t like the dog food, maybe we should really take her to the vet just to do a checkup”
“You are right darling, let’s take her on Monday”
The old couple doesn’t know that their decision to take a better ownership of the dog was made too late. At that same moment a black van leaves the parking lot and inside it, Charlotte can be found, she leaves to never see them again.