The Stray Princess
The floor vibrates, Charlotte is laying, showing her stomach to the mustached man. He is scratching her with his right hand while talking to the tall woman who is driving.
“How much until we arrive?” Asks the man.
“Let me see… maybe two more hours” She answers. Looking over the steering wheel she notices a small red stick pointing a letter E “Tsk, we are running out of gas”
They arrive at a gas station near the road, this one is also a motel and has a restaurant and a 24/7 store.
“What do you say if we stay here for the night?” The man asks.
“Ugh, yeah maybe you are right. I hate dealing with the boss at night” She feels tired, there was a traffic jam that left them stuck for over four hours thanks to a landslide on the road and now is midnight.
They get off the van, fill the tank, park and go inside the store.
“No, don’t leave” She thinks and moves her paws when the man stops rubbing her belly.
She is left alone inside the van. After moving in circles over the metallic floor, she doesn’t find comfortable any of the positions that tries. After around half an hour the door opens again showing the mustached man’s face.
“Here” He throws a piece of pizza inside the car that lands next to Charlotte. She moves her head and sniffles it loudly, then opens her mouth and starts eating “Good girl, sleep well” He closes the door and leaves.
She stays in place for a while but the car feels cold, not as cold as the forest or the alley in the city but she was already used to her mattress in the old lady’s store. The floor also makes her feel like if she is in an uncomfortable position, so she gets up turns around and lays down. Doing this movements the van’s alarm activates, she feels the pain of the piercing sound entering her skull and starts howling. Due to the heightened senses, dogs are commonly sensitive to sounds. It depends on the situation like a loud unfamiliar noise or an unexpected one, the sensitivity also varies according to the dog’s breed, the reaction of a dog to a sound can trigger many bad behaviors generated by anxiety or fright like shacking, running, defecating, chewing and many more.
Moments later the alarm is deactivated, she tries to sleep again and minutes later repeats her movements and again the alarm sounds loudly. This time when is set off, the van’s door opens again and the mustached man enters.
“Come!” He moves his hands “Come inside or I won’t be able to sleep”
She decides to follow, not really understanding why she’s doing it. He takes her to a room with two beds inside, one of them has the tall woman resting on it.
“Good, that way she will shut up” The woman says “just leave it there”.
The man turns off the lights and goes to his bed mumbling. Charlotte moves in circles and lays over the carpet, the temperature in the room is much warmer than inside the van, so she is able to sleep.
The yellow light of the sun enters the room crossing the beige curtains, Charlotte is already awake and looking at the beds waiting for the humans to wake up. The mustached man stretches and gets up.
“Hello Charlotte” He says “Ready to meet your new home?”
He moves the woman to wake her up, after both get ready, they eat their breakfasts and give Charlotte a couple of boiled eggs. Then they get on the van and leave the place, this time the dog gets into the van without the need of carrying her.
“They are very nice” Charlotte thinks “They let me sleep in the same room, they give me food and pat me, they are good”
The last hours of the trip she stays in the back part of the van with the mustached man again, his pats go gently around her head. The road ends and the van starts moving around dirt and mud, the speed decreases and Charlotte feels the calm movement that the car generates, she closes her eyes and falls asleep.
In her dreams she floats around the market just 150 centimeters over the floor, at this distance she is able to reach the food in the stores all by herself. She finds the old lady and the old man; they both smile and pat her. It tickles so much that she smiles and wags her tail.
“Wake up” Sounds a male voice inside the dream, she turns around and is the hairy man waving at her. Charlotte’s heart fills with joy and approaches floating by moving all her legs, but she notices that the distance hasn’t shortened and tries running but sadly she stays in the same spot no matter how hard is trying to move. “Wake up” he says again, and suddenly she opens her eyes.
The mustached man is moving and asking her to wake up “Finally, let’s go” he says and gets outside the van.
She goes after him believing that he will guide her to a cozy room like yesterday. When she gets outside the van she lands over grass and instinctively starts sniffing it, it is a bit dry and has been stepped on it many times. There are many aromas in the air, especially urine and blood.
BARK! BARK! BARK!
A dog comes running, Charlotte gets in a defensive position but before any of the two dogs could attack, the tall woman steps in between them.
“STAY!” She wells at the dog extending her arm and he obeys.
Still in a defensive posture, Charlotte takes a look at the canine. Is a male dog, the breed is an American Pit Bull Terrier around 5 years old, he is of a brown color except in the chest and down to the stomach that is white, his body is so robust that big muscles can be seen around the front legs but those and his face are covered in visible wounds that have healed not too long ago.
“What a good boy!” The woman says and pats his head, the dog smiles delighted, shows his tongue and wags his tail “Look at that face! Isn’t him cute?” She asks to the mustached man who clearly shows signs of being frightened by the dog.
“That thing just gives me the creeps, it’s a blood thirsty animal” The man says.
“He is just that way because the boss forces him to, but this one is so kind… not like the demon he had as a father”
“You mean ‘Devil’?” The man shivers “Thank God he is gone. Come on Charlotte, move” He takes her by the bandana and pulls, she follows but still keeping an eye on the dog.
The woman opens an old metallic door with rust in the corners, from the inside comes a strong stench that makes Charlotte uncomfortable but still trusting in the to humans that brought her, she enters the place. The air is filled with a mixed scent of urine, feces and ammonia. Some whimpers can be heard echoing, as they move forward leaving the entrance behind, a dark corridor illuminated only by twinkling light bulbs appears and they move in a straight line in it. There are cages on the walls at each side of the corridor, inside them there are dirty dogs so thin that their ribs can be seen even with their fur covering them.
“Hmm, stinks stronger than usual” says the mustached man.
The woman starts moving her nose “You are right… do we have to deal with another sick one?” They start checking the cages, the lifeless eyes of each dog stares at them when their cages are opened for a couple of seconds. They keep doing this action until the tall woman says “Tsk, found it”
The mustached man approaches with Charlotte to one of the cages almost at the end of the corridor, inside it there is a female poodle laying on the floor, her fur is white but stained with yellow, brown and crimson. The cage has discoloration and rust in the shape of a puddle, scattered inside it there are many feces, some are so old that have become something similar to a black rock, a group of flies move over her body. The tall woman opens the cage, and moves the dog’s body with her hand. There is no reaction from the canine but the force applied changes the position of the old pink collar she has and an aged plaque blinks for a moment, in a really fancy writing it says “Anastasia” but it doesn’t have any more information.
“There goes another one” The mustached man says.
“Well, at least the replacement is here. Right?” She smiles and pats Charlotte, her reaction is to slowly wag her tail “See? She is excited” She lets laughter leave her body “Out with the old, in with the new”
“Well, there is nothing we can do about it. Let’s go and talk with the boss” The man says.
There exist some dark places in this world, some of those are the illegal dog breeding farms that are also known as Puppy mills. Regulations for healthy dog breeding do exist but places like this one just ignores them, health standards are low, these dogs are used as objects and not only in the way that they are commercialized but also how they are treated. Females are kept only for breeding purposes, usually leaving them pregnant continuously without time for recovery, this practice is done so the production and sales of dogs can always proceed and doesn't care in the well-being of the mother or the offspring who are taken from their parent in a short space of time and she ultimately ends up dying, leaving an open space for the next female and the cycle can start all over again. Some pet shops always have a display of puppies but the way they are obtained could be from one of those puppy mills, usually because the puppies obtained this way are cheaper than those from a regulated establishment. This one in particular has been operating for two decades and is one of the main suppliers for the pet shops in the big city, their most popular breeds are the French poodle and the Pitbull.
Leaving the corridor behind they arrive at a room filled with pictures in which there can be seen people in a circle around a pit rising their hands and with expressions that could be described as shouting. Inside this hole in the ground there are two dogs showing their teeth at each other, with their muzzles and abdomens covered in blood, some of these pictures have collars hanging below them. The most recent pictures show the dog that was at the entrance when they got out of the car.
“Yo! Boss! We arrived!” Yells the mustached man.
There is no answer.
“He must be sleeping, go and knock the door” The Tall woman orders the man.
He leaves Charlotte with her, approaches the door and does as told, giving the wooden door a group of small hits.
“Give me a second” Sounds a hoarse male voice “So you finally decided to show up, huh?” The door opens and a tall man enters the room, he has gray hair and wrinkles around his eyes, a black shirt and polyester pants.
“Sorry boss, there was a landslide and the road was blocked for a long time” Says the mustached man with sweat on his forehead “We have news, the group of poodles arrived all alive and every last one of them were sold” He gives the boss a wad of cash tied up with a rubber band.
“Well, that’s your job. Is what I expect” He takes the bills and starts counting them, not even noticing the presence of the woman or the dog in the room.
“By the way Boss, we noticed that Anastasia is dead” The mustached man scratches his chin.
“Who?” The Boss is still counting the bills without taking his eyes off them.
“You know, the one that has been here over ten years. Maybe that last batch of puppies was too much for the old thing” The tall woman answers.
“Oh, right… about time she passed away, was a great asset but we still have some of the females she gave birth to. So, there is nothing to worry about. Besides, last time she gave birth to one missing a leg if I remember correctly. Low quality producers like her would have to be sacrificed sooner or later” The gray-haired man says while still moving the bills in his fingers.
“Oh right, that time we left that defective dog inside a garbage bag that we found on our way to the city” The mustached man nods.
“Good, you put the trash where it belongs” The Boss stops counting the money and looks at the woman, then notices the canine besides her “And what’s up with that dog?”
“We found her at the market, looks like she is pregnant. Maybe could be a great addition to the team” She explains.
“Oh, hello there” The boss starts walking towards Charlotte smiling “Welcome”