It started off as just another Sunday morning. I was out on my morning jog, running beside the tree line of the woods that flanked our neighborhood. I was enjoying nature’s beauty while working up a good sweat, when I heard what sounded like whimpers. I followed the sound to it’s source and found a dog, a yellow Labrador sitting under a tree. I knelt down to pet him and he nuzzled into my hand. He seemed somewhat relieved to see me. His tail wagged like crazy as I pet him. I noticed that he was dirty and looked quite malnourished. I wondered if he was had been kicked out by his owner or was just lost.
After looking around for a while to see if his owner would show up, I decided to take him home. I gave him a bath and fed him some chicken, which he gobbled up. The poor thing must have been so hungry. The next day, I put up missing dog posters around the neighborhood. My own dog, Duke had died just the previous year and I could imagine what this dog’s human must be going through right now. For as long as he was going to stay with me, I decided to call him Happy.
Happy and would go for walks everyday in the mornings and in the evenings. For our morning walks we’d walk past the same woods where I had found him, but in the evening we’d take a different route and would venture a bit further from our neighborhood. Our walks were fun. Happy was a very well behaved boy. He would relieve himself only when and where I told him to and would never pull on his leash. Except when we walked past one particular house.
It was the house a bit removed from all the others. Wherever we approached it, Happy would whimper and would act very agitated. At first I thought he wanted to go inside, but as we got closer to it, I noticed that he seemed scared of it. He would stare at it wide eyed and would freeze in place. He didn’t want to go inside, but he also didn’t want to walk away from it. It made me think of a person who just cannot tear his gaze away from a horrible car crash. After he did this for the third time, I decided to change our route.
Months went by and no one came to claim Happy, in spite of the posters I had put up. I decided I was going to keep him for good. We had formed a bond and I couldn’t bear the thought of losing him now. He too seemed to love me. Every morning , he would wake me up with kisses, making my alarm clock redundant. In the evening when I picked him up from doggie day care, he would run to me with a look of pure joy on his face. How could I possibly let go of this creature who had brought such joy into my life?
Then one very hectic evening, I needed to run some errands and decided to take Happy with me to get his walk out of the way. I had to walk past that same house that had vexed him so much. In my haste, I had forgotten all about his anxiety when he came near it. Happy, however, hadn’t forgotten. As we came to pass it, he once again began to whimper and froze in place. He wouldn’t take his eyes off of it. I tried to calm him down, I promised him bacon, but nothing worked. He seemed more unsettled by the house than he ever had been before.
He must have stared at the house for ten minutes, with terror in his eyes, refusing to budge. Then without warning, he bolted towards it, pulling his leash right out of my hands.
“Happy! NO! Get back here!” I shouted. But he wouldn’t listen. He had finally overcome the fear that had paralyzed him. He ran around the corner and dashed into the backyard of the house. I ran after him, hoping like crazy that I could get him out before the owners saw us. I got in there to find Happy, frantically digging a hole in the back yard. I had never seen him do this before. He never dug holes in my yard, or even in the woods near our house. I tried to pull him away, but he was determined. He dug and dug, as if powered by an otherworldly force.
I was considering lifting him up and carrying him, when I saw what Happy’s digging had started to uncover. It was a piece of cloth. As happy continued to remove the dirt, I noticed that it was in fact the sleeve of a shirt. In the next instant, a person’s hand was exposed. There was a human being buried in that yard. This time, I did pick up Happy and ran from that place as quickly as I could. I forgot all about my errands and went straight to the nearest police station. I told the cops everything.
The dead body was unearthed and an investigation began. An autopsy report stated that the person Happy had found, a man in his early thirties, had been dead for five months. That’s as long as I had had Happy. The coroner had concluded that the man died of a blunt force trauma to the back of his head. That house was a rental and the dead man lived there with his girlfriend and his dog – my Happy. The neighbors in the area knew them as Aaron and Vicky. It turned out that these were fake identities. Everything this couple had told people about themselves was a lie. The insides of the house were untouched and nothing seems to have been taken. The girlfriend, “Vicky” is still at large. She remains the prime suspect in the murder. Though the cops aren’t sure if she was behind all this or if she too had been killed and was just another victim. No one has ever come to reveal Aaron or Vicky’s real identities. Aaron was buried in an unnamed grave. Strangely, until the body was found the house rent continued to be paid in cash. Perhaps to prevent anyone from becoming suspicious. I’m sure there are other details that the cops haven’t revealed to the public.
I often wondered what kind of a man this Aaron was. He may have done something shady in his life, but his dog seemed to care enough about him to battle his paralyzing fear and go dig up his body. I like to think that he was good, caring dog owner.
As strange as this entire series of events was, I haven’t even told you about the strangest occurrence. One morning, Happy was playing in my front yard and I was in the kitchen making breakfast. Suddenly, I saw him head to the fence on the far left side of the yard. He was happily wagging his tail at something. I couldn’t see who it was as my view was obstructed by the shrubbery. I went outside to see what was going on. Happy came trotting towards me. I noticed that his collar, the one I had put on him, was lying on the ground next to the fence. And he was wearing a different one. I ran out to the street to see if I could catch a glimpse of whoever had changed Happy’s collar. But there was no one there. Happy let out a small bark, as if telling me to come back inside.
I took Happy indoors and examined the collar. It had a name tag on it. On one side of the tag the name “Dennis” was carved and the other contained a house address. The same house where Happy’s owner lived. He licked my hand and looked straight into my eyes in a reassuring manner.
Dennis and I are still very happy together and I can honestly say that he’s the greatest good boy who ever lived. And yes, I do call him “Dennis” now. I have a feeling that his deceased owner would want that.