I was living rough when I met her. Down on my luck, no place or person to call my own. How the hell had my life gotten so bad? Couldn’t tell you, exactly. Just a long, long string of bad luck. Could’ve happened to anyone. Could’ve happened to you.
“You must be hungry,” she said.
I glared at her. I didn’t trust anyone back then, especially not a sweet, clean-smelling girl like her. My expression must’ve scared her pretty badly, because she turned and ran away. I told myself I was glad.
The next day, she was back, sandwich in hand. Roast beef. Man, when was the last time I’d eaten meat? I wolfed it down, then leaned against the wall and watched her with wary eyes. Almost as if, out of the two of us, she was the dangerous one.
She smiled at me. She was the first person to do that in a long, long time.
I didn’t really expect to see her again after that second day. Wrong. She kept coming back. With food. With conversation. With a stunning lack of fear.
I’d hurt people before. I could’ve hurt her! It would’ve been easy, and I could’ve bolted before anyone caught me. Didn’t she know that?
She was so pretty. You’ll laugh at this—but she had me from hello. At night, I dreamed about her. Long walks on the beach. Lazy Sunday afternoons on the back deck. At night, we’d snuggle on the couch and watch Netflix. Just living life. Having fun. Smelling roses, ya know?
A pipe dream. It wasn’t good for her, being seen with someone like me. I told myself to leave the neighborhood, make it so she couldn’t find me. Turned out I couldn’t do it. Every damn day, I circled back to that corner and waited like a dog for her to show up.
Some days, she didn’t come.
I hated those days.
I’m not sure how she talked me into going to the shelter. I sure as hell didn’t want to. I’d been there before—the experience had nearly cost me my life. But she insisted things would be different this time. I didn’t really believe it, but I went anyway. By that time, I would’ve done anything for her.
Once I was all checked in, I didn’t see her for a very long time.
I was pretty angry about that. I’d thought—I’d hoped—we’d started something special. Turned out she was just another starry-eyed do-gooder and I was just another sorry loser. Hell, she hadn’t even cared enough to tell me her name.
Then it hit me: why should she? Why should a girl like that waste her time on someone like me?
The thought was like a bullet to the heart. It made me sit up and take a hard look at myself. Let me tell you right now, I did not like what I saw. I needed cleaning up. I needed a job and a purpose and a life. And, damn it, I needed some social skills.
So I took a bath and brushed my hair. Worked out and put on some weight and some muscle. And difficult as it was, I started trusting people again.
Still, she didn’t come back.
Eventually, I left the shelter. I moved in with a different girl. And I don’t wanna lie, things were okay for a while. But then I got restless. And so did she, I guess. The night she brought another guy home, I took off.
I was back on the street, but it was different this time. I had a purpose, I had a goal. She had to be out there somewhere. I started looking everywhere.
I ran her to ground in a park, not far from where we’d first met. I approached her slowly. I didn’t want to scare her off. Would she even recognize me? I looked a lot different from when we’d first met.
I shouldn’t have worried.
“Ohmygod!” she cried when she saw me. “It’s you! It’s really you!”
She went down on her knees and gave me a hug. She smelled just a good as she always had. “Oh, aren’t you a pretty boy! I knew you would be.”
She buried her face in my fur. I nuzzled her neck and swiped my tongue along her chin. My tail wagged so hard it’s a wonder it didn’t snap right off.
“I wanted to take you home back then,” she told me. “But my landlord wouldn’t let me! By the time I got a new place, you’d been adopted. But here you are! I can’t believe it. Where have you been?”
She looked at my tag and called my owner, of course. She’s a straight arrow that way. But in the end, it all worked out. I left the other girl and went to live with her. And I finally learned her name.
It’s Julie. And she calls me Hunter.
And man, it’s forever with us. Long walks on the beach. Lazy Sunday afternoons on the back porch. And at night? We snuggle on the couch and watch Netflix.
Just living life. Having fun.
Smelling roses, ya know?