The pounding rain nearly drowned out the sound. Milla stopped, rain splashing up her stockinged legs, listening. A tiny sound coming from the alley. She went in and heard it again, coming from a pile of cardboard boxes. There, huddled, wet and shivering, a puppy. Milla didn’t stop to think. She scooped up the bundle of wet fur, tucked it inside her rain coat and hurried home.
Dry, warm and fed, the black puppy with white markings slept in a box in a blanket nest. A mutt, maybe some black lab, maybe some collie, Milla raised the dog, now named, Mave, and trained her well. The only thing Milla couldn’t do was break Mave of growling at people. Not everyone, it seemed, but it was a detail that Milla didn’t like. There was no way to tell why Mave growled at some people and not others.
Two years later, Milla was walking Mave in the nearby park. She was enjoying the soft spring evening when she was knocked off of the path, the leash flying from her hand. A man, full-faced knit cap over his head, was on top of her, fumbling at her clothes. She screamed and from the left, she saw all seventy-five pounds of Mave leap onto the man, teeth at his throat and growling in a way that made Milla’s blood run cold. The man rolled off her, fighting Mave and now screaming in fear himself.
Heart racing, Milla stood up and grabbed Mave’s leash, pulling the dog from the man. Two uniformed bicycle officers rode up and took the man into custody. Shaking, Milla told the officer what happened and left her contact information. Mave stared at the attacker until the police took him away, shouting, “Keep that dog away from me!”
At home, Milla gave Mave an extra treat. “Good girl.” She gave the dog a hug. “What a good girl you are.”
The next day a police officer visited Milla to ask follow-up questions. “Your attacker said your dog’s eyes were glowing red.”
Milla laughed. She looked at the dog at the officer’s feet, on her back, tail wagging, looking for a belly rub. “I’ve never seen her eyes glow red. I think the guy is just trying to get out of confessing that he attacked me.”
The officer closed his notebook and gave Mave a belly rug. “Most likely. The dog hardly seems capable of attacking anyone.”
“I found her as a very young puppy. She’s protective but I’ve never seen her attack anything.”
The officer stood up. “There are no complaints against your dog on file so I don’t think there will be any more trouble.”
Milla walked the officer to the door. “I appreciate that Officer. Have a good day.”
“You too, Ms. Parker.”
She talked to a dog expert. “She’s protective of you. Dogs can sense things we can’t. It looks like Mave thinks some people are a threat.”
Milla stroked Mave’s big lab head. “I can’t have her growling at random people. Someone is going to call the dog catcher on us.”
The expert nodded. “Keep an eye on who she growls at. You may be able to see a pattern.”
That didn’t seem helpful but on their walks, Milla took notice of who Mave growled at. There didn’t seem to be a pattern. Men, women, children, all ages, all social strata, were all growled at. Milla did teach Mave to growl softer, so only she could hear. But it made her nervous that her beloved pet might attack someone.
One Halloween, she was giving candy out at the apartment door. The usually friendly Mave snarled, her hackles up, at a parent.
“Keep that mutt under control or I’m calling the cops.”
Milla closed the door to just a small opening. “My apologies. I don’t know why she does that.” She closed the door and looked through the peephole. She saw the man cuff the boy with him so that the boy crashed into the wall. Grabbing her phone, she called the police. Throwing on her coat and putting Mave on a leash, she followed the man and boy, now crying.
“I have a man, abusing a boy,” she told the dispatcher. “I’m following them.”
Despite pleas from the dispatcher, Milla followed, Mave growling deep in her chest. Milla provided her location at every corner. She saw the man pinch the boy, slap him, and once, knock him to the sidewalk. “Clumsy brat.” He hauled the boy up by the arm and dragged him to the corner.
A few feet back, Milla could hear the man verbally abusing the boy, crying uncontrollably. Mave strained at the leash. “Hurry,” Milla whispered into the phone. “I think the man is going to really hurt that child.”
It was too late. Milla watched in horror as the man said, “I’m sick of you,” and slapped the boy on the back. Mave launched at the man as Milla grabbed for the child. She snatched the boy out of the path of a taxi as Mave latched onto the man’s arm. She saw him spin, Mave still biting his arm, flying through the air. Bystanders screamed. The man punched Mave and slammed her into the side of the nearest building. Milla screamed, “No!” Police charged up. Mave dropped her attack as soon as the police arrived.
Holding his arm, the man pointed at Mave. “That dog attacked me! I want that dog put down.”
Milla’s stomach rolled as she cradled the boy, still sobbing. “No! She was defending the boy.”
The police officers questioned each person. Child services took the boy. Milla turned over her phone. She’d taken pictures of the man hitting the child. She never mentioned Mave’s red eyes. It took some time but both Milla and Mave were released. She gave Mave a big hug and an extra treat. “I’ll have to pay more attention, girl, won’t I?”
Mave gave her a lick and wagged her tail.
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