From The Southern Review, Autumn 2020
Coming in Mid-October
I often wonder about your first impression of me on that night I found you. What a disheveled madman I must have appeared, still dressed in my white lab coat despite the late hour, dangling a strip of boiled tripe in front of your muzzle. You were frozen in place, your eyes on the meat but your ears attuned to everything else. I recall the streetlamps casting long shadows across the wide, empty promenades near Paveletsky Station. Perhaps my own shadow was making you nervous, unsure of what it might have obscured, but you didn’t retreat. Did you suspect anything about me, or was it simple hunger that urged you on?
I had a feeling about you from the very beginning, that you might well be perfect. You were the right size—maybe five kilos. An adolescent by dog years. A narrow white stripe sprouted from a wide base on your nose, ran up the length of your black snout, and bisected gentle, inquisitive eyes that came to a point at the top of your forehead, as if to direct my hand where to pet you. The rest of your coat was a grimy off-white, the sooty hue of the lingering snowpack that would plague the sidewalks of Moscow once winter blew in. Handsome for a stray.
You sniffed at the food warily, then took a step back and waited for me to make my move. You were a brave girl, but no fool. A hardy Muscovite. A survivor! I dropped the meat to the pavement and took a few steps back.
Once you had devoured your treat, you turned your attention back to me. I set down my catch pole and plucked another morsel from the deep pocket of my lab coat. “Would you like to come with me?” I said. “Perhaps we will come to understand each other in time.”