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art by Cheryl L Owen-Wilson

Not an Ordinary Dog

Sara Puls is a lawyer, researcher, writer, and editor. Her dreams frequently involve strange mash-ups of typography, fairy creatures, courtrooms, and blood. Or maybe those are nightmares.This is Sara's second appearance in DSF. Her stories have also been published in The Colored Lens, Goldfish Grimm's Spicy Fiction Sushi, Plasma Frequency Magazine, and elsewhere. Her Twitter handle is @sarapuls.

Testing the strength of his wings, Caddis shivered with pleasure. They felt strong and sturdy, ready for flight. And this time they'd grown in brown, just like his fur. A few days ago, before Mr. Taylor sliced them off so brutally, so inartfully, they'd been purple. Far too obvious. Maybe this time Taylor wouldn't notice at all. Or maybe he'd realize that Caddis was not an ordinary dog, that he belonged with a wizard who would teach him magic, who would let him flutter and soar.
As Caddis gave his wings another flap, the puppies in the window display began to yelp and yip. Taylor, who was asleep behind the counter, shifted, then opened his eyes and yawned. Caddis scurried into the corner of his cage and set to gnawing dumbly on a bone. Just like a proper dog should.
Taylor stood and locked eyes with Caddis. Caddis tried not to tremble or cower--that always seemed to give the man more resolve.
Taylor approached and shook the flimsy metal cage. "Get over here, Mutt. Lemme see what you're hiding."
When Caddis refused to move, Taylor flung open the cage and pulled him out by the scruff. Why Taylor owned a pet shop, Caddis could not understand. The man did not like animals. Or children.
Despite the heat of Taylor's gaze, Caddis did his best to remain calm. He kept his furry feathers as tight to his body as possible.
"Well, well, well," Taylor said. "Looks like you've finally taken the hint. Maybe I can actually get rid of you now."
He doesn't see them. There's still hope.
But just as Caddis let himself relax, Taylor's eyes flashed bright. "Ah-ha," he chimed. "There they are!" He grabbed a wing in his fist and tugged.
"I told you," Cadis began, once he'd swallowed his pain, "I can't control it. No matter how many times you cut them off, they'll just grow back."
"Bullshit," Taylor hissed.
"No. It's not. I'm meant to be a wizard's familiar."
It was a wonder Taylor wasn't disturbed by Caddis' ability to speak. Lost as he was in this pet shop, Caddis understood himself. And he knew he'd understand wizards if he ever got the chance. But humans? Humans he could not understand.
Taylor laughed and reached for the clippers he kept beside the cage.
Caddis closed his eyes and focused on flying, not pain. His memories of being outside as a puppy had faded, but he could still picture the color of the sky, still imagine the delicate brush of the wind against his wings.
But as the shears clamped down on him, he opened his eyes and shrieked a long, bone-rattling cry.
Taylor laughed and snipped the other wing clean off. Then he heaved Caddis back into the cage.
A minute later, he returned, holding a lighter. "I'm getting rid of those wings once and for all."
Caddis flailed and barked more than ever before. He growled and drooled, making himself seem rabid. But it was no use. He was a small dog--no bigger than some of the lab pups--and Taylor had him pinned.
The event itself was over soon enough, but the agony of the flames remained, seared into Caddis' flesh, his memory.
Days passed. Caddis' wings did not grow back. He was ruined. He would never again fly. Soon something dark and twisted grew up inside him, taking the place of his wings. That something, he realized, was a mix of terror and anger and hate.
Then one day Caddis awoke to a girl standing in front of his cage. Taylor stood there too, looking both shocked and amused.
"Mutt or no," the girl said, "he's a beautiful creature."
Taylor laughed mockingly.
The girl didn't seem to notice. "I want him."
As she paid at the counter, Caddis tried to feel more grateful. He was thrilled to be leaving the pet shop but his heart still ached. He wasn't cut out to be a lap dog, nice as this girl seemed.
"All right, boy," the girl said when she returned. "Time to go home. And on the way, you'll have to tell me your name."
Caddis perked up. Maybe she's different. Maybe she'll understand. But as soon as he'd thought this, he groaned. Who am I kidding? What does it matter now?
As they stepped outside, the girl set him down and let him walk without a leash. Caddis didn't even think of running off. He trotted along beside her, soaking in the sun and breathing in the fresh air. It was an incredible feeling, to be outside again; it almost made him forget his wings, his hate.
As they rounded the corner, the girl spoke. "My name's Jade. And I'm a wizard. I thought you could be my familiar--if you want the gig."
Caddis stopped in his tracks and looked up at her. "Excuse me?" He didn't care that he barely knew her, that he risked his life by speaking so soon.
Jade bent down and gently touched his scabbed-over nubs. "I know what you're meant to be," she said, unfazed. "I don't know how to make your wings grow back, but I'll work on it. I promise. And in the meantime, I'll teach you how to fly without them."
Caddis looked from the girl to the sky and back. Then, feeling once again like the beautiful creature he was, he collapsed onto the pavement and began to cry.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, January 6th, 2014

Author Comments

The idea for "Not an Ordinary Dog" started with an image of a winged dog in a pet shop, which popped into my head seemingly out of nowhere. From the start, I knew the story would be fairly dark and sad--because pet shops are generally pretty depressing--but I also wanted it to have a happy ending. I tried to achieve that balance by making this a story about fitting in (or not), perseverance, and ultimately, finding home. Hopefully a bit of all that comes through.

- Sara Puls
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