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Rated: E · Short Story · Experience · #2274016
A true-life experience turned into a lesson
                                                                                    Perception Adjustment

      As I locked the door of the animal shelter I managed, I didn't care if I ever opened it again.  It had been one of those horrible days where people threw away dogs, forcing me to euthanize them.  With people dropping off 'found' dogs and two animal control officers working the county, today's death list had been very long.

      Sometimes a dog was dropped off for no good reason except it was inconvenient for the owner.  Sometimes I would take one of those dogs home, letting it finish its life peacefully.  I tried to keep my "tribe" to about fourteen but there seemed to always be room for one more.  My tribe would accept the new ones as normal as if they knew.  By taking home animals, I was able to live with the memories of the dead.  But it was a thankless job, running that shelter, and I was always glad to go home.

      Getting into my decrepit Volvo, I headed home.  I used the time driving, trying and to figure out how to make my little money stretch. Glancing at the gas tank, I was relieved to see I had enough to make it to the next paycheck.  As to the rest of the money, food and electricity costs topped the list.

      When I drove into my yard, all my assorted happy dogs ran up to the car.  Some were missing a leg, some were blind, and some were so wild I never touched them.  They were very glad to see me because they knew what was coming next.  I tried to walk them every day, giving them a chance to run and explore outside my yard.  We always took the same route, but for them it was new every day.  No matter how many times, we walked, there was always something new to see; an eagle swooping low in the sky, a rabbit running through the grass, a squirrel high in a tree, chirping at us.

      Coming out of my back door, dressed for the walk, I saw my best friend Carrie park her car and get out with her two dogs.
      "Hey, Lee. Ready to go?"  She knew my routine and often brought her pets to join in the fun.

      As we wandered through the woods, we watched the dogs exploring and chasing invisible prey.  Emerging from the woods, we headed toward a small creek that bordered my land.  It was a slow-moving rivulet, not very deep, but, usually, we'd catch a glimpse of frogs or a turtle around the edge.  Once in a great while, we would see a heron or another water bird.  As we got closer, the dogs scrambled down for a much-needed drink of water.

      Overgrown briers and old roses bordered the path down to the creek, making it difficult to get through.  The brush was high around the water, causing me to worry about snakes.  But with all the noise the dogs were making, encountering a snake was unlikely, or so I thought.  Pushing our way through the overgrown shrubs to the water, Carrie and I sat down on some rocks, talking over our days.  I was in a "nothing's right with my life" mood, my old car, my thankless job, not being able to provide well for my needs, etc.  Seems as if all I could do was barely hang on.  Why did I have to keep struggling like this?

      After talking for a few minutes while watching the dogs enjoy the water, Carrie mentioned something about making dinner together, so we got up and started making our way back to the house.  As we started up the slope, pushing our way through the briers, I felt a prick on my foot.  It didn't hurt very much, but when I raised my foot to examine the wound, I froze.  Two tiny holes about 1/4inch apart were positioned on the top of my foot.  I panicked.

      I screamed at Carrie, "A snake just bit me!" 

      Carrie looked at me, panic welling in her eyes.  "Do you think it's poisonous?"

      "Of course, it's poisonous!  I'm going to die!"  I shouted.

      My knowledge about snakes was zero except for one thing.  If I had a knife, I could cut across the holes and suck the poison out. I saw that on You Tube.

      I had no knife.

      I tried to keep my heart from racing, knowing each heartbeat could pump the poison closer to my heart.  Since the bite was on my foot, I figured the poison had a lot of veins and arteries to travel through before it reached my heart and killed me.  I just might make it if I remained calm.  I forced myself to move slowly although my insides were screaming.  I couldn't think of anything but getting home and calling the ambulance.  Carrie grabbed my hand and, slowly, we began to climb up the path to home.

      The dogs sensed my fear, milling around us.  Their nervousness made it difficult for me to walk.

      We reached the top of the slope and started down the path through the woods.  I put each foot down very slowly when all I really wanted to do was run like mad.  I swear I could feel each heartbeat drawing the poison to my heart.  As we reached the boundary of the woods, I looked at the path ahead.  I had forgotten about the small ridge, separating my yard from the woods.  How was I ever going to climb that?  I couldn't use my injured foot.

      Very slowly, holding onto Carrie, I made it over.

      All that slow way home, thoughts of my job went round and round in my head.  No one could care for these scared animals better than I. I kept them safe and fed and comforted.  Who else would do that for them? These thoughts strengthened my determination to get home and survive.  Finally, we entered my back yard.

      "Carrie! Run into the house and call the ambulance.!'  I begged. "And bring me a sharp knife.  I have to get the poison out."

      The rescue squad was strictly volunteer and would take about fifteen minutes to get here.  I couldn't wait, I had to do something.  I wasn't sure how to cut the wound open, but it looked easy on my computer.

      As Carrie disappeared into the house, I sat down on the pump house, trying to remain calm.

      Running out of the house, Carrie rushed up to me with the knife.

      Grabbing the knife, I reached down gently and brought my injured foot up. I had to figure out where exactly I was going to cut.  Gritting my teeth, I held the knife.  Moving my foot closer, one of the holes fell off.  It was a rose thorn.

Word Count 1109

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