The Travels of Zoe, the Wonder Dog

The story to this point:

James Dunning worked for the Record for more than 20 years. When his job was eliminated, he and his wife were forced to move in with her mother, who is allergic to dogs. James had no choice but to leave his mostly blind lhasa apso, Zoe, at the pound. He didn’t have the heart to do it in the daytime, so he brought Zoe there before dawn and tied her to the entry gate. As the sun began to come up, a strange dog approached.

By Carrie Jacobson

zoezest2Zoe looks into the eyes of the big red dog, and knows she is going to be saved. The dog comes up and sniffs her, and Zoe sniffs back. She smells dirt and pine, the scent of rain, and the river, and the pavement of a road. She smells humans and other dogs, and she smells food on the breath of this red dog and in her coat, and in that instant, Zoe realizes how hungry she is, and how thirsty.

The big dog is sniffing at something Zoe hasn’t noticed until now, something she can barely see, as it’s more than a foot from her nose. She gets up from her bed and walks as far as the leash allows. Now she can see. It’s a plastic box, and she can smell James’s scent on it.

The smell makes her heart ache, and beat faster, too. That smell, she loves that smell! It means he’s here, he’s coming – and then she remembers, and her tail drops, and she begins to wonder what the big dog is doing.

Then, in a flash, the big dog has pulled the lid off the box, and torn into the bag inside. With her paw, she turns the box on its side, and food spills out. The big dog eats hungrily, wagging her tail, and when she’s had enough, she moves aside. Zoe knows it’s her own food, and she eats until her belly is full.

Then the big dog goes to work on Zoe’s leash. She starts gnawing and pulling, biting and chewing, and soon enough, the leather has broken and Zoe is free.

There’s a noise of a car, then, and suddenly, the sun is up, the day is light, and the dogs inside the shelter begin to bark.

You can stay here, the big dog tells her, and go into the shelter, or you can come with me.

Zoe remembers the shelter. Not this one, but another one, far from here, long ago. She remembers how cold the floor was, and how, no matter what she did, she could never get away from that cold. She remembers the smells of the other dogs, dogs who were in the shelter with her, dogs who had been there before her, weeks before or years before… She remembers how those smells got into her nose, and onto her fur and into her very mouth, it seemed. And she remembers the noise, the constant, endless barking of the other dogs.

All she can really see is that this dog is big, and red and strong. But she can smell truth, and honesty and power. And so, she rubs her head against the big dog’s side, and when the big dog bends her head, Zoe licks her ear. She breathes deep, memorizes the big dog’s scent and follows her up the road.

Carrie can be reached at


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