My hero complex was going to get me killed. Or fired. I knew it would. Death and unemployment would not stop me from being a hero and protecting that puppy.
I stopped traffic. Snatched the lost puppy from the street and carried it to the sidewalk.
“Calm down,” I begged as the baby pitbull tried to wiggle its way out of my grasp. “Chill yo.”
My work clothes were a wreck. I looked like a construction worker covered in many shades of brown. Dirt and god knows what. I didn’t want to to guess what was on that dog’s paw.
And I was already thirty minutes late for my new job. I sent an email from my smartphone. Considered lying to my supervisor. Stomach bug. The runs. Nobody questions loose bowels and I wouldn’t need a doctor’s note or further explanation. Everyone gets diarrhea and nobody questions it.
I put a leash on the puppy’s collar.
I thought the pup was a boy. Couldn’t tell and I didn’t want to lift its leg to check. I thought that would look weird to anybody walking by.
“Who’s your owner?” I asked the pup. “You live around here?”
I tried to recall the dog owners in the neighborhood. There were many. And the puppy’s breed was common in my community.
I walked the pup across the street to my block.
A woman with a dog walked towards me.
“Excuse me,” I said to the woman. “Do you recognize the dog?”
The woman shook her head and kept going.
“Thanks…. for nothing,” I said.
The neighborhood was full of rude and antisocial assholes, I thought. That’s what I get for trying to help an innocent creature, I thought.
I walked to the house. Opened the door.
Considered opening the front gate leading to the backyard but that would required me to tie the dog to the front door and go through the house. Didn’t want to just leave the dog outside. Didn’t want people in the neighborhood to think I was an animal abuser. If I saw a dog tied to a front door I would think it was abuse.
I opened the door. Walked the dog through the house, living room, and basement leading into the backyard.
“I’ll find your owner after work,” I said to the pup. “Gotta go to work.”
I shut the basement door.
Dog whimpering. Scratching the door.
There was nothing I can do then. I was already an hour late to work on my third day. Or… was it my second? Could have been my fourth, I thought. Didn’t matter. There was nothing I could do other than keep him safe in my yard. If I let it go it’ll wander.
I ran upstairs. Changed out of my sweaty, dirty button-up shirt and replaced it with a fresh short sleeve polo. Put on a second coat of deodorant. And I was out of the house and on the way to the Metro rail within five minutes of changing.
My phone vibrated. Marcey was calling again.
I sighed. Reluctantly answered.
“Yes?” I said.
“Where’s the dog?” Marcey asked.
“The yard,” I replied.
“Which yard?” Marcey asked.
“Our yard,” I replied.
“What?” Marcey shrieked. “How’d he get there?”
“Through the house,” I replied.
“You walked a strange dog through our living room?” Marcey said.
“He’s not strange,” I shot back. “He’s a puppy.”
“What’s funny?” I asked, feeling a bit offended.
“Nothing, yeesh,” Marcey replied. “I was talking to my coworker a-”
“Why tell your coworkers?” I asked.
“Oh come on,” Marcey said whilst laughing.
I didn’t understand what she found so damn funny about the situation. I just rescued a puppy from being flattened by multiple cars. I just preserved precious life! She should be praising not mocking him. She should be begging to give me a back massage for all the heroic work I put in that day. Asking how I would like my eggs prepared for my heroes breakfast. And what made it worse was she brought her stupid coworkers in on the joke. I was the joke, I guessed. She didn’t appreciate my heroism. No surprise.
“Don’t leave him in the yard,” Marcey said. “Let him go. He’ll find his way home.”
“And let him get run over?” I said.
“That’s not your problem,” Marcey said. “Someone could be looking for him.”
Stupid dog. Stupid girlfriend making fun of me for wanting to be a hero. Stupid me with the hero complex that will one day get me killed by a dog owner. Or a speeding car. Or a stray dog. Stupid situation, I thought.
I returned to the house and to backyard.
The pup was waiting for me on the backyard balcony. The pup sprinted down the stairs and immediately jumped into my arms. Left dirty paw prints on my fresh shirt.
“Come on little guy,” I said as I hooked the leash to the pup’s collar and lead him out of my yard.
I took him a block away to a small park away from the main avenue.
I was going to let him go. But I didn’t want to let him go onto Main Street where he could get flattened by a speeding car. I couldn’t sleep comfortably knowing I contributed to the death of a puppy. Maybe Marcey could. But I couldn’t.
“Good luck, little guy,” I said as I released the puppy onto the side street.
Maybe its owner will find it. Maybe someone else from the neighborhood will discover the pup and give it a new home. I tried. Lord knows I tried.
The dog ran to the nearby playground, sniffed around the grass before lifting its leg to pee.
Oh, its a male, I realized.
I wished him -the puppy- well before sprinting home. Quickly changed into a fresh shirt and rushed out of my house and towards the bus stop.
I hope I could catch a bus. I was more than an hour late to my new job. But I saved a life so it was worth it.
The puppy -the same one I spent an hour rescuing– narrowly avoided two cars as it darted across the street.
“Shit,” I said to myself. “Are you kidding?”
The puppy disappeared into an alley.
“Damn,” I cursed myself.
My phone vibrated.
At first I thought it was my job reaching out to see whether I had returned the lost dog. Whether or when I would be reporting to work since nobody else among the pool of PhD’s and Masters degrees know how to make photocopies or pivot tables. Part of me hoped it wasn’t the job. I didn’t much feel like lying over the phone. Not while I was in a heroic mood. Also I was a terrible liar.
It wasn’t the job.
“Yes, dear,” I answered.
“What happened to the dog?” Marcey asked.
I couldn’t tell Marcey what happened. I already felt like an idiot. Didn’t feel like being the butt of her and her coworkers jokes.
“Nothing,” I replied. “On my way to work.”
It was time I hung up my cape, I thought. Well past time I gave up being the hero. And considered villainy instead.
I clenched my fist.