On a cold and stormy September night, thunder rattled the cages of an old animal shelter miles down an empty road. A puppy was huddled in the corner of his cage, his yellow fur standing up as he shivered. He heard the whimpers of homeless dogs in the cages all around him, faintly able to see them in the dim flickering light. The cold and uncomfortable floors of the animal shelter were the only surface the puppy had ever known. He had no idea what awaited outside the big metal door into the outside world, but he knew that whatever it was, it had to be better than where he was now.

The pup made a decision that night: he was determined to escape. Attempts had been made in the past, none of them successful. But this young dog was so determined, nothing could possibly stand in his way.

He began throwing his body at the hard metal grate that separated his cage from the hallway, harder and harder each time. Soon the puppy began to feel dizzy, so sore and tired that he wanted to give up, but he decided to give it one final charge. He used every last ounce of his energy and strength, ramming his tiny body into the cage, and he felt a sensation of excitement and relief as he heard the hinges break and felt himself topple onto the floor below. He shook himself off and made a break for the door before noticing that it was locked. He looked around frantically for another escape route when he felt a harsh, cold breeze tickle his coat. He turned to the source and saw a window left slightly ajar. He climbed atop a chair, then a desk, nudged the window open a few inches more, and wiggled his body out of the shelter and into the outside world, plopping into a puddle of muddy water. He was free.

The puppy hopped around in the mud with joy, embracing every drop of rain as it fell on him. He didn’t know where to go next, but he ran on and on because he had never felt so excited in his life and was eager to see how far his paws could take him when he was not confined to a two-square-foot cage.

The puppy was prancing along a long dirt road when suddenly he noticed a pair of bright yellow lights coming toward him at an alarming rate; he stood in fear, unable to move his feet, staring into the eyes of the big metal monster speeding towards him…

He opened his eyes after hearing the abrupt skidding sound of rubber on gravel. The car had stopped inches in front of where he stood. Not a moment after, the car door opened and two feet, clad in clean white sneakers, stepped out into the muddy street. Those two feet belonged to a man, about 38 years old, who quickly approached the puppy and knelt down beside

him.

“Hi little guy,” said the man in a gentle voice. “You scared me there! I was just cruising down the road doing a test drive, I figured no one would be out at this time of the night in storm like this- it’s a good thing my self-driving car worked or I could’ve hit you!”

The puppy stared at the man, puzzled. The man went on, as if talking to a human.

“You see, this car here is my newest invention, it’s self driving, able to come to an abrupt halt in less than a one thousandth of a second if it detects an obstacle. I guess you were that obstacle, little buddy. It’s a good thing I wasn’t driving; I never could’ve seen you with how little you are and how muddy you are! Say… you’re much too cute to be out here all alone.” The man looked around for signs of another person, but saw nothing other than the rain. “You know what,” he said to himself, then looked back at the puppy and pat his head, “I think I’m gonna take you home with me, Nathan and Samantha never stop bugging me about getting them a dog.”

The man scooped up the puppy, wrapped him in his jacket, and sat him in the front seat of his sleek car. The puppy looked at the man as he himself stepped into the car and sat down: his shoes still looked white and new. The man smiled at the puppy, “Are you ready to go home?” He wagged his tail and cocked his head in excitement and curiosity. “Take me home,” said the man to no one in particular, and the car’s engine roared to life and began cruising down the road with no further instructions.

“You know what,” said the man, looking down at the puppy who was curled up in the fabric of his jacket, “I think you need a name. What do you think of Charlie?”

 


 

 That night changed Charlie’s life forever. He was taken to a very nice, spacious home, given a bath, and laid down onto a soft blanket in front of a crackling fireplace. The next morning, he was greeted by two ecstatic children, 11 year old Samantha and 14 year old Nathan, who embraced the little ball of fur and pet him until their arms got tired. A mother stood back, her arms crossed and her foot tapping in contempt for her husband who had brought home this stray without her permission, but the children begged her to come pet the puppy, and when she finally gave in and Charlie nestled himself into her lap, she immediately fell in love.

Later that morning, the man who had rescued Charlie the night before, whose name he discovered was Patrick, walked into the kitchen carrying a collar. He fastened it around Charlie’s neck, proudly stating, “I’ve been waiting forever for this kind of opportunity to test out this invention of mine that’s been sitting in my workshop for months.” He rubbed his hands together in anticipation, “Go ahead Charlie, speak!”

Charlie opened his mouth to make a sound, but the bark that he was expecting did not surface. Instead, a confident “Hello!”

Patrick clapped his hands together in victory. “IT WORKS!”

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