It’s 2045, and dogs have been given animal rights. Dog shelters were replaced by dog homes. You could no longer walk into a place and order a bunch of dogs. You had to apply for adoption. And with every adoption, comes a ton of paperwork; a couple of home inspections; and a hefty adoption plan payment.
Dogs had lawyers. Yes, lawyers. Treat your dog wrong, and a lawyer was sure to come filing charges. When that happened, your dog would be returned to dog’s home. And just like that, you could lose your best friend.
I didn’t really care about all that. I treated my dog like I would a child. Marie was a sweet little silver-haired poodle. My mom, a vet, had found her limping in a neighborhood not too far from home. After treating Marie personally, my mom fought for custody and won.
But Marie didn’t hang around mom much these days. Mom worked late hours so I was responsible for Marie. I bathed her, fed her, and took her out for walks, which she enjoyed very much.
The vegans said animal rights would change the world for the better. It truly did but no one saw it turning out this way. Dogs were suddenly very rare, as most of them were locked in dog homes owned and regulated by the government. As with every government, there was some level of corruption in the system. To successfully acquire a dog, you would have to pay money worth a mortgage down payment.
Citizens figured it wasn’t worth it, especially when money-hungry lawyers sent dogs back to dog homes for the slightest mistreatment.
My evening walks with Marie brought a lot of attention because, in 2045, you don’t get to see a dog outside that regularly. Dog guardians had a morbid fear of seeing their dogs taken away from them, so they kept their best friends indoors. Even my mother warned me countless times not to take Marie out.
But I couldn’t stop. Every time Marie and I took a walk, people showered us with adoration, food, and money. As a nineteen-year-old, waiting on college, walking Marie was my only source of income. My father passed away a long time ago, so mom worked overtime to pay the bills. I, on the other hand, contributed to grocery shopping. So, mom never really complained too long about me walking Marie.
Today, Marie and I visited the park, as we always did. I sat on a bench and tossed Frisbees for Marie to catch. I was doing this when an adult man sat next to me. He looked eerily familiar beneath his furry coat, a wide-brimmed hat, and black shades. His shoes had gold buckles that glistened marvelously with the little trinkets adorning his frail fingers.
This was a very wealthy man, the type to stay hidden in a huge mansion in the hills. As I fantasized about his earthly possessions, the man craned his neck to have a better look at me.
“Is that your dog?” his voice was a rusty thing that was never used often.
“Beautiful,” he said.
“Thank you.” Marie was returning to me, with the Frisbee in her mouth. I retrieved it and threw it again, and she bolted like the wind.
“I like experiments,” said the man, all of a sudden. “Do you like experiments?”
I applied for Astrophysics in college, so I nodded.
“Great,” said the man, reaching into his coat pocket and pulling out a jotter-like book. On closer inspection, I realized it was a checkbook. He began to scribble in it.
Uneasy, I began to refuse.
“Relax,” he said, folding the cheque. “It’s just an experiment.”
“And what’s the experiment?” I asked, a little bit curious about the figure written on that cheque.
“Well, my wife—the new one—doesn’t believe in animal rights. She says dogs are just pets, and can’t think straight for themselves. I am of the inclination that they can… think. To carry out this research, I am willing to offer fifty thousand dollars for your dog’s participation in my study.”
I had never been in possession of more than two hundred bucks. Hearing fifty thousand mentioned so lightly made me dizzy. I refused at once, standing to leave.
“But you haven’t heard about the experiment yet.”
I sat down quietly watching Marie return with the Frisbee once again. Instead of tossing it this time, I kept it; and placed Marie on the bench to my left, shielding her from this dangerously rich man.
“I want to take your dog home; beautiful thing; show her how I live. Offer her some steak, maybe—look how skinny she is…”
I raised an eyebrow in disapproval.
“Pardon me. I love dogs and have quite a number of them. But— listen— here’s the experiment. If you let me have your dog, I’ll take good care of her. However, every night, I will leave open my back door to facilitate an escape. If your dog returns, then we’ll know…”
This sounded crazy. “Know what?”
The rich man shrugged, “Then we’ll know if dogs really deserve animal rights.” He rose at that moment, tucking the folded cheque into my breast pocket. “My address is in there; if your dog doesn’t return, you can find me and turn the check-in for her.”
“Why should I trust you?”
The rich man began to walk away. “You don’t have to trust me. You have to trust your dog. If she returns, you can keep the cheque. If you agree, just tie her to the bench post.”
I watched the frail man saunter toward the center of the park. He stared comically into the pool where some ducks were gathered and started tossing bits of cake. I read the check, and true enough, there was an address and fifty thousand dollars scribbled in bold handwriting. Marie stared at me the whole time, panting impatiently. I stared back, losing myself in her black beady eyes.
Did she really love being with me, or was she, as vegan opposers say, ‘just a dog?’ I tied her to the bench post as I rummaged through these thoughts.
I guess I had nothing to lose. Either way this turned out, I could redeem Marie. I kissed her one last time and left the park. I couldn’t bear to look back at her. But I promised myself that if she called after me, I would return.
Marie didn’t utter a sound, not even a whimper.
Is this already a failed experiment?
I took the first bus headed to the bank. In a matter of minutes, the teller confirmed the authenticity of the cheque. Then I walked home, as the sky darkened, hoping to slip into bed when mom was already asleep. At that time, I hoped Marie would have returned home, waiting for me with belated eyes.
Instead, I met mom tidying up dinner. You’re late, she said, and then inquired of Marie. In the yard, I lied. Mom had no reason to not believe me, so she bade me goodnight and went to bed.
I stayed awake, peering through the windows for signs of Marie walking into the lawn. I saw nothing. I felt myself tremble. Had Marie abandoned me? I had visions of Marie dressed in an apron, eating steak and caviar from a gilded dog bowl. I imagined her gliding around a marble-floored mansion, playing gleefully with the other dogs. Would she ever want to leave such a life behind?
Would she ever return?
I wasn’t waiting to find out. I grabbed the check and slipped out of the house. It was just shy of eleven, and the streets were emptying out. I raised my hoody because of the cold, and walked, fast, toward the park. The rich man’s house was miles away, and there was no getting there without a vehicle.
So I cooled my initial aggression and sat on the bench in the park, waiting for Marie. After waiting for about an hour, I gave up and walked home. Marie wasn’t coming today, and I wasn’t sure she would ever come back. I had sold my best friend, and I felt nothing but shame. Was there even any point going back to get her if she didn’t want to leave?
I thought deeply about these things as I hurried home. All I wanted to do now was sleep it off. I was pushing open the apartment door when I heard a woof in the distance behind me. It was a familiar sound and I stood quietly for a while to ascertain what I just heard.
I heard another woof, this time closer. But it was still too dark to figure out what it was. And just then, out of the darkness came a jogging silver-haired creature.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. She jumped into my arms and I fell to the ground laughing and crying. Marie came back after all. She licked my face and I laughed even more. Our squeals woke mother up, because she stared out her window on the upper floor, angry and with a cucumber mask on.
“Jerry, what are you doing out there?!”
I looked up at her, tears in my eyes and Marie in my arms.
“Mom,” I said, waving the fifty thousand dollar check, “Marie just made us rich!”