A Soldier with Paws by Amy Hunter
Hairy-cane Ophelia hit land three days ago, killing thousands and leaving more homeless. I’ve seen unimaginable things—especially in my sixteen months as a detection officer—but this storm takes the Beggin’ Strip when it comes to crazy.
Yesterday, the wind snatched me like a plastic grocery bag and blew me into next week. When my paws touched the ground again, I was several tail-lengths away.
“Keep looking for her, Ollie,” Gabe says to me from the boat.
Haley separated from our unit while rescuing a victim’s cat. Stupid cats. After she fell through the roof, the house collapsed. The tide carried the building toward The Gulf of Mexico, and I haven’t caught her scent since then.
I paddle as hard as I can. I am a seventy-five-pound beast; a shark cutting through black water.
B-I-N-G-O! When I surface for air, an odor stings my nose, so I dive deeper… only to resurface with empty paws.
Each corpse I find causes both relief and loss for Gabe. He used to scratch behind my ears and tell me I was a good boy when I’d bring him a body part, but today he’s quiet.
I don’t know what would be better—if we found Gabe’s mate or if she remained lost forever. She deserves peace, but he shouldn’t see her like the others: swollen pockets of oozing flesh ready to burst from the heat. I don’t want him to touch her cold skin and not feel anyone touching him back.
“Come here, boy,” Gabe calls, waving his hand toward me.
He helps me into the boat, and I do the happy dance, shaking my coat until everything around me is wet. My human reaches for a towel and kneels beside me. He is beaten in that moment, so I lean into him for comfort.
Don’t cry, man. We’ll find your mate.
“Thank you for searching, Ollie,” he says, drying my fur. “But she’s not—”
When I breathe the honey and almonds scent, I bark like I just heard the mailman. Gabe’s person is running toward us from the east! She approaches the flood waters and dives in, bless her furless hide. My tail is wagging so hard, the boat rocks.
Splashing behind her is the most beautiful Labrador Retriever I’ve ever seen. I bark louder and plaster on my how-you-doin’ smile.
Gabe reaches for an oar, and a moment later, he’s wrapped around Haley like a snake while the Lab and I sniff one another.
“I was trapped, and Ophelia helped me. In return for saving my life, I promised her a place to live,” she says.
Ophelia. Like the hairy-cane. What a lady she must be. And that fur!
After this weekend, trivial things like fancy toys will never be on my radar again. I just want to go home with my family and get to know my friend.
Ollie and Ophelia. Don’t we sound great together?
In this flash fiction story, Ollie is a happy-go-lucky Golden Retriever who works with soldiers during a hurricane.