Third Place: Running Wild
The man got closer and closer as I ran as fast as my legs would take me. My heart felt like it was going to jump out of my chest. I ran through the snow making a trail behind me as I headed into the woods. I looked over my shoulder one last time as I disappeared into the ocean of trees.
My paws felt like knives each time I took a step. A fresh rain was starting to fall around me, getting caught on branches of the evergreens that towered above me. On one tree, a squirrel skittled down the trunk and right past my paw. I attacked it, killed it and ate it. The instinct to survive is strong in me as I have been in these types of life or death situations all my life. You see, I have been a stray dog on the run ever since I was born. Lately, evil men have been coming after me and once again my instinct has told me to avoid them and run. And here’s where it got me – a Beagle dog in the middle of the biggest forest in New Jersey. It also didn’t help that a man was determined to try and catch me.
Complete silence. It was a rare moment when everything is silent. I trotted along, getting more and more tired by each step. I was about to just give in and sleep out in the open when I heard my first sound of hope. The gurgle of a stream! I galloped over to a clearing and shoved my head into a clear, blue stream.
Meanwhile, Neil Pickerton hobbled into his boss’ office. “Pickerton!” The boss yelled. Neil lifted his head in shame. “This is what I get for hiring someone new. Everyone else in this department is catching dogs left and right! YOU, can’t even catch one on your first try!!!” He slammed his fist on the desk. Neil flinched. “So, give me one reason why I should still let you keep your job. How about, if you catch that scruffy little dog you can stay.” The boss looked right into his eyes and raised an eyebrow. “Y-Yes sir.” Stammered Neil and walked out of the office. He was determined to catch that dog.
I shoved my head into the cool stream. The cold water washed down my throat. A few minutes after chugging the stream water, I reluctantly headed back into the ocean of trees. I needed to find shelter and fast, but I did not want to take any chances. I approached yet another clearing within the forest, my hopes rising. This time, however, a huge wooden structure loomed before me. I have seen these things before, humans call them “houses”. Three simple windows decorated the house. In the left corner window of the house, I saw a grown woman’s head peek out. The next thing I know the front door is open and that same women is approaching me. She had long brown hair with hazel eyes to match. She wore a simple black top and a long flowy brown skirt. At the sight of this lovely women, I just had to wag my tail. The women picked me up with her long, tan arms and carried me right through that wooden front door.
As she whisked me into and through the house she cooed to me, “My name is Mary-Ann and this is your new home!” The house overwhelmed me with a feeling of warmth and coziness. Mary-Ann set me on the couch beside a warm fire. Mary-Ann ran around the room setting out food and a bed for me. Just as she had finished, the door opened.
“Hello George! Before you say anything, I want to tell you that I found a stray dog today and I would wish to keep him. I already have everything prepared for him, you wouldn’t have to do anything. This is Jacks.” Said Mary-Ann in one huge breath. I saw George had brown hair and brown eyes. He wore work cloths and a tired expression. “Ok, we can keep him. But, you have to take care of him.” Mary-Ann nodded eagerly. George smiled weakly.
Someone knocked on the door once again. After George opened the door to reveal the visitor, I could recognize him. It was the man trying capture me. “My name is Neil Pickerton and I am looking for a dog.” Panic tingled down my spine, I had to escape. I ran for the door. Thankfully, it was still cracked. I decided that I would leave the cabin, their lives and my life would be better that way. My hear sunk to my belly as I took one last look at my chance of a family. This is for the best. Once again, I walked back into the woods.
The trees seemed to become never-ending. One step after another. I was so tired. As the sun disappeared behind the trees, my paws started to drag and my vision blurred. The murmur of car engines got closer. I collapsed onto concrete. A bright light flashed and my sight went black. Lights out for me.
I awoke to someone stroking my ears. Mary-Ann looked down and smiled at me. From the kitchen, George brightened. My tail started to wag and I licked both of them because I wanted to use every moment I had with them This is totally where I belong. I was safe, I had a family and this was my true home. No more lone wolf. No more running wild.
Hi! My name is Heather Adamsky and when I am not writing or reading, you will find me at the barn with my favorite horses. I also enjoy playing the clarinet and singing in musicals. I have pets, too—a dog named Cooper and a cat named Tanner. The rest of my family and I can commonly be found taking the dog on a walk—I think we have covered most of Raleigh, North Carolina! At my middle school, my favorite subject is language arts, where I can bury my face in a book.
Second Place: Running from the Wrong Thing
They say dog is man’s best friend. I disagree. We are too easily forgotten and replaced. But now, I just wish I had a home to go back to, even if I were forgotten there.
I never realized how spectacular my life was until I gave it up. I had a view of the entire city and an owner who took proper care of me and loved me- for a while at least. I even had a small purple squirrel that I left behind. It was my favorite toy. The first one Annette gave me. Now, I would give anything just to have those things back. But I can’t, not now, not ever. I made a choice that I will always regret.
I wander along the sidewalk until I spot the gates around Central Park. It’s big and grand, but still familiar to me.
I find refuge behind a small bush. Soon, I fall into a deep sleep.
I’m suddenly awoken by a sharp pain in my leg. I screech and jump up. A dirty, drooling stray stands before me, growling. I feel thick blood gushing from my leg.
“Stupid pet,” the mutt growls. “You think this is your home now? You’re in my park.”
The stray bares his yellow teeth and sinks them into my neck.
The stray steps back and laughs at me cruelly, looking proudly at my injuries. “You’ve had enough, pet,” he barks. “You’re lucky I’m feeling nice today.”
He runs away and leaves me bleeding helplessly on the ground. I can barely handle the sting of open wounds all over my body.
I sit there for hours on end, waiting for someone to rescue me from the scorching sun. People seem to scurry by, ignoring my presence and pretending I’m invisible. Their eyes flutter, looking for a distraction.
Finally, a young girl and her mother spot me, and wrap me up in a scarf. Then they rapidly carry me to their car and head to the veterinary clinic.
We pull into the parking lot and race into the clinic. As they rush me through, I meet the eyes of the animal patrol officer that’s been chasing me. But he doesn’t jump up, and then rip me out of the little girl’s arms. He just watches.
Lucy, the little girl, places me gently on the cold, hard table in the vet’s office. Then she leaves me, and it’s just me and the vet. I tuck my tail between my legs. Annette never took me to the vet.
The vet, named Dr. Ironwill, throws a fake smile my way, then pulls out a needle. “Shh, puppy. Come here.”
She pierces my leg with a tiny needle and I suddenly fall into a deep sleep. Then, I immediately wake up, my whole body aching. Everyone is standing with Dr. Ironwill, talking about me.
“Puppy!” Lucy exclaims, glancing my way.
“Oh, you poor thing!” her mother cries. She sweeps me off the hospital bed and into her arms.
“Oughta be careful with her,” Dr. Ironwill reminds her. “She’s still healing.”
Lucy and her mother go to the waiting area to pay for my visit, happily chatting about me.
“Wait,” a voice behind us calls. It pierces the air and the room suddenly falls silent. “Let me pay.”
Lucy and her mother look at the animal patrol officer, the happiness in their faces gone. Lucy’s mother glances at his badge, then remarks. “But you’re a dog catcher.”
He looks down, as if remembering someone. “When I was a boy,” he says quietly, as if to himself. “I had a dog.” He looks up, pain spreading across his face. “The day he died I vowed to never get another dog.”
“I couldn’t pretend any longer,” he replies sadly. He looks up at Lucy and her mother and pleads, “She looks so much like my old dog… Miss, if I pay for her visit, I’ll take her. Save you the trouble.”
Lucy holds onto me tighter. Her mother looks from the animal patrol officer to me, as if he’s explained enough already. “We understand sir,” she mumbles. She glances at Lucy, still gripping me stubbornly.
As I get placed in his arms, I watch as my future slips away. It was so close. After he pays for my bills, the animal patrol officer takes me home and places me on a soft, warm blanket. It’s not the nice, fluffy bed I once had but still better than bushes.
I look around and I see a small picture frame. In the frame is a skinny little boy with his arm around a black Maltese. The picture’s colors look dreamy and the boy is smiling. I look up to him, as if to say that I’m sorry. Something in his eyes seems genuine. He loved his dog.
For a few weeks, the animal patrol officer and I are simply quiet together, I stay mostly in my bed, pondering how his old dog was, and he keeps to himself. We are simply in the same house, not in the same world. I’m a dog and he’s a dog catcher.
Then, one day he comes home with a small purple squirrel. Like the one I used to have. I fuss with it, as he pats my head. Then, it happens very suddenly and takes me by surprise. He wraps me in his arms, pulls me to his chest, and I feel the warmth of his teardrop on my back.
Sofia A. Perez: “I have two siblings. I practice Jiu-Jitsu, piano, and writing. I live in Miami and was born in Virginia.”
First Place: Adventure Is Out There!
“Whew! That was close! That guy came from nowhere! I’ve got to find me some grub!” I dart around the corner, making my getaway and hoping to find a mouth-watering meal. I know just the place! I speed over to 3rd and Pennsylvania. Then I see the most wonderful sign in the whole world! ‘FINN’S FAMOUS FRANKFURTERS’. It’s a mouthful, I know. Heck, I don’t even know what a frankfurter is, but boy those hot dogs are tasty! (Don’t worry, they’re not real dogs, I checked) I love it! Why? Because, ninety-nine percent, they are DEE-LISH, and one percent because there’s never a line! I give him my very saddest frowny face and he caves. “Mmm mmm…” Absolutely marvelous! Finn watches me eat with a warm, wimpy smile on his face. Finn wears polo shirts that are too small and has short blonde, stringy hair. He wears ankle socks with his sandals. You know the kind. He’s always petting me and saying stuff to himself about how his ape-art-meant landlord won’t let him keep me (even though no human really owns a dog.) Well, let’s just say he’s about as smart as a stick. Through his thick- rimmed glasses, he thinks a grown Doberman Pincer is cute! Thank goodness I was there to stop him from petting one. For some reason today, he seemed really generous. He gave me all of yesterday’s hot dogs! With 4 whole strings of hotdogs around my neck, I lick his hand and leap off.
Left. Right. Right. Left. I soon arrive at the alley I know so well. I tug away the cardboard box to reveal the entrance to my second home. I discovered this place about a year ago, and now it’s a home to many stray dogs on the run. I crawl through the tunnel I secretly dug, and which leads to this miraculous place. I call it “home” but I always hear humans walking on the sidewalk saying stuff like, “Oh, I wish that old theater would open again,” Or, “I wish someone would buy that theater soon or that beautiful building will rot out!” I make my way through the tunnel to the breathtaking lobby! Well, I mean it has the potential to be breathtaking. Near the entrance it has giant white pillars made of marble. There is an old, dusty chandelier with broken lights dangling by one measly wire. Posters of old theatre productions hang on the walls. Most of them are tattered and torn and heavily faded, but still have the magic of days gone by. Man, I love this place. It smells like musty, wet newspapers.
Once I enter, every dog perks up at the savory goodness I’m wearing around my neck. Suddenly I’m everyone’s best friend.” Maverick! Maverick! Maverick! “Every dog charges at me. CRASH!!! We all topple over in a giant dog pile. Soon all the hot dogs have been slurped up! Fortunately, though, I saved one for somedog special. I climb up the grand stairway to the balcony, where, in the one Muppet shows I’ve seen, the two old men sit. I still don’t understand that show. . . Anyway, I find the row of seats where one small Shepherd puppy sits.
“Maverick!” he exclaims and runs toward me.
“Tike!” I grin, “I broughtcha a present!” I then give him a juicy bratwurst I had hidden between my teeth during the dog pile dilemma.
Tike is the smallest runt I’ve probably ever seen, and he’s got a warm place in my heart. He most likely wouldn’t have survived a dog pile. As we talk, I look up at the only clock running on batteries, and its 3:13.
“Oh, no,” I sigh. I tell everyone I’ve got to go. “I can’t be late!” I repeat to myself. I have to make it to the sprinkler by 3:30!
“What’ve you been up to, boy?” Richard asks while rubbing my ears. Tuck, Richard’s little human offspring flashes me a smile. I wink (or at least try to.) Richard sets Tuck onto his play mat thingy to, you know, play. I follow Richard into the kitchen.
“Having any great adventures in the back yard?” he asks playfully. Boy, if he only knew! I barely got my fur dry in time! “Jessica should be here soon with Tanya. Maybe she’s going to bring home something good for supper!” Richard adds.
I run out the dog door into the backyard to see if I can hear them coming. VRRRR. . . My ears perk up. The car pulls in, and I see. . . PIZZA! Mmm, I love pizza night! It’s my favorite! Richard always sneaks me the crust. After a satisfying meal we settle in for a family movie before bed. Hmm, did I say pizza night was my favorite? Never mind. Bedtime is my favorite. I sleep with Tanya and she has a fuzzy, self-warming blanket where I can… continue more… adventures in… my… SLE – – . . . ZZZZ
Humans are so predictable. This makes my deception easy. Each morning Jessica takes the human offsprings to school and daycare at precisely 7:45am. Richard leaves right behind them. I have to keep track of the days, because there are 2 days each week where they stay home. They all arrive back home between 4:30 and 6:00. This gives me an 8 hour window of pure dog adventure opportunities. I also have to get into character. On my way to the theater, I have to give myself the rugged stray dog look. Every morning I run through the drains underground to get myself dirty enough that it looks like I haven’t had a bath in years! Then I just come home in time to get through the sprinklers to shower off that awful smell. I was lucky today, I about got nabbed by that animal control guy! Then when my humans come home, each night I feel like nothing ever changed. Go to sleep and wake up with a family, and the rest of the day is mine to conquer! Ahh… this is the life.
Hi! My name is Jocie Elaine Shelton. I live in Oklahoma and I am eleven years old and in the sixth grade. My favorite color is turquoise. My mom works at a bank and my dad works all across the U.S. for BNSF. My stepdad is a mail man. I have a little sister named Kaycie and an older brother, Draven. I have a new baby brother, Parker, who thinks I’m the greatest! We have a dog named Maverick, who was my inspiration for this story because he loves adventures and I’m always trying to imagine what he’s up to all day. I enjoy reading, writing, and acting in our community theater program. This is my second time to place in the Duke TIP Writing Contest and I’m very, very excited about it! Note: Two years ago, Jocie won second place in the fourth grade division of the Duke TIP Writing Contest.