I groan as I turn over. My head is pounding. I open my eyes and the world comes slowly into focus.
Where am I? This doesn’t look familiar. I’m still in a cell, but it’s a different one. It’s outside, in the open air, which is crisp with just a hint of late spring frost. It looks like I’m in a large farm, because I can hear cows mooing as they wait to be milked and the clip-clop of horse hooves, but there is a fence and a row of trees blocking my view so I can’t see anything except the roof of a barn.
My cell is one of a row of cells. Is this a kennel? I can’t see into any of the cells around me, but I can hear barks and yips. The weird thing is that they somehow don’t sound like dogs, but what else can they be?
There’s a loudspeaker near my cell, and there’s a voice coming through it, but I can’t understand the voice.
The woman arrives. What was her name--Dr. Lucia, Lucinda Something. I can’t remember and it hurts when I try to concentrate. She’s the person who is running the experiment I signed up for to get some time off my sentence. They didn’t say how much time, but they hinted that it could be a lot. I didn’t realize she was going to move me from my prison to a farm. I call out to her and demand an explanation, but she ignores me.
She’s pushing a cart. There’s one tray on it and a number of dog dishes. When she stops at each cell, there’s a sudden flurry of happy barking and panting. She takes two dog dishes out of the cell and put two fresh ones in, then scratches the dog inside and speakers to it in low murmurs. I keep yelling.
Finally she gets to me. I leap against the bars and try to grab her but she pushes a button on a little device dangling from a lanyard around her neck and I’m suddenly shocked hard by the bars and fall back. This happens a couple of times. I say that I changed my mind, that I want out, that I want to see my lawyer, but she just looks at me cooly with dark, impassive eyes and doesn’t speak.
When I finally settle down she slips the tray into my cell. There’s a bowl of oatmeal, a couple of apples, and a mug of milk. She walks away.
The apples are fine, but the oatmeal tastes funny. I can’t figure out exactly how. The milk is warm and sweet. It’s probably fresh from the cows. I’m very hungry and gobble it all down. And then I wait. There’s nothing else to do. I try talking to the dogs but they bark angrily at me. I shout and I scream but nobody hears me. I want my lawyer. Why did he tell me this would be a good idea?
Finally, there’s nothing to do but pace back and forth, try to sleep on my cot, and use the metal toilet in the corner of my cell. Sometimes I try to listen to the voice on the loudspeaker, but I can never make anything out. My head still hurts.
The woman comes back later to feed the dogs again and clean their cages. She keeps shocking me until I stay away from the bars. She slips the old tray out and a new one in. This time there is some roast chicken, fresh vegetables, and more milk.
Every day is the same. At least it’s getting warmer in the morning. Meal times are the only relief to the boredom. The smells are starting to get to me. I’m sick of the food. I complain to the woman but she still ignores me. It’s only when I tell her that the chicken is overcooked that she responds. She smiles a little bit, but she still says nothing.
I feel sick. My skin is all itchy. I’m scratching everywhere and finally rip my clothes off and throw them away. That feels much better. It’s warm and I don’t mind. Besides, there’s nobody here to gawk at me except that weird woman.
At least the food is improving. The woman is giving me some meat with my breakfast, and that’s much better than oatmeal. And she isn’t cooking it so much, either. But the smells are worse. They’re just getting stronger and stronger every day. I can’t take much more of this.
The voice from the loudspeaker never stops. It’s so quiet I can’t understand it, even when I strain to listen. I always have a bad headache. It’s hard to think.
I’m wearing a collar! Why did she do that, the crazy bitch? And when did she do it? I try to pull the collar off, but it’s metal and a snug fit. There’s a padlock holding it in place. I get nowhere.
The bars are gone, too. In their place is chain link fencing. But I can be shocked with the collar. I found that out when the woman came to give me my breakfast. I should be more cooperative. She smiles when I am, and I like that.
I feel so awful. At least I’m not minding the smells as much.
I feel worse than ever. I wobble unsteadily when I stand. I can only crawl on my hands and knees. The woman is very nice to me and strokes my head when she sees that. She speaks to me for the first time. I am so happy to hear her voice that I wiggle my butt. She smiles. I like to see her smile.
Her voice is soft and low, like the voice on the loudspeaker. The loudspeaker helps me sleep at night and keeps me calm. I relax when I hear the woman speak.
She sees that I can’t even climb onto my cot or use the toilet. I whimper. She says, “Poor girl. We’ll have to do something about that.”
My cage is different again. The cot is gone, but there is a little wooden house with warm blankets in its place. I am so happy. I crawl inside and curl up on the blankets. They’re soft. The metal thing for peeing is gone, too. There are newspapers spread out. I can pee and pooh on them. That’s much easier.
The woman talks to me each time she comes. She feeds me and cleans up my messes. I like hearing her voice. She laughs when I wiggle my butt. She smells so nice.
I have a tail now. It’s big and fluffy. It’s a little uncomfortable, because it sticks in my butt and makes me feel like I need to pooh all the time. The woman takes it out each day so I can pooh then puts it right back in. I show the woman how I can wag it and she smiles.
I’m so excited I want to tell everybody, but there’s only the dogs who can hear me. I bark at them to tell them about my tail. They bark at me. They like me now.
I talk to the dogs a lot. I like it when they bark back at me. I can smell them all. There are twelve dogs. No, that’s silly. There are eleven dogs and me. I want to meet them. I want to know which smell goes with which dog.
The woman smells too. She has a very interesting smell between her legs. I like to smell her there. She likes it when I press my nose hard against her and rub it. The smell gets stronger when I do that. I like making the smell stronger.
The woman brings me my breakfast. I eat the meat, but when I lap up my milk, I tip the mug over and make a mess. The woman tells me I am bad and I whimper. I don’t want to be bad.
I am sad all day, but when the woman brings me my dinner, it is in dog dishes and not a people bowl or a people cup. I like that. Now I won’t make a mess when I drink my milk and be bad! I bark and wag my tail to show the woman how happy I am. The woman is so smart.
The woman sees that my hands and knees are getting all scratched up. She looks sad. She gets in the kennel with me. She has a bag. I want to smell the bag but she tells me no. She opens it and brings funny things out. She puts them on my hands and locks them. They are paws! She puts paws on my feet, too, and pads on my knees. Now it is easy to walk around. I am so happy that I bark and bark. The other dogs bark when they hear me.
I lick the woman’s face. She smiles. I like to make her smile. I try to be very good. I eat all my kibble and never eat my pooh. She pets me and gives me toys to chew.
The woman opens the door to my kennel and doesn’t close it again. She squats so she can be close to me. I hurry out of my dog house and lick her face. She laughs and says I am a beautiful puppy-girl. That makes me happy.
She puts a leash on my collar and leads me out of my kennel. I try to run and smell everything, but she pulls on the leash and tells me to heel. I do what she says. I like to do what she says.
She shows me to the other puppy-girls, but I know them all already. They are all beautiful like me. They all have interesting smells between their hind legs. I want to smell them. She says I can play with them soon. She tells me she likes her puppy-girls to lick each other between their legs. She says that if I’m a very good girl, she’ll take off her clothes and let me lick her between her people-legs, too.
She takes me to the stables. The pony-girls are nervous when they see me. I bark at them, but she calls me a bad girl and I stop. I whimper. She harnesses two pony-girls to a cart, then says, “Come here, girl.” I run over and leap up onto the back of cart.
The pony-girls take us to the barn. The cow-girls are in their stalls waiting to be milked. She milks one and lets me drink some of it. I love milk. There is a cat-girl there, too. I bark at her and she hisses and me. I want to chase the cat-girl.
The woman takes me back to my kennel. She says something that I don’t understand. She says, “Now that you’re a real and forever puppy-girl, you don’t have to go back to the people prison. You’re free.”
That is a silly thing to say. I’m not free. I belong to her.