The Dog That Dug Up Its Own Past

This was originally written for Kisuru. Thanks to my friend Diana for editing it. Separation graphics by Leichnam.

Tempest (Tempest to her friends, she didn’t get a name like that just to reduce it to a nickname, THANK YOU) first heard about the dog from her neighbours complaining.

“My whole back garden,” said Mr. Bradford. “Holes everywhere. My petunias gone like they never even mattered to the universe.”

Mrs. Kijek nodded, leaning on her shovel. “I’m still filling in the holes from yesterday. It almost got to the pipes!”

Tempest eavesdropped, because Tempest liked eavesdropping. It was the best way to learn things from adults because when they talked about you they were either boring or wanted to know what you did at school and what you were planning to do after that. Again.

“The whole neighbourhood. And then there’s the howling,” complained the other Mrs. Kijek. “I just want to sleep, and instead I have to listen to a dog howl its head off while it has its way with my lawn.”

Tempest liked dogs. Her parents didn’t like dogs so all Tempest had to comfort her in her youth was a goldfish that wasn’t living up to the amount of love Tempest had to bestow on an animal. It just wanted to be left alone and not petted.

A stray dog… she could befriend that, couldn’t she? And it wouldn’t have to live with her because the streets was its home and the stars its roof. Maybe ‘but it’s lonely and sad!’ after it loved her would work towards getting it in the house.

She decided she was going to catch the dog and feed it ham sandwiches until it loved her. It was a good distraction from the summer reading she was avoiding.

After stocking up on ham sandwiches for the dog and a bottle of water for herself, Tempest surveyed the neighbourhood for dog damage. She deduced that her house and several others at her end of the block hadn’t been hit yet. So that meant plan A: wait for the dog to come and dig up her yard, was go.

Summer vacation meant that her parents didn’t care much about what she got up to as long as she made a token effort to tell them where she was going. They were still somewhat protective of her. So ‘camping in the backyard!’ was met with shrugs and acceptance.

She laid out her ham sandwiches, already getting a bit ripe, and waited.

Then she chased off the local opossum when it came for a snack. “Not for you!”

“HISSSS,” it countered.

She threw it one. It made a good argument.

It left, satisfied.

She was falling asleep, her phone helpfully telling her it was three am, when she saw the movement in the corner of the yard. Dirt was flying up this way and that.

She crouched to the ground and army crawled her way over to her new best friend.

It was a pitbull. It didn’t look like a very happy one. It had a shiny wet mark on the neck that Tempest was worried was blood. But that didn’t seem to be slowing it down as it dug and dug.

“Hi!” said Tempest.

The dog looked at her, let out a howl that chilled her bones, and was gone.

Tempest’s parents decided that they’d rather she didn’t camp out in their yard if there were feral dogs in the neighbourhood. She lay in bed, her comforting posters of puppies on the wall around her, staring at the ceiling wondering about the dog. It needed to see a vet, she was sure. That neck had looked… bad.

But why was it digging? What was it looking for? Did it just like to dig? Why did dogs dig? She realized she didn’t know the answers to these questions. Her goldfish blooped in its tank.

“I know about you,” she told it. It darted behind its castle.

“Where are you off to? Did you get that chapter book done?” asked Tempest’s mother in the morning. She followed up her questions by tossing Tempest a protein bar for breakfast.

“Not yet, and I’m going to the library. I want to check out their pet section.”

“No pets, not until you have your own apartment,” said her mother firmly.

“What? Isn’t Bloopy a pet?”

“Bloopy is special,” said her mother. “What are you looking for?”

“Research about dogs – I just want to find out why they do stuff,” said Tempest.

Her mother frowned. “Please just let the dog catcher deal with that feral dog. I don’t want you getting hurt because you think you’re Doctor Dolittle.”

“Hey, it’s fine! It’s fine. I’m just curious. Love you, mom. I tried looking it up on the internet but it was just people arguing with each other.” She waved to her mom, devoured the protein bar, and fled out the door to her bike.

Results turned out to be inconclusive.

She did discover corpse sniffer dogs, and for fun decided to research her neighbourhood for possible serial killers in the area. You know, just in case.

Tempest scrolled through the results, wishing snacks were allowed in the library, and found out about all sorts of interesting things in her neighbourhood– like how Mr. Bradford’s house had once been a meth lab.

Then she got to the ’40s and found something interesting indeed.

It turned out that the entire neighbourhood had burnt down once in a massive fire, and been rebuilt. It had been a city planning project to try out a new look. She compared before and after photos, trying to decide if the added cul-de-sacs really added to the general aesthetic or just trapped cars.

A few more stories further back: a mobster hideout, a heroic dog protecting a child from a rabid one to its death, but not a single serial killer.

But the mobster part was a good place to start, Tempest decided. Maybe they’d ‘iced’ a few people and the bodies were in the backyards to this day.

She rode home, to food, Bloopy, and shovel to check for corpses herself.

Dodging her parents to dig for corpses was not the easiest task, but Tempest hadn’t gotten to where she was in life by being faint-hearted. She did the classic maneuver of finding Armageddon playing on tv and sneaking out the backdoor when her parents got caught in its sway.

She checked the map she’d drawn from the records in the library and headed to where the mobster hideout had been. It was now Old Ms. Lucy’s house. Old Ms. Lucy was nice enough. When Tempest had been very little she’d asked Ms. Lucy if she could pick some of the long-stemmed daisies that grew in Ms. Lucy’s garden and ever since then Ms. Lucy had told everyone what a sweet, polite little girl Tempest was.

Which meant that Tempest could not bring herself to dig randomly through Ms. Lucy’s yard.

So she came up with an excuse.

She rang the doorbell and waited while Ms. Lucy shuffled to the door.

“Hello, dear?” she said, adjusting her glasses. “Oh! Tempest! Come for more daisies?”

“Actually…” said Tempest, taking control of the opportunity of Ms. Lucy’s bad eyeglasses, “I saw some moles in your yard and was wondering if you’d like me to remove them.”

“Oh! Oh those naughty things. Well…” Ms. Lucy hesitated. Tempest rocked on her feet, trying not to be nervous.

“Well…” said Ms. Lucy, then finally nodded. “Don’t make too much of a mess. Horrible things. But don’t dig too deeply, Tempest, dear, there’s things back there I don’t want unburied.”

“What do you mean, Ms. Lucy?” asked Tempest, alert.

“Oh, something very bad happened when I was young and… well, it’s buried away back there. Just don’t dig too deep,” said Ms. Lucy and she shuffled back inside.

“Oh my god,” whispered Tempest, “Ms. Lucy is a mobster.”

Turf was not as easy to dig into as Tempest thought it was. She kept having to be inventive, like stabbing the shovel as deeply as she could into the grass (not far) and then leaping on it. And then falling. It looked like Ms. Lucy didn’t have much to worry about Tempest finding the bodies of her victims.

‘Was Ms. Lucy old enough to be one of the mobsters?’ wondered Tempest as she dug her little holes. Or was she here after the fire? It was so hard to guess how old adults were. Ms. Lucy was definitely older than Tempest’s grandmas, though. She was sure of that.

When the sun began to set, Tempest pulled out the camping lamp she’d bought along (preparation is key in detective work!) and set it up to help her. When she flicked it on, it illuminated a wet-necked pitbull directly in front of her.

Tempest stared with wide eyes. How had she not noticed it coming towards her? How come its neck wound still looked fresh after a day?

It nosed at the hole she had just begun.

“Oh! Here?” she said and began digging. “I didn’t bring any ham sandwiches for you today. I’m sorry. But I can do it tomorrow and we can be friends forever, okay? And I’ll take you to the vet. I’ve got a lot in my bank to pay for it.”

The dog just kept nosing around the hole.

Tempest dug and dug until her shovel hit something hard.

This was it. This was a mobster corpse. She’d probably just solved like, a famous murder and would be in the papers and all the kids at school would be so impressed when September came.

She started excavating. She pulled out the skull and found… it was not a human skull, but something utterly terrifying. She’d never seen anything like it before. She dropped it quickly with a little squeak.

Aliens? Ms. Lucy had ALIENS in her backyard?

But the dog was still at the hole, digging faster now.

“Leave the alien alone!” whispered Tempest.

The dog stopped and stepped back. Tempest glanced in the hole in case there was a ray gun. Instead there were just more bones and… a faded blue tattered dog collar.

She reached in to pick it up. It had dark stains on it that weren’t dirt. There was a metal tag that after some rubbing and careful holding up she could almost make out the word–

“Chance!” shouted Ms. Lucy, rushing out of her house.

Yes, that was it–oh crap, thought Tempest, she dug too deep.

She’d dug up Ms. Lucy’s dead dog.

She was in so much trouble.

The dog by Tempest started barking excitedly and ran up to Ms. Lucy, who gasped and got down on her knees to hug. Tempest realized after a second Ms. Lucy was crying. And that the dog was glowing.

“Oh Chance…” said Ms. Lucy.

Tempest shuffled forward with the collar. “Um. Is this his?”

Ms. Lucy took it and placed it against the bloody wound on the dog’s neck. The dirty collar stayed in Ms. Lucy’s hand, but a new fresh and clean one appeared around the dog’s neck and the wound disappeared.

“Are you a witch, Ms. Lucy?” said Tempest, her eyes huge.

“No. No, I just… he didn’t look right without it, dear,” said Ms. Lucy. “So it was you digging up all those holes, Chance! You never change!”

Chance barked happily.

“Chance… was a very good boy. When I was a child,” explained Ms. Lucy, “a rabid dog came after me and Chance kept me safe. But we had to bury Chance after that and his collar got ripped off in the fight. But I made sure to bury it with him. I’ve been at this house for so long…”

“So you’re not a mobster,” said Tempest.

“What?” said Ms. Lucy.

“Nothing,” said Tempest.

Ms. Lucy hobbled over to the hole Tempest had dug and sighed. “Please put everything back in the hole, Tempest, I told you not to dig so deep.” She handed Chance’s old collar to Tempest.

“‘m sorry,” muttered Tempest as she carefully put Chance’s skull and old collar into the grave and began to cover it.

“Do you want some hot chocolate?” said Ms. Lucy when Tempest was done. Chance was still sitting there, glowing and happy, neck healed and collar bright.

“Yes please,” said Tempest. “Please tell my parents I was here helping you.”

“I will. Especially since I think that’s the truth,” said Ms. Lucy. She went to the door and let in Tempest, then Chance.

Tempest ran to the kitchen table to wait for her hot chocolate and heard Ms. Lucy say, in a soft voice, “I do hope you’ll stay, Chance. I’ve missed you so much.”

A happy bark in response was much easier for Tempest to hear.

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