The Collar and the Can by J.C. Hill

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SUMMARY: Entry for July 2009 Flash Fiction Contest - Theme: Freedom

"Come on, Sammy! Time for walkies!"

Several minutes passed and Bob frowned. Sammy should have come bounding down the hallway, excited to be going on their morning run.

"Sammy?" he called again. Finally, leash in hand, the man walked to the sun room in the back of the house, where his brindle terrier liked to sleep in the warm spring sunshine.

"There you are," Bob said, smiling as he saw Sammy lying under a low table in the corner of the room. "Get up, lazy dog! It's a beautiful morning. Are you going to sleep it away?"

Sammy let out what sounded suspiciously like a sigh and slowly crawled out from under the table. His head and tail drooped as he slumped across the room to his master.

"What is it, boy?" Bob asked, putting a concerned hand on Sammy's head and giving it a quick rub. "Something wrong?"

"Well, now that you mention it, there is something I'd like to talk to you about" the dog replied in perfect English.

Bob's face went white and he stared at his dog in shock. "Y-you can... can..."

"Talk? Of course. All dogs can. It's just not worth the trouble most of the time. Look, can we move past the whole ‘talking dog' thing? I've got a real problem here."

", well, sure, of course" his master replied, obviously still very unsettled.

"Maybe you should sit down, Bob. You look a little pale."

"Right, sit. My dog just told me to sit." Hysteria started to creep into Bob's voice, but he did pull up a patio chair and fell heavily into it. Sammy let him take several calming breaths before speaking again.

"Better?" the terrier asked.

"Yes, thank you. You, uh, mentioned a problem?"

"Quite a serious problem," Sammy admitted. "How long have I been with you, Bob? You know, as your pet?"

"Well, since you were a pup. Say three years, give or take."

"Right. And it hasn't been a bad three years, has it? You feed me, keep the fleas off, take me for walks, all that. But, lately I've been feeling like something is missing. Something like having a choice."

Bob thought about this for a long moment and then something seemed to click in his mind. "Wait, this wouldn't have anything to do with that pack of strays that's been hanging around the neighborhood the past couple of months, would it?"

Sammy somehow managed to look embarrassed. "Well... quite frankly, yes. They tease me! Call me a ‘Man-slave'. Taunt me with how great it is to run free and wild. There's this one in particular, an ugly cross-breed called ‘Bristle'. He's the worst. He... he peed on my back scratch tree, Bob!"

"Wow, that is bad."

"Yeah, he's a real beast. But, what he says about being free makes sense. All my life I've been in this house, eating what you give me, going where you say, when you say. What kind of a life is that?"

"A pretty good one, I'd say," Bob replied. "But, I don't want to keep you here against your will. Not if you feel that strongly about it. Tell you what, you take two weeks and go be free. Find out for yourself what it's like out there and then decide which is better.

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