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The new, new place, the people called Home. Home was much different than any place I’d ever been. The floors were squishy, and they felt nice on my paws, but I was afraid to move. I didn’t know what to do, so I stood there. The people said pleasing things to me, but eventually, their voices fell silent. They sat on a fluffy bench and watched me.

I laid down in front of the door, afraid to move any further. The female person disappeared. I heard the sound of metal clanging and smelled something pleasant.

The female person called in a high pitched voice, then said more pleasing things, but I felt afraid and the pleasing things meant nothing. She called again. After a few more calls, she came out, carrying a metal bowl filled with kibble. She put it in front of my nose, but I didn’t feel like eating. She looked at the male person and her words sounded afraid and sad, like the words of the people before K-9 disappeared. The male person put an arm around her and they both sat back down.

After a few more minutes, the people got up, put on their removable feet and left.

I whined, because I didn’t want to be alone in Home. But no one came. I paced in a small circle the size of my old cage and then laid back down.

Then, the door opened and the new people were there. The female person was carrying many, many things that smelled good and funny and new all wrapped in one scent. The male person was carrying a large box, and he smelled like salt. I didn’t get up, but my ears pricked, because I was interested in what these strange new people were doing.

The female person brought me a Toy that she brought out of one of the things she was carrying. The sound excited me, but I was still afraid to move. I watched her as she moved it back and forth in front of my face.

The sun went down, but Home stayed bright. The people watched me, occasionally saying pleasing things. They talked to one another and occasionally, one of the words they used they directed at me, but none of them interested me much.

The male person went Outside, and I could smell amazing things coming through the window. I smelled the Outside breeze combined with meat. I lifted my nose, and the female person smiled and said more pleasing things, so I stood up and walked to the window to investigate. I looked Outside and saw the male person using a big metal box and an extended removable arm to flip meat. It smelled wonderful, and I breathed it in.

The female person walked Outside, but left the door open so I could see her. After a little while, both of the people came inside. I followed them (and the smell) as far as the next room and then stopped. The floor in that room was shiny, like nothing I’d ever seen before, and I was afraid to go further, worried I might sink in. The male person put one of the pieces of meat in the bowl with the kibble and put it in front of me. I looked at it, then looked at him, then looked at it. He said the pleasing things, and I dug in.

This, I was to learn, was called Hamburger.

The new people put something they called a Collar on my neck, “Smokey.” They said this often and always directed it at me. I soon understood that this was My Word. The male person attached a rope to my Collar and led me out the front door. He walked onto another surface I didn’t know, something that was dark and smelled damp and fresh and didn’t look solid. My legs shook and I laid down. The male person sighed and said pleasing things, his voice getting a little angry. I peed on the stone, and the male person laughed and took me back inside.

The female person sat on the floor in front of the door with me and pet me gently and said pleasing things. I closed my eyes. After a little while, the male person spoke to the female person, and she shook her head up and down and stood up. I whined a little. She smiled at me and said, “Night Night”. She and the male person walked up a strange contraption and disappeared.

Alone again, I whined. I walked to the edge of the contraption and looked for the new people, but I couldn’t find them anywhere. I began to panic. I barked and whined and still the people didn’t come. I cried more, and the female person appeared at the top of the contraption, “Smokey,” she called in the pleasing voice, and I strained and whined, but could go no further.

The male person appeared and walked down the contraption. He sat by me and pet me and said pleasing things. Carefully, he lifted my paw and tried to put it on the contraption, but I yelped to tell him I was afraid. He disappeared.

The Home was dark and the people were gone. I stared up the contraption, feeling alone and scared. Eventually, I laid at the bottom of it, tired of whining.

I woke up after a short time. I was still alone. Determined to end my solitude, I lifted one paw, like the male person had done and placed it on the contraption. It felt squishy, just like the floor of Home. I tried another paw. Before I knew it, I was up the contraption and in a hallway full of closed doors. I sat down and sniffed the doorways. The one to the right was the one that smelled strongest of the new people. I sat down and whined.

Eventually, the door opened and the male person came out. He smiled and said pleasing things and opened the door wider so I could get in. I saw the female person, sitting up in another big squishy looking box. She smiled and said pleasing things. I walked around the room and found a corner close to a window where I could smell the breeze and the Outside and laid down. The new people got back in the squishy box, said some more pleasing things to me and the room got dark.

I woke when it was light. The new people woke when I cried, and the female person rose, walked down the contraption. I whined and she called “Smokey, Smokey” and said pleasing things. I put one foot down and fell down the contraption. Uninjured, but startled, I walked to the female person who leaned down and pet me and said pleasing things. When we got to the front door, the female person put the rope on my neck and led me Outside, like the man had the night before.

The female person tried to lead me onto the strange surface again, but I peed on the stone instead. The male person walked Outside and watched. He went back inside again and reemerged with Hamburger.

He held the Hamburger just far enough out of my reach that I couldn’t get it without stepping off the stone. My legs trembled, but I wanted the Hamburger. I sighed deep, whined, then stepped off.

The people said pleasing things in loud, excited voices and the male person fed me the Hamburger. I wagged my tail and took another step. More Hamburger! Another step, more Hamburger! And on top of everything, the surface felt WONDERFUL beneath my feet. Before I knew it, I was straining at the leash, so the Collar rubbed my neck, but I didn’t care, I wanted more. The Outside smelled wonderful, the surface felt fabulous, cool and soft and tickling my pads. I didn’t realize how badly my feet hurt until I felt the softness of the ground. The people ran behind me, which just made me want to run faster and further, stretching my aching muscles. The people said pleasing things and cheered me on, but they didn’t need to. This was freedom. This was Home.