The little boy barked the command at the brown terrier. Half the dog’s ear was missing and it walked with a slight limp. Like the little boy, the world had written the dog off. And like the little boy, he was proving the world wrong.
“I said, SIT!” Jeremy put his arms on his hips in frustration as the dog smiled back at the little boy. They were a dog-man support group, although at the age of 13, Jeremy had no idea what a support group was. Now he did know about doctors and therapists. He had been poked and prodded since before he could remember. Specialists had deemed him “special.” Some said he was autistic. Others used fancier terms. All Jeremy knew was that he was Jeremy. And like the snowflakes that had fallen last week, he was one of a kind.
The other kids bullied him. The “cool kids” knew they could get him riled up and screaming. The girls — this was the most painful part to Jeremy — would laugh as he would yell at the bullies. Kids could be horrible mean. That’s why they grew up and started wars.
But Jeremy’s world had changed when he met Thor. Thor had been shot, nearly eaten alive by another dog and hit by a car. Thor was a survivor. The little dog understood something the bullies would never understand: Jeremy was truly special. And he treated him accordingly.
“Sit, boy!” Jeremy tried one more time to make the dog obey his command. ”Sit, please.”
Thor looked up at his friend and sat. ”All you had to do is ask nicely,” he thought.
Every day when Jeremy got off the bus, Thor would be waiting. Jeremy’s parents had given their son a key and told him to keep himself safely entertained. They weren’t overly fond of the little brown dog, but didn’t actively try to run him off. Thor would safely escort Jeremy to his house where the two of them would play for hours. Jeremy’s father, a bus mechanic, had threatened to call Animal Control. But when he saw how the little dog made his troubled son happy, he never could quite pick up the phone. Jeremy’s mother, a high school teacher, understood the healing power of a special dog. When Jeremy’s father wasn’t looking, she would sneak a bowl of kibble out onto the carport and made a special bed out of an old paper box. She would go out at night and rub his hears and whisper, “Good dog.”
Thursday afternoon was a particularly cold, nasty and rainy Thursday afternoon. The big yellow bus squealed to a stop at the end of the neighborhood, depositing the kids off at the end of the school day. Like usual, Thor was waiting for Jeremy. He noticed something different, though. All the bullies got off first and were laughing. And then Jeremy came off. He was crying.
Thor’s fur stood on end.
“C’mon puss! Let’s finish this!” One of the bigger kids said. He pushed Jeremy to the ground. Another kid, named Paul, started kicking the smaller child. Jeremy tried to ball-up to protect himself. A third child named Joey pulled him by the leg as the other kids started kicking him, too.
Thor would not stand for a second more — he leapt out of the bushes and got between the boys and his friend. His teeth gnashed and he growled viciously. The boys backed off carefully. Joey yelled out, “This isn’t over puss. Your dog will die because of this.”
Animal Control came that night. Joey’s father was a local lawyer and threatened to sue. Jeremy wept openly as his friend was loaded up in the truck and driven away. Jeremy’s parents tried to comfort him. He screamed out, “YOU DIDN’T SAVE THE ONLY FRIEND I HAVE! HE TOOK UP FOR ME WHEN NO ONE ELSE WOULD!” Tears flowed down his face as he pulled away from his parents and ran into the darkness.
Jeremy knew that Thor would be put to sleep. He hated that term — he knew it meant that his friend was about to be murdered. Thor had saved him. Now it was time to save his friend. He set his alarm for 3 a.m. and went to sleep with all his clothes on. Jeremy had abilities no one understood. And they were abilities he couldn’t control. But he had never felt more focused. Tonight, he would save his friend. Tonight he would rescue Thor.
The moon lit the yard with a bluish light as Jeremy snuck out of his second floor window. He grabbed the tree limb and swung down to the ground. He turned on his flashlight and began to run methodically toward town. He knew where he had to go — they passed it every day on the bus. He was headed to Animal Control.
Built in the 1970′s, Animal Control was nothing more than a giant tan cinder block building surrounded by chain-link fencing and razor wire. It could have easily been mistaken for a prison. But either way, there was very little hope. A single metal chimney belched black smoke nearly every afternoon. Jeremy knew what he had to do.
Jeremy had a special gift that even Yuri Gellar couldn’t understand. He could move things with his mind. When he was six, he noticed when he envisioned his pencil moving on the desk, it would roll across and fall onto the floor. Over the years, he had been able to lift an apple and even set a piece of paper on fire. Jeremy never told anyone of his powers. He had already seen enough specialists for a lifetime. He didn’t feel like being poked and prodded for the rest of his life.
Tonight, though, he was going to use his power to save his friend. He came up to the front gate. Jeremy thought of the bullies and then of Thor protecting him. And then he thought of the padlock on the gate. He closed his eyes and pictured it melting away. And as he did, the lock began to turn red. It melted and fell off the gate. Jeremy walked carefully inside.
He imagined the pain of losing Thor and the door into the kennels exploded off its hinges. Jeremy looked up at the cameras and crushed them, too. The dogs began to bark, but the little boy closed his eyes and started talking to them with his mind. Calm. Peace. All the dogs started lying down one by one.
Then he saw his friend. Thor was lying there, tail wagging. The little boy bent the lock off the cage and released his friend. He grabbed him and walked past the oven. Fear overwhelmed him as he looked at it. And then he imagined it melting. The control panel began to spark and drip onto the floor. “I can’t save all of you, but I bought you some time.”
That morning, Jeremy’s parents came to wake him up and noticed the little brown dog asleep on his bed. “What the…?” his father said but his mother hushed him. She knew her special little boy had somehow saved his best friend. But somehow didn’t really matter to her.
And with that, Thor rolled over and began to snore. He’d protect Jeremy for as long as he lived. Because he knew that Jeremy would always protect him. He would always rescue Thor.