*The feature image for this story is an actual photo of a stray found in this condition and rescued. Photo courtesy of Phil and Jacqueline Baker.

Don’t go that way. Don’t go the back way passed the bridges. Don’t turn right and take the shortcut. Go the long way instead. If you take the backroad, you’ll see the ole momma dog and her pups. Abandoned. Left for dead. Was she deserted before or after her pups came to be? Were they why? No matter the reason, she, starved for both food and love, takes care of them. She teaches them to hide when cars pass. She decides that human contact, when feared and avoided, means survival. Therefore, she teaches her pups so. They will remember this long after she is gone. I drive to work and wonder, “Will they make it through the day?,” Instead I turn I blind eye, and I never go the back way.

Dedicated to the strays that never got rescued.