Written for the Hetalia Kink Meme, for the request: Nations from the POV of their pets.
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"The dog is the only animal that has seen his god." ~Author Unknown
At first, there was only darkness. Darkness, and sound, and smells, and warmth.
I don't have a voice of my own. I don't...really know who I am, or what I am, or anything, all I know is that there's warmth and sound and smells, and the smells lead me to food.
Then I open my eyes. And suddenly, there's squeaking and yips and barks, and there's squirmy white things (brothers and sisters) and a big white thing that makes food (Mama) and these weird pink furless things that stare and use their long-toed, bald paws to pick me up, and pet me.
These things are interesting. They have an interesting smell. Soon, more of them start coming, and my brothers and sisters and I crowd and wiggle and bounce and squeak for these big pink creatures to pick us up.
I find out eventually that they're called "humans," and I love them even more.
One day, a human comes in. He's skinny, as far as humans go, and he's got a mop of fur on top of his head, and the stuff that he's wearing in place of fur looks very crisp and dark and like a lot of trouble. He talks briefly to one of the humans who's always here, and then he comes over to the pen.
There's something about him that's different from a normal human.
None of my siblings bounce and wiggle to greet him. After a long moment, I do. He smiles, and one paw grabs onto the back of my neck, cupping my rump with the other as he lifts me up off of the ground. I still, bonelessly relaxed, and he lifts me up to look me in the eyes.
"This one," he says finally. "You're perfect."
I don't know what he means by that, but I wag my tail anyway.
He comes to see me a lot after that. He picks me up and he takes me outside and plays with me, away from my siblings and my mama. The other humans let him, when they never let anyone else do it before.
"Al," he says, and I wag my tail and bound over to him. I bounce around in circles and squeak, and look up at him. He laughs, and scratches my ears. "That name fits you better than you know right now," he muses.
He talks a lot. I don't understand a lot of it, but I like to listen to his voice.
Yes, he is a very good human.
Then one day, he comes and he carries me outside, but he doesn't set me down in the garden to play.
"We're going home today," he says brightly, and smiles. I don't know what "home" is, but I don't know if I like the sound of it. Something's different. He puts me in a big wire crate with a blanket that smells like him, and a toy that smells like Mama, and I go back and forth between the two restlessly, whining. Should I trust the human? Will I ever see my mama and my brothers and sisters again? I flop down and put my head on my paws and whine.
What's going to happen to me now?
My human has a lot of things in his house. There are so many smells, so much to see, so much to explore. As soon as he puts me down, I'm off, scrabbling across his slickery floors, clack-a clack-a clack-a. I sniff his furniture. I sniff the corners. I sniff the fireplace. I sniff the floor cabinets in the kitchen. I sniff the bottom of the refrigerator. I sniff the carpet-covered steps leading up onto the sitting-place.
Then I bounce up them, and I sniff the corners of the sitting-place, too. I smell other dogs, but only kinda, like they haven't been there in a very long time. I sniff the book on the table next to the sitting-place. Then, the human comes and scoots me over, and sits down. Smells are forgotten. I clamber in his lap and lean up and kiss his face. He chuckles and leans his head back so that I can't reach his nose and mouth, just his chin and neck.
I stop and look curious when he picks up the book. He opens it. There are other dogs, very very small, all over the pages. My human is talking again. He presses his paw against the first dog. It doesn't move. It's very flat.
"This was my first Al," he says softly. "He was born on December 14, 1861. Clumbers were Albert's favourites, and...Her Majesty could hardly bear to keep them herself, after Albert died, but...she kept the pups close anyway. Something used to come over her when Al was around. And he always knew it, too. Like he knew that he was born on the day that she lost her heart..." I crane my head up and lick the trails of saltwater from his face. He quickly turns the page.
"I didn't get my second Al until 1875..."
I listen patiently as he goes through the whole book. Three, 1892. Four, 1905. Five, 1925. Six, 1947. Seven, 1952. Eight, 1970. Nine, 1983.
I'm Ten, he says. 1997.
I wag my tail and lick the trails of salt from his face again.
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"A dog is not almost-human, and I know of no greater insult to the canine race than to describe it as such." - John Holmes
My human has a special friend. I don't know if I like him. He's very playful, and he's fun to romp around with when he comes to visit.
But when Special Friend Alfred comes over, he and my human close the door when they go to bed. I lay down on the floor outside the door, and lay my head on my paws, whining and occasionally scratching at the door. My ears prick up when I hear my human making noises that sound kind of like he's screaming. It's good-screaming, though. Special Friend Alfred would never hurt my human. And besides, he's making those same noises too.
When it's just me and my human, he lets me sleep in bed with him. He told me once as he scratched my ears just as we were going to sleep that it's because he's spoiled – he can't sleep without a big, drooling Al half-sprawled on his chest. Whatever that means.
Right now, my human is running around the kitchen. I've learned long ago to stay out of the kitchen when he's making human-kibbles, but then he drops something and yelps before barking angrily. I bound off of my spot on the sofa and scrabble into the kitchen. Just in case he needs me.
There's a huge mess in the kitchen floor. I'm on one side of it, and my human is kneeling on the other. The color of his face is darker than usual, and I can smell the saltwater running down his face from here. I start across to him.
"No," he says forcefully, and then spurs himself into action. He gets up. I duck my head and look as small and submissive as I can, creeping forward. "Al, stay." Stop. Sit down. Wait for further directions. I watch him with a cocked head as he goes about picking up the broken shards of china on the floor, before sweeping up the mess as best he can. Then he slumps and sits against the cabinets on the floor. I bound over to him and immediately try to get into his lap. "Oof!" I kiss his face. He starts laughing despite his tears.
"I just, I...Alfred's coming over tonight, and I wanted to make dinner...But I can't do anything right, can I Al?" Whine. Nudge his hand. Wag tail. I look up into his eyes, and I want to tell him that in my eyes, everything he does is perfect and right, and that I love him no matter what. I lick his face, after a long moment, and he smiles at me and pets my ears.
I think he got the message.
"But what am I going to do, Al?" He grunts again as I push off of his lap. I amble over to the long spiral cord hanging down on the wall. Grab it. Pull. Skirt away from the phone on the end as it falls. I take the phone over to my human and drop it next to his hand. Sit. Pant. Grin.
"You don't like my cooking either, is that it?" Whimper, duck head, look small and pitiful. "Story of my life, I suppose. Even a dog won't eat my cooking. All right, all right. It's not as if Alfred has anything against takeout, after all..."
Nowadays, when the weather is warm and sunny and my human takes me out into his garden, I don't have as much of a drive to go dig up his rose garden, or bark at every shadow on the other side of the fence. I do still pee on the garden gnome, though. I think my human's gotten used to that.
Nowadays, when he curls up on the wicker bench under the big tree, I lay down at his feet and put my head obediently on his shoe.
And we sit like that for a very long time. Sometimes he reads to me from his book, and he isn't shy to do voices or gesture like he's acting (like he is when he reads to Alfred). I wag my tail.
A lot of the time, that's the only encouragement he needs.
Much though I do hate it that Special Friend Alfred pushes me out of my spot on my human's bed when he's around, I hate it even more when he and my human have had a row, as my human calls it. I would probably call it a fight.
They just have a hard time being pack mates. They both want to be alpha male, and they both think that they can be, but Special Friend Alfred is young and energetic, and my human is experienced and scrappy. I think my human used to irrefutably be alpha male, and now he can't accept that Special Friend Alfred wants him to be beta.
Sometimes their fights just end in good-screaming (that was how I found out good-screaming was good. Sometimes they don't even make it to the bedroom. Special Friend Alfred says that it makes him feel like he's being judged at the Olympics. Then he proceeds to say a lot of silly things, until my human smacks him for it). But sometimes, Alfred storms out of the house and my human barks angrily at the slammed door for a moment, until he crumples, broken-hearted, to the floor.
I, dutifully, start picking up the pieces.
My human lazes about for a few days, after that. I have to work just to get him out of bed by teatime. Whatever "tea" is, sometimes I think it's what keeps my human alive. He loses his passion for embroidery, he loses his passion for reading, he loses his passion for just about everything. Not even the most earnest kisses can make him be his old self again.
Sometimes, if it was really bad, he won't even let me put my head in his lap.
I bring him my toys. I bring him the ratty pheasant that used to squeak. I bring him the head of the rabbit that also used to squeak. I bring him the squeaky plastic cheeseburger that Alfred brought me (I hardly ever play with it), but that just makes it worse.
Squeak squeak. Squeak squeak.
"Al, I'm not really in the mood." He's holding his head like he's having one of his all-over headaches, and he's clutching a mug of tea (a cup just wouldn't do it this time) like a lifeline.
He winces. "Al, please." I drop the toy in his lap like I did the others, and then amble upstairs. I come back with his little phone gingerly in my mouth. I nudge him until he takes his hand off of his face, and then climb over his lap to give it to him. I look up at him expectantly.
"You're sick of me moping around, I take it," he says dryly, looking at me. I cock my head. Try to look innocent. He sighs and starts pressing buttons on the phone. "God, sometimes I wish I was a dog." I wag my tail and pant and grin up at him, as if to say:
"I wish you were too."
After that, Alfred calls me his "wing man", and when he and my human are done with their good-screaming in the bedroom Special Friend Alfred opens the door and lets me sleep on the bed with them. He always remarks to my human that he's bad at training dogs because he's always let them on the furniture. My human just looks at me and smiles, and scratches my ears.
I keep all of his best secrets.
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"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion." – Unknown
It starts to get harder to go up and down stairs. That's when I first start to realize that I've been living with my human for a very long time. It's hard to mark time even if I knew how. Most dogs get to mark time with their humans getting older, or with children growing up.
But my human never gets any older.
I think he and I both forgot that I wasn't going to be as lucky.
Playing with Special Friend Alfred is harder than it used to be. It's still so much fun, but I can't run as fast as I could, and soon it starts to hurt more than it's fun. I flop down on the grass and start panting. Alfred comes over and sits next to me, scratching my ears and rubbing my chest. I roll over a little.
"What's up, big guy?" he asks. I just let my tongue flop out.
"Mm?" My human looks up from his book, and looks over the lenses of his sunglasses. "Alfred? Is he okay?" My chest makes a hollow "thump, thump" when Alfred pats it, and I flop my tail happily.
"Yeah, seems like," he calls back. "Just a little tuckered out, isn't that right old man?" I sit up again and look him in the eyes. He pets my face so that my jowls curl back into a grin.
"What?" Then, my human's there too, and he's petting me in a much less rambunctious way than Alfred does. "I...suppose it has been seven years..." I whine and scramble up, leaning on my human and kissing his face. No, no, you're not supposed to start icrying/i!
"Lighten up, Arthur," Alfred says with a laugh. "He's still a big puppy, deep down." My human smiles, but it doesn't quite reach his eyes.
"That's my good boy," he says, and ruffles my fur. I wag my tail, far past the age of barking my happiness.
"If you're not careful, I'll think you love that dog more than you love me!" Special Friend Alfred whines.
"Well," my human says, and drags out the lls. "Al is better trained."
"Hey!" Alfred pouts. I wag my tail. "C'mon, Al, you're not gonna let him bust my balls like that are you, big fella?" He rubs my rump and pats it. I just turn my head and grin at him, panting. Then I try to curl up in my human's lap. I don't fit all the way. I haven't for some time. But I don't care; it's my favorite place to be.
The first time I fall down the stairs, my human has me at the V-E-T within an hour. I'm not hurt from the fall, but he gives the verdict that I knew was coming and my human feared.
I'm getting old.
(He also gives another verdict that I don't really know what it means – hip dysplasia, or something like that. Can't be too bad, can it?)
My human doesn't cry. He purses his lips together and he sticks out his chin, and I whine and lean up to kiss his face. I know that face. I remember it from a little after I came to live with him, when a human very important to him died. It's his Brave Face. It means that he's swallowing his emotions, and he's not planning on letting them show.
And then he won't even eat grass so he can spit them out later.
And it hurts him, oh, I know it hurts him so much, and I don't want that to be because of me! Growing old isn't that big of a deal to a dog. It's something we just kind of realize, you know, and it's something we wag our tails through just because it doesn't matter that someday we're going to get old and die, it matters that we've lived our life loved by our people.
Besides, just because I'm getting old doesn't mean I'm going to go anywhere anytime soon.
He has to pick me up to get into the car anymore. I've never been big with jumping, but now it's even worse. But I still love to go in the car with him, simply because he's my human and I love him. On the ride home from the V-E-T, it's quiet. I sit on the seat and stare out the window, and then I look over at him, and lay down and put my head on his lap.
That's when his stiff upper lip gives out.
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"Soon or late, every dog's master's memory becomes a graveyard; peopled by wistful little furry ghosts that creep back unbidden, at times, to a semblance of their olden lives." -Albert Payson Terhune
My human spends hours at a time sitting next to me on the hard wood of his drawing room floor. He brushes out my fur, and he pets me, and he changes the blankets when I make a mess. (I really don't mean to make a mess. I don't want to cause trouble for him, but I can't...I can't help it anymore.) It's gotten harder and harder for me to walk.
Since I can't even walk across the flat floor, let alone up the stairs, my human sleeps downstairs on the floor next to me instead. He doesn't sleep well. Even though I can hardly see anything anymore, I can see the dark circles under his eyes. He lives on mugs of tea held in shaking hands. Even though I can only barely hear his voice anymore, I know that he's always speaking with a lump in his throat. Special Friend Alfred doesn't come around anymore. I know why.
It's almost time to say goodbye. But Special Friend Alfred knows I'm not his dog.
Nonetheless, I know he'll miss me too.
But it's my human I'm worried about. He never leaves my side. I wish I could tell Special Friend Alfred to take care of him after I'm not here, to take my spot in his bed. I wish I could tell Al eleven, when my human brings him home, to take care of him in his moods, when he's happy, when he's sad, when he's so upset that he can't even breathe. I wish I could tell my human how much I've loved him, after the twelve years we've been together.
I think he knows.
Today, it hurts more than usual. Today, it's harder to see, it's harder to hear, it's harder to move and breathe. I shiver.
"Oh, Al." My human is over me, and he's crying. I whimper. "Al, please, I..." I look up at him. He goes quiet, and then closes his eyes and draws in a deep breath. "Today's it then, is it?" he asks when he opens his eyes again. I don't exactly answer. I don't exactly have to. I close my eyes. I'm not letting go yet, but I'm just so tired.
My eyes snap open when suddenly my human starts lifting me into his arms.
"Ups-a-daisy," he grunts, and holds me close when I whine. "There we are, Al. My poor, sweet boy. It's a beautiful day today, I..." he pauses and chokes a sob that I can feel all the way in my chest. "Let's go outside, ha?"
My human puts me down under the tree in the garden. Right at the foot of the old wicker bench, where we used to go out and he'd read to me, up until I couldn't walk anymore. I want him to read to me again today, like he used to. I just lay there and fight to breathe. I'm not going anywhere until he lets me go.
My human lays down behind me and puts his arm over my chest. He pets my head and my face, in long strokes that pull my lax jowls back into a dry-lipped smile.
"What am I going to do without you?" he asks softly. I thump my tail against the ground. "God, I...this doesn't get any easier. I've had dogs for almost a century and a half and it...it'll never be any easier." His voice cracks. I lift my head and try to turn to kiss his tears away, like I always used to do. But he just shushes me and pets my face until I lay my head back down.
"I don't want you to suffer anymore, though, Al. I know it hurts, and I know you're holding on just for me now, but I...please, Al, I just don't want you to hurt anymore. It...it's alright, whenever you want...to..."
I smack my lips and thump my tail. He strokes my ears. I start to drift. He draws a deep breath.
"Just this side of heaven," he murmurs, and his voice is getting further away. "Is a place called the Rainbow Bridge." I can tell, somehow, that he's smiling through his tears. It's like the...like what Special Friend Alfred always called pineapple showers. When it rains when it's sunny. "When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge." He draws a deep breath again, and it's shaky. He leans down, and I feel him kiss my ear, and his face is already wet. "There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable."
He's quiet for a long moment. I linger.
"Al," he says suddenly, and I hear him crystal clear even though it's barely a whisper. "I'm so sorry...my dear, dear boy. Good boy," he murmurs. "Will you...say hello to all of my other Als for me? When you get there?"
With my last effort, I wag my tail.
Then, there's only darkness.
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Arthur laid there next to his beloved dog until that precious body was still and starting to go cold. He stroked the soft, soft white fur, and he made sure that those amber eyes that had always looked up at him as if he was God itself were closed. Scrubbing at his eyes with his sleeve, it did nothing to stop the onslaught of tears. He stood up and then just stood there for a moment, staring down at the body of his old friend.
Twelve short years are nothing in the life of a Nation. It seemed like just yesterday that Arthur had picked up that wriggly little puppy with the gaudy blue polka-dot bow around his neck. And now that same puppy had grown, and lived, and died in what seemed like no time at all. Twelve short, short years were nothing.
"I'm so sorry, my good boy," he murmured softly, around the lump in his throat. Finally, he turned and went back inside. As he shut the glass door to the garden, he didn't look back. If he had the biggest garden in the world, he would have buried each and every one of his Als under that tree. But if he had one wish, he wouldn't ask for a bigger garden. He would ask for a dog to live forever, free from the pain and sickness that always beleaguered them near the end of their lives.
If wishes were fishes...
"Ten is enough," he said, unable to take another step after he shut the door. "Ten is enough."
Of course, he'd said that about nine, and eight, and all of the ones before that. Deep in his heart, he knew that there would be an eleven.
But until he was ready to face that heartbreak again, he'd just have to settle for a decidedly non-furry big, drooling Al.
I explained it to St. Peter,
I'd rather stay here
Outside the pearly gate.
I won't be a nuisance,
I won't even bark, I'll be very patient and wait,
I'll be here, chewing on a celestial bone,
No matter how long you may be.
I'd miss you so much, if I went in alone,
It wouldn't be heaven for me.