The dog was tired.
It had been a long time since the rats had dug their way into his home, attacking him and his mate.
He and his mate had retreated to this cave, intent on raising a litter of pups before returning to the dangerous mountain region. The smaller prey were plentiful here, and a short trip underground down one of the many entrances would almost always yield a rat or two.
But somehow the rats were smarter here. They could coordinate, and reason. They had found the dogs in their home, tunneling up through the ground. They poured out of the hole in a massive wave, attacking him and his mate viciously.
Lashing out, he slashed and bit against the swarm, again and again. Finally the swarm lessened, and eventually stopped. Left behind were the corpses of the enemy, littering the cave floor.
The victory had come with a cost.
His hind legs had been ravaged by the rat’s sharp teeth, stripping his flesh to the bone.
He had lost his mate, and the entire litter.
He remained in the cave, mourning his loss, protecting their bodies. He ate the remaining bodies of his enemies. He would drink the water that formed on the sheet metal in the cool mornings.
Every so often the rats would return, and he fought them off, tearing them apart as they invaded once more.
He lost a foreleg, and soon after, the other. But he kept fighting, and eating his enemies, long after his mate’s remains were carried off by their continuous excursions.
One day, the rats stopped coming.
He waited for them, but they never came. Days passed. He felt his body growing weaker and weaker with each hour. He would sleep more and more frequently.
Finally, it felt that the end was near. It curled up, and waited for the end.
Then the human came.
He had seen humans before. They were dangerous and vicious. They attacked as soon as you were spotted.
But this one was different.
Instead of attacking, it talked to him. It was loud, and disturbed his sleep.
Then, it fed him. Something amazing. It was sweet and refreshing. It brought new energy into his body. What kind of prey did this food come from?
Lasko sat on the ground despondently. He was totally bored out of his mind. He slowly hit his head against the wall of scrap behind him. There was no way to tell how long he had been trapped.
The dog, after eating the piece of food had fallen asleep. Lasko almost wanted to wake it up so he’d have some company, but decided not to. What was it that they said? Let sleeping dogs lie. Whatever that meant.
In his boredom, he flashed his light down the partially covered hole in the ground. This action drew more rustling sounds and hisses from the darkness. Lasko didn’t catch any glimpses of any rats, but he knew that they were down there for sure. Was there a nest nearby? He spent the next hour or so carefully reinforcing the barrier he put up in front of the hole.
Briefly he wondered why none of the rats came here. It apparently had something to do with the large dog. Judging by the wounds on the dog’s body, the two species did not get along. The dog had probably fed on the rats for food. He still couldn’t figure out how the dog could manage to lose all four of his limbs though.
Wondering suddenly if the dog was thirsty, Lasko looked around for something he could use for a bowl. Prying a flat curved sheet of metal from the wall, he bent it further. Filling it with some water from his bag, he placed it in front of the dog. Ever since he fed the dog directly, he approached the giant dog more confidently.
“It’s up to you if you want it,” Lasko said aloud. “I can’t pour this down your mouth.”
To his surprise, the dog lifted its head up, and sniffing the makeshift bowl, began to slowly lapping up the water.
Lasko, gratified that the dog was acting just like the ones in the 21th century, unconsciously reached out and scratched the dog’s head. He then instantly retracted his hand in shock. Lasko, what are you doing? Don’t antagonize the giant wild dog!
Thankfully, the dog didn’t seem to notice, focused on drinking the water that Lasko had provided.
It must have been thirsty. Lasko generously poured out some more water, which the dog continued to drink.
Conflicted, Lasko struggled internally for a bit, before giving in, and taking out another food bar. Splitting it in half, he delicately held one piece out to the dog. Eagerly, the dog reached out, and sticking out its tongue that was roughly the width of his hand, it grabbed the piece into its mouth and began chewing. Lasko couldn’t help but smile.
“That’s all for now. I have to make the food last, I got to eat too.” Sighing dramatically, he returned to his seat, putting his own piece into his mouth. He watched the dog swallow the last of the food, and then sniff around for more.
“I wonder if I had a dog like you in the past,” Lasko said thoughtfully to the dog.
The dog looked at him, tilting its head curiously.
“I mean, not like you, exactly. Dogs in my time were much smaller.”
Lasko continued to talk to the dog, happy to have something to talk to, even though the dog couldn’t respond.
“I figure that I should call you something… what would be a good name?” Lasko pondered.
An idea struck him. “How about… Clifford? He’s a big dog, and so are you. He’s red… and you are too, in a way.”
The dog flicked an ear from where it lay.
“Clifford, Clifford,” Lasko said, trying it out. “Isn’t it too long?” He reconsidered. “Cliff-ford? Ford?”
He decided. “Alright. From now on, I shall refer to you as Ford, the big bloody dog from the future.” He snickered. “I’m sure Scholastic will be all over me for the rights to your book.”