On a grey February morning in 1985, 52-year-old Trevor Westmore walked out of the penitentiary a free man.
“Wait here,” the guard said.
Membranes of ice covered the puddles in the parking lot. The sky was gun-muzzle grey. Nearby, river ice changed in light from grey to blue to green, deceiving animals and people alike with a false sense of security.
A hawk soared on a thermal updraft. A lot could have changed in the 25 years Trevor had been locked up. If the skies had been empty, he wouldn’t have been surprised.
What now? All his life he’d been a stick riding someone else’s current, a tourist exclaiming at the sights without acknowledging that someone else had planned the itinerary. How lazy he’d been. Or was it trusting? Whatever the case, it had led him here, to the prison stoop, standing exactly where Mack had told him to wait, fear expanding in his gut.
Trevor’s favourite guard was a broad-shouldered, thick-necked man in his mid-40s with a ﬂat top military cut. When he discovered Trevor had been a veterinarian before being incarcerated, Mack sought him out. He was expecting his ﬁrst litter of German Shepherd pups and had a lot of questions. Trevor shared his knowledge. Take the dog’s temperature. Roughly 24 hours after it drops, she’ll go into labour. Give her space. Let her pace and pant. Have a whelping box ready. Relax.
The following week, Mack shared the good news: eight pups, and all were healthy. He’d raised many litters since then.
Now, Mack rounded the side of the building at a trot. A puppy ran clumsily beside him. “Here.” He extended the leash. “I read somewhere that having a dog helps ex-cons from reoffending. Because they have something to care for. Man’s best friend, right?”
“You got me a dog?” Trevor bent down and scooped the puppy into his arms to hide his tears. He’d been denied a pet for almost half his life.
“I named him Liberty. Libby for short. He’s 12 weeks old.” Mack produced a backpack. “I’ve got supplies for you and everything, but I assumed you’d have a ride,” he said as a taxi pulled into the yard.
Libby’s tongue was warm, his teeth sharp on Trevor’s ear. “I’ve got one waiting at the bus station.” It was a partial truth.
“Well, I guess this is it.” Mack gave Libby a ﬁnal pat, the men shook hands, and Trevor and his dog climbed into the backseat.
The prison quickly receded in the cab’s side mirror. A quarter of a century, gone.
“Handsome dog,” the cabbie said. “Look at the size of his paws.”
Trevor scratched behind Libby’s ear. “I know. He’s going to be a big one.”
He stared at the ﬁelds, dormant beneath a skiff of snow. It took his breath away, the amount of open space. How would he ﬁt himself into it?
Libby squirmed in his lap and chewed the leash. Trevor laughed. The training started now. He had a dog at the end of his outstretched hand; he would be OK.
Theresa Shea is the author of two novels: The Shade Tree (2021), winner of the Guernica Prize, and The Unﬁnished Child (2013), a ﬁnalist for the Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction and the Alberta Readers’ Choice Award. Dog Days of Planet Earth is an excerpt from her novel-in-progress. She lives in Edmonton.
This article appears in the April 2022 issue of Edify