In the British press, there are often ‘accidental’ photographs of dogs included in the images of the horrors of Putin’s war crimes and invasion of the Ukraine. Many dogs have been abandoned by their owners who have fled or been killed, ending up as starving strays, with some seen gnawing at human corpses. Bohdan wonders if they’re Putin’s Dogs of War. For fear of being thought a superstitious lunatic, he doesn’t share the horrifying notion that some dogs are the Devil’s incubi.
Ever since the invasion, Anichka and her husband Bohdan have had one priority – protecting their seven-year old son, Danilo. A recently adopted, large stray all-white Borzoi they call Anton, has become part of the family; dog and boy adore one another.
In the late afternoon Bohdan sits just inside his front door, his rifle resting across his thighs, in case Russians come. Anton, gently snores lying on Bohdan’s feet, who sleeps and dreams of standing in the family’s vegetable garden. The sun shines. Beyond the garden wall a gentle breeze caresses the fields of ripe wheat, rolling and swaying like a glimmering sea from an imaginary golden age. The high-pitched screams of swifts fill the air. A sudden murmuration of starlings obscures the sun, then morphs, with a puff of black smoke, into a tank grinding forward, crushing the wheat, demolishing the garden wall and destroying a greenhouse full of tomatoes. A large brown mongrel sits next to the gun turret.
Bohdan wakens to the sound of dogs barking and hears Danilo shouting, Dad! Dad! Anton’s gone. Danilo dashes outside as Bohdan, half-awake, struggles to his feet, switches off his rifle’s safety catch and shouts, For god’s sake, wait for me! Anichka runs past him.
Outside, Bohdan is aghast; it’s as he dreamt, but now five soldiers sit on the tank, laughing and cheering, as the mongrel and Anton fight. Danilo grabs a spade from the porch and runs to the two fighting dogs. His parents scream, Stop! Bohdan takes aim. Anichka hits Bohdan’s arm, You’ll kill our boy. Danilo struggles to swing the spade at the mongrel but misses. Anton growls, bares his teeth, and jumps at Danilo who screams as the dog buries its teeth in his arm. Again, Bohdan takes aim. Stop! Anichka shouts, that dog’s helping Danilo. The mongrel attacks Anton forcing him to release Danilo. Anton, snarling, goes for Danilo. The mongrel buries its teeth in Anton’s shoulder. Somehow, Anton breaks free and once again attacks Danilo as the mongrel protects him. Dad! Kill him, Anton hates me. Bohdan fires his rifle. Anton drops dead.
The soldiers cheer. You got the right dog. The mongrel licks the boy.
It’s only then that Bohdan realises it’s a Ukrainian tank.
Another soldiers says, We were looking for that white dog; it made friends with kids before killing them. That’s one fewer of Putin’s dogs.
Anichka takes Danilo inside to dress his wounds, followed by the mongrel.
Another soldier adds, White doesn’t always mean good.
I hope you enjoyed this story. Please feel free to pass it on to others who may be interested. You can read my previous 500 word stories on my website www.philcoskerwriter.com under ‘Writing’.>>>More
© Phil Cosker 2023
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