“Who’s a good dog, then?” Fritz said in his most charming manner to the big German Shepherd who licked his fingers. He felt a little silly trying to charm an animal. The dog would see through the act, in any case. But he couldn’t act like everything was perfectly normal, could he?
“Who’s a good dog? You’re a good dog, Blondi.”
It was a little dim in the kennel pantry, but Fritz shrugged and was thankful that they still had electricity at all. Those who still remained above ground just a few blocks either way would not have this most fundamental of modern amenities. Then he wondered whether it was truly a fair trade.
Fritz had always enjoyed the outdoors, taking the dogs out for a run in the woods, breathing in the fresh scents of autumn. Pine cones and wet bark and the earthy treasures. A thousand million explosions of the senses. Blood flowing. Eyes and ears taking it all in. Exhilaration.
It was nothing like that down here.
It was not fit for man or beast outside on Wilhemstrasse. No place to walk. No place to let one’s thoughts wander as your feet kicked up the living soil on the twig-laden path. It was all gray and dark down here.
There was a knock on the door. Fritz opened it, but not all the way. As expected, it was Dr. Haase, looking even paler and more brooding than ever. “It is time,” he said.
“Another moment, doctor,” Fritz said.
“I’m afraid not,” Haase insisted. “He has ordered it.”
Fritz looked down on the beautiful beast. Its fur had a healthy sheen. Loyal to the end, this animal would put up no resistance – even if it knew what was coming. Fritz sometimes imagined that dogs could truly understand him in a way that people never could. They sensed things, like subtle changes in mood, that homo sapiens were simply not made to experience. Dogs like Blondi in particular always seemed to know when to be around to let you stroke their back, or look at you with that animal gaze that said “I will protect you. I will love you.”
Right now, Fritz hoped that this heightened perception did not exist.
He prepared a bowl of kibble for Blondi, pouring in a little extra, partly to make it last those few seconds longer – partly because this innocent animal deserved so much more.
The doctor inserted the two little white pills just underneath a few grams of the stuff as Fritz held Blondi back from the feast. It only took a moment, during which Fritz considered hugging the dog up against his chest and running away – but to where? Down the hall with those stern looking men with guns? Up the ladder, chased, with shouting and shooting and who knew what else? And then, once on the surface, how to get away, with the entire Eastern horde bearing down upon this place? Running through the fire and the smoke and the explosions – would it not be hell up there for a poor witless animal as well?
Fritz let Blondi go. “Eat up, girl,” he said – though it was not necessary at all. Blondi went over and stuck her snout into the bowl as usual, munching away with relish.
It didn’t take long. Blondi froze and looked back at Fritz. She let out a little bark – more of a whimper, perhaps.
The animal’s eyes were wide; frightened. Frothy saliva was already pouring out of its mouth. It cricked its neck to one side, stretching it painfully. Then she fell over on that same side. Laid out on the concrete, her mouth continued to expel that foamy spittle. Her eyes went up into its head; Fritz thought it a good sign – despite the shudders that racked the dog’s body in its death rattle, it seemed that it would soon be over.
Soon, it was.
The doctor knelt down and felt its chest. It wasn’t moving anymore. It wasn’t breathing.
“She’s dead, doctor,” Fritz said.
The doctor nodded. “It had to be done, Fritz.”
“The others,” the doctor continued. “Her pups. You will have to take care of them. Orders.”
“I can’t do it in here,” Fritz said, looking at Blondi’s sad little form.
“Out in the garden, then,” Haase said.
“It’s not safe,” Fritz said.
“The Russians aren’t here yet,” Haase said. “We’ll get a guard if you like.”
Fritz thought about it. Finally, he agreed. “Yes, the fresh air will do us all some good.”