Two small grey dogs huddled together under the meager shelter of a ramshackle car as thunder boomed and hail fell. The storm rattled the metal over their heads and they pressed themselves against the ground and against each other, trembling.
It didn’t used to be like this. There used to be warmth. There used to be dry places to sleep. There used to be people, and toys, and bowls that had food and water. But that was a long time ago, when their coats were groomed and their heads were petted and their hearts were loved. That was Before.
Now was nothing more than trying to find enough to eat each day, a place to sleep each night, and staying together as they moved across fields and farmland. Now was watching out for predators who would consider two small Schnauzers a good meal. Now was waiting for the storm to end and the morning to come. Now was noise and cold and darkness.
At least they had each other. That had probably helped keep them both alive, with two pairs of eyes and ears to watch for enemies, two noses to catch the scent of food or danger on the wind. Two small bodies to huddle together for warmth.
As the hail started to fade she laid her head across his shoulders and stared out at the darkness, squinting her eyes against the flashes of lightning. Her salt-and-pepper coat was soaked through to the skin, and she shivered as a gust of wind blew under the car and cut through her coat like blades. The wiry fur had been weather resistant once, but that was Before. Before it had grown long and matted from neglect. Before seeds and burrs had burrowed into her fur, tangling so deep that she could no longer chew them out. Before.
She felt him shiver next to her and she licked his face gently. He relaxed only a little as she covered his eyes and ears with regular strokes of her tongue while the storm raged around them. They had grown up together, had enjoyed Before together in the warm house with the good food and the petting hands. Back in the Before she had bullied him when she could – she was a couple of pounds heavier than he was and used that to her advantage. But Now she was his protector and his guardian, washing his face through the night.