Animal Needs

Amy Albracht

Amy Albracht

There is no other way to say this: he did me like he was filling an ice tray. Because he had emptied it and fair is fair. I pictured him with other women, hoping there was someone out there he could benefit. He wasn’t much of a physical specimen, more of a walking failure of imagination.

He hid his grandmother’s wedding ring in his sock drawer for the nine years that I kept his house. It was a big saltbox in town that his parent’s helped him buy. When I left, it was sudden but not unexpected. I couldn’t remember any good heat between us.

The break up before surprised even me. I had built up his farm, showered his finches with love and expanded their aviary until I drove away in a car that I figured I’d earned.

I’ve lived in this cabin since I left my second common-in-law husband slash landlord. My nearest neighbor is my neighbor’s horse. I rarely see the neighbor but the horse favors the corner of the pasture close to this place.

I started taking her for long walks but I always returned her. Old Mr. Eastman didn’t suspect a thing when he found me lingering nearby. I asked him if his animals ever escaped and he said, Yes, it’s happened before.

I guess I didn’t get the gate secured once because I found the horse pondering the bric-a-brac in the grass on the east side of the house. I cut the wire at one of the fence posts and she started coming over every day.

She came to the living room window. I moved the furniture around so we could visit more comfortably. I never brought the horse inside. I left it up to her when she wanted to hang out but when she didn’t come by for weeks I went to see her. The fence was mended and a No Trespassing sign was posted.

Old Mr. Eastman didn’t press charges but I picked up a DUI and mandatory community service in addition to time served. I got to choose my punishment and picked the animal shelter. I thought I’d walk some pit bulls and pick up some dog shit and think about what I’d done but this wasn’t a slipshod place like the ones I’d been sentenced to before. This outfit started with non-profit table talk called orientation. Then came animal care: you washed food bowls, did dog laundry, made treats and cleaned nose, hand and paw prints off glass before you got close to a dog.

After that they oriented us more with a crash course in animal behavior. I learned to spot aggression indicators, stress yawns, tension shake-offs and submissive licking. The important thing to remember was: these animals have all their decisions made for them. Give each dog the choice to engage with you or not but it isn’t cheating to entice him with treats. When I had put in my time I stopped going to the dog prison.

Last night the moonlight was shining on the dishes in the sink. I hoped the almost specialness of it would make me want to do the dishes from then on but they are still there. When I was young and alone I could afford potatoes, milk, cheese, bread, jelly, coffee and store brand chocolate chip cookies so I lived on toast, grilled cheese sandwiches, coffee, potato soup, oven fries and cookies. Since then I love to shop for groceries.

I’ll come out with it—I’m worried about your diet. I wish you would eat better. Last time I saw you, you looked thin and I didn’t want you to leave. You’ve tasted my cooking and the lease here is month-to-month. I’m sure I could take care of you for a few years.


Amy Albracht is a visual artist and writer. She exhibits in the U.S. and internationally and is thinking about settling down somewhere. You can read more of her work at _SmokeLong Quarterly_ and see other things that she makes at


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