The dog was trying out third person, and it made her feel strange. It was like she was talking about another dog altogether, yet the things that happened were happening to her. She would beg pardon for being confused, but the Mom Lady and Hairy Guy had been increasingly agitated about begging, and she wasn't sure what she could get away with.
Being in third person (third canine? canis tertius?) also made her feel lonely. It didn't help that everyone in the house was on edge from the lengthy winter. It hadn't snowed or done anything worth looking out the window for; it had just been cold for months on end, keeping them all inside with a series of colds and sniffles. Her only solace and excitement were derived from the not-quite-daily walks, and those had become rushed, cursory affairs.
The dog was experiencing ennui. So when the little voices started, she didn't mind them very much.
They were soft, and mostly distant. Muffled. She heard them in the living room, and would perk her ears up and watch the couch. After a while, she heard them in other parts of the house; in the baseboards, under the hutch, and in the bathroom. Eventually, they found the kitchen. By that point, they had started to sound normal to her.
"Oh, crap," said the Mom Lady one morning during the bustle of breakfast.
"What?" asked the Hairy Guy, not really paying attention. The Mom Lady pointed at the counter, and said it again. He looked up from his coffee and email, walked over and looked. "Oh... crap," he agreed.
Mom Lady sagged, and the cleaning began. After a couple of days, the children (and even the Hairy Guy) were pressed into service, but it was mostly Mom Lady wiping down counters, and checking cupboards, muttering a strange word to herself over and over again: "fuggenmice." Apparently, the fuggenmice were in the house, and she was not pleased.
But the dog stopped paying attention to the people, because the voices started speaking. To her.
"Hey, dog," whispered a little, but tough sounding something from under the hutch. It was just out of sight from where she stood eating her breakfast. The Mom Lady was stomping around that morning complaining that something had eaten her soap. Normally, that would have been entertaining, but this voice was a curiosity.
"Who is that?" the dog whispered back at the voice.
"I'm the 'fuggenmice'," the voice answered, chuckling. "Listen, that Mom Lady is trying to starve us so we'll fall for her traps. Can you help out by leaving a couple of nips of that kibble?"
"Um, I don't know," said the dog. She adored her kibble. And if the Mom Lady was doing something, she must have a good reason. "I don't know what traps are, but the Mom Lady is nice. Maybe you should do what she wants. And why can't I see you?"
An adorable little face with round, black eyes peeked out at her from under the hutch. "You don't know what a 'trap' is? Well, imagine you were going to take a bite of the best smelling treat ever and WHAM... a big stick snaps down out of nowhere and snaps your spine."
"Oh, my dog! That sounds horrible!"
"I am told that it is," said the creature wistfully. "My great-uncle twice removed on my mothers' side had one take off a leg and his tail. We called him Tripod for the rest of his life."
After hearing that, the dog left five chunks of kibble in her bowl, her appetite completely gone.
A couple of weeks passed, in which the children became increasingly belligerent about all the cleaning they were being asked to do, and the Hairy Guy (after being informed that he wasn't holding up his end of the chores) was doing a lot more of it. The two grown-ups had begun watching for evidence of the fuggenmice, which the Hairy Guy had started referring to as "Doots".
"No doots in the bathroom this morning, honey!" he would say. Then he would go into the kitchen and check. The dog tended to follow him around, wondering if this new ritual would mean any extra walks or snacks. It didn't.
Her only real company was the voice. "Are you Doots?" she asked it one morning.
"Sure, sweetpup," Doots replied around a mouthful of chicken flavored cereal filling. "Doots McFuggenmice, at your service." She giggled in return, and shoved part of a biscuit under the hutch for him.
"I didn't know you were Scottish," she said.
Then one afternoon, a stranger came to the door. He had a big, red box and brown coveralls; he smelled... different. It wasn't a bad smell, exactly; it had a kind of sweetness to it, but it made her think of fear and screams. The man was friendly, though.
"Hey, buddy," he said, scratching her behind the ears. "You a nice dug? Yeh, you bet you are." Mom Lady and the man walked all through the house, talking about mice. They talked about holes and food containers; they talked about poison and prices. The man said he wouldn't use poison - whatever that was - but then he said he'd set traps, and the dog's blood ran cold.
Then the Mom Lady turned and looked at her. "What about the dog? Wouldn't she chase a mouse if she saw it?"
"Not necessarily," the man answered. "A dug will sometimes make friends with the mouse, and I've seen 'em leave food and let the mouse come up in their bowl."
Mom Lady turned a cold, cruel eye on the dog. "You wouldn't dare, would you?" The dog shrank back. "I better not find out I have a traitor in my house!"
Overcome by a stew of guilt and defiance, the dog slunk out of the room and curled up in her kennel. She heard a scuffling noise, and Doots was there. They curled up listening to the man make plans with the Mom Lady, and the dog realized what she had smelled on the man when he came into the house.
That smell was the smell of death. Death for her only friend.