Maya and Charlie loved the mornings in SoHo. They lived in an illegal apartment above an overpriced art gallery. For a monthly envelope of cash the manager of the gallery had given them the keys to what was zoned for an upstairs storage room.
Every morning they would get up early and walk up Greene Street while the store owners hosed off the slate sidewalks. Maya and Charlie had opposite personalities. Charlie was big and outgoing and friendly. Complete strangers would often smile and say hello; a real accomplishment in New York City. Maya, on the other hand, was shy and petite. With her small build and shoulder length auburn hair she looked younger than her 23 years. Sometimes she felt as if no one even noticed her unless Charlie was with her.
One day in late October, Maya just happened to wake up about an hour earlier than normal. It was just starting to get light , and the streets were still deserted; but Maya was full of energy and wanted to go outside. Charlie was always full of energy and of course insisted on coming along. They strode along side by side and Maya was swinging the little Louis Vuitton purse with the super long strap that her father had given her last Christmas.
They were just passing a construction site on Spring Street when the attacker struck. He ran up behind at full speed, pushing Maya down with one hand and grabbing her purse with the other. She fell forward and screamed as her head hit the cobblestone and began to bleed.
That’s when the change took place in Charlie’s brain. He was big and friendly and lived in an apartment, but in the far far past his ancestors had been wolves. And after that, for thousands of years dogs had developed the instinct to defend the humans they loved.
When Maya fell, she dropped Charlie’s leash. The attacker was running away fast, but a human in a pair of Nikes is no match for a 120 pound dog at a sprint. When Charlie reached full speed he leapt into the air. Dog’s don’t fight to win points or to apprehend a suspect. Their instinct is to kill. Charlie’s teeth sunk full force into the attacker’s neck and the two of them went crashing to the ground without Charlie letting go. When they landed Charlie held onto the neck with his teeth and shook his head back and forth in that incredibly fast motion that people think is so cute when dogs do it with a bathroom towel. The real purpose of the shake is to snap the neck of whatever animal the dog has its teeth into; and that’s exactly what happened to the neck of the animal that had attacked Maya.
The attacker was dead long before the police arrived. Maya was taken to the hospital and Charlie to the animal shelter, where like any dog that had killed a human, he was scheduled to be euthanized. It would have ended badly except for the fact that a television commercial was scheduled to be shot on Spring the following week. The director was on the street early that day to get a good look at it before all the traffic and the people obstructed the view. He heard Maya scream and pointed his tablet camera in that direction and started filming. He captured most of it, and brought it to the T.V. station. When it was shown on the news that night, the public fell in love with Charlie; especially the part where Charlie ran back to make sure Maya was all right.
When the public heard that Charlie was to be put down, the Chief of Police actually received death threats. The Mayor did not really care about dogs, or the Chief of Police for that matter, but he knew if he allowed a hero dog to be put to death, then his re-election was in trouble. The Mayor made sure that when Maya and Charlie were reunited the Mayor was right in the middle for the T.V. cameras. There was even a great shot of Charlie licking the Mayor’s bald head.
Maya and Charlie still go for a walk every morning in SoHo. Charlie is still the main attraction, but sometimes people now ask Maya how she is feeling and if she needs anything. At the end of the walk Maya sits on a bench outside the coffee shop drinking her vanilla latte, while Charlie looks up at her with complete unconditional love.