Rift retrievals were a fact of life; they were the main reason Torchwood Three had been set up in the first place. Having a Rift in space and time cutting through Cardiff meant that technology, weapons, and even living creatures were forever being dumped at random across the city, and there were so many ways such things could adversely affect humanity’s timeline. No matter how harmless it might appear, it was entirely possible that one piece of alien tech winding up in the wrong hands could result in the extinction of all life on earth, so every time a Rift alert sounded, off Team Torchwood would go to locate and contain the new arrival.
All these retrieval missions meant that anyone working for Torchwood Three soon learned their way around Cardiff’s back streets, alleys and building sites, and all the hidden corners most of the city’s citizens probably didn’t know existed. It also meant that although on ninety-nine percent of occasions they found what they were looking for and nothing more, it wasn’t unheard of for them to find other things as well: stolen property, fugitive criminals, dead bodies, and in this case, abandoned pets…
“Poor little thing!” Tosh cried. “How could anyone be so cruel, throwing away a defenceless little puppy like so much trash?”
The pup in question had been tied inside a plastic bag and thrown in the river, only to get washed ashore, most likely during the heavy rain the night before. Snagged on a floating branch the bag had ripped, allowing a bedraggled little head to push its way out. That was likely the only reason the little dog was still alive. It whined pathetically, shivering and struggling fitfully in a vain effort to free itself. Tosh did her best to hold it still while Ianto cut a bigger hole in the tough polythene bag using the pocketknife he always carried with him.
“Good thing the Rift spike led us down here, otherwise he might not have been found until it was too late.” Ianto folded the knife and returned it to his pocket as Tosh lifted the wet and shivering pup clear of clinging plastic, cuddling it close to her chest, ignoring the river water soaking into her coat.
“How old do you think he is?”
Ianto studied what he could see of the pup. It was far from being a newborn; its eyes were open, and a quick check in its mouth showed it had all its sharp little puppy teeth. “Must be at least a couple of months old, maybe more.” He frowned. “Probably old enough to leave its mother, which means someone out there decided it would be fun to have a puppy, found out what hard work they are to look after, maybe didn’t like the way it chewed things, and just chucked it out.” His voice was tight with anger. “Come on, we got what we came for, plus a bonus prize; let’s get this little chap back to the Hub and have Owen check him out. Bring the bag; we might be able to get something from it that’ll help us track down the bastard who did this.”
Hefting the heavy containment box holding the piece of junk that had fallen through the Rift, Ianto led the way back along the narrow path to the SUV, parked at the edge of a stretch of weedy, litter-strewn wasteland. Putting their find in the boot, he dug out an old towel, giving it to Tosh to dry the puppy with.
By the time they reached the Hub, with the SUV’s heating turned up, a vigorous towelling down from Tosh had the pup mostly dry, its brown and white fur sticking up in spikes all over its skinny little body. It lay on Tosh’s lap, gazing up at her in adoration, its skinny little tail beating out its gratitude on her leg.
“I’m going to call him Spike,” Tosh said firmly.
“Very apt,” Ianto agreed, studying the little creature thoughtfully. “Why don’t you take him down to Owen for a thorough checkup while I nip to the shops and get some puppy supplies? Poor little chap’s bound to be hungry, and he’ll need a collar and lead, a bed, toys…”
Tosh smiled at her friend. “Don’t go too over the top; we might not be able to keep him.”
“Says the woman who’s already given her new pet a name,” Ianto teased. “The way he’s looking at you, I’m not sure you get any choice over whether or not you’re going to keep him.”
“He is cute, but he’s just a baby; he’ll need a lot of care and training, and I work such long hours. I couldn’t just leave him at home alone all day; it wouldn’t be fair. He needs company.”
“So you bring him to work with you. We can build a puppy pen; it’s not like he could tunnel his way out through solid concrete, and you know Jack would love having a dog around the place. I can’t see the others complaining either; everyone will be queuing up to take him for walks, myself included. Now go on, I’ll be back as soon as I can.” Shooing Tosh towards the entrance to the main Hub, Ianto got into his own car and headed out again.
Owen looked up as Tosh approached his workstation. “What’ve you got there?”
“A puppy. Someone tried to drown him, threw him in the river tied in a plastic bag.”
“You what?” Owen was outraged. “Bastard! Right, give him here.” Before Tosh could say a word, Owen had whisked the pup out of her arms and was striding towards the autopsy bay. She scurried after him, not wanting to let Spike out of her sight. She trusted Owen completely, knew that he loved animals, especially dogs, but the pup was so small and she didn’t want him to think she was abandoning him the way his previous owner had.
Although he was a doctor rather than a vet, Owen had treated enough alien creatures that he knew what he was doing when it came to non-human patients, although he still had to google a few things such as normal puppy weight temperature, and heart rate. After giving Spike a thorough examination, including a full-body scan, which didn’t take long because there wasn’t that much body, he checked for a microchip, which unfortunately the dog didn’t have.
“Too bad he’s not chipped or we could’ve traced the owner and had him prosecuted.”
“How is he?”
“Not too bad, considering. He’s underweight, obviously, and we’ll have to watch out in case he develops a cold or pneumonia or something. We don’t know how long he was in the water, and last night was pretty chilly what with the storm. Probably should have a proper vet look him over to be on the safe side; he might not be vaccinated. I reckon he’s about twelve to fourteen weeks, and he likes chewing things.” Spike was gnawing on one of Owen’s instruments.
“He’s just hungry,” Tosh said, defending the dog. “You said yourself he’s underweight.”
“And he’s a puppy. Puppies chew things, it’s like their reason for existing.” Owen didn’t sound at all put out as he rescued his diagnostic device. “Perfectly normal puppy behaviour; I’d be more concerned if he wasn’t trying to chew things.”
Ianto arrived back just then, carrying a couple of bags. “I’ve got puppy food, dishes, chew toys, a dog bed, and one of those puppy crates, a nice roomy one; Jack’s fetching it from the car, we’re going to set it up over by the sofa. It’ll keep Spike safe and out from underfoot when we’re busy.”
“Better give him some food right away,” Owen said. “Little and often, that’ll be best, just to get him back up to normal weight for his size. Puppies should be chubby bundles of fur, not skin and bones like this little chap.”
“I know,” Ianto agreed. “I talked to Anne at Pet World; she’s fostered abandoned and abused puppies several times.” As he spoke, Ianto was getting out dishes and food. Spike pricked up his oversized ears, tail wagging hopefully, and as soon as the small portion of food was offered, he wolfed it down as fast as he could, clearly ravenous, then looked beseechingly up at the people surrounding him, begging for more.
“He’s still hungry, can’t he have a bit more?” softhearted Tosh pleaded.
“Not right now, Tosh. I know it won’t be easy but we have to resist those big brown puppy dog eyes,” Ianto said. “He can have the same amount every couple of hours; we don’t want to overload his little tummy by giving him too much too soon. We’ll build him up gradually. Here.” He handed Tosh a small brown leather collar and matching lead. “You’ll be needing these.
“Thanks, Ianto.” Taking the collar, Tosh carefully buckled it about Spike’s neck. The little dog shook his head and gave the collar an experimental scratch with a hind leg, then seemed to accept it, yawning so widely that he set everyone else off.
“Are you sleepy, little one? I don’t blame you after everything you’ve been through. You come with me.” Picking up the puppy, Tosh carried him over to the sofa and sat down, setting Spike on her lap were he curled up contentedly. Work could wait for once; she didn’t have anything urgent demanding her attention.
Owen watched her go, smiling slightly. “So now Torchwood has a dog?”
“Tosh has a dog,” Ianto corrected. “But I think she’ll let the rest of us borrow him occasionally.”
“How big d’you think he’ll get?” Jack asked, joining Ianto and Owen. He was carrying a section of the puppy crate.
Ianto shrugged. “Impossible to say for sure just yet, he looks like a mixed breed, but he has big feet and ears, so he’ll have to grow into them. If I had to guess I’d say… medium sized?”
“He’d better hurry up about it, before Myf gets hungry and decides he’ll make a nice snack,” Owen said.
“Myf doesn’t eat dogs!” Ianto threw Owen an indignant glare. “She likes fish, and anyway, you know she won’t eat anything unless it has her special sauce on it.”
“I was joking!” Owen protested.
“Well it was in poor taste,” Ianto huffed. “You weren’t there when Tosh pulled the plastic bin bag out of the water.”
Two hours later, the hungry pup was fed again, then installed in his crate. Ianto had covered the floor with newspapers and put the new bed in one corner. Spike had a water dish, and a bunch of toys to play with if he felt like it, but he was still tired from his ordeal and snuggled up with Tosh’s sweater for another nap.
“I’ll drive you and the scrap to the vet after work, and then home afterwards,” Owen promised to Tosh’s surprise.
“Are you sure? I mean don’t you have plans?”
Owen shrugged. “Nothing that won’t keep for another night. Anyway, it’s gotta be me since I’m the one who examined him earlier. The vet might ‘ave questions.”
“Thanks, Owen; I really appreciate it.”
The medic shrugged. “Not a problem; I like dogs, always wanted one myself but it was never a good time. We’ll have to take some of his stuff with us too; his food, dishes, bed… I could stay over if you want, sleep on the couch, so we can take turns feeding him overnight.”
“Okay, if you’re sure you don’t mind. That would be a big help.”
It was kind of funny that after years of working together, it was a small, hungry puppy that brought Tosh and Owen together. Six months later, with Spike filled out and full of bounce, they moved into a house with a garden so the pup would have more room to run, although he still came to work with them every day. By then he was well trained so they only needed to shut him in his crate when the whole team had to go out, and even then only when it wasn’t considered safe to take him with them.
A year after that, Owen and Tosh were married and discussing adding to their family by adopting a second dog. It seemed only fair that Spike should have a playmate since Tosh had just announced she was expecting…
Ianto sometimes wondered about the Rift and whether it was more than just a time/space anomaly. Jack insisted it couldn’t be sentient in any way, and yet if it hadn’t dropped its unwanted gift where it had, the puppy might never have been found, and Tosh and Owen may never have got together. Whether it was mere coincidence or a deliberate act didn’t really matter though; everything had worked out just fine.