After twenty-seven years of a hectic life, Harold McDermott decided to propose to his girlfriend. Her name was Bertha, and she was utterly thrilled to obtain an alternate surname as she possessed a parallel commitment to their relationship.

They had met each other in their final years of college and had been together ever since… they were happy and enamored with each other, each one loving the other with equal forces that captivated the couple in a glowing aurora of true love.

And even after the McDermott’s desperate attempt to have children, their love refused to falter.

Harold was now twenty-eight years old and was diagnosed as infertile, primarily due to his severely low sperm count— multiple tests of his semen would always reveal the results of how drastically low his sperm count was in comparison to the normal twenty million per milliliter.

Harold was always comfortable around Bertha; however, he now felt guilty and ashamed and embarrassed of his failure to expand their family.

Bertha would always say something like It’s not your fault sweetie, or Don’t worry about it sweetheart, despite her desires of having a child. Harold was well aware of her desires, and their intercourse was not just for pleasure.

All families should consist of a child raised by a loving husband and wife. Harold suggested adoption, but Bertha was adamant about raising a child who was truly and fully their own. And so they lived together with the unfortunate inability to have a child— their love never dispersed, but their family never expanded.

While happiness was still within their emotions, Harold knew that he would never witness Bertha’s happiness at its fullest.

Harold and Bertha McDermott were luxuriously living in their two story house of nearly three thousand square feet… they were both financially and romantically stable and still in absolute love with each other… but still, Bertha’s happiness was not at its fullest.

That was thirty-six years ago in 1971. There were no modifications to their lives within the course of the decades except for retirement—they spent every second of their time together, deeply involved in an adorable elderly romance… but Bertha never gave birth… she never raised a child… and she never became a grandmother.

Harold and Bertha were sixty-four years old and were still oblivious to the experiences of children and grandchildren, and they both knew that it was much too late to do something about it.

But then Harold took his truck on a long drive upon the infinite country road… he returned four hours later with a surprise for his beloved wife.

Harold had purchased a puppy from the closest pet store—it was over a hundred miles away from their residency, but their location was completely isolated in the desolate aridness of the South Carolinian country.

The puppy was frightened as it clutched the passenger seat on the way home; it pissed itself twice and was unable to pause its whimpering, but it would eventually adapt and adjust and Bertha would love and adore it.

After the house was finally reached, the puppy was retrieved from the truck and handled with care. There was certainly no denying of its cuteness as its miniscule size was cradled within the comforting hands of a thoughtful husband.

It was a female Golden Retriever of just a few months old, and she was examining the vastness of the world as her journey progressed to the front door.

She did not have a name—Harold would grant that responsibility to Bertha, and he situated it in one hand as he used the other to anxiously turn the doorknob.

“Honey, I’m home!” was his usual greeting as he imitated their favorite television show I Love Lucy and he could not have been more content.

He walked through the house with the puppy and expected to see his wife come through the kitchen for a hug and kiss…but instead he would present the puppy and have the satisfying opportunity of witnessing her response of happiness.

Bertha did not come through the kitchen.

“Bertha?” There was no answer. But there was also no panic or distress—the absence of a personal greeting could be due to anything…she could be sitting outside…she could be sleeping upstairs—

Harold noticed a pair of his underwear lying in the corner of the house.

An ordinary man would have immediately assumed an affair, but Harold knew better than that—she was too old and too in love and he recognized the generic pattern upon his briefs. But what was his underwear doing there?

Harold stepped into the kitchen and progressed toward the underwear…and then he discovered more clothes. There was a mixture of his white socks and underwear with his wife’s bras and panties…they were all mysteriously strewn across their living room along with a laundry basket of which was empty and overturned.

The footsteps upon the tiled kitchen floor seemed to be getting louder as Harold’s world began to fade away into the possible explanations and possibilities. He was still holding the puppy and was now stroking its fur with nervousness as his sweaty palm began to attract small strands of golden hair.

Bertha had mentioned that she was going to do some laundry—a load of whites, to be precise. But…why the hell was it all over the floor?

Harold emerged from the kitchen and looked around the corner only to be encountered by more clothes…but they were not white…they were red…they were soaking up the blood that had been spilled upon the floor. At the base of the staircase, Bertha was lying in a pile of bloody laundry that surrounded her mangled body.

“Bertha…” and Harold dropped the puppy, staggering towards his wife with a devastating surplus of anxiety. “Bertha! Bertha! Oh God. Oh God, Jesus Christ!” and then his instincts told him to call an ambulance. But just as he reached for the telephone, he stared into Bertha’s eyes…they were wide open, glaring at him with lifeless agony from her cracked skull upon her twisted neck. The glare of absence that Bertha was emitting was enough to obliterate all of the hope within Harold…he knew that the paramedics would be of no use to a dead body.

Harold cried as he knelt in the blood and appeared to comfort the cadaver…he stroked her with a quivering hand and he could not tell if he was feeling her front or back. And as his hand ran itself over her bloody gown he felt multiple protrusions of uneven skin…Bertha’s bones had been haphazardly broken and shattered beneath her flesh—some had even been forced through her body, revealing pointed ends of bloody bone fragments. And along with her fatally altered torso, Bertha’s limbs were rotated in disgusting contortions with more blood spurting from the breaks of her delicate bones…some blood even spewed onto Harold’s face and splattered across his glasses. He stared at his wife with a deep sorrow as he drowned himself in outbursts of sobs. And then the puppy appeared at the scene, curious of the situation. She yelped at Harold in response to his uncontrollable sobbing and then began to sniff and examine the corpse upon the floor. The puppy was still unnamed…Bertha could no longer name her, so Harold named the puppy after his wife—Bertha. A sweet old lady does not deserve to die like this. Why didn’t he do the laundry? Why couldn’t he have fallen down the stairs? Bertha was two years old and the canine had grown to its full size…she was a healthy seventy pounds, slightly above average in correspondence to her mass. The Golden Retriever was majestic as her sheen was groomed with her threads of fur reflecting the light and appearing to glow with loyalty.

Bertha had turned two a couple of months ago, and today was the two-year anniversary of the incident. Harold never blamed the dog for the fatal occurrence; living with her was actually the only thing that accompanied him…she always loved him and was always there for him and Harold knew that naming her after his wife was an appropriate decision. That dog was the only aspect of his wife that remained with Harold.

Bertha would never be left without a pat on the head and a stroke of her withers—this was literally the only thing that would make Harold smile… even I Love Lucy was now a depressant. Harold turned off the television and progressed to his bedroom. Bertha was finishing the remaining scraps within her dog bowl and Harold had arrived at the base of the stairs.

Harold stood in the exact spot of which he had discovered his wife, and his chest had suddenly erupted in pain. His hand clasped the center of his torso as he felt his heart rapidly vibrate—this was followed by severe and intense pressure that attempted to break free from beneath his ribcage. Harold immediately broke into a cold sweat as he cried out in pain with deteriorating vision.

Harold had collapsed at this point—his knees buckled and he fell to the floor and resided in contracting gesticulations as he screamed with both hands clutching his chest. And just before his eyes closed with the transition of life to death, he witnessed Bertha, sprinting to her fallen owner with a loyal willingness of rescue.

Bertha whimpered at the unresponsiveness of Harold. He had been lying there for hours, entirely lifeless and completely motionless. The dog licked his face and put a gentle paw upon the innocent wrinkles of his cheek; Bertha’s concern and confusion were being tormented by her deceased master.

Bertha whimpered louder—she even began to bark…she even began to growl. The dog pounced on his chest in a desperate attempt to rid his body of what had done this…she knew that something had attacked Harold, but she could not realize that it was his heart.

The isolated country house had a deserted radius for miles…Bertha was the only life that still breathed with health. She occasionally left Harold to consume some of her dog food, but a few hours later, she had emptied her bowl.

Bertha’s stomach was full and her digestive track was active. Harold had installed a doggy door about eighteen months ago, and Bertha walked through it and trotted around with a sniffing nose until she defecated. Within twenty-four hours, her hunger would return and it would be wondering who would fill up her bowl.

Bertha had seventy pounds to satisfy with nothing but an empty bowl.

She was hungry, and this was the first step of starvation…she was now spending more time staring at her dog bowl rather than at her owner as if her dog food would appear with prestidigitation. But the one and only person who had fed Bertha for her two years of life was dead.

Bertha’s nose twitched towards Harold—she began to smell something…something decaying with putrefaction, something that may cause a human to vomit. But to an instinctive canine, the foul odor was appealing and appetizing.

It had been a week until Harold’s body had begun to show visible signs of decay to accompany its aroma.

Bertha pulled the collar of his shirt until the buttons excavated themselves and revealed his chest. It was beginning to adhere to a shade of blue and there was deterioration as the tissue began to disintegrate.

That was when Bertha took the first bite. The flesh was soft and there were slight traces of purging fluids of decomposition that emerged from the wound. Her teeth gritted themselves between the liquefying skin and she ripped a mouthful of muscle from Harold’s chest.

Blood erupted from the bite and the fur of Bertha’s jawline was soaked with thick streams of the substance dripping from the golden hairs. The contrast of the fur to the blood was sickening with visualizations of horror as her teeth dripped with blood like a canine of necromancy.

Bertha gnawed through a rib until she snapped it off—the marrow had already begun to dry but the metallic flavor of blood was still strong and captivating. She gained access to the delicate tissue of Harold’s lungs and her teeth had become contaminated with the remnants of her master and her stomach was now far from starving.

Bertha’s snout dug itself deeper into the cadaver until she discovered its heart…the heart that had allowed Harold to be a good master to his canine. And even when the dog bowl was empty, Harold’s heart gave Bertha a muscular organ of protein and nutrients that expelled massive amounts of blood that trickled from her muzzle.

Bertha had reached the bottom of Harold’s body and had made contact with where the majority of his blood had settled. She had chewed his liver and ripped open his stomach and the meaty, nutritious contents were being soaked in the blood that was squirting from the body and being lapped up by the canine.

Bertha continued to eat…it would not suffice for much longer, but it was a substantial substitute of her empty dog bowl.

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