Once upon a time, long ago and far away, I lived with my Mum and sisters and life was pretty good.
I guess I have no-one to blame but myself for what followed. My new humans tease me all the time that my nose will get me in to trouble and ‘she’ has said more than once “ ‘curiosity killed the cat’ and is likely to kill the dog as well!”
And so it happened: we were all out on a little hunting expedition when I got wind of a most exciting scent and I was off – my Mum and the sisters left miles behind – well you can’t expect much of girls can you?
Life was just so exciting. I went through woods and fields until I was exhausted but a drink from a yummy scrummy muddy puddle followed by a nap in the sun soon sorted me out. It was only then I realized how long it was since I had seen the others. Slowly I sniffed my way back the way I had come. It was nearly dark by the time I got to where I had last seen the others. I waited and waited, but no-one came back for me. That was the last time I saw my real family.
I was a pretty resourceful lad however and was soon able to fend for myself. If push came to shove I could manage on mice and snails but I found a place where lots of humans came to dig and plant things. They often seemed to bring food with them and would throw me bread and sometimes tasty bits of meat and cheese.
One day someone threw me a bone, which I wanted to bury for later. There was lots of nice soft earth and I was just getting to work when a man yelled at me and started chasing me with a spade – oops, I must have been about to dig just where he had buried his bones! The more I thought about it the more likely this seemed, perhaps that’s what all these people were doing – burying bones? The more I tried to dig the angrier people got, first trying to keep me away with spades and brooms, then trying to catch me – but I was much to clever.
Then one day, when I was obviously not at my best, someone did get hold of me. I was lured into a shed by people offering me a juicy looking bone only to find the door shut behind me. Later they took me to their home where they fed me and gave me a nice warm bed; perhaps life wasn’t going to be so bad after all!
Next day however they all went way and left me locked in. I thought it was a mistake and tried to find a way out. First I tried to claw my way through the door. I managed to get a lot of wood out but gave up in the end. After a sleep I tried to tunnel under the floor. The carpet presented no problem, in fact it was quite fun, but again I was defeated by wood. I made quite an impression on the floor-boards but couldn’t get through.
When the humans came back they seemed pretty upset, in fact they really freaked out. They bundled me into their car and took me to a place called Raystede. I have to admit everyone there was really nice. I was well fed and went on plenty of walks but there was no FREEDOM.
After a while I was introduced to a number of new humans. I was told if they liked me one of them may take me home with them. Well this could be my way back to freedom, so I smirked at them all, rubbing up against their legs, rolling on my back and generally acting the clown. One dog, rather a smart looking bull terrier called Olly, who had been brought out with me to meet the humans said it was little short of prostitution – but he got his comeuppance when the humans chose me not him!
My new home was great – in its own way; I had plenty to eat and lots of time off my lead but not the same FREEDOM I had in my other life. This was the price I had to pay for knowing my tummy wouldn’t be constantly rumbling with hunger and I would have a warm comfortable bed. I was out all day with the man (‘He’ or ‘Him’ – I remember my mum and I know the humans aren’t my real parents.) But when He was out and about in his tractor or van the man nearly always took me with him and I was able to run free nearly every day. If I was shut in I would still want to get out, but I soon learned not to try too hard. When I ate the mats and electric wires in his van, the man got really stressed. Although I didn’t understand why, I soon stopped doing it because I didn’t want him to be cross.
I didn’t realise it at the time, but my exceptionally good nose was to become something of a mixed blessing. The man was quite proud of the way I hunted… and I was quick too. When I was let loose in a field it was only minutes before I had caught two or three rabbits and I was soon able to add ducks, pheasant and even a mole to my list of successes.
I should put in a warning here – catching chickens is not a good plan… One day, I was taken to a farm and saw loads of them. As soon as the van door opened I was out and at them when suddenly, WHAM! – I found myself bouncing straight back! Ouch! my poor nose. And how all the humans laughed – with not a thought for my wounded dignity. I was too shocked to even try to make my ungainly leap look like nothing more than a joyous bound of pleasure at being alive on such a bright summer day. It seems that chickens have a defence system called ‘electric fence’. I don’t know if they all have it. I haven’t dared try again so – a word from the wise – BEWARE …
Pride however would soon prove to come before a fall.
One cold dark evening I had gone down to sort out a hay delivery with the man when I caught a good strong scent – I just had to follow it. I heard Him calling me but I hadn’t time to stop. I followed the scent down the drive – it was getting stronger and stronger. It was so enticing and I knew without a doubt I would soon catch up with whatever was leaving such an irresistible trail.
Suddenly the world was exploding around me – bright lights – screeching – shouting and pain – so much pain. I couldn’t move, I wanted to run away and hide, but my legs felt all wrong – and they wouldn’t go straight.
I don’t remember much of the next few days, but when I got home both my front legs were all bandaged up and they stayed that way for months. I was told the bandages were called splints and I would have to be careful for a few weeks as my legs had been broken and put back together. One was held in place with a metal plate. I was supposed to be quiet and rest my legs but with so many temptations constantly coming my way the splints were broken more than once. Everyone tells me how lucky I was to have such a brilliant surgeon. He was called Mr Draper and they said he looked after me in a place called Worthing, although I don’t remember anything about it. Anyway, he must have been pretty good, as my legs seem ok now.
Well, the next thing was that because of all these scrapes, it was decided I should go to school. So off I went to start on what they called an introductory course at Uckfield and District Dog Training Club. It didn’t really seem to make a lot of sense to me, and what with one thing and another I ended up taking this course FOUR times before I worked out that if I did what they wanted me to I got rewarded with FOOD. Once I got that sussed there was no stopping me. Suddenly I was the star of the class! In next to no time I found myself being moved up from Class 1 to Class 2 and before much longer into Class 3. I even managed to get these things called rosettes and shields on the way. I didn’t really understand the point of that. They didn’t taste very good and were no fun to play with. But they made my new owners happy and they fussed over me quite a lot, so that was fine with me.
Little by little I was getting to like my new life and, after I had had a long enough period of freedom would look forward to going home – so long as it was on my terms – and so long as no-one actually tried to catch me…
We’d all been rubbing along pretty well together for about three years when one fine sunny day, He said we were going to look at a possible addition to the family. Next thing I knew, I was bundled into the van and off we went. Little did I realize this was to mark the end of life as I knew it – a life where I thought I was the centre of the universe.
We went to a place called Linden Lodge Kennels where my kind are taken if we are picked up by a dog warden. This funny, scruffy, tiny spitfire of a dog was brought out. He was quivering and bristling all over, but somehow I felt it was only a mixture of fear and bravado and that he probably wasn’t a bad sort – “Just ignore him, that’ll take the wind out of his sails” I thought to myself. And I was quite right, we went for a bit of a walk together and I reckoned we could probably brush along together pretty well – so I decided I’d let him come to stay
Many were the times I would rue THAT decision.
In no time at all, he decided he was going to adopt my humans as his family and they instantly became mum and dad to him. Well, I could live with that, but next he decided his place was going to be on his ‘dad’s’ lap, which I was not going to allow. It’s not that I’d ever been a lap-dog myself and, as a matter of fact, I’d rather looked down on that sort of thing, but I was here first and I was going to get up on that lap even if I had to sit on George too. So that’s exactly what I did. But blow me down if the little blighter didn’t just respond by hopping up on my human’s shoulders and sitting there! I did give this a try myself a couple of days later when George was sniffing round the kitchen, but I had to admit my legs probably were a bit long – still – I don’t think it was necessary for the others to laugh at me… With as much dignity as I could muster I slipped back down on to His lap. Those shoulders were pretty uncomfortable anyway, so George was welcome to them, so long as I could have the lap.
Next problem was that little whippersnapper wanted constant attention. Now I’m quite happy to play with people if they reward me with tit-bits, but why would I want to play with George? I’d try to pretend to be asleep until he dropped a ball on my nose. The cheek of it! But eventually, after he’d done it half a dozen times I’d usually give in. I didn’t really take to this playing thing at first, but after a while I found a game I liked. It was tug-of-war and the best thing about it was I knew I’d always win, which was a great way of reminding the little runt just who was the boss.
The worst problem was how George always had to try and get rid of anyone who came within a stone’s throw of the house. Now a couple of barks to let people know you’re there is one thing, but threatening all and sundry with instant death, just to prevent them coming any nearer is quite another. All I could do was try to drown out his insults by barking even louder and longer myself. They (my people) both tried to stop me, but once I started it was so exciting I just wanted to carry on, enjoying hearing the sound of my own bark, which I had always been rather proud of. Although this always earned us both a good scolding we could never resist the temptation to do it again. What was worse though was George didn’t know where to draw the line and carried on the same way when we went out for walks. I’d been taught to walk past quietly, whatever came along. But that little urchin swore his way round our roads until it made my ears curl with shame. I’d tell him off from time to time if he gave grief to my special mates, but it didn’t make much difference.
One thing was for sure and that was my life would never be the same again. I gradually discovered though that good things could come out of even the most unpromising turns of event. For some reason the bad feelings I had about George sitting on my human’s lap brought about a big change in the way I got on with Him. I didn’t really understand why, but He seemed pleased when I wanted to sit on his lap, and I started to think how lucky I was. Almost without having noticed it happening, I realised I had become really attached to my new family. I didn’t think of them as Mum and Dad the way George did, but they were MY people. The arrival of George had cemented my place in our home.
Father – found and lost
It’s only since I’ve grown older and wiser and can look back on my life I can see it wasn’t just me who was reluctant to accept my humans as a new family they too had had a problem. I found out they had had another dog before me who’d been very much loved, especially by Him. He was a Jack Russell and his name was Jo. At first they didn’t talk about him much, but bit-by-bit I found out he’d died in some sort of accident. My human had been beside himself about it and seemed to blame himself. Looking back, I can see he still hadn’t got over it when I started living with them. Sometimes He would look at me, shaking his head and looking sad. He’d always say the say the same thing. “You’re not half the dog Jo was”. Well, at that time I might not have been to any of those fancy learning classes some dogs went to (and which would later become part of my life) but even I knew being half a dog was not much use to anyone, so I can tell you it made me feel pretty bad about myself even though the woman was always kind to me, saying he’d soon learn to appreciate me for myself. But it was a long time before I got over that feeling of hurt and rejection.
Now, as I’ve said I can just about remember my mum and being part of a pack, so I knew my humans weren’t my real family, but over the years I’ve come to look at them as my pack. I could never feel quite settled in the evenings until they were both home. If one was late I felt it was my duty to listen out for the other’s return; humans aren’t much good at that sort of thing – I suppose it’s not surprising with their funny little ears. So anyway, I’d always be listening out for the missing one and could hear them ages before the other human had any idea they were coming.
This feeling of being part of a pack grew over time and later, when I started going to one of those schools I’d heard about and managed to do rather well, the man started being proud of me. I could tell from the spring in his step and the lightness in his voice that he was really excited when we went home with one of those funny rosette things. And when they both disappeared off for a meeting and came back with what they told me was the ‘most improved dog’ shield I though he was just about going to burst with pride. I don’t really understand why, but somehow all this seemed to make him love me more and by and by I notice he’d stopped comparing me with the other dog, Jo.
My next amazing success came after about two years when I was taken to Agility Training, which I took to like the old proverbial duck to water that I’m always hearing about. There was a small difference of opinion about this, which they called a ‘conflict of interests’. The problem was that it was done out of doors. The conflict was that my human’s interest in having me take part in the activity didn’t work well with my yearning for freedom! I really and truly loved leaping skywards over the jumps, running up and down the apparatus and especially showing off my prowess on the see-saw, to say nothing of gobbling down all the tit-bits that flowed freely when I did what they wanted, but after a bit I’d usually give in to the call of the wild and mosey off on my own for an hour or two. The humans responded by making me wear what they called a flexi-lead. Personally, I called it a blooming nuisance, as it really slowed me down, especially through the tunnel, where my lead was taken off at one end and put back at the other before I had time to plan an escape. Anyway, as they keep telling me, every cloud has a silver lining (although I’ve never seen what’s so special about that. You can’t eat silver and its no fun to play with. I should know – I really hurt my teeth on some one day). But it was the old flexi-lead that gave rise to my next great success. As we were approaching the tunnel my human dropped the lead, so I grabbed it by the handle and ran through the tunnel holding it in my mouth before returning it to her at the other end. Not only did this result in huge applause from the humans who were watching me, as well as a good handful of treats, but also it really cemented the relationship between the man and me. You could tell he was always sad about the other dog and never forgot about him, but somehow I knew deep down that I’d won my own place in His heart.
When George come to live with us my feeling of being part of a pack had grown even stronger though I was quite envious of how he seemed able to come in and replace his own family with the new one so easily. It took a while before I realised this was just his way of dealing with his own fear and loss. But it did make me think more about myself and things like how sitting on my human’s lap more often had given us a much closer bond. Maybe I’d never go as far as George and call him dad, but he was becoming like a father to me – and that’s how I’ve come to think of him over the years.… Hmm yes ‘father’ … it gives me a feeling of belonging without any loss of independence. Comfortable, that’s what I’d call it.
So all in all, life was pretty perfect. There’d been a few blots on the old landscape. One was when, long before George came, I was sent away, on what they told me was a ‘holiday’ for a couple of weeks. At the time I was frantic. I thought I’d never see my family again and I couldn’t work out what I’d done that was so bad they had sent me away. It took me ages after they came to get me before I could believe they still wanted to have me back. Maybe they’d missed me as much as I’d missed them. Anyway it was the best feeling in the world to know I was where I felt I now belonged. It took me a while to work out that this sudden disruption was because father had to go to some place called a hospital for an operation. I suppose it was a bit like when I broke my legs, but he didn’t have the same bandages as me when he came home. The worst thing was I wasn’t allowed to lie on his lap for a while. They kept telling me I hadn’t done anything wrong and dada still loved me, but I really missed feeling his warm legs underneath me, to say nothing of the titbits he’s slip me when he thought mum wasn’t looking.
Then there were the days Father had to go off for something they called ‘chemo’. It didn’t sound like much fun. Mum always went with him and I heard them talking about it when they came back. So George and I got to do plenty of barking at the window without getting told off while they were out – but somehow nothing was the same without them. It was about this time that he explaining that I mustn’t put my paws on his chest as he had a special tube put in to make medicine go inside him. He went on to say that it had been done by this chap who he really liked, (he was a surgeon like Mr Draper) whose name was George – father considered this to be a really good name “I’ll call my next dog George” he had thought … “and that” he said “is how your young brother got his name”. As I said, we were left alone all day on chemo days, except when my friend Pam came to take us for a walk. I don’t mind telling you Pam’s one in a million. I met her at my Club and sometimes I go to her house and see her dog George, short for Georgie Girl (a few too many Georges around!). One of these occasions was when Father finished his medicine treatment and they threw a party for him to celebrate.
All was soon back to normal, Father was back to work and I went with him in the van or in his tractor, George tagged along and we settled down into a routine. But before long the ‘chemo’ days came back and we also had to go on more ‘holidays.’ But these times weren’t as bad as when I was sent away before. Partly it was because I had George with me, but mainly because I knew now that eventually I would go home, back to father. But these holidays still weren’t good things as although they always welcomed us and gave us and gave us plenty of food and exercise we missed home and it beats me why humans get so excited by planning their own holidays.
Little by little, almost so as you could scarcely notice from day to day, Father seemed to be slipping away from us. We didn’t go out for long walks any more and he seemed to just want to sit with me on his lap and George round his neck. Eventually father was spending a lot of time upstairs in his bed where we weren’t allowed to go, so we didn’t even get to see him every day. Then a time came, after we hadn’t seen him for two or three days, when we were taken out in the garden and when we came back he wasn’t there any more. We hadn’t seen him go – we just knew. A week or so later we went on another ‘holiday’ but this time when we came back there was no father to greet us. I slunk off into my cage and hunkered down to wait for him. I only came out to eat and go for walks but although I waited and waited for him, he didn’t come back. It felt as if a light had gone out in my life.
Then one day I heard His tractor coming to the house and I ran out wagging my tail nineteen to the dozen, yelping with excitement because I knew he’d come back after all and I wanted to be there to greet him. But when I got to the gate I saw it was only his friend Dasher. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with Dasher. He’s a great guy, but the disappointment was like a great weight crushing down on me so I could hardly breathe. And then the woman came and took me back into the house and snuggled me down on her lap, which normally I would have enjoyed, but she told me that father wasn’t coming back … ever. My heart felt as though it had turned to stone and broken in pieces… I’d only just learned to love and trust Him and now he’d gone and left me, without even saying goodbye.
Onwards and Upwards
I desperately missed Father’s love and attention and the loneliness constantly gnawed away at me, but George monopolised Her twenty-four seven, and somehow I couldn’t seem to push myself forward. Maybe it was because I couldn’t face the possibility that she might not want me now George was a permanent fixture on her lap or round her ankles. But she seemed to understand how I felt and coaxed me out of my special place for a cuddle each day. It was around this time that I started to think of her as ‘Mother’. Walks became longer again and I went back to school – Club on Mondays and Club Agility on Wednesdays.
Getting back into some kind of routine helped a lot and soon I found I was sitting with Mother and George most evenings, either on her lap or in my day bed – a soft round nest-like object that helped make me feel safer and more secure. I still liked to go and lie in my special place, which at this point perhaps I should explain. When I had first come to live with them, Father and Mother had bought me a cage to sleep in. It was very cosy as it had a big squidgy cushion to snuggle down in and a cloth over the top turning it into a lovely, safe, dark cave. I had been locked in for the first few nights, but after that I was more than happy to be there, especially if I was upset or frightened. It was my den and I came to think of it as my special place, where no one else could go and I could be alone with my thoughts if I wanted to.
Much to my regret agility with the Club only lasted until August, when the evenings draw, in but little did I know that Mother had something extra planned. A couple of weeks later I started going to a new school at a place called Sandhills, where two very nice humans called Val and Tracy were teaching agility. To my amazement, after a few words with Val mum took my lead off and I was FREE! I rushed excitedly round and round the field, looking for a way out, but eventually I realised there wasn’t one. It was only then I noticed loads of jumps, an A frame, seesaw, tunnels and dog-walk – just what I’d been used to at the Club Agility. Mother asked me to show the nice lady what I could do and I don’t mind telling you, I could scarcely wait to start strutting my stuff. I knew I was good at this sort of thing and it was surprising what a difference it made not being able to escape. I’d always enjoyed agility, but now I didn’t have half my mind on a bit of diversionary exploration I found it SO much better! I began to watch Mother as she pointed my way round the course, learning about things Val called ‘pull-ins’ and ‘push-aways’ and throwing a ball over the jumps for me to chase, so I knew it was ok for me to leap away from her, soaring over the jumps. It was so much fun that I began to look forward to my lessons here just as much as going to Club
Sadly, as the days grew shorter and colder, it got too wet to be spending so much time out-of-doors, so I had a bit of a rest for a couple of months. But even these were not uneventful as this amazing fluffy, white stuff kept falling down from the sky, making great white mounds all around us and covering the roads in a thick cold white blanket. Mother took us out for the longest walks each morning and although it was quite fun to play in at first it soon stuck to my fur and made my paws icy cold, so I was always glad enough when it was time to turn round and go home. Afternoon walks were shorter, but it got dark so early we were only too happy to get back indoors where it was always warm and toasty, night and day.
Soon new games came along, in the form of what mother called Flyball and Obstacle. I called them jolly good fun. Another really cool human called Julia taught me how to play them. Flyball involved some of my favourite things – running, jumping and fetching – with a few treats for doing well. I have to say I was pretty good at it and it gave me the opportunity to show one of my girl friends, Flossie, what a smart chap I was. She’s quite cute in her own way and I was pleased to see she seemed to have taken a bit of a shine to me, so I was happy enough for her to follow around with me to try to pick up a tip or two. It was good to see her growing more confident and I was glad to have been able to help her. Even if I say it myself she is getting pretty good now she’s got the hang of bringing the ball back to please the humans.
Flossie lives with another dog called Jessie and their human sometimes brings them out with Mother and me and all of us dogs go for a good run in a place where there’s loads of trees, which they call a forest. Even George likes Flossie and Jessica, which is good and quite surprising, as he doesn’t find it easy to make friends like I do.
But back to the other new game, Obstacle, now that’s not so easy for me, it involves obedience and agility, so I really have to stop and think. I guess we can’t all be good at everything and I have to confess, I think they must have caught me snoozing as they handed out obedience when I was a pup. I had to try to learn these things like walking backwards and doing a ‘stand’. Mother told me she was supposed to have taught me how to do them, but somehow she had never worked out how to get me to understand what she wanted me to. One of the things I’ve found hardest so far is doing the ‘stand-stay.’ As I’ve said it’s the yummy treats that really keep my interest in these games and usually I have to do a ‘sit’ or a ‘down’ to get a one, so as soon as I have stood up and mum starts on my well deserved ‘good boy,’ without thinking I sit for my treat, then blow me down if the exercise doesn’t have to start all over again! But I’m please to say I’m eventually getting used to it.
We’ve never been much of a family for doggie clothing, but you should see the way some of the dogs round here get all kitted out for their walks. Father thought coats were only for what he called for wusses – but our winter activities take place in a jolly cold tunnel made out of some plasticy stuff. Being a bit of an athlete, it’s important for me to keep my joints warm, especially when resting between mad spurts of activity like when I play Flyball, so Mother bought me a T-shirt and I’ve got to tell you, I do feel pretty darn cool in it (though perhaps that is not quite the right word as it’s actually rather nice and warm!). Anyway, I’ve noticed some pretty admiring glances from some of the other dogs, especially the girls.
So – all in all life keeps on changing, but however bad it gets I just try to remember maybe there will still be something good round the next corner.
Well that more or less tells you about my life so far – I guess if anything else exciting happens I will just have to start a diary!
I have had a few good but uneventful years living with Mummy and George.
I have loved doing my obedience training and competing for our club and, in latter years, doing trick training but since the cold before last my memory has been less clear and sometimes I have hurts in my tummy and feel sick, then I can’t eat.
Mummy made me lots of special food and I tried to eat it to please her but sometimes I just couldn’t.
Now I just feel so tired and want to sleep
Mummy has gone out with George for a walk and I think I will just stay here and sleep and dream of finding Daddy and meeting the Big Dog in that Kennel in the sky that they say is by a Rainbow Bridge
So now to sleep ……