One of my favourite things to do was running in the front garden, I could see what was going on and everyone loved me. The neighbours would lean over the fence to pat me and bring me little treats.
One day a strange man came to the gate and called to me, I ran across and before I knew what was happening he had reached down and grabbed me. I struggled and struggled but couldn’t get away. I tried to bite but he just laughed and held me at arms length by the scruff of my neck I couldn’t even get enough breath to bark for help.
I was held prisoner for weeks, always hungry and cold and the stranger kept making me meet other dogs. I wanted to be friends and play but they were all really mean and tried to bite me. When I ran away the man kicked me until I tried to bite back, then he seemed happy, shouting and cheering me on. If I got a few good bites in he would pat me and give me more to eat.
The longer I lived with the stranger the more scared I got. I didn’t know when I would be made to fight and was always having to look out for flying kicks. I had nowhere to hide and was for ever cold and hungry. I started to get quite clever and often managed to get a quick nip at the ankles of the stranger, or one of his friends, and could even dodge the resulting swipe from his stick.
Then one day while I was in the front of his van with one of his friends, wimpering from my last kicking, the friend turned to the stranger and told him to dump me, saying I would never be any good, he had heard of a dog with Pit Bull blood which would be much more suitable. I didn’t really understand what all this was about but the next thing I knew was that I had been bundled out of the car and into a garden not very different from the one I had left so many weeks ago.
I tried to find a way out but couldn’t, then much later a face came to the window and looked at me. Later again the door opened and a big plate of food appeared. I went forward cautiously and ate and ate. Much, much later two people came and one picked me up gently, I growled a bit but resisted the temptation to bite.
I eventually learned that this person was called Scott. He took me home with him and I was warm and well fed for the first time in months, but sure that something bad was going to happen soon. The next day I was given to someone called a Dog Warden who put me in a big cage and said I was to wait there until I was claimed. I was pretty sure that the stranger would not want me but my family wouldn’t know where to look, so what would happen to me? I was very frightened, but at least I was fairly comfortable and had plenty to eat and drink.
No-one claimed me for a week then a man and woman came and the man said he liked Jack Russells and would give me a home if I got on with their dog Arnie.
This man soon became my Dad – I went everywhere with him out in his tractor or van. Wherever he went I went too, even if Arnie had to stay at home. Dad and I got on instantly. I liked to sit on his lap, but if Arnie was there, or he had his dinner or computer in front of him I sat across his shoulders.
My new home was OK, Arnie was quite friendly but I made sure I could always get away from him just in case he got fierce – I wouldn’t let dad or mum put me in a basket or box I just slept on a big cushion. I couldn’t get over my fear that another stranger would take come and take me or dogs would attack me. I let no-one near. If anyone came to the house I made sure they knew that I would kill them and woe-betide anyone who tried to put a hand over the fence to touch me.
Happy days are here again
I went everywhere with him, whether it was in the van or in the tractor. We did lovely things together, driving round the countryside, delivering grass seed to places so deep in the countryside that I could run around free without any danger of meeting strangers, human or canine. Alternatively we might spend whole days in the tractor doing things Dad referred to as topping, harrowing, ploughing and other strange names.
I loved being in the cab with Dad, just getting out for a run when he stopped for lunch, but Arnie always barked to get out as soon as we reached the fields so he could catch rabbits and things. Sometimes he came back looking rather fat! The tractor was very big and a long way down for a small chap like me, but if Dad stood near the door I could jump on to his shoulder or he would lift me down.
The days of summer were warm and seemed to last forever. In the evening sometimes we would have barbeques which meant having people in, but I soon got to know them and they would often try to slip Arnie and me crisps and yummy bits of meat from the table without Mum seeing. When it got dark and cold we would all go indoors and the fire would be lit so we could all be warm and cosy and everyone would be happy and not mind at all when Arnie and I crawled up on their laps to snuggle down dozing contentedly to the sound of their voices.
There was one bad thing that happened during this time. We had gone to see some of Dad’s friends and they wanted to meet me. Mum explained that they had two big dogs of their own, which they were just shutting away so I would be safe. I leapt out of the car and ran towards where I could hear Dad’s great laugh coming from only to find that between him and me the way blocked by the two most ginormous dogs I had ever seen. Of course I growled to warn them to keep away, but they though I was challenging them to a fight. With a great barking war cry the bigger one picked me up by my neck and shook me like Arnie shakes rats – I didn’t know whether my back or neck would break first! Then, just as I could bear it no longer, the shaking stopped … it took a few seconds to realize the reason for this was that the other dog had grabbed my other end and they were having a tug-of-war with me! I can’t remember quite how it happened, but the next thing I knew, I was back down on the ground. Mum tried to pick me up but I hurt too much, so I am ashamed to say that I growled to keep her away. Slowly and painfully I dragged myself back to the car, but when I got there I couldn’t even haul myself in and had to let Mum help. I ached all over and was very sore for some days which confirmed my belief that all other dogs were bad news and big ones were the worst of all.
But life goes on and soon I was back to the fun of that lovely summer – the humans tell me it was wet and cold, but I don’t mind a bit of rain and I had the warmth and love of my new Dad and my new home was always there to go return to. I couldn’t understand Arnie wanting freedom all the time – why couldn’t he just appreciate what he had? In fact the only recurrent fly in the ointment was that if Arnie didn’t come back at the end of the day it made Dad very cross, especially if he was tired.
Feeding the Horses
One of the things we used to do every day was feed the horses. Arnie said there used to be more, but in my time there were just two. Mabey was a bit touchy and didn’t much like me – she had big teeth which she bared at me in a very unfriendly way if I got too near and if I got behind her she would try and kick out at me. Still I used to chase her a bit – just out of bravado – to show Arnie I wasn’t scared of everything. One day when I was doing this when it was very muddy she aimed a kick at me and slipped and fell. That cracked me right up at first – until I realised Mum was pretty upset and then she stopped me going near her any more “in the interests of both of you” she muttered darkly – but I think she loved the horses more than us dogs. I said as much to Arnie but he just laughed and said “how could she prefer those great hulks to us – you never see one of them sitting on her lap do you?”
Cobby was a different matter, he was Dad’s horse – something they called a Shire – and even bigger than Mabey, but he was kindly. I used to share his food with him sometimes, though it was a bit scary if that enormous head came down too near mine. Once or twice I offered him a stick to play with, but he didn’t seem to understand that he was supposed to chase me to try and get it. Once I even offered to share a huge bone with him, but for some reason he wasn’t interested. He just put his head down and kept eating some stuff that looks a bit like Dad’s breakfast, only Cobby has it by the bucket full. I nibbled a few bits just to show him I didn’t hold any ill will towards him, but I certainly wouldn’t pass a bone to get at it. Still, there’s none so strange as horses!
Sometimes we went with Dad other times we went with Mum, but we always had a good time as there was loads of space and we could have a good run, hunt for rabbits, dig for moles and even snack on the odd mouse. Arnie taught me many of these skills and it was all so exciting that I would bounce and bark and just couldn’t creep up to things quietly and patiently like he showed me. He’s the best hunter I have ever met and I know he thinks I am the worst. Dad said I should be a ratter as that’s what Jack Russell’s are bred for, but I really think if I was actually confronted by one I would be scared – better to give a few warning barks to give them time to get away before we see them. Actually that’s another good thing about barking around the molehills – I’m sure I should be scared out of my wits if one came up just where I was digging. Arnie says he caught one once but he’s much bigger than me.
One of the times we went to the feed the horses after a stay at Linden Lodge we found that Mabey had gone. I didn’t really think about it at the time but much much later Cobby went too and Mum seemed so sad that, remembering my conversation with Arnie, I thought although they may not have sat in her lap like we do she did love them. I was learning that Arnie isn’t always right. When mum explained we wouldn’t be doing ‘feeding the horses’ any more I wondered about it – do horses have a Great Stable in the sky to go to when they leave the earth, like we have our Great Kennel? I have heard tell that they have a huge winged horse to look after them. Perhaps he can be seen in the sky when it is dark like the Big Dog.
Still this is getting ahead of my self a bit because before we stopped going to see Cobby lots of other things happened.
Times of change
For one thing Dad was at home a lot more and Mum was always there with us. I think this was because Dad was tired, but it was nice because I could sit on his lap or across his shoulders for most of every day. Dad loved this – whether it was just me on his lap, or Arnie on his lap and me on his shoulders – he would dose off with a great big grin on his face.
One of the best things about sitting on Dad’s shoulders was that at meal times I could get a really good look at what he was eating and if it was good I could always persuade him to let me sample it especially if mother wasn’t looking – in fact in those days we got lots of tit-bits! But little by little Dad stayed in bed for longer and longer. Then on the last day I saw him I was allowed to sit on the bed with him, which had never happened before, but though he stroked me and smiled he didn’t talk to me and mother looked so sad I knew something was wrong. Later Mum took us into the garden and I think some people must have come and taken him away because I never saw him again.
It took a long time, but finally, I understood he wouldn’t be coming back and then I knew why Mum had been so sad and I was sad too, so I tried to seek comfort from her. She talked to me about the Big Dog in the Sky and how she and Dad believed in a Great Master who had been there even before the Big Dog, Little Dog and Sirius; who looked after them and had set their stars in the sky. That made me feel a bit better and now I like to think of Dad up there with the Big Dog and his Master. He will sitting there in a huge rocking chair, comforting and cuddling dogs that have been badly treated – like he used to do with me when I first went to live with him. I know Mum likes to think of him like that with the Big Master too.
Well it wasn’t that I forgot about Dad, but I did so much need to be cuddled that I took to sitting on Mum’s lap every day instead – and soon I loved her just as much, although in a different way, because she is stricter. There is always something she is trying to make me do differently or better, especially getting more used to other dogs and people. This never seemed to matter when I was out with Dad in the van or tractor everyday, but now we go for long walks and meet all sorts of people and animals.
Even though I know Dad has gone away, when we are at home it somehow feels as if he is still there in some way, even though we can’t see or hear him and I know that part of him is continuing to look after us all.
Well from then on things changed a lot and life certainly became more interesting – though not all good, at least not at first. For one thing, I had to go to School like Arnie. In the beginning when I went lessons at the Club I was absolutely terrified – there were lots of extremely large dogs and some very noisy aggressive ones. I panicked and all I could think to do was to keep yelping and growling at them in the hope I would frighten them away. I used to shake from paws to tail with fear when I got in the car on Club nights and when we got there would curl up on Mums lap in the hope that I could we could just stay in the car. The more I was made to go the more frightened I became. My insides wobbled and sometimes I was so scared my legs wouldn’t work and Mum had to pick me up and carry me in.
Then I went to see someone called Jon; he took my lead and I just felt all the panic drain away. He explained to Mum that I behaved as I did because I was afraid and that I needed to be protected from making my own decisions. He seemed to me to be so wise – I am sure he was a ‘Mage’* like Mum had told me about in the Big Dog stories
Well Jon lived a long way away and it wasn’t easy to get to see him, but as it happened I was soon to meet someone who I think is another ‘Mage’* – she also seems to really understand me and she has a lot of learning; I have heard her explaining all sorts of things to Mum. Anyway after all the horrid snow had gone I started going to see Julia every week and I have begun to learn that I don’t need to panic. In fact I am even beginning to enjoy going to Club now as I am not so frightened of the other dogs and I really like learning. I can walk close to Mum’s ankles and sit and stay for ages whether she walks away or runs and jumps around me. And although I don’t like being left if she walks across the hall I always try to wait and go straight to her when she calls me.
Now I go for a walk without Arnie every afternoon as well and I think it’s much easier to contain my fear when Arnie isn’t there barking in my ear and winding me up. Some of the dogs that I used to be pretty afraid of are turning out to be quite nice and I can even sit and wait quietly, when some the scariest ones walk past.
In fact I seem to be making lots of friends of both the human and the doggy variety. There is my best friend at Club, little Betty with her Mum Ann, who has always been kind to me and then there’s a big and slightly scary dog called Colin, who has the nicest family that always make a bit of a fuss of me, making me feel special.
I also have so many friends when I go out for walks, Sam and Ellie, Jessie and Flossie as well as lots of humans, so life is different and harder but also getting better, especially things like running in the forest with Flossie which is the greatest fun.
Not that everything is always as straightforward as it sounds. I think one of the reasons I get so easily upset is that somehow, in my early life, I lost the ability to understand what is happening around me properly, so I don’t react in the right way. I worked this out from listening to Julia talking to Mum – so I hope I have/I’ve got it right. Anyway it seems that because of this Mum has to protect me and make decisions for me. Which sounds all very well, but you can’t always take it too literally – as I did once – to my great cost.
Soon after this decision making thing started, I was out walking with Arnie, Flossie, Jessie and their Mum. It was a freezing wintery day – the kind which turns your wee to icicles before it hits the ground! I thought I’d found a rather clever way of showing off a bit to Flossie; I saw a huge puddle by the side of the road and reckoned if I started to walk into it I’d look really butch – and Mum, making the decision for me, would make me get out before it got too deep. To my freezing humiliation though, it didn’t work and I was wet and so c-c-cold for the rest of the walk. When I took this up with Mum later she said she thought there were some decisions I ought to learn to make for myself – I ask you! She was really nice when we got home though and wrapped me up in a lovely warm towel.
Well, that more or less brings you up to date with my life; maybe I’ll copy Arnie and start keeping a diary if anything exciting happens…
Mages are teachers with deep learning and special gifts – more about them will shortly appear in The Tale of the Big Dog