My early life has had some extreme ups and downs. I have felt extreme cold, comforting warmth, abandonment, and companionship. It took two Christmas’ for me to find what a dog’s life should really be like.
I was born in a cold cage. But I had my mom, my brothers and sisters, and a meager blanket on the floor. My mother kept me warm and fed me well so I grew fast. At first, I only felt and smelled my family, but then I was able to see them as well. And as soon as my limbs grew strong, I was able to play with them too.
But this confortable time was not to last. Soon a few of my brothers and sisters and I were taken away from our mom. Our tiny little world suddenly grew into a big scary place. When we were crammed in a tiny crate and taken out of the building where my mom lived, we saw the vast outside world for the first time. But we saw only a glimpse before we were put in the back of a truck.
The ride took all day and we were not fed and did not have anything to drink. By the time our crate was taken out of the truck we were hungry, thirsty, and we were a mess with urine and feces. The man who took us brought us to a woman. She bathed us, fed us, and gave us water but did not comfort us or even speak to us. But we were put in a much nicer cage. We had warmer blankets and the floor was not all wire. And someone actually cleaned up our messes when we made them. We also had visitors who came to play with us. We had never experienced the joy of being petted and played with by people before and we thoroughly loved it. One by one, some of these people took one of my brothers and sisters away with them.
It didn’t take long for a man and woman to take me away too. They took me to an older woman who took very good care of me. But I was lonely. I missed my brothers and sisters and I would sometimes cry. The older woman often comforted me and by the time three days had passed, I was a much happier pup.
On the fourth day, very early morning, the man and woman came back. They put a big red bow around my neck and took me to their home. I was to spend a few moments in a dark box where I cried and cried. But my crying must have worked because soon I heard some children’s voices. They tore the lid off the box and it was the happiest moment for us all.
Life with this family was much different than it had been the brief moments with the older woman. I was left all alone in a crate most of the day. When the family got home, I was so excited that I jumped up and down and licked everyone. But they were not as happy to see me. The children cried, the parents yelled. And I got put outside. By the time I was let back in, I was put back in the crate for the night.
One day, I must have done something very very bad. I got an aweful spanking and was thrown into the crate and taken to the car. They took me to this big place with lots of other dogs and left me there. I was put in a wire cage all by myself and never saw my family again.
My cage was not as bad as the one I had lived in as a newborn pup. I had a warm blanket, sometimes I had toys, and there were always people who fed me, pet me, and cleaned up after me. Sometimes people would take me out for a walk. The only really bad part part about this place was all the noise. But I was only there for a few weeks when a very nice man took me to his home.
He was a nice man but sometimes he forgot the feed or water me. He potty trained me somewhat. I learned that I was supposed to make my messes outside, but sometimes he would forget to let me out. Despite these occasional minor inconveniences, I was an overall satisfied dog. I lived with this man all through the summer and fall and was growing to be a very big dog.
One day, while looking outside the fence, I saw another dog. I was so excited and agitated at the same time that I started jumping up and down. And lo and behold! I found that I could jump over a certain low part of the fence. The owner of the other dog put me back inside and told my man. But he never fixed the fence. A few days later, I jumped that low part of the fence again and went to visit the neighborhood.
At first, visiting the neighborhood was very exciting. There were smells of food, other dogs, more people, and even of different animals of which I have never smelt the likes of before. But then I got lost and I couldn’t find my way back. I almost got hit by a car twice. Some people threw things at me in anger. And no one offered me any food or water.
The outside world became a cold and scary place. I began to avoid people for fear of being kicked or having something thrown at me. I rummaged through garbage cans in order to eat. When it snowed, I found a small dark place under a patio and slept. This place became my refuge. The patio was attached to a building where I often heard a lot of people inside. And sometimes whenever someone came outside, they put a lot of really nice food in the garbage can.
One very cold evening when I was going through the garbage can, a woman from the building came out and caught me. I ran away as fast as I could before she could hurt me. But her voice stopped me short. She wasn’t shouting at me. She was calling me. She wasn’t calling my name, of course, but I knew she was talking to me. Her voice was so sweet that I turned around to look back. She was squatting down and making a bunch of sweet kissing noises. I cautiously slunk my way back towards her. And when she reached out to pet me, I rolled over on my back in submission.
She rubbed my tummy lovingly and I knew that I was safe. Despite how frightened I was of a place with a bunch of people, I let her lead me inside the building. The building was warm and cozy and decorated with a bunch of shiny lights and a big tree which reminded me of when I was brought to my first home. The woman gave me a warm and delicious meal and water which was not frozen over with ice.
She took me to her home that night and made me a nice warm bed. In the morning, she took me outside on a leash. I have never been on a leash before and wasn’t sure what to think. But with her warm assurances, I quickly learned that all I needed to do was walk with her and only stop once in a while to go to the bathroom. After that, she gave me a bath. The bath was nothing like the bath I had been given at the pet shop. It was actually fun. She didn’t just wash me, she played with me. And when she was done, she brushed me with care and tenderness instead of with mundane rapidity.
After that, I was taken back to the building again. I met a lot of people there and was a little scared at first. But with her assurances I soon warmed up to everyone. I had forgotten what it was like to be around people and I enjoyed every moment of it. I soon learned that this building was part art gallery and part work shop. The people who came regularly, including the woman, were artists. Sometimes strangers came to visit to look at the art – and to pet me.
Going home at night and coming to the art gallery during the day became our regular routine. I was called Scamp and everyone loved me. I loved everyone too, but I loved the woman most of all. It was with her that I experienced my second Christmas. This time was better because I wasn’t the gift in the box and I received gifts instead. I was never put in a cage again and was very seldom ever left alone. People played with me and pet me regularly. I always got my meals and even got special treats like biscuits and bones. I was never thirsty and was taken out regularly for walks or trips to the park.
I am on my twelfth Christmas now and life is still as good as it was ten years ago when I first met the woman. The turbulence of my youth is gone. My first Christmas family didn’t work out, but I found something better. I found someone who was prepared to handle all the responsibilities involved in my happiness and well-being. And now Christmas is a very special time of year, one in which I will cherish for the rest of my days.
Story by Dawn Ross
© December 2010