A Dog's Life
Ruth Z. Deming
Some people should never own a dog. All they do is yell at me.
“Get over here, Sabrina!” the old lady called.
If I hear that again I’ll strangle myself with my leash. And I would, too!
She and her daughter, Lisa, have no business owning any animal.
“Own.” Like an ashtray or a bowl of fruit.
I’ll be outside on the lawn on my leash. This is dog country. Chico trots by with his young owner. They got him at the SPCA. Then there’s the twins Charlie and Charlotte. My did they grow fast, little black dogs. The new guy on the street just bought a huge standard poodle. Wait’ll you hear what he named him. Osborne. There’s a show-off for you.
Almost forgot. The family on the end of the street just got Maggie, also from the SPCA. What a beaut! You see Tom and his chub of a wife, MaryAnn, walking her a hundred times a day. What’s that about?
“Get over here, Sabrina!”
The leash pulls my neck. All I’m trying to do is be social with the other canines on the street.
Okay, so I bark as loud as a trumpet. Who cares? They do, the two old ladies. The dogless neighbor across the street who waters her plants in her polka-dot pajamas, yells out, “Hello Sabrina the Barker!”
I like that. She knows me for who I am.
When they picked me out of the litter at Sutter’s Puppy Farm they loved and petted me and treated me fine. The old lady drove her big red car and Lisa held me in her arms like the baby she never had. She smelled fine and I licked her hand with my tiny pink tongue.
“How beautiful you are,” she cooed, petting my short white fur. “After our German shepherd died, we knew we wanted another dog and put in our order. And then you were born.”
She asked her mom about naming me.
Mom, at the steering wheel, thought a moment.
“Yesterday, my girlfriends and I ate at Sabrina’s Bar and Grill.”
“I love it,” said Lisa.
Twice a year they go on vacation. And what do you think they do with me?
That’s right. Lock me up in a kennel.
Of course I piddled in my cage on the way to Best Doggies a few miles down the rolling hills of the neighborhood. I could barely look out the window at all the houses and trees and sky. I bit my front paw I was so anxious.
When we got there a Mrs. Forster let me out of the cage and held my trembling body. In no time I had calmed down. She was the best mum I ever had and I looked forward to every trip the old ladies took.
They just came back from Disney World in Florida. They were tittering about it over the phone. Cost them a pretty penny, they said, along with boarding me at the kennel.
Now I’d have to wait another six months before they leave again.
I began to plan ahead.
There was a knock on the door.
“Hi Jeff,” said the old missus.
“I’ve got your bill here for the lawn cutting.”
That’s when I ran out the door. How good the fresh air felt without my leash. I raced all over the neighborhood, staying on the grass, and smelling the golden urines of my compadres.
Oh, the places they´d been. The foods they ate.
The chase was on. It was like a game. Which neighbor would win the prize and catch me first.
Osborne’s owner was in hot pursuit along with next-door neighbor Bob, whose two ugly little poodles were never walked either, but left to wander in their fenced-in yard. Bob came out of the house bare-chested, but wearing a Star Trek cap.
It was George who caught me. He was young, Chico’s daddy. After he had me by my collar, I looked up at him with my big black eyes and howled. I wanted him to know how I felt.
I usually escape several times a week. I came up with what I thought was a fool-proof plan.
They keep me in a cage all night. I sleep on some soft towels. At the back of the cage, I gnaw on a small portion of the rubber bottom until finally I can crawl out.
I take one last sniff of the place. The old man who lived here was a dog-lover who trained me well. His manly aroma lingers. Charlie he was called.
No, I will not be coming back.
I trot softly across the blue carpet and into the dining room. Plants line the window sill. Carefully I step up onto the sill and slip out the open the window.
Out I go.
The world is mine.
Everything is dark but the sky where a moon has risen and myriads of stars glisten above. I point my snout at them in greeting. And then I run. Run like a wild thing whose life is at stake.
The old man used to take me to a park very far away. It had a lake shaped like a buckeye, a tree house for the kids, and a creek where people used to paddle canoes. In fair weather, there was an ice cream man in a white truck where long lines of people would wait for ice cream sandwiches, Popsicles, hot dogs and French fries.
Arriving just before morning, I entered triumphantly. Farmland was all around – this was green Pennsylvania – and I waited in a cornfield with high stalks and teeny cobs of corn. A fence cordoned off this area from the park. With no problem I rubbed off my collar with my name and address on it.
Patience is the middle name of all dogs.
I waited until I made my appearance, trotting out of the corn fields.
And was found. A blond little boy led me to his parents.
Cats may have nine lives. But I am enjoying my second life by people who love and understand dogs.
“What shall we name her?” asks the missus of the house.
The little blond boy stared at my big brown eyes.
I cocked my head at him.
“Look how she smiles at us,” he said.
“Smiley Jo,” he said. “Ya like that?”
“I like it just fine,” said the missus.
I sat on the braided carpet in the living room, played with my new toy, and rolled around with joy.