Category: Animal Fiction


Chapter 5 A Period of Adjustment

Around the time you think things are going too well, the cold rains come. Bubba started leaving for long periods of time until one day he didn't come back. Sally and Sheba went with him. I waited all day for the truck to come back but it never did.
Many other trucks came and went taking big things out of the place where the twins lived. Things like beds to sleep in and chairs to sit on. Remy told me they were going away and never coming back. They were going to a house way up in the sky, in a town far away. They had to fly in a big cage to get there. Boss Lady Brunell was going too. Even the horses and the cows were taken away in big vans. Remy said they were going to be sold to other people because the IRS had taken over the farm. And I thought I had taken care of that guy!
“Miss Brunell is in big trouble and has to leave Kentucky and hide out in Texas,” Remy said in his squeaky, falsetto voice. “Texas is so big you can’t find anybody. We fly there in the hold of a huge silver monster which whines and causes me to throw up.”
My curiosity got the better of me. “How do you get on the monster?”
“First, Miss Brunell puts us each in a cage and takes us to the place where the super jets live. Then we go for a ride on a conveyor belt that takes us to the giant, silver-metal bird. It has great silver wings spread out behind it. It shoots out enormous amounts of fire and smoke.”
“Then, we are carried into its belly with all the suitcases and boxes and stuff.” He started to retch at the memory of it. Remy never did have a strong constitution.
“The worst part is the up and down motion. It jars your teeth and makes you puke right there in the cage. Then you have to lie in it for the rest of the trip. We are changed from one plane to another before Miss Brunell picks us up in Texas. One time we were left in Cincinnati because we missed connections. Hours and hours we sat in those cages in the hot broiling sun, with no place to pee except on yourself and the suitcases beneath you.” He really was a nervous wreck. “I feel like I’m falling up and then dropping down. I can’t catch my breath.” This didn't appeal to me. I wished them happy voyage and went back to work.
Somehow, all that packing and leaving didn't bother me at first, because I never realized that soon there was going to be nothing at the farm to guard. A guard dog without anything to guard means no job. No job means no food, no warm box, no rides in the truck and no one to growl at.
Remy said the penthouse in the sky was very small and didn't need a guard dog since it was in the city and guards with guns lived on the ground floor. He told me I wasn't going with them and would probably be taken to the pound. I wasn’t going, I would run away first. Somewhere, anywhere far away, where no one would find me or catch me and put me in such a terrifying place. I remember the look on poor Joe the Jailbird's face when they hauled him off. I never wanted to have a lost look like he had, ever.
The final day of moving came. Boss Lady Brunell loaded up the farm truck Bubba had painted blue, and left for good. It was a relief after the turmoil of the past weeks. I now really and truly had the run of the place. All day I did what I wanted. I chased; I dug to my heart’s content (even in the forbidden places). I stayed at the pond watching and trying to catch the frogs without getting wet. All I got was a mouth of pond water. Things were really depressing when I got to my bowl for the noontime feeding and nothing was in it but a leaf and a few ants.
Stetson came nosing around looking for Remy, I guess. “Join our gang,” he said. “We live in the wild and kill what we can; at least you’ll have something to do with yourself instead of being a nerdy jerk.” (Such a nice guy). “Look on the bright side, there’s plenty of game out there if you’re fast enough. “He knew darn well I wasn’t. I would rather die. The pound guys would come with nets and get the gang, one of these days. Or, some farmer would shoot them and leave them for the scavengers. Maybe even Nails. “Hold that thought,” I told myself.
I have heard it said that, when you think things are at their worst, they will get worse before they get better Ö if they ever do. I even tried contemplation like ChooChoo did, but nothing helped. The squirrels got faster, the coons disappeared and the rains came and wouldn’t stop. There was no light at night and no heat in the day. Was the pound far away? Why did they leave me? I did my job. I guarded, but I kept to myself. I knew I was only hired help but I deserved better than this. Where was MY golden parachute?
I lay down with my face on my paws, trying to think what to do. Maybe I could go to Mad Dog. Yeah! I knew we would have a lot of fun, huntin’, drinkin’ and talkin’ about ëole Darlene. That’s the thing to do, I thought, but how to get there? I started down the driveway but when I got to the front gate there were too many smells to pick out which one was ole Mad Dog. Maybe he would come by and I’d be here, waiting and wagging my tail, and he’d ask me to come live with him. Maybe someone needed another dog to sniff and ride in police cars.
Night came again. No food, no Mad Dog, no sunshine, no heat. No anyone or anything. It was another grey and dreary day. I was hungry as a bear and not in a very good mood. I heard a car motor come up the driveway. It was the big white car that belonged to Boss Lady Brunell’s friend, the one I call Mamoo because she makes cow sounds at me. She was very round and always smelled delicious. Maybe she would give me something to eat if I looked harmless and pitiful. It had started to drizzle again. She got out and sat on the seat facing me with the door open. “Well, Sam,” she said, “how’s life in the fast lane?” Now I ask you, what is that supposed to mean? Either she is nuts or I am so weak from hunger that I’m hearing things.
I saw a sack with a big red M that smelled like something wonderful. I could tell she had come out to see me because there was no one else here and she was alone.
“Sam, you and I are going to have a little mother to puppy talk about your future,” she said. If you will get in the car, I will take you to my house. You will get two meals a day, a warm, soft place to sleep and lots of attention until I can find you another guarding job on a horse farm. But, first you must have a bath and the necessary medical treatment before you can live in town. You also will not be allowed to run free and will have to learn to live in a house in the city where there is noise, traffic and rules.”
I hadn’t paid much attention after the two meals a day bit. Otherwise, I don’t know if I would have been ready to leap into the back seat of her car and let her direct the rest of my life. On the other hand, I really didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter. It was Mamoo, the pound or slow starvation in the wilderness. I shuddered to think what Stetson would do to me when I got too weak to make a token growl.
Contemplation again. She looked kind with red, short, curly hair around a round face and blue eyes which never stopped laughing. I had seen her many times around La Belle and she always had time for a pat and a treat for me.
We both sat there for the longest time it seemed. What the heck, I decided. I leapt into the back of her car and off we went in a very fast way. It was very, very comfy back there, probably the softest bed I have ever had. If there hadn’t been a lot to see, I would have dropped off to sleep right then and there.
The first stop I will never forget-ever, ever, ever. She put a chain on my collar and dragged me into what turned out to be the bathing place. Dreadful! She gave the chain to a man in a white coat and I knew this must be the pound. Everything smelled like medicine and lots of all kinds of wet dogs. The man put me in a huge tub of water, poured stinky, sweet, foamy stuff all over me and rubbed it in. Can you believe it? After the first shock, I didn’t mind the rubbing at all. In fact, it felt pretty good! Two men poured water all over me again and blew a hose full of hot air over, under and around me until I was dry. Don’t they know about shaking? It sure saves a lot of bother. They ran a buzzer over my legs and, would you believe, rubbed a brush over my teeth. If all humans are like this, I am really going to have to watch where I step.
Mamoo was there when they took me out to the front desk. She mooed all over me telling me how handsome I was and all. Shucks. If I had known I would get this kind of response, I would have tried it sooner. Life is surely going to be different. I can’t smell myself at all. Nothing of the grass at La Belle or anything that I had rolled in. However, I do smell sort of like the purple flowers I like to lie under in the spring.
Now for the amazing part. We got back in the car in the same seats we had been in before and she drove beside the building that talked to her. It really did. It asked her what she wanted and she said two cheeseburgers. I will never forget it. She drove nearer, gave some paper to a girl who was standing there and received in return a sack with a big red M on it. Oh wonder. Mamoo pulled over, turned around, opened the sack, peeled off the paper and GAVE IT TO ME TO EAT. OUTSTANDING!
I cannot describe it to you. It was fried meat, greasy and hot with soft, gooey stuff on it. Absolutely the best thing I have ever eaten in my life. I’m afraid I wolfed it down, being rather hungry and all, and lo and behold, she gave me ANOTHER. I am in love.
The next stop on this odyssey was not the treat, but the trick. I was taken to meet The Vet, which is short for veterinarian. A Vet is a doctor to animals such as cats, birds, cows and DOGS. That’s me. His name was Dr. R. and he was immune to my charm. He lifted me up onto a table, stuck a needle in me and poked around every place he could find. I stared at the pictures on the wall of the ribbons his pure bred dalmatians had won. Lots of blue ribbons for first place and quite a few ëbest in show’s. He gave me a look of disdain that silently said Mamoo shouldn’t take a mongrel home instead of one of his fancy pedigreed pups.
One really has no pride left after a doctor’s examination, and mine was worse because The Vet tried to roll me over on my back. His look of distaste got to me and I bit him. I have had back problems for a long time now and it hurts when I try to turn over. I could hear the other dogs in the cages egging me on, but it didn’t do me a lot of good because his nurse put a web around my mouth and I couldn’t open it anymore.
I did get my turn though, because Mamoo wanted to see what kind of training I had had. Dr. R. must have been a handler because he put me through my paces and pronounced me excellent. That should show him black is beautiful.
The next place was home, according to Mamoo. It wasn’t as big as La Belle but much bigger than Bubba’s house. The house was one of many which lined the street side by side, almost touching one another. I didn’t see any fields with horses in them, only little pats of grass here and there.
Mamoo’s house was red brick and gray stone, with a roof that angled every which-a-way. It had high windows with diamond-shaped panes and lots of flowers and shrubs hugging the outside. There was no garage and I wondered where she expected me to sleep, when she pulled me up the steps into the house itself.
Now, I had never been inside a house or up the stairs and, quite frankly, I was a little scared. “Can’t I stay in the car?” Either she didn’t understand me or didn’t want to.
“Come on, Sam, I haven’t got all day.” She pulled at me, trying to open the door and hold onto the packages at the same time.
Well, I didn’t like it, but I did it. I landed on a floor made of shiny, glass-like wood. I couldn’t get a toehold and my legs kept sliding out from under me. Mamoo helped me to a rug that gave me blessed relief. I could stand and sit and had control of my body again. She laughed and said she had the same problem sometimes.
This wasn’t going to be easy- all the new rules, places and people. I have a food bowl that is always full of something good. Sometimes it’s dry chunky stuff with meat stew mixed in. Sometimes it’s cottage cheese with eggs and bacon. The best is spaghetti and meat sauce.
The worst is having to walk on the kitchen floor. I slip and slide and it’s cold like ice. There are steps everywhere that Mamoo goes up and down all the time as do the rest of the humans who live here. I don’t like steps.
Also living at the house is P.J., Mamoo’s son, who is always in trouble. They argue all the time. He lives in the basement which looks like Bubba’s house. I felt right at home and I could get in the back way where there were no steps.
Bubba, in his wildest dreams could not imagine the chaos of this basement. “Clean it up, P.J.” Mamoo would scream. P.J. must have had a hearing problem because he never did.
P.J. is OK, though. He is tall and stocky with very little hair on top. He is always chuckling about something, probably thinking up stuff to plague Mamoo. He also loves to cook up wonderfully smelling messes, some of which land on the floor. I am Sammy-on-the-spot for those kinds of accidents.
Sometimes Patsy, Mamoo’s daughter with dark-brown hair, comes with Grandpuppy who is the ditziest female I have ever met. She is a blue-merle Sheltie with a nervous condition. Patsy lives somewhere else but comes over every day to work in Mamoo’s real estate business.
Sheila, Mamoo’s other daughter with red hair hanging down in her face, is always telling everybody what to do. She doesn’t like dogs, cats or anything Ö living. She lives in Chicago but is down here visiting us to find a boyfriend or drive Mamoo crazy, whichever comes first.
Mamoo is always muttering to herself, “I’m tired of putting up with their problems,” and, “Why don’t they get a life?”
Then there’s Bertha and Ella Mae who work here, pushing the vacuum machine around on the rugs. They also have brooms and mops they wave at me. I get the picture. I know they don't like me. That’s why they make the kitchen floor shiny and dazzling; they don't want me to walk on it. They are both very dark brown and smell like chicken. Mamoo said they are mother and daughter.
The first night I didn’t know where to sleep. No barn or garage and the floor was way too slippery. I couldn’t get up or lie down without a lot of trouble. When I tried to rest on the rug, I was always being moved because I was in someone’s way. I liked to be in a doorway where I could see what was coming before it saw me. I didn’t get a wink of sleep and with all I had endured, I surely did need some.
The next day I started learning the rules. Mamoo took me for a walk. Me! Walking slowly beside Mamoo with a leash attached to both of us, I knew I couldn’t run away. We walked to the corner on a narrow cement road meant for people and dogs on foot. As we passed a large maple tree, I saw a squirrel who was eating something off the ground thinking the tree trunk protected him. He certainly wasn’t expecting me to show up. Easiest kill I ever made. Mamoo LOVED it. Turns out she hates squirrels as much as I do. We turned the corner to the main street and I was blasted by the exhaust smell of the cars and trucks rushing by. The noise and crowds of people scared me but after a while I felt more secure with Mamoo holding on to me. When we crossed the wide-open road, Mamoo calmly gave me commands that would get us across without being smashed into cat food.
We landed on farmland in the middle of town that Mamoo called a park. It was filled with people who ran around in itty-bitty britches and great big shoes. Mamoo wouldn’t let loose of me and, much to my embarrassment, I had to drop some dirt right in front of her. Can you believe? She praised me to the skies calling me, “Good doggy,” and, “Precious puppy.” I hoped the collie walking with his human didn’t hear it. I would never live it down.
There were a lot of other dogs in the park every day. Some were nice and friendly, but their humans weren’t. Many stopped and asked Mamoo about me but didn’t give me any pats or personal conversation . Mamoo said it probably had something to do with my habit of trying to decimate the squirrels and raising all those clods of dirt while digging holes after chipmunks. But Mamoo also said, “A dog’s got to do what a dog’s got to do.”
When P.J. would walk me, he really encouraged me to go after the little buggers. “Git’em, git’em, git’em,” he would scream as he stood guard to alert me to the arrival of any park keepers. At the same time, he would keep his foot on the other hole giving the chipmunk no other way out except through the hole I was digging. I would get excited and try to tear the tree roots away with my teeth. It would hurt like the devil later, but I never felt it in the heat of the moment.
Humans, I am finding, are obsessed with personal dirt. They talk about it to you all the time-where, when and how you plan to do it is utmost in their minds. They should know that, as I am a well-trained individual, I don't like it around either. I have heard of those who put it in plain sight and relish its taste, but that is rather weird if you ask me. It is hard to take care of those personal things quietly around here, because I am not allowed out unless I am tied to the leash. I really don’t like to do it in front of people, but sometimes it’s necessary. I have found places in the garden I can go without the leash and without being noticed, although Mamoo wants to know anyway.
One time P.J. left me for such a long time that I left it in the basement. I tried to get outside, but after chewing the doorframe and clawing the door, I only succeeded in breaking off a piece of my tooth. I left it over by his bed hoping it would help him remember not to leave me a long period again, but it didn't help. Mamoo wasn’t upset with me, but she and P.J. had a real row. I have to admit, even though I like P.J. a lot, he really can’t get it together. So much trouble for a little dirt. I can see it now because I am close to them. Humans make a big deal out of nothing! I certainly don’t want it there either but it really isn’t something to blow your cork over.
I am with Mamoo most of the time - what with riding in the car and talking to buildings. The latest one she talked to gave her a paper bowl of sweet, cold cream that was thick enough to bite. I have learned to ask for it myself. Mamoo asks me then I answer into the speaker in front of the talking place. I give Mamoo a big lick on her neck for such a treat and she laughs and calls me her Lover Dog.
She also likes to go to the rainmaker. It seems to be something you do when you ride in a car, although not all the time. After a man with a hose puts gassy-smelling oil into the trunk of the car she drives it into a small garage and the rains come. Long fingers of wool cloth scrape around the outside of the car, while oceans of water and sudsy bubbles cascade all around. The fingers beat on the roof and windows with sluicing sounds while green and yellow lights flash on and off. It doesn’t take long, but while it’s going, it’s crazy. All of a sudden it’s over and we drive off into the bright sunlight as if nothing happened.
This is an amazing world I am in now: talking places which feed you and talking boxes with moving pictures, and small machines that make such a racket until you talk into them. I miss the quiet of the country and the stillness of the air. But at least here, when the thunder comes, I can lie close to Mamoo and she hugs and rubs me until I’m not afraid anymore.
It took quite a while, but I finally learned to climb up and down the stairs. Once you can get the back of you going in the same way as the front part, it works. It must be a lot easier for people because they only have two legs to worry about. My four must all be going right or you will fall apart in the middle of the staircase. Going down looks easier but it’s not. The momentum can carry you away and make you slide down on your belly, which is very uncomfortable.
The first time I was able to make it all the way up, I found Mamoo’s room which had the biggest bed I have ever seen. It has pillows and soft comforters and smelled like her. I hopped up, circled around a couple of times and took a long, lovely nap. When Mamoo got in the bed, I poked my head up to ask permission to stay. I curled up next to her and she hugged and kissed me and talked lovey-dovey talk. I think Mamoo is unhappy with things in her life and maybe I can help her change it. I intend to be the best friend she will ever have. Truly, for the last time, I am in love.

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