Category: Animal Fiction


Chapter 8 Oh, Canada

I am finding out how wonderful it is to be the true companion to a human being. Mamoo says I am an angel sent from heaven for her. She also says I am the re-incarnation of her ex-husband. “What true retribution to be sent back to atone for his past life by living with me as my dog.” She tells me her problems and listens when I give her advice.
“Sam, I have to make some serious decisions about what to do with the rest of my life,” she said one day. “The real estate business is getting me down and I am beginning to hate all my clients.”
I don’t quite understand what the real estate business is, but it has something to do with moving people onto farms like Mamoo did for Boss Lady. This is how she makes a living. People pay her to do this.
“The way to get the birds out of the nest is to sell the nest,” she decided one day. “But where will I go?” (Mamoo has been many places and it must be hard to pick only one.) “I’ve lived here 23 years and it will be hard to leave all my friends and family to go to a strange place. But I think I must do it before I get any older.”
Funny, I don’t think about Mamoo’s age at all since I never saw her when she was young. She seems ageless.
“I’ve been to Europe and didn’t like it and I certainly don’t want to live across the ocean where I can’t understand anything people say.”
One thing about Mamoo, she doesn’t do things in a small way. Before I came to live here, I liked to ride in the back of Bubba’s truck when he drove to town. It was fun and you could let everyone know who was boss while being out of reach if they took it the wrong way. The downside was that you could really get knocked around as the truck swayed and bumped. The slick floor of the truck bed didn’t give you much traction and your legs and body became sore. You couldn’t get comfortable anywhere and, of course, when it rained, it was miserable.
Now, with Mamoo it was different. Beula is what she calls the big, white car she drives. Mamoo sits up front, moves the wheel around and makes Beula go fast or slow. I sit in the back and make the windows go up and down. It is amazing how it is done. Two barks at the right window and down it comes. Sometimes it takes longer and it doesn’t work when the motor isn’t running, but nothing’s perfect.
When Mamoo wants to think things out, we get in the car and drive around. We were doing this a lot now.
“I liked Stratford the best of all the places I have been. I can drive there and they speak English, or try to, anyway. I think I will see if I can rent a house for the summer to try it out. If I like it, I will move. How would you like to be a Canada dog, Sam?”
I didn’t know what a Canada dog was. I had never heard of the breed before. I only knew I would go to the ends of the earth with Mamoo if she would let me.
To practice for the long, long drive, Mamoo would take me every time she went anywhere. I figured any trip couldn’t be too long for me, but I didn’t know we were practicing to go to the ends of the earth. It wasn’t that I didn’t love or trust Mamoo, but I had been abandoned before when Boss Lady left me alone to fend for myself. I saw all the suitcases going in the car. I heard her talking to P.J. about her trip and, of course, she had left me behind when she had gone on short trips to those far away places.
This was not going to happen again, I decided. Bertha and Ella Mae piled things into every space inside Beula and I had to make sure there would be space enough for me. So I jumped in and refused to get out of the car.
There was very little room -- only enough to curl up and sleep. I was fine with that as long as it wasn’t forever. They all pleaded and begged, but I wouldn’t get out of the car. I was hungry and thirsty but I wouldn’t get out of the car! Mamoo hugged me and told me she would never leave me behind again but I still wouldn’t get out. So she helped me bark the windows down and left me in the car all night.
We left early the next day. It was dark and we drove on and on until I had to get out to whiz on a tree. We walked on the leash at this place that smelled like every dog in the world. I could tell a poodle from a pom from a shepherd. Also, bitches and dogs and neuters like me. I could have stayed there all day. We stopped two or three times and it made me anxious because I could smell all those others even though I never saw them. I could see out of the window when we drove fast. There were dead dogs and cats on the road and some were even running in the green middle of the road, scared and looking frantically for their humans. Mamoo said bad people left their dogs to be killed by the trucks thundering down the long miles. I gave her many kisses behind her ear and stayed as quiet as I could.
This ride went on and on - it seemed forever. We went through a gate and up higher and higher over wide water with little boats floating far beneath us. This was not fun. I don’t like water in any form except in my bowl. The road we drove over shook and creaked and I could smell Mamoo’s fear. I always know when she is nervous because she smells salty and damp.
She now calls me a Canada dog - I thought I was a Rottidobie or something like that. Another new name. We finally landed on solid ground again and I checked out the bushes while Mamoo got a diagram of the road. She gave the man in uniform at the gate some papers that he handed right back. “How’s the hairy hound?” he said.
The nerve of some people. I really was very hot and cramped. Had he gotten a little closer, I would have taken a good bite out of his belt. In fact, when he leaned into the car to look around I took his arm in my jaws, ever gently as I had been taught. He turned green. “Tell your dog to let me go,” he whimpered. “Please.”
“Well, get your hand outta my car,” Mamoo said, “or he'll bite it off. He is a trained attack dog, not some pussycat, and he doesn’t like you getting too near me.”
See why I love Mamoo?
Still more driving, but things started to look different. No more big yellow arches. Now it was a place that gave you a box of little round sweet breadlike things that Mamoo called TimBits. Wonderful. It’s rather nice taking care of a human who is a fast-food freak-the fringe benefits are extraordinary. The big M goodies are hot, greasy, sweet, and well located for occasional hunger pangs. But these TimBits are the best. They come in their own little box with a handle. Mamoo puts them on the front seat and I play Snoopy, hanging my head over the seat, pointing at a box until I get one. (The strawberry-filled ones are my favorites.)
The outdoors changed. I saw farms with horses and cows, but not like any I have seen before. Big horses with feathery hooves and black and white spotted cows lying in the shade waiting for a rainstorm. I saw an occasional watchdog and got the word on everything as we whizzed by. I didn’t see any plank fencing, only wire and, sometimes, none at all.
The Heinz 57 on the corner of a little town said, “You’re in Thamesford, my town, get the hell out in a hurry or I won’t be able to control myself.”
“Hah, I could mess you up in two seconds,” I yelled back. Not very original, I grant you. To teach him a lesson, I left a big present under a bush when we stopped at the park near his corner.
Soon we were home. At least, we had arrived. “It’s a rental; I’m not going to expect a lot,” Mamoo said.
This is my kind of house. Big empty rooms with plenty of looking-out places, plenty of corners to relieve yourself of that nasty, spinning, stomach thing.
Mamoo gave me a big dinner which I ate quickly because I was hungry. But, later it started to churn around and made it hard to stand. Up it came. Boy, did that feel good! A good whoops is the ticket when you can't think of anything else.
Why is it when I feel better Mamoo feels worse? She starts nose touching, gets her ëVet’ look and asks me over and over if I’m OK. It’s no big deal. I just don’t like to eat for a couple of days after I relieve myself.
Our first walk after we arrived was too much. They have black squirrels here, thousands of them. As I was busy chasing one, another and then yet another would appear out of nowhere. One night I decided to check out the neighborhood and found raccoons and rabbits and delicious smelling containers. I was getting into one when Mamoo came cruising round the corner looking for me and I had to get in the car and go back. What a licking I got.
It seems to me the rules change depending on where you live. If I thought people back where I came from were concerned about personal dirt, the people here have raised it to an art form. Not only do they worry about it, but also they have laws against it. When dogs are walking their humans, their dirt is picked up and put in a plastic bag, the kind you put things into the freezing place. I do not know why they want to save it; maybe it is some kind of valuable commodity. So, I go to a forest where you are free to dispose of it however you want. It seems to me if Mamoo had wanted any of mine she would have started saving it a long time ago.
I must tell you a little about the forest, a place not too far from where we live. Sometimes we go in the car and sometimes we walk. I like it better when we ride because there is a lot to do there and I want to conserve my energy. Squirrels by the hundreds and ducks everywhere - not out in the middle of a lake but up close to land in the creekbed that is not deep at all. We go there early in the morning when the sun and the game are waking. I like those ducks with their heads under their wings since I can get my mouth around more than a bunch of tailfeathers.
This one duck, I don't know his name, is a real pain. He must be the chief duck because he keeps up a running commentary about my movements while I am in the creek. “Look out guys, here comes Mr. Big Paws, he’s on a tear today. Get in the middle of the river... he’s too chicken to jump in after us,” says Old Loudmouth.
He thinks he is alerting all the other ducks, but they don’t pay much attention. I can usually slip up near enough to get clear aim. Most of the time I wind up in the water, but every once in a while I get a little, hot body in my jaws. I tried to eat one once, but boy, did it taste terrible. Mamoo says it’s because the water is polluted. Now she tells me!
I have four friends who live down the road: two are human and two are canines. I don’t know whom I like the best. David is wonderful because he will let you do whatever you like and gives you treats. He is tall and lean with stylish grey hair. David loves to play in his garden. When he rides on the grass cutter it works and doesn’t stop in the middle.
Polly loves to go for walks. She is tiny and loves to smoke cigarettes. Her two canines are always taking her. (She’s another one who puts dirt into little bags.) When I walk with them, we have a high old time.
“Tangle Up” is a great game. You twist around legs - dog and human - until no one can move. Then you start growling and barking madly and the humans drop the leads. Then you run like crazy in all directions, disappearing behind trees and bushes. While they are out looking and calling, you double back and they find you innocently sitting at the front door. They are so glad to see you that they don’t take the time to figure it out.
Now a word about my great friends, Smiley and Pete. Smiley is a very chubby blond cocker. He reminds me of Tootles because he has an ëEverybody-Loves-Me attitude’. And like Tootles, Smiley has a wonderful sense of humor. He can mimic everyone, especially Winston, the water spaniel. I laugh myself sick watching him.
My other friend is Pete, short for ëPeter the Great’. He’s a Heinz who takes life very seriously. He had to live at the pound for a while, taking nothing for granted, and works very hard to please Polly and David. His job is to translate Smiley’s words into a language they understand.

Pete told me stories about the pound but, of course, his had a happy ending. “I was left by the side of the road early in the morning. It was frightening to be left like that - suddenly. I couldn’t believe they were not coming back Ö I sat there waiting and waiting. A lot of cars stopped, but I was afraid to get in with anyone I didn't know and I figured my folks would come back for me.”
“Than, a big truck came and men with nets grabbed me and took me to the pound. My heart was pounding, I can tell you. After the vet looked me over, the attendants put me in a cage all alone. Days went by, dogs came and went. The others said I was on death row, awaiting my turn for the needle.”
“One day, Polly came in looking for a companion dog for Smiley because he was a puppy and needed me to teach him stuff. My life changed. If I hadn’t been in the pound I never would have met Polly and then you, and all the wonderful things that have happened to me.”
We play a great game on the stairs at Polly’s house. Pete can jump five steps at a time and, coming down, he can jump almost from the top without hurting himself. Smiley sort of wiggles down and is so fat you can’t see his legs move. You should know by this time how I go down the stairs. I get all the legs going right, take a deep breath and start down. But I can’t stop in the middle.
We also play ëKeep Away’ in the great big, empty playroom at Mamoo’s house. We can chase around for hours and never bump into anything. We have little races which Pete always wins. He is fast - not like the whippets, but fast for a longhaired dog.
Smiley is a good bug eater. “I see another cock-a-roach, better eat it up before Polly sees it,” he always says. Such thoughtfulness is magnificent to behold. He’s close to the ground and can see the bugs better. Very few get away from him. He is also very good at finding the chicken boxes left over from the picnickers in the park. “Just helping out the park keepers and the picnickers like a good boy,” he says. (A throw-a-way line if I ever heard one.)
One day, while sniffing around in the forest, I saw the most maddeningly gorgeous female swaying through the brush. When I sidled up to her to give her the once-over, she gave me the side of her paw.
“Hey, baby,” said I, “Joe Cool here. Oh, the smell of you is driving me wild.” Eau de cologne mingled with a little leftover breakfast.
Her red hide gleamed in the morning sun, her breath bowled me over.
“Get lost in the bushes, Buster,” she replied endearingly, “I need you like another bone in my ear.” Lucky for me Mamoo knew this gorgeous female’s humans and I was allowed to walk along in her presence. I even got a few licks and sniffs in when she wasn’t paying attention.
Her name was Laverne. Very formidable, just like her. We visit her house often but I can’t get to first base.
“Cummon sweetness. Talk to me,” I plead. But no dice. I try to lie down close to her under the table when the humans are having dinner. She has a great knack of getting her mouth on the dessert. She sticks her nose through Mamoo’s arm, licks her plate and then Mamoo gives it to her. (You know how people hate to eat anything a dog has touched.) More for us.
You know what I’ve noticed? Canada has very unusual birds. Very dangerous and unlike anything I have ever seen. Pete said something about it but I really didn’t pay much attention to him. I figured he wasn’t a farm dog and didn't know. Boy, was I wrong! I guess I forgot to tell you about the lake in front of the house. It isn’t very deep and it smells terrible, not like the streams back at the farm. The banks are covered with fowl: mostly ducks, a few geese and these gigantic birds. They are white with large webbed feet and have razor sharp teeth inside their bills. They hiss when they are angry, which is most of the time. They get very edgy when anyone approaches their territory and they are a lot faster than you think. I play ëlunge and jump back’ with them until they get huffy, waddle down to the water and float to the other side.

“Thissss issss our sssside of the lake. Get lossst Missster,” they hiss at me. They are very stuck up. “We are the symbol of Stratford. Without usssss there would be no tourists and the whole town would dissssssappear.” Talk about being a little high on yourself.
Mamoo has another friend I dearly love. Her name is Artemisha and she runs the SPCA here. That is something like a pound but she says it’s not a bad place because they find dogs and cats for people who need somebody to take care of them. Artemisha is very pleasant and easy to be around.
I once won a pot of flowers for Mamoo at the pet show Artemisha was judging. What a zoo that was. It was held at one of those gigantic buildings where people buy all those packages at Christmas. Inside was a huge hall with stores all along the wall. In the middle was where they had the pet show.
I saw many breeds of cats, dogs, birds, and other kinds of animal companions. The beautiful pair of huskies walked right into the middle of the circle of contestants and left a big prize directly in front of the judge’s table. I thought Mamoo would bust a gut.
Of course, I blew it in the obedience class. We hadn't practiced in a very long time. Can you believe? I forgot all I learned. Mad Dog would never forgive me.
One class was the fattest cat category. Let me tell you, you have never seen the likes of Miss-Tub-a-Roony. She must have weighed forty pounds and had enough hair to stuff a pillow. She had to be carried because her little legs couldn’t support her.
A bird won the best singer category, naturally. And then ta-ra, ta-ra, the Gentle Giant class. Well, I won hands down. As Mamoo was arranging the beautiful yellow plant on our front porch that I won for her, I realized how important it is to be the judge’s good friend.
Here in Canada they don’t have the Forth of July like we do in the USA. They have a big holiday on the first of July instead. It’s called Canada Day and they celebrate it with a parade, fireworks and picnics. We watched the parade from Polly’s front yard. There were marching bands with men who wore little pleated skirts that swished when they walked, and they played pipes with large bags attached. It got to me. I sang right along. Lovely, simply lovely. I was right on key although I can’t say the same for the pipes. There were cowboys and cowgirls on miniature horses; fat guys with tassels on their hats riding child size motorcycles; and a superb, old, steam machine which played loud songs. The parade went on for a long time with more and more participants appearing each time from around the corner.
On Saturday, we went to the Farmer’s Market in the town of St. Jacobs. What a place. It is held inside and outside a stockyard. There were stalls and stalls of fresh vegetables with just the kinds I like: tomatoes, spinach, and green beans. The aromas of fresh-killed beef and chicken were overpowering and there were piles of fresh breads. There were ponies barely bigger than me and tables full of people-things. One stall was selling dog treats that were simply delicious. They gave me samples and I gave them tail wags. The farmers who brought the goods to the market were dressed in long beards and black hats, and came in horse-drawn carriages with their wives and rosy-cheeked children. I hurry the horses up by yelling out the window to “get the lead out. “These are not the horses I am used to back in Kentucky. These guys pull carts with cargo and open air landaus. They are worked hard: they have to trot on the hard roadbed in the hot sun and they stand for hours in their stalls at the market, waiting. I feel sorry for them, all harnessed up. I wish they were free. Of course, I wear a collar and do the bidding of my master too, even though I love to do it. We are all subject to someone else. I to Mamoo, and Mamoo to the IRS. While in the car, we pass those horses as if they are standing still. The children wave and sometimes the drivers do too. I hear their farm dogs at the gates telling me to get lost. HA, they’ll have to catch me first. Mamoo knows how to tear up a road when she wants.
We often drove out into the countryside to find interesting things. We drove by a farm near Lake Heron that had horses with black and white stripes all over their bodies. We saw deer as big as horses and strange woolly beasts called llamas that looked like small camels with curly hair. There were monkeys in cages that hung from trees and peafowl in all their glory. There was even an animal that looked like a deer but had gigantic antlers ; very ungainly and big, real big. He had a long, ugly face with a powerful muzzle. Awsome.
I have a backyard in this Canada place which has a fence you can see through and a tree loaded with black squirrels. Sometimes I escape because the gate is not very sturdy. I march down the street to Polly's house and bark at the back door until it opens. Once I got lost and wound up at a boy’s house three streets away. Mamoo came to get me after his mother called the number on my collar. Boy, did I get it! Mamoo was so mad she broke off her front tooth. I can’t understand why she worries. The pound here is a nice place and I have connections.


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