Man's Best Friend
By: Gloria Hansen
Gloria Jean Hansen was born and raised in the small Scandinavian farming community of
Kipling in Northern Ontario, Canada. She is mother of four, grandmother to eight plus, retired
nurse, and bluegrass musician who enjoys playing and jamming at various festival circuits with
her friends. In her spare time she enjoys writing, painting, skiing, camping and fishing with her
family. She has five published books and has published articles in various magazines. Her
articles also appear in several series of CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL. One day Gloria will
retire to a cabin by the river to write full time.
Gasping to fill my lungs with fetid air, I vainly search for a cool spot in this shelter they call a doghouse. It isn’t giving me much shelter from this heat. The sun is a blistering ball of fire today and sears the raw spots on my mangy coat. I have been banned to the back lot behind the garage, so I don’t offend anyone with the stink. I can’t help it. There’s nowhere else to go. I suspect the real reason I am kept hidden is to spare the humans up there the embarrassment of having to explain my sickly and unkempt condition.
Why am I still alive? How can I still be alive? My fur drops away daily in great tufts as I move. My eyes are sunken and lackluster. My ribs stick out grotesquely and my matted tail droops shamefully over this malodorous backside, damp with chronic diarrhea. I have scratched my ears raw to try and get rid of these maddening mites. Can you tell me why my humans still keep me?
Two (or is it three?) years ago, they fancied they’d like to have a cute little puppy “for the kids,” you know. And I was cute, the cutest in the litter. They chose me. I was the lucky (?) one, snatched away from my mother before I was weaned, eyes barely open, wrapped up in a pretty bow and brought to my new home. I was such a fur ball, tiny and helpless. I came to endure quietly the rough handling of toddlers who didn’t know any better. I also endured cruel kicks from short-tempered adults who understood nothing of puppy behavior.
My cuteness was of little aid to me when no one heeded my frantic yips for the door. In a frenzy of need, I often soiled their precious carpet. Jerked up viciously by the scruff of my neck, my snout was smeared through the mess, after which I was heaved through the night onto hard concrete. There I huddled in fear and cold until dawn. Sometimes, the fall would injure me enough that I could not move for a while, not that anyone bothered to check.
Once spring arrived that first year, I never again saw the inside of my ‘new home.’ A short length of heavy chain with an attached collar was fastened to my neck. They have been there ever since and have never been loosened as I grew. I tried to free myself from this strange, choking contraption, but it would not come off. Since that chain was applied, I have never again been patted or caressed, except in my doggy dreams.
In my first year of life, the cards began to surely stack against me. I was not bred of tiny stock as my former owners had claimed. My size was my downfall. Eager for any tidbit of affection, I took to jumping up on those who came to feed me. After many painful hits with boards and kicks, I learned to slink and cower as anyone approached.
These days, a sporadic ration of sawdust-like pellets is shoved at me too quickly for me to even wag my tail in thanks. Sometimes, the food bowl is thrown where I can’t reach it, so I go without, for an entire weekend. My water bowl has never been rinsed out; water is simply added, when they feel like it. Things float in it all summer, and freeze on it come winter. How thirsty I must get before I touch that putrid slop that is covered with a cloud of blowflies.
Ninety degrees at least out here now. I think I will just lay back and remember those few good days in my short doggie life, when I was fussed over, petted and free. Maybe someone will soon come and notice me, turn me loose, take me away and love me.