I am old now and most of my life is behind me. I lift my head at a sound, it is quiet in the house and I am alone. But my heart beats faster as I hear the door open and in spite of my age, I stand up as quickly as I can and run to the door. She walks in and I wag my tail with joy! I call her mom, but she isn’t the mom I had when I was little.
A long time ago I lived in a cage. My mother had many puppies like me. She was old and tired and the life was nearly worn out of her by the time I was born. Of course, I didn’t know that then. With my eyes barely open, all that I knew was that she kept me warm and fed me when I was hungry. I didn’t know then that she wasn’t always going to be with me.
Weeks passed and then the man took me from her. I was put in a crowded cage with others like me. I was cold. I tried to snuggle with the others, but they didn’t want me and so they nipped at my fur. I retreated to a lonely corner of the cage. For a long time, my stomach ached with hunger. Then the man came and he put one bowl of food inside the cage. I jumped up and ran to the food and put my face deep into the dish and took in the delicious smell, so grateful for the morsels. As I took my first mouthful, I heard a growl behind me. Before I knew it, the growls grew and surrounded me. I stopped eating and looked up. Bared teeth hovered over the food bowl. I hadn’t even swallowed yet when those teeth embedded themselves deep in my neck. The attack came from all around so I had no other choice but to defend myself! I fought back. I ripped whatever my teeth sunk into. After all, it was them or me. The noise must have brought the man back. He yelled as he grabbed me and tied me with his itchy rope. He tightened it even tighter under my front legs. The knots ate into my flesh. He tied me to the corner of the cage and then locked the cage as he left. The others resumed eating their supper. I tried to curl into a ball to comfort myself, but the knots sticking into my soft flesh made it hard to lie down.
Months passed and the others came and went, replaced by others still. The ropes had grown into my flesh. I was weak from the little food that I was allowed. And I learned to be thankful for the times when the others left me alone. I was better off than most of the others, they chewed on each other when the food didn’t come. My life became hopeless. Sometimes I would dream of my mom and wonder where she was. But I learned not to dream because dreaming only made me sadder.
One day there was a great commotion, loud noises, people yelling, the others barked and I grew very frightened. Strangers came to the cage and opened it with the man’s key. They had giant gloves on their hands and a pole with a hoop at the end of it and they used it to capture the others one by one. The strangers lifted each of them out and put them in crates. After they were all out, they came for me. I growled but they still took me. They brought me to a place that smelled like fear and I never saw the others again. I was put in a cage by myself. A stranger took me out of my new cage and put me on a cold metal table. She untied the knots of the rope and pulled it away from my skin as the blood oozed. Old scabs were opened up as they poked at the wounds on my chest. She stuck me with a sharp needle and then put me back into my cage. I laid down for the first time without the knots eating into my skin. What was this place? What was going to happen to me now? What happened to the others? I curled up in a ball and I licked my paws. I licked, and I licked, and I licked and my paws started to bleed but I kept licking.
Weeks passed and then a man came to see me. The woman took me out of the cage and gave me to him. He put a collar around my neck and attached a leash to it. He wanted me to follow him, but I sat down and wouldn’t move. He pulled on the leash until I had to get up. We walked outside and I thought I had to run for it! I pulled against the leash and tried with all my might to get away but it was hopeless. I couldn’t break away. He put me in a car and drove me to a house. Inside there was an old man in a wheelchair who looked very scary to me. The old man touched my fur in a way that felt good but I was still scared. The other man brought a bowl of food and a bowl of water and placed them in front of me. I thought, “Was this a trick?” Would they bite me if I tried to eat the food? The other man left me with the old man and I laid down and started to shake. Where was I? What was going to happen next? I wouldn’t eat and I wouldn’t drink, I’d wait until I could escape.
Days passed and I grew hungry so finally, I ate. The old man put a new collar on me with my name embroidered into it. He left me alone most of the time. He spent a lot of time in his bed. Gradually, I began to trust him. I jumped onto the bed and laid down near him. He touched my fur again in that comforting way. Then he started to sing, “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do. I’m half-crazy, all for the love of you.” His voice was low and gruff but I grew to like it. I had a home a last!
Months passed and one day the morning sun warmed me and I opened my eyes. The old man’s hand was on my fur but it wasn’t moving. It felt . . . odd . . . cold. I whimpered, but he didn’t move. I looked at him, his eyes were open, he wasn’t sleeping. I licked his face, but still he didn’t move. I laid my head on his chest.
Hours passed and then the other man walked into the bedroom and when he saw me, he started to cry. Did I do something wrong? I started to shake again. The other man touched the old man and then called someone on the telephone. More people came and they talked loud and made lots of noise. They tried to touch my old man and I lifted my head and growled at them. What were they doing? Some tried to grab me and I barked really loud at them. They were touching my old man, they were trying to take him away from me! I sat up and made as much noise as I could. One of the people had one of those poles with a hoop on the end of it. I knew what that was! But no matter what I did, I couldn’t keep them from putting it around my neck. They pulled me off the bed. They dragged me out of the house. They brought me back to the place that smelled like fear.
Days passed. I licked my fur until my paws bled.
One day they took me out of my cage and brought me to a room. There was a woman in the room and they left me in the room alone with her. I laid down on the cold floor and I shook. I didn’t look at her. I just wanted to know what happened to my old man. I wanted to go back to his house! But I was trapped in this room with another stranger now. Trapped in this place that smelled like fear. Then she touched my collar and I heard something that sounded familiar. She was singing and I knew those words. “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do. I’m half-crazy all for the love of you.” I looked up at her and I saw her smile. Then she did something amazing, she laid down on the floor so that I wasn’t scared of her anymore. I licked her hand, one tentative careful lick. She smiled again and sang some more. I stopped shaking. I licked her again. She just laid there with me for a long time and then they came in and took me back to my cage. I felt like crying.
Days passed and then the lady came again. Again she laid on the floor and sang to me. I licked her hand again and then someone opened the door. I heard the surprise in the intruder’s voice, “She licked you?” Then the intruder took me away again, back to my cage.
The next day the lady came back again. This time she had a boy and a girl with her. They also laid down on the floor so that I wouldn’t be scared. They smelled nice. I licked them too.
More days passed, but every day the lady came. One time she even left a blanket for me that smelled like the boy and the girl. She also gave me a toy for my cage.
More days passed and then finally, one day, she came and she put a leash on my collar and took me outside and into her car. She brought me home to her house and inside there was the girl and the boy and a man. They showed me a warm bed on the floor that was just for me. There were toys and bones. There was a bowl of food and a bowl of water, all just for me. But I was still scared. That night the lady put me in a cage and I got even more scared and I cried. I chewed and chewed on the bars but I couldn’t get them to break off. Finally, she came downstairs and let me out and sat with me. She didn’t ever put me back in a cage after that.
Three days later, I ate.
Six more days later, I woke up from my bed at the foot of her bed and followed her down the stairs. I was so happy, I wagged my tail for the first time since I was taken away from my old man. I saw that my wagging my tail made my new family happy, so I wagged it some more. I grew comfortable but cautious. Every time someone came into the house I feared that they would take me away. They took me for walks to a place where the boy would meet up with other children and then they would climb onto a bus and go away. The other children tried to touch my fur but I was too scared to let them. When they tried I would start shaking again.
The days passed and then one day my family left me outside in the yard and they all went away. I got very frightened and I tried to chew my way back into the house. I chewed so hard on the wood that I wore my teeth down. But I couldn’t get back into the house. I panicked and I pushed and pushed at the fence until I broke free. I ran to the front of the house, but I couldn’t get back into the house from there either. Strangers started calling to me and walking over to me, trying to grab me. I was afraid that they would take me away and my family wouldn’t know what happened to me! So I ran into the marshes and hid there. I kept coming back, but I could see those people there, ready to take me away. So I ran farther away. I was walking when all of a sudden the ground gave way and I fell into a pond. I started to paddle, trying to stay afloat. I swam to the side and tried to climb out, but the side was too smooth. There was nowhere to grab on to! I clawed and clawed at the smooth sides until my paws bled. I could hear her calling me! She was home! I had to make it back to her! But I couldn’t get out of the deep pond.
Hours passed and I grew weak. I almost gave up. But then I heard a car and the next thing I knew, the man in my family was there looking down at me. He reached in and grabbed my harness and pulled me out. I shook my fur hard in an attempt to dry off. I was so happy to see him! I ran along with him in spite of my bloody paws. I jumped into his car and he brought me back to my house. The door was opened and I ran straight inside to my bed on the floor. I laid down there and tried to smile so that they would know how happy I was. I was never going to leave this house again!
The years have passed. Now the door opens and she walks in and my world becomes whole. She follows me to the kitchen and understands that I get a treat now since I waited so patiently for her to return. She sits on the floor with me and pets my fur and I lay back and let her touch the scars on my chest that healed long ago. I think back to my first mother and how happy she would be to know that I have another mother who loves me and takes care of me. I think back to my old man and I know he would be happy for me too. I lick her hand and promise to take care of her too, for as long as I can. For now I am the old one. Then she sings to me, “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do. I’m half-crazy all for the love of you.” I close my eyes and dream.
http://www.theresadodaro.com Author of The Tin Box Trilogy