Animal Writes
© sm
From 5 January 2003 Issue

By Kimberly Locke - [email protected] 

My name is Rusty, or at least that’s what they call me. I’ve been through an awful lot, considering I’m just under a year old.

It all started back at the mill. I can still remember my poor mother. Her coat was dirty and matted, but when I nuzzled with her, I felt so safe and warm.

She loved all five of us, and it broke her heart when one of my brothers died. I heard the humans say he had “distemper.” I don’t know why, he was never angry or upset. He was too young to know what anger was.

I remember how it felt to look into her eyes. She seemed so sad, but when she looked at us, her precious pups, her eyes seemed to spark slightly. I can see why she was so sad, what with being in such a small cage with that awful wire bottom that tore up our pads. And the smell of waste and vomit was sickening. We were her only comfort.

I remember the day we were taken from our mother. She barked and whined frantically. We all cried out for her until our throats ached and our voices became hoarse.

We were all put into another cage together. Here we spent our days in utter boredom and loneliness, with no protection from the cold or the weather. One day, we were piled into crates and loaded onto a truck. The noise of all the other puppies barking was deafening, but being as scared as I was, I found myself barking, too. When the doors of the truck were closed, we found ourselves in complete darkness. I’d never seen such blackness before-not even when I shut my eyes real tight. Soon we were bumping around in this loud, dark truck. I was far too afraid to sleep that night.

I ended up at a pet store not far from here. I had been separated from my brothers and sisters, never to see them again. I was put in a cage all by myself. I’d never been alone before, and not being able to see any other dogs scared me. Yet I could hear the other puppies bark and whine around me in their own separate cages. I looked out at the humans behind the glass that stared and pointed at us. I wanted to hide, but couldn’t. I got more food than I did at the mill, but I would still find myself hungry sometimes. Those bowls were so easy to knock over, and the food would just fall down through the wire floor, where my waste and urine were. So I just cowered in a corner with my back to the glass, and ignored everything outside.

The days passed like any other, until one day an employee took me out to a couple of humans. I looked up at them wide eyed as they handled me. I tried to nip their hands so they would put me back, but they just laughed and said how cute I was. I just wanted to go back to my solitude.

I didn’t particularly like humans at the time. Not with all the pain the humans at the mill had put me and my family through. But the couple didn’t take the hint, and gave the employee money for me anyways.

They took me to their house and put me in their basement. I got to sleep in a cardboard box with a blanket for the first time! And the floor wasn’t made of wire! That’s when my feelings towards humans started to change.

One morning, the humans woke me up really early. I was so groggy, I didn’t even squirm when they tied a bow around my neck. I was brought upstairs for the first time, and all my senses started to go a mile a minute. I could smell all kinds of food, and heard pretty music about “sleigh bells,” and saw boxes with ribbons and bows. But what amazed me most was the tree. It was just like the ones that were at the mill, except that this one had so many shiny balls and sparkly rope. I couldn’t wait to sniff it!

That’s when I heard a loud squeal. I found myself being grabbed from the humans by this strange small human. I cried and wriggled to get free from this thing. Since when did humans come in this size?

“Merry Christmas, Ben!” the humans exclaimed.

“OH! A puppy! Just what I wanted! Thank you Mommy! Thank you Daddy!” this small human shouted--right in my ear, I might add.

I was squeezed and throttled by what I now know was a “child.” My hind legs dangled, and as I felt myself slipping from the child’s grasp, his hold on me became tighter. I was so relieved when the parents of this child gave him some colored boxes to open, distracting the youngster. I looked around the room, and one word, brought from the depths of instinct, entered my furry little mind. PLAY!

I ran to the tree! Then I ran to some boxes! Then I ran to a chair! There was so much for me to play with, I didn’t know where to start!

While the humans opened boxes, I played tug of war with a blanket. I accidentally knocked something over. The humans must have thought I did it on purpose, because one of them came over and hit me on the nose. I ran away whimpering until I found another blanket to hide under.

I stayed there until the humans started putting on boots and coats. There was mention of a “grandma’s house” (whatever that is) and everyone seemed to be in a hurry.

I ran around their ankles and yipped to remind them that I needed food, but no one would listen to me. They left the house, with me sitting staring at the front door in shock.

After a few hours, my hunger and boredom got the best of me, and I decided to investigate. I chewed on some pillows, ate some scraps from a rubbish bucket I knocked over, and shredded some papers. I was quite happy and content, when the humans came home.

Boy, did they yell at me! That was the first of many times they called me “bad dog.” I don’t know why, I didn’t do anything wrong.

As the days and months went by, things seemed to get worse. The child liked to play rough with me, and when I defended myself by nipping, I was hit and called “bad dog.” When I relieved myself, I was called “bad dog.” After all the times I spent urinating and defecating where I stood at the mill and at the store, I thought that’s what humans wanted. When my teeth hurt as I grew and I would chew on shoes or papers, I was hit and called “bad dog.” I was called Bad Dog more that Rusty. But I always forgave them, and licked their tears away, and nuzzled them when they needed it, and played with them when they were happy.

One day, the father brought me here to this shelter. He told the human that took my leash that I was too hard to deal with.

My heart broke. I had given them so much love, and considered them my family, and they just dump me like a broken toy? The father never even said goodbye to me, despite my pleading barks to him.

So that’s my story. I’ve been here at the shelter for a few weeks now, and even though I am only nine months old, they say that my time is up. Tomorrow I will be “euthanized” (whatever that means). I sure hope it's better than everything else I have had to endure.

Maybe euthanized means that I will finally have a home. I’ll just have to wait and find out.

Go on to Bush Administration Betrays Dolphins
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