Dusty Dog: an Autobiography

Written by Louise Wildman


I don’t remember the first two years of my life too well, but I’ve never forgotten how cruel children can be. The petting farm I was part of allowed children to grab my paws and drag me around, and throw me in water. I’ve never lost my fear of these small humans.

I grew so afraid I was no use to my masters, so they threw me away to a pound.

A young woman who worked there took me away from that. I was so happy I’d found someone who treated me with kindness, but she wasn’t around for long. When she left, the man she had sex with took me to another home, and I found myself with his parents. They didn’t hurt me, but I felt I was in the way.

The man also had a sister. I was moved again into the place where she lived.

She used to smile when she looked at me, but she wasn’t the only person who spent time there. She couldn’t move her hands or arms, or walk or stand or even eat with her mouth. Other people helped her with these things. Some of these people were nice to me, but many weren’t, and would lock me out of the house for hours and hours, and tell me I was a bad dog for shedding my fur. Some would kick me.

After six years there, I no longer knew which way was up or down: I knew deep that love existed, and I knew I had love to give, but I was so afraid. I hated people coming near me when I was trying to sleep, because it usually meant a kick or being thrown out yet again.

Although a few people would make me lovely meals and pet me, I was often hungry.

I didn’t see many other dogs, because I very rarely was taken outside walking, and I grew to hate any dogs I’d smell near the house.

I used to love going out in the minibus. It was pretty much the only time I got out of the house or yard. It was so exciting seeing all the people, movement, and dogs! I wasn’t allowed to bark though. I’d get into trouble if I did.

That was all right. I got to sit next to a child who was also a grown up, who was nice to me. I liked him, although he’d sometimes shut me in his room for too long. In the bus I’d lie down next to him and enjoy the movement of the bus. When he got off I’d be able to get out for a few minutes too and smell all the new smells, before they’d get me back on for the journey home.

I loved television! Well, only with dogs or other animals. Then I’d rush up to it and bark! C’mon - if you’re prisoner in a house, faced with pictures of freedom, wouldn’t you too?

One day a new woman arrived. I was afraid of her, but she kept looking at me and talking softly. It felt so long since anyone had actually really looked at me, I didn’t know what to do.

I went to her, slowly, and with lots of stops to go on my back to show her my submission. She patted me!

The second time, she took me for a walk! I was afraid she was going to leave me out on the street, that as soon as I let her out of my sight she’d vanish. She didn’t though.

She kept coming back.

She came with another woman who couldn’t walk, but this one could talk and use her hands and arms. I was a bit afraid of her though, as she tried to grab my paws. The nice one would stop her. She kept her eyes on me and made sure I was comfortable.

They took me to a big green place where there were lots of other dogs. I saw something moving out of the corner of my eyes, and - I don’t know what it was, but I felt a stirring of recognition. I ran after it. But then stopped, confused.

The woman saw, and she ran after the thing, and kicked it towards me. Again I started to run, feeling an excitement I hadn’t felt for years. But again I stopped. It was too confusing.

I started to smell out for her, and would be at the door when she arrived. She came back more and more. She and the other lady took me to the green place with dogs many times, and I learnt to remember what a football is. I love football.

I started to relax with other dogs too.

After a year, she took me in her car to her place for a night. I didn’t know whether to be afraid or ecstatic. I think I was a bit of both.

Not long after this she took me again. When she took me back, I was ready to get out, but instead she left me in and came back with my bowls, then we went back to her place. When she put the bowls down on the kitchen floor I was so happy.

On the walk after that I was smiling so much my face hurt.

She travelled a lot, but took me with her! AND the minibus we went in was exactly like the one I used to love! HEAVEN! I didn’t mind staying in strange motels and hotels, because I was always with her. I think the phrase she used was “smuggled in.” She was careful to sweep up all my fur each time. I shed a lot of fur.

She’d also play nature programmes for me. Especially dog ones. Sometimes she’d play them on the computer and laugh when I’d leave the images on the laptop to bark at the TV. Seriously? I was telling her I knew where it should be shown!

We had a favourite game. We’d be in the car, and I’d be lying down (passenger seat, no matter who else might be in the car), and she’d tell me there was a dog around! I’d leap up and try to find it. When I’d see it - often with help from her - I’d bark my head off. We loved that game!

I knew I had cancer. I told her when she took me in. It was very small then, and I had three beautiful years with her. I loved her more than any words can ever say.

I’d always known, deep inside me, that this was what life should be, and thanks to her, now it was. I blossomed. My face changed shape! I lost all the tension around my muzzle. My football skills grew legendary. I learnt to sing! She said it was the husky in me. I say it was because I wanted some of her particularly delicious smelling food.

At first I was hesitant to trust her completely, but towards the end I knew she loved me truly and deeply. I’d never have allowed someone to press my belly to help me wee, but I knew she wouldn’t hurt me on purpose. She did a few times, but I knew it was accidental and I knew why she was doing it. I thanked her every time.

As the cancer grew she started feeding me by hand. I loved that. She did too. This time was so precious for both of us. I know I could have eaten many meals from the bowl, but there was no turning back once I’d tasted the first class service. We laughed at, and with, each other as she fed me each tender piece.

When it was time for me to go, she carried me up the road to the Big Sleep. She had to keep putting me down as it was long way. I was a bit wobbly and couldn’t walk. I knew the end was here. But that wasn’t the important thing: I was seen. I was loved! I loved! We had achieved what I’d thought was the impossible dream. And it had become truth. I never knew much about the poet Keats, but he was right: truth is beauty, and beauty, truth.

I know how much she misses me. But I’ll be back. With her. Somehow.


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