--by Mike Murray
I’m so groggy. A good yawn, a nice long stretch – first the forelegs and then the back – and I’ll be ready to... Hey! Where is everybody?
Where’s mom? And what happened to my siblings, the ones the tall creatures call Sruffy, Fido, Feisty, and Snuggles?
Oh, yeah; it’s coming back to me now. Some Big Ones put me into a strange thing a while back. It was a kind of small room – a room on wheels – that moved by itself. They used it to bring me to a new place.
They gave me water and crunchy, hard food. They made happy sounds and tried to play with me. They didn’t play like my brothers and sisters (they didn’t know much about pretend-fighting), but they were nice. The Little One was so excited she nearly hugged the stuffing out of me.
But when I relieved myself on a smelly spot on the floor, one that already reeked of urine, I got yelled at and put into a box. I remember crying myself to sleep. And I remember getting yelled at again for making too much noise.
Things got a little better after that. Most everyone was friendly – except for the Big Fat One. He was the boss. He was the biggest, tallest, heaviest one of all. He had a deep, scary voice. When I submissively crawled over to him and affectionately rubbed against his leg, he just kicked me away.
I learned to keep clear of his feet when the door in the kitchen – the one that led to the basement – was open. He liked to boot me head over tail down the steps. Knocked me cold once. I still ache, right here, where my head crashed into the floor.
The Second Biggest One was nicer. She’d shriek when the Big Fat One would hurt me. But then he’d yell at her, too. The Little One could be cuddly sometimes, and other times not. She’d snuggle me and call me baby names. But she’d also pull my tail when no one was looking. My yelps only made her giggle.
Then a new Little One – Little Boy I call him – started coming over to visit. He always seems to know what I am feeling. He always seems to know what I need. He knows how I like to play. I lunge at him and he laughs and shoves me away. Then I lunge back at his ankles, making pretend growly noises and nipping him playfully.
I was grateful when the Big Fat One said I would have to go. Little Boy brought me home and pleaded with the Second Biggest One at his house to let me stay. She wasn’t happy about it at first, but she eventually gave in.
Little Boy has brothers and sisters of his own. Some of them like me, and some don’t. At least, they act like they don’t. They go from petting me and being nice to hitting and kicking me. Well, really, it’s not so much them. It’s mainly the Biggest Little One – a kid who comes over from down the street. He bosses everyone around who is smaller than he is. The other kids just copy the way he acts.
The Big Fat One at my new house is nicer than the one at the last, but he acts strange sometimes, too. When he comes home he’s always happy to see me. But on those days when he sits in his chair and drinks from too many brown bottles, he can get mean. I have learned to stay away from him – no matter how angrily he calls for me – when he gets in that mood.
And I’ve learned something else, too: The easiest way to get along is to be a boss. Being weak and submissive hasn’t worked for me. Crawling on my belly and acting humble has gotten me more than one whipping.
So yesterday, when the Biggest Little One started slapping me, I bared my teeth and growled at him. Sure enough, he backed away and let me be. The Second Biggest One in the house walked into the room and saw me snarling. I thought she would be pleased. I thought she would see that I was following the rules.
What she did was yell at me! She got a broom and shushed me out into the yard.
I was confused. I had watched carefully. I thought I was doing things right. The way to survive was to be assertive. After all, those who were the most aggressive were left alone. They were never beaten.
Besides, the Biggest Little One had started it. Wasn’t it okay to defend myself?
I was hurt that she was mad at me, but there was nothing I could do about it just then. And besides, Little Boy was out in the yard and he was glad to have me join him in a spirited session of roughhousing.
I didn’t notice the Second Biggest One watching from the window as I tugged on Little Boy’s pant leg. She shook her head in disapproval. And then she reached for the telephone.
But that was yesterday. Surely I’ve been forgiven by now.
What’s that sound out front? I think it’s the loud noise of one of those moving rooms. I hear heavy footsteps on the porch. I will earn my keep by sounding the alarm. I will bark a warning to my new family; I will let them know intruders are on our property. They will send the interlopers away.
What’s this? The Second Biggest One is letting them into the house. Why are they dressed so funny – in strange uniforms, both the same? And what’s that thing that one’s carrying?
It looks like a big stick, with a loop on the end. Hey! Why is he coming toward me? And why isn’t the Second Biggest One trying to stop him?
He’s chasing me, he’s trying to put that thing around my neck! I am terrified; I run wildly around the room, desperately searching for a way out. But all of the doors are closed.
Finally, the Second Biggest One springs into action. Finally, she’s going to put an end to this nonsense. No, wait; she’s not trying to stop the Big One with the stick. She’s helping him! I scream for Little Boy, but he’s nowhere in sight.
Once caught, I let out a loud yelp. Then I remember the rule of survival: the weak are victimized; the strong are spared. So I bellow my most blood-curdling growl. I snarl and thrash violently against the restraint. I am a flurry of teeth and fur. But my effort comes to nothing. The stick is long enough to keep the weapons in my mouth from reaching anyone.
One of the Big Ones says to the other: “It appears that the report was accurate. We won’t need much observation on this one; he’s clearly aggressive.”
Then he puts me into a metal cage and pokes me with a shiny, pointy thing that makes me groggy. I drift off to sleep as the moving room takes me away.
Once fully awake, I observe my new surroundings. I am in still in a cage, in a room that has many other cages in it. There are creatures like me occupying them, creatures of all types and sizes.
Maybe my brothers and sisters are here! Maybe my mother is here!
Some of the critters are barking nervously. Others are whimpering softly. Still others are lying forlornly in the backs of their enclosures. Why are they all so unhappy?
Don’t they realize? Don’t they know we’re going home? We are, aren’t we?
Copyright © 2006 Michael F. Murray -- All rights reserved.