Funday Times - Story

A street dog’s tale
Four years ago, Rufus was half – starved, mangy, flea-bitten and an easy victim of any passing vehicle. In other words, he was your average street dog. Given a second chance in a loving home, Rufus is now a very different dog. Strong, healthy, loving and fiercely loyal, this is Rufus' story of his life on the street and how that life changed when he least expected it…
By Tahnee Hopman

The road

I remember my Mum telling me about dogs who lived on the street, and how lucky I was to have a home. I thought she was right, until I started developing mange. It was just a tiny spot at first, but then clumps of my fur began falling off and the mange kept growing worse. Mum was worried, but she couldn't do anything about it. She said that I should leave everything to our humans and they would help me. I believed her. Looking back, I know we should have known better.

One evening, our human came to our kennel, brandishing the huge stick he sometimes used on Mum. He poked his hand into the kennel and pulled me out by the ear. He dragged me out and held me tight by the scruff of my neck and walked away from the kennel. All I could hear was Mum whimpering and him, yelling at her to shut up. That was the last I saw or heard of my Mum.

He took me to the gate, opened it and flung me out on the dark road. I landed with a painful thump, and there was excruciating pain in my left paw. He started whacking me with his stick, driving me
further and further away until I lost sight of the gate. And then he was gone. I didn't see where he went, so I couldn't follow him. Anyway, I didn't have the strength to walk just then. I curled up into a tight little ball on the side of the road and fell asleep exhausted.

I don't know how long I lay there. When I woke up, the sun was high in the sky. I stood up shakily, testing my injured left paw. It still hurt badly, but I could limp on it. For two days I walked around, hoping to find my old home, but I had no luck.

The road is a cruel place. Every day is a struggle for survival. By this time, all my fur is gone, and my skin is grey, covered with these little bugs that never stop biting.At least I have some company. There are others like me, but they have lived on the road all their lives. They are actually used to this place! I should not get used to it though; I want to live, not just survive.

After ages, there is finally some excitement in the gang of street dogs. They say that some humans from the dog pound are coming to capture and then kill us. While they ran wild, barking their heads off, I limped off to my favourite hiding place – a drain covered by a large stone, and the humans didn't find me!

I crawled out of my hiding place and went in search of the others. They were gone. I was all alone. Surprisingly, I liked the feeling. With shame, I realized that I was happy because being alone meant that there would be less competition for food at the garbage dump. This is what living on the street had done to me.

I lay down on the side of the road, feeling even more lost and alone than I had ever done before.
After a while, I noticed a human coming up to me. As he came closer, I shut my eyes tight, expecting him to beat me, like so many others had done. The blow never came.

He picked me up gently and put me into a basket. At first, I was scared, thinking that he would take me to the dreaded dog pound, but he seemed to be kind, and I could sense my fear ebbing away…

The new life

After a bumpy ride, the basket was put on the ground. As the lid was opened, I looked up and saw three faces staring down at me. The youngest human bent down, picked me up, smiled and said, "Not very good looking, is he? Can we keep him?" Finally, I was to be given a home! After weeks of starvation, I would have food to eat and a place to sleep. What if these humans were no different from the ones who threw me out before? I didn't care. Weeks of surviving on the road had made me tough. If I could face the road, I could face this. Just then, all I wanted was food and shelter, at any cost.

They gave me some milk, which I drank within a few seconds. Having drunk the milk, I was subjected to the single most humiliating experience of my life – a bath. It was my first bath, and it was horrible! I squirmed, wriggled, squealed and yelped as loud as I possibly could, even biting their fingers when I had the chance, but all they did was laugh at me! To them, the indignity I faced during my first bath was funny!
When I was suitably clean, and they had laughed at my discomfort for long enough, they gave me something to eat.

My new humans then settled down to the issue of giving me a name. One of them said, "We'll name him Rufus," and they all agreed. Rufus? I always thought my name was "Shoo!" At least, that is what humans on the road said to us whenever they saw us…

Life became good. I had everything I wanted. I was the centre of attention, food was provided at regular intervals, and I was constantly petted and crooned over. I had a big box to sleep in during the night. Now I liked this box. It had two warm cloths for me to sleep on and a net covering it, so as to prevent mosquitoes getting in. Still, I liked to be able to survey my territory if ever I woke up during the night, so I decided to make a few modifications to my sleeping area.

One night when these humans of mine had put me to bed, I waited till they were all asleep, chewed a hole in my box and got out. This was convenient. I could have a midnight stroll whenever I wanted it, and crawl back to bed soon as I got bored. And of course my humans understood completely – they were absolutely thrilled with me and my intelligence!

The two snooty dogs who live inside didn't appreciate this – they, for some stupid reason seemed to think that living inside was better than living outside. I had to live outside because my mange was still bad, but
I enjoyed living in the garden with the protection of the porch in the night.

My humans are worried about the deformity in my left paw. I developed that when I was thrown out on the road. My paw still hurts, but I have grown used to it, and learnt how to get around quite fast. That is not good enough for the humans though; they give me this revolting chalky tablet which they say will heal my paw.

Before I knew it, my paw straightened out and I was able to run easily again. My fur grew back too. Before long, it was thick and glossy. My tail didn't look like a rat's tail any more – it was thick and it had an elegant twist at the end, which I was very proud of. I felt respectable once again.

Sometimes I think of my old friends from the road. They all feared humans. I wonder if they are still alive, whether they would change their minds about humans if they had the chance to live with humans like mine… Whenever I hear a dog in the neighbourhood whimper, I prick my ears up, hoping that it is not being ill-treated. If ever a street dog passes by, I think of how lucky I am to be living this way.

I know exactly how it feels to live out there; to live in a world that I know is very cruel to animals like me. I can only hope that more people will be kind enough to take street dogs into their homes.

I think of Mum every day. I know I probably won't see her again, but I can sense what is unseen and unspoken, as all dogs can. I know that she is happy and at peace, and she knows that I am happy too. In my world, everything is as it should be.

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