Notes and Disclaimer at end
It's A Dog's Life
He didn't know what to do with me.
I could tell that right away.
I didn't blame him. The people who first adopted me didn't know what to do with me either.
There is a real problem with people and their idea of cute. Yes, I was cute at the beginning. What pup isn't? But we eat and we grow. And, as in my case, eat and grow, eat and grow and grow and grow.
I don't get it. Why would someone who lives in a city, in an apartment on the fifth floor, think that a Newfie would make a good pet for their child?
'Cause that's what the woman thought, until I was larger than their sofa. Could not get comfortable on that thing, no matter how I scrunched up. And I wasn't fully grown then either. Not even a year old when they decided that the best thing to do with me was take me out for a drive in the countryside and leave me there.
I have no idea what they thought would happen to me. Did they think I was going to forage off the land like one of my ancestors? That someone would see me, find me "cute" and take me in?
Well, consider. The man complained constantly that I was too expensive to feed; that it was the kid's responsibility to walk me, not his; that I made messes; that I took up too much space. That he kicked me when he thought no one was watching. Well, I certainly had no intention of walking up to the first friendly face I saw, just like that. I may have been young, but I was not stupid.
So I spent the summer wandering around, finding food in garbage, keeping my distance from humans. Not a normal trait for one of my breed. We usually like people, trust them. I didn't.
Not that people weren't nice to me. Some let me hang around, putting out food for me. Trying to catch me.
I have to admit that when you're young, you do things that, looking back, were a bit foolish. I'm sure that those people would have been very good to me. They might have kept me, probably would have found me a place to go where Newfies are appreciated. But I liked the roaming. True, there were days I went hungry, but that was made up by the fact that I could move on, see what was over the next hill. And I wasn't that fussy as to what I ate.
As I said, I was young then.
But, at some point, you have to face reality and mine was the onset of winter.
Mind you, my coat meant that I didn't particularly feel the cold, but I was smart enough to know that I would need some kind of shelter. Something with a dependable food supply nearby.
And that's when I found the man.
He was standing on a rise, looking out at the water. Not doing anything. He must have had eyes in the back of his head because when I came out into the open, he moved so quickly that he startled me. And I didn't like that thing he had in his hand. I had never seen one that small, but I had had enough rifles aimed at me by people who didn't want me around to know what that thing could do.
We stared at each other.
Slowly, he straightened and the hand with the gun dropped to his side. He took his time moving, but he kept an eye on me all the while. I just dropped to the ground, matched him stare for stare. When he started back, I followed him, keeping a safe distance between the two of us.
He was staying at the empty house. There was a vehicle of some kind parked by the door, filled with things. I gave him his space and watched him move, back and forth, between it and the house, carrying in boxes, bags of groceries.
He pretended to ignore me, though I'm sure if I had moved up suddenly that gun would have re-appeared in his hand.
I watched until he closed the door soundly behind him. Then I went back to the shelter in the rocks nearby for the night and thought about him. How he moved. How he smelt. Whether he might be a provider.
There was a storm the next day, so I stayed put. I was hungry, but there was no sense in getting myself lost in the kind of blowing snow that was whipping about. I waited until the day after to come out and make my way back to the house where the man was digging out a path from the door to his vehicle.
He knew I was there as soon as I popped my head up over a crest of wind-packed snow. We stared at each other. I sat down and gave him my best "lost sad puppy" look.
He ignored me.
I waited a bit then tried my "starved puppy" look. Not that it was much of an act.
Even added that pitiful little whine that sounds so pathetic.
He still ignored me.
Hmmmm. That was a good combination. It rarely missed. It usually got me some leftovers. But then again, maybe he hadn't been in the house long enough for leftovers.
I decided to inch my way closer.
The great thing about hard snow is that you can slide on it. I dropped my chest to the ground and, using my hind feet, I steered myself closer to the man.
He didn't even stop his shovelling.
I sat up and sighed. This was not going well. I was hungry and I didn't like the sight of those black clouds darkening the sky in the distance. I figured I had better find my hole in the rocks before the next snow.
I turned to go, not having noticed the shiny patch, when I suddenly found myself on my back, sliding rapidly down the slope into the path the man had dug. Happened so fast that I never had the time to find my feet.
So there I was, lying in a heap, the man's gun aimed at my nose.
I was smart enough not to move. I waited until he stopped cursing and put the gun away. And I still didn't move. Not that I didn't want to, but because I knew it would hurt to try. Under all that fur, I was pretty skinny and I had landed hard on my side and hip.
So I stayed there, not moving, panting so as not to put too much pressure on my ribs.
The man finally understood that I wasn't going anywhere. He crouched and carefully extended his left hand, waiting to see what I would do.
Can't say I blamed him. I was all matted, hungry-looking. He placed his hand on my shoulder and let me direct how much I would allow him to touch me. I managed to find my feet. We looked into each other's eyes, then I dropped mine.
"Hell, you'd better come in."
The man went to the door, opened it. He waited while I made my mind up. I took a real good look at him. Thin. Radiating tension. Face expressionless, like it didn't matter to him what I did. Well, it was worth the possibility of a meal. And though I love water, I'm not that keen on snow.
I limped in far enough for him to close the door and walk around me. He tossed his heavy jacket onto a chair, opened a cupboard, pulled out a can. Next thing I knew, there's this smell of food and he's emptied the whole can onto a plate and placed it on the floor. Then he went to sit in the armchair that someone had set up in the corner.
I cleaned that plate so fast, I was afraid that it might come up before it went down.
Then, eye on the man who was sitting there reading a paper, I quickly cased out the room. It looked pretty much the same as most of the kitchens I'd peeked into over the summer. Table and chairs in the middle, wood stove along one wall. There were still some boxes around, a couple on the table, a few in another corner of the room, but I couldn't smell food from them so they didn't interest me.
On one side of the stove there was a stack of wood, nothing on the other. So I went there, just slightly exaggerating my limp, sniffed the space, backed myself into the corner and eased myself down. With a loud sigh, I plunked my head on my paws, slowly lost the battle of keeping my eyes open.
We were both more than a bit wary of each other those first days. The storm was a beaut, so that we were forced to spend them in pretty close contact.
He was easy to train. If I went to the door, he let me out, stayed there, watching me from the window so that when I turned to come back, he opened the door.
If I went to the bowls he had set down for me, he saw to it that there was something in them. He freshened the water twice a day. He used those cans of stew until the storm was over then he disappeared for some hours. When he came back, he had two real dog bowls, not those things that I was always worried about breaking. And some of those big cans of dog food. Not that I disliked the ones he had been feeding me, but this food stuck more to my ribs. Then there was this big bag of kibble, some really tasty crunchy stuff, great for nibbling.
After a couple of more days, I let him touch me. He had bought a brush and used it to work on my fur, a bit at a time, slowly letting me get used to him. Once, he hit a really sensitive spot, probably where I had landed. I made a little growl sound and he stopped right away. He put the brush down and checked me out, very carefully. I appreciated that. I let him know it the only way I could: I licked him.
But I knew he was only saying that because he never shoved me away.
I have no idea why he started calling me Barney. He never discussed it with me. I found out his name one day when the man who owned the house came to drop off more wood. Alex.
Not a bad name. No worse than Barney.
That winter we learned a lot about each other. He didn't go out every day like my first people had done. He sat around, reading some of the time, more often just looking at the wall. He shovelled the path to the Jeep though the owner would come with a large machine to clear the way from the road.
I showed him that if he rolled a ball on the kitchen floor, I would roll or carry it back to him. He showed me that he could have two arms one minute, only one the next. I never knew you could take those things on and off like that. In fact, I don't remember anyone else being able to do that trick. Makes him special, my Alex.
One day, after about a month, he insisted I get into the Jeep with him. I wasn't too sure about that. The last time I had been taken for a drive, I had been abandoned. And, by then, I was growing attached to him. But, hey, there are times you have to trust.
I was right to trust Alex. Oh, I didn't like that overnight visit to the vet, but he didn't leave me there. And he was very concerned about me for the next couple of days.
We didn't do much that first winter. I stayed in my corner by the stove in spite of the fact that it was too hot for me. But I felt safe in that corner and Alex never insisted that I move out of it.
I paid him back by barking whenever I heard anything approaching the house. He seemed to appreciate that.
And by staying up with him when he had those nightmares and didn't go back to sleep. Those nights, I'd go lie by his chair while he read or listened to music.
There were a few nights when he'd come out of his room, sit on the floor in front of the stove, open the firebox, add some wood and watch as it burnt. Those nights, I would sit next to him, offering him a shoulder, if he needed it.
Once he did. He wrapped his arm around me, buried his face in my fur and made painful sounds. I stayed really close to him that night, even following him into his bedroom because I knew he was upset.
Every night after that, I slept by his bed and the nightmares seemed to come less often. The floor was beautifully cool, though he did move one of the braided rugs by his bed so I didn't sleep directly on the wood.
He's considerate that way.
Summer came and I stayed with him. We went for long walks, exploring all the land around the house for miles. If we headed for the shore, I brought a stick along. He's bright, is Alex. He knew that I wanted him to throw it into the water. And he'd wait for me to bring it back. Could never get him to join me though.
Sometimes we went for drives, exploring the Island. I got to love those, the window open, me sticking my head out, him playing that music of his full blast.
I wasn't keen on the trips we made to the city, but Alex wasn't any keener on cities than I was. They made us nervous. I have no idea why he was, but I was always worried that we might run into the people who dumped me. That they might want me back. And there was no way I wanted to leave Alex. We would fill up the Jeep with whatever he thought we needed and we'd hurry home.
Yes, all things considered, we had a nice life going there. He set up one of those computers in a corner of the kitchen, bought a TV and lots of videos for watching. He even bought one called "The History of the Newfoundland" but I didn't like it all that much. I didn't want him getting ideas. I have to admit to being a little possessive. I liked having his full attention.
Still, like all good things, that too came to an end.
We'd been together two years when this other man showed up. In the middle of a storm. Which is why I didn't hear him coming up.
There are times I wonder about humans. You'd think they'd know better than to wander about in the middle of a Nor'eastern blow.
This one didn't. And Alex tensed up really bad when he appeared. I watched from my corner as he and Alex talked. At one point, I thought it might be a good idea if the man knew that Alex wasn't alone. So I came out of my spot.
The man was smart enough to stay where he was while I looked him over, while Alex fed me some kibble. To be honest, I was stunned when I looked up to find them with their arms around each other. I wasn't too sure I liked that.
But then the man, Walter, scraped some stew into my bowl and I had to think about him differently.
He's still around, is Walter.
He too likes to go for long walks. And he's good at throwing that stick into the water. He shares Alex's bed and sometimes I have to move back into my corner to get some sleep. But Alex is happier and Walter sneaks me treats.
So now we're moving.
I'm a bit nervous about that, but Alex just rolled up my sleeping rug and placed in on the back seat of the Jeep. And the back window is opened all the way down.
Walter's carrying a bag of those rawhide bones I really like to gnaw on.
I don't know where we're going, but that's part of the adventure. All I care about is that we're going together.
That's all that matters.
Notes and Disclaimers
TITLE: It's A Dog's Life
An early birthday gift for Ned of The Theban Band