I wrote this as a writing assignment, in which I was supposed to write about an event in my life from someone else's point of view. That was a little outside my comfort zone, but then I had an idea. This is what happened on That Day:
I still remember That Day. I don’t want to sound melodramatic (though, being Irish, it’s in my blood), but there are moments when your whole life changes. I didn’t know it then, when the strange lady approached the car I was in, but this would be one of those moments.
Playing it cool as she neared the car, I carefully avoided her gaze. She was probably Bad News, like many of the people in my life recently. I’d had a string of bad luck. Two nights before, I’d been on a boat. The next night, I found myself sleeping in a car. I figured with my luck, this lady was probably going to put me on a train and send me off to the gas chamber I’d heard whispers about at the shelter.
My life had gone from cushy comfort to harsh reality the day my Old Man disappeared. Someone said “hospital,” but I just knew he was gone, and I was trapped in the garden. People went by, dogs and kids and strangers. I saw the mailman about the same time every day, and that’s when I learned that if I barked real loud, he’d disappear. Same thing with kids, dogs—they all took off once I barked a few sharp Irish curses.
Finally some people came and took me to a place that smelled like other dogs, with lots of even louder barking, desperate and angry sounds, threats I’d never heard. I hated it there. Looking back, I realize that was where I learned to despise my own species.
Then one day they scooped me up and took me to see a guy they called a vet. Next thing I knew, I was waking up, drowsy, with a gaping hole where my nuts had been. I knew they were interested in collecting my excrement for some strange reason, but I never thought they’d come for my balls.
It was about a week after that I found myself inside a van, deep in the belly of a boat. The sea was choppy all night, and then at dawn the van pulled off the boat and we headed for Bath.
I don’t like baths, but this was worse. When we got out of the van there were hundreds of dogs just milling around, in what would have been a nice park if the squirrels hadn’t already high-tailed it out of there. I heard someone call it a “reunion” but I didn’t know a soul.
A lady they called my “foster” tried to introduce me to her dogs, but I let them know straight away I wasn’t interested in any sort of relationship. I tackled the biggest one, and the others stayed clear of me after that.
Soon after, I heard someone on the phone, talking about an “emergency” and next thing I know I’m sleeping in the car, my first night in England.
I’d heard the English hated immigrants; now I was seeing their treatment of Irish migrants first hand. It got cold that night, but I was used to the cold. My coat had grown thick, matted and dingy, which made me look twice as big as I really was. That turned out to be helpful for scaring off other dogs.
The next day a man put me in his car, inside a cage. I suspected I was on my way to a deportation centre. I’d heard that’s where they sent immigrants who arrived without papers, and as a mixed breed, I was pretty sure I had no papers.
We stopped at a place with a lot of cars, where the smell of hamburgers hung in the air like tasty mist. The man disappeared, probably to pee in one of those large water bowls reserved for his kind, and when he came back the strange lady was there. I eyed her with my peripheral vision. She tried to smile, yet her face looked a little bleak, with lines of worry creasing her forehead. But there was a tiny trace of hope in her eyes when she took my leash and led me to her car.
There was no cage, so I lay quietly on the backseat, staring at her as we drove away. Was she a dognapper? A vet? An immigration officer? She said some words to me as we drove. I liked her voice: it sounded like she was trying to reassure me, but I’d been reassured before, just before they nabbed my balls.
We finally stopped driving, and when she opened the car door in front of the biggest house I’d ever seen, a man with a shaved head stepped out the front door. I ran inside, before they could put me in the garden. I used to live indoors, so I knew all about slippery floors and how not to piss on the carpet.
But this place had stairs, and some more rooms on top of the stairs which confused me at first. And then they opened another door and I saw the garden...that’s when I first suspected my luck was changing for the good this time. This was the garden of my dreams: plenty of trees, a stream, an apple tree just loaded with sweet smelling fruit, and the scent of squirrels everywhere. I checked it all out carefully, sniffing every inch of the fence in case there was a way to get out. I smelled another dog, long gone, but I could tell she’d been happy there and, more importantly, well fed.
Then I ran back inside—no way was I getting trapped in a garden again, not even one with its own food and water sources. But the lady didn’t seem to mind; in fact, she started giving me treats! She kept saying my name, then dropping nuggets on the ground when I looked at her.
Easiest meal I’ve ever earned.
She seemed especially pleased when I lowered my rear to the floor after she said the word “sit.” I liked pleasing her—a strange sensation that settled in my belly, right next to the nuggets of tasty food.
I decided I’d call her Nice Lady, and later, the other guy Big Head, especially when he put a giant helmet over his head and took off on a motorbike. (I wish those dogs at the shelter could see me now, living with a cool dude who rides a motorcycle!)
After I ate, Nice Lady stroked me, which felt pretty nice, but when she started to pull at the mats, I let her know I wasn’t okay with that. She left me alone, but I could see her eyeing them. She wrinkled her nose a lot, too, whenever she caught my scent.
She and Big Head used a lot of words I didn’t know, but I’ve learned much of their language now. It sounds a bit like Irish, without the rich rolling Rs.
Not long after I came here, Nice Lady got in her car and left. I was frantic: what if she was gone for good? Then Big Head put my leash on and we went out, so I helped him look for Nice Lady. I peered in every car I saw, hoping to find her. Big Head apologized to the people who were surprised to see me jumping on their cars. I was so desperate to find my Nice Lady I didn't even do my Business, but she'd seemingly split for good.
After we got home, she walked in with some food she’d scavenged from one of her sources, and I jumped on her to let her know how worried I’d been.
Big Head told her he was never again taking me for a walk after she’d driven off.
Looking back now, that day when I met Nice Lady and Big Head, that was the day my Irish luck finally kicked in. Sometimes I remember how scared I was, how I thought I was going to another Bad Place. I’ve seen a photo of me taken that afternoon: my eyes were the size of a food bowl.
Another thing I didn’t know then: Nice Lady was just another foster lady and I wasn’t supposed to be Her Boy, but somehow, I changed her mind. I think it was that day when she left in the car. She didn’t know how much I loved her, but once she did, she decided that “emergency” on that day was really just Fate, barking at the door.
By Sparky, age 4, approximately
Today is Sparky's "Gotcha Day." Three years ago he came into our lives, totally unexpectedly. He never left.
If you're interested in fostering or rescuing a dog from Ireland (and you live in the UK) check out Irish Retriever Rescue. They bring many dogs over from Ireland, where the shelters are overflowing due to uncontrolled puppy mills.
The day Sparky's luck changed