There are just a few things I can remember about my earliest days.
Of course, there was my mother. At first I could not see her, but I could smell her and feel the comforting heat of her body beneath her thick fur. My mother was warmth and safety and milk that filled my stomach and left me sleepy and content, curled up next to her.
I could hear noises, too. Sometimes there were sharp yips or squeaks. Sometimes a bang that made me twitch, even in my dreams. There was a rattling, clanking sound that I heard regularly, and a little trickling noise that never went away.
I found it all so soothing. The trickling sound, my mother, and the comfort of furry bodies sleeping close together.
That was how everything started.
After a few days, my eyes opened and I was able to stay awake longer than before. I began to learn things.
I learned that my mother was big and short-haired and white, with a wet nose and a wide, blocky face. Her tongue was long, and strong enough that when she washed me with it I fell over.
I had brothers and a sister, too! That came as something of a surprise. They were the source of the little yips and squeals that I heard. They were part of what kept me warm, too, so I liked them, even if they did step on me quite a lot.
Two of my brothers were white, just like my mother. Another was brown, black, and white in patches. My sister was brown and black with a tiny splotch of white on her chest—just like me. In my mind, I named her Splotch.
The trickling noise that I heard night and day came from a long, twisty hose that lay on the ground. Water ran out of this, dripping into a metal bowl. Sometimes my mother went over to take a drink from the bowl. I didn’t bother, though, and neither did my littermates. Milk from our mother was all we needed.
The bang that I heard so often came, I discovered, from a house nearby. Twice a day, a door in that house would open and a person would come down a few steps into the yard where we lived.
The door would slam shut behind her with a sharp, loud sound and the person would shuffle forward. She’d put a bowl full of brown stuff down on the ground near our mother and then return inside the house.
She was the first human I’d ever seen. Frankly, I didn’t think she was very interesting. She never stayed to talk to us or pet us, so I decided she was not someone I had to care much about.
When she put the bowl down on the ground, my mother would get up, sometimes shaking off a puppy or two, and walk over to it. Then I would hear that clanking sound once again. It came from the chain that was attached to my mother’s collar. The other end of that chain was connected to a long stake driven into the ground.
When my mother moved, the chain clanked. When she shook her head or stretched, the chain rang with a harsh music. When she settled down again, the chain was quiet.
My mother would put her nose in the bowl and gobble up the brown stuff inside. When my legs grew a bit stronger, I sometimes went over to sniff at it, but it never smelled very exciting to me. I didn’t see why my mother liked it so much.
There were lots of other things in the yard that were more interesting than a bowl full of brown chunks. As I got older, I was able to learn more about them.
Dandelions, for one. They were fuzzy yellow circles attached to strong stems. They did not taste very good, but when I bit at them they bobbed and danced on their stems, and that was almost like a game.
Sticks, too! Sticks were everywhere. And sticks did taste good, especially as my teeth started to come in and I could gnaw off bits of bark.
The other good thing about sticks was that my brothers and sister wanted them’ too. That meant, if I had a stick and they didn’t, it was time for a game called I’ve-Got-the-Stick-and-You-Don’t.
I loved that game!
My sister was especially good at playing it. My brothers wanted to remain closer to my mother’s side, but if I had a stick Splotch would chase me until I dropped it and she could snatch it. Then it was my turn to chase her.
What a marvelous thing to do!
Day by day, Splotch and I grew stronger, and our play took us all over the yard. We played other things too. There was Chase-Me and I’m-the-One-On-Top and Look-How-Fierce-I-Can-Be. All of them were delightful games, and after we were done we’d run back to my mother for a meal of milk and a good long sleep.
This was my life until the day the door banged open and the human lady put down a bowl for my mother and also a tray full of dark-colored goop. My brothers and Splotch and I loved that stuff! We licked it and chewed it and stood in it and rolled in it. I ate it from the tray and my feet and Splotch’s face. Glop was the best! I still went to my mother to nurse, but more for comfort than hunger, now that my siblings were covered with glop and I could snack anytime I wanted!
One day after I’d licked Splotch’s face clean of glop and she’d licked mine, we began to wrestle. Splotch shook me off, and I rolled and kept rolling until I bumped up against something I’d seen but never thought much about.
It was the first time I’d really examined the fence. It went all the way around our yard, and it was made of chilly wire that did not taste good. I know, because I tried to bite it.
Splotch came over and chewed on my ear, trying to get my attention. But I shook my head so that she fell over, and kept sniffing at the fence.
Something had caught my attention.
On the other side of the fence I could detect a new smell. And it was very, very interesting.
Later I would find out that the smell I’d encountered here, for the first time, was called a piece of chicken. I didn’t know that then. All I knew was that my tail began springing back and forth even faster than my nose was twitching.
I was growing fast in those days, and my brothers and sister were, too. I ate as much glop as I could before it was all gone, but I was still a little hungry all the time.
The brown stuff in my mother’s bowl was starting to smell interesting to me. And this thing on the other side of the fence smelled a little like the chunks in that bowl … but better. Much, much better. So much better that I licked my lips.
Copyright © 2018 by W. Bruce Cameron