Last time Sam had met his new mistress for the first time at three weeks old and had his first experience of the vet… not without blood being drawn!
Chapter Two – My New Home.
That was to be the last time I would be with my mother and sisters as the next day my new mistress arrived to take me away. I was too excited at seeing and smelling her again to notice that we were leaving my family behind. I was a little afraid when I found myself on her lap in one of those large smelly boxes again, but this one seemed to be not quite so odorous or noisy and I found that if I tucked my nose up under my mistress’s chin I felt safer.
It was a longer trip this time and I dropped off contentedly after a little while. I woke when I felt a strange vibration under the box as if we were travelling across a very rough surface. We stopped and the man I now knew to be my new master got out of the box and came around to open the door for us.
“Well Sam, you’re home.” The ground crunched under their feet and we moved towards a much bigger house than my home had been. The front door was opened and the man went in turning with a small box in his hand. A flashing light made me blink and then my mistress carried me across the threshold into my new life.
My new house was detached and stood in the middle of two acres of garden and wild meadow. I did not know it then but the grounds surrounding us would provide me with not only a wonderful place to play and explore but also would be where I met my first and best friend.
At first I was in awe of the wide spaces that made up the inside of my new home. Shiny lino floors in the kitchen and wooden floors throughout the rest of the house made it tricky to keep one’s feet and us Collies are not known for our ability to accept slippery surfaces underfoot. Some say we are too bright for our own good and this is apparently obvious when you consider our reluctance to trust in anything new be it surroundings or food.
Up to this point I had enjoyed 24 hour milk on tap and because I was a growing boy and hungry all the time, had tolerated the hard and rather tasteless pebbles that my old master had served up three times a day for my sisters and me. Because Ireland is a little wet, an understatement I can tell you, our food was served in three small dishes under a plank laid across two oil cans. This kept the food dry and our heads as well when we ate.
My old master had given my new family a packet of the pebbles so that I could stay on the same food and not get an upset tummy.
Despite only being eight weeks old, I felt that perhaps it was time to establish my independence and although I was now hungry and missing both milk and my regular meal I declined the bowl of food that was put down in front of me and looked up at my new boss with a determined expression on my face.
This minor rebellion was to have long term affects and I can tell you in the next few days I was delighted to be offered all sorts of new and tasty treats in an effort to get me to eat. One of the main issues was that I did not like being out in the open when I ate. In my old home I was used to being under the plank which was enclosed and rather dark. Finally in desperation my mistress, who I had heard my master call Sally, put a dish of chicken breast and scented rice in a bowl in the fireplace. Of course there was no fire in the grate and the smell of the warm chicken enticed me to clamber up onto the tiles in front of the chimney breast and sample this latest offering.
It was definitely found to be more acceptable than the pebble dash and previous offerings and I was hungry enough to concede defeat.
After eating my meal I backed out of the fireplace and turned around triumphantly to establish with my new family that this indeed was acceptable food for a Collie. Instead I was met with hysterical laughter and the sight of my new master and mistress rolling around on the floor. Unfortunately I was unable to see the funny side of this behaviour but there again I could not see my face which was now covered in soot.
There were a few other events that I did not find particularly amusing including Sally’s persistence in putting me outside the back door, rain or shine immediately after I had eaten despite my being very tired and ready for a nap. It seemed to please her enormously if I had a wee wee and she got ecstatic if I did a fragrant package as she called it. There was much hugging and kissing before I was finally allowed to retire to a warm spot in the house for a much needed rest.
I spent a great deal of time exploring the downstairs of my new home as at that time my legs were still too short to get up the stairs, but from the aromas that wafted down, I felt that in time this area of my territory was going to provide a wonderful playground for me.
My own room in the house was the utility room and I must say my first night I felt rather scared and concerned. I was used to curling up with my mother and sisters at night, waking occasionally for a drink of warm milk or a wee outside in the yard. However, Sally had done a fair job of fitting out my new bedroom. There were layers of the local paper on the floor that stretched to the back door of the house. I had a fleecy blanket in the corner with some chewable toys and a rather lovely soft jumper that exuded her particularly comforting scent.
There was a lattice gate across the door into the kitchen where a dim light had been left on. I was warm enough but very lonely and for the first half hour I must admit that I did have a little cry to myself before falling into an exhausted sleep. It had been a very long and tiring day.
My mother trained me not to wee or do any other business in the straw where we lay so during my first night I was at a loss what to do when I woke up in the middle of the night.
I had no idea how long I would be there before Sally and my master David came down in the morning and I hoped that they were not the sort of people who liked a lie in.
Of course I could not tell the time but I do know that I tend to wake up at sunrise and go to sleep when it gets dark. It was mid summer so the sun came up very early and I stood by the back door somehow knowing that I needed to get through it to a yard or somewhere where I could wee. Eventually I could hold on no longer and I am afraid that I wet the newspaper on the floor. Just as I finished Sally appeared and viewed the pool in front of the back door.
“Never mind Sam, you have done very well and it is my fault for not getting up sooner.”
Quite right but very gracious anyway. With that she opened the back door and we had a very pleasant trot around the back garden and I thought I had better take the opportunity to complete my toiletry while I could.
The next morning I held on desperately and true to her word, Sally appeared just in the nick of time and I never wet in the house ever again.
Now a little bit about the garden. Our house was set in the middle of a two acre plot with a house next door and a field on the other side. The back of the plot was left to wild meadow that in the future would prove to be a delightful playground chasing butterflies and rabbits through the long grass. But because David and Sally thought I might get lost on my own out there, they had fenced off quite a large portion of the garden just outside the back door and this enabled me to be let out on my own in the warm summer sun.
Some enterprising school boys had a lucrative business making hand made kennels and misguidedly Sally thought that this would be top of my list of things to have. It was enormous in preparation for my adult my size but I never really liked it. David spent an entire afternoon climbing in and out of the dog house trying to entice me in but I felt that like my food I had to establish right from the start that I was not really a dog and would not be using this type of structure at any time in the future.
Sally used to come out with me in the afternoons and there were two sun loungers and my favourite toys and a paddling pool. Whilst she lay out in the rare Irish sunshine, I would sit in my pool and cool down. Instead of the kennel I would crawl under the sun lounger and snooze in the shade. It made for a very pleasant few weeks while we waited for my next set of jabs.
My humans had continued to experiment with various dog foods and fresh chicken and eventually we made an acceptable compromise. I even began to eat my meals away from the fireplace although I have to say that it was not until I was nearly eight years old that I tired of winding them up with my picky eating habits. Even today I have them very well trained and I have to say I am extremely well provided for.
Anyway, back to those first few weeks and some of the adventures that awaited me and the friends that I would meet coming up..
©sallycronin Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story 2009
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