It’s so hot here during the day and the sun beats into my matted fur until the pads on my sore feet burn into the cracked pavement. I’m hungry and I’m tired and I have no place to escape from the heat and my fears. Some of these people are nice; sometimes a lady from the store downtown will give me the old bread in the morning if she’s there. She’ll pet me on the head, but I can see her cringe with some disgust in her eyes. I know I must look like a site. Other people are not so nice, and they’ll yell at me: “Shoo! Shoo!” I once even got wacked in the head with a plastic stick with bristle things on it. It hurt and it scared me. I don’t remember how I got here. I get scared sometimes and confused. Today was different, though. A big fat man came at me in a suit. (My guess is, he hasn’t missed as many meals as I have). He came at me with a long metal stick and a net. He didn’t hit me with it though. Instead, I blinked my big brown eyes and next thing I know, I was inside the net and in the back of his truck, rumbling down the road and brought to a big place with lots of cages and lots of dogs just like me. I could see them when they brought me through. They looked scared too. It all happened so fast! I heard the ladies on the phone. They looked real tired, too, like they needed a nap just like I do. They patted me on the head and scratched my belly in a passer-by kind of way. They probably haven’t eaten in a while either, and they were stressed out too just like me. They answered ringing noises and said Underhound Railroad was coming up soon. I don’t know what that means, and I guess I didn’t really care. I had a bowl of kibble in front of me and my belly kind of hurt when I was done because I eated it so fast. I had gotten sharp pokes in me from the doctor and medicines. I had a blanket in my cage to lay on. It smelled, but I don’t really care. I even had a bowl of water of my own and I slept. I slept until I don’t know when. I selpt until a couple of nice men came with a van and gathered me up on the back of it, with several other fellows and girlies that were in cages beside me. They put us in new cages in there and we rode for a very long time. I look to my left; there’s a cute one! She has matted fur kind of like me and I can smell the medicine on her. She isn’t itching anymore. She is little, quite a bit smaller than me. She looks scared. But what is that? A hint of hope in her eyes? Dare I say, excitement?! I don’t know. I look to my right. There’s a cute fellow. He’s got a boo-boo, I think, but it looks like the doctor fixed it and put a Band-Aid on his whole leg. He’s pretty little too, and he looks like he wants to play. He puppy-bows at me and wags his tail. What does this mean? I don’t know. But my tail lifts from the bottom of the cage and moves to and fro for a moment before I fall asleep.
Today, I wake up and the nice men are taking us out of the back of the van. There are people everywhere! They all have cars and husbands and wives and its dark. Some of them are in their sleepy clothes. They are smiling and they are happy. I watch the little fellah who was on my right, in all his puppy glory, get into the car with a nice man and woman and leave from the scene. I watch them lovingly pick him up, carefully paying mind to his boo-boo and gently placing him in the lady’s lap as the man drives. I watch the pretty girl who was on my left get into the car with an older lady. She is nice. I can tell she wants to pet her, but the doggie is scared. The lady is careful to make her know it’s alright before she touches her. These are what they call the Underhound Fosters. I smell around. So many different smells! I don’t even know what to do. All of the sudden I look, and there she is: My foster mumma. She is soooooo pretty. Nooo, silly! She’s not pretty because of her clothes, or her hair, or that stuff she puts on her face that I want to eat. She smells like my way to home, and at this point I succumb to her touch and I trust her for a moment and she bends down to me and touches my face. She does not have the same look of disgust as the bread lady did (Dog God love her though; that angel did keep me from starving in the streets, but I digress)…Anyway. Foster mumma. She has love in her eyes. She looks like she has tears in them, too. Her skin is warm. She is the most beautiful woman in the world. She has been driving that car all night, I know it. Why? Just for me? I don’t understand. I think she’s confused, too, like me? Anyway. She has a soft collar and she puts it on me and tells me I look handsome and that it’s ok. I don’t really know what handsome means, or what it means to be ok. I just know that the tone of her voice said love and understanding, and that while I might not be literally going to a forever home tonight, that I was on my way home.
Someone to take care of me and love me until someone comes along to ‘dopt me forever. Foster mumma is going to love me so much, I just know it. I think she already does. She’s going to be my biggest advocate and she will never let just anyone take me. She will scrutinize and deny until just the right family comes along to have me forever. Then, her sweet eyes will cry until they are red and burn. But I won’t see her cry because she won’t let me. No. Foster mumma is the strongest woman in the world with the most gentle hands and sweetest heart.
Anyway, back to the day I call “Home.” I was a little nervous at first. There were two other doggies in there, and two kitties. I pee-peed on the floor, because it’s been so long since I’ve been inside. Foster mumma didn’t get mad though! She put me outside like a big dog. I stole a shoe from the shoe rack and mumma still didn’t get mad. I never really had toys, I don’t think. But there are toys here. Mumma showed me after I took the shoe. There is a fire going and its warm in here. There are little beds everywhere for us to lay on and they are comfortable. I find myself sleeping on the bed with mumma and the other dogs, and its comfortable to my tired body and its awakening my soul again. Her voice is patient and sweet. Her dogs are nice; When I smell them, I can smell love on them and familiarity. They are use to this. I’m not the first dog they have shared their home, bed, and toys with and I won’t be the last.
The next time I awake, we have breakfast and today I don’t frow-up from eating too fast. I quickly find out that I get a bowl of food to myself, twice a day and I will eventually learn than I don’t have to swallow it whole. (Ouch, that huwts!!) OH! and we go play outside. We go for a ride in the car and we got to the lake and mumma puts soap all over me and scrubs my fur and lets me swim. I feel so good, I can’t even explain it!! I feel like a new dog! I spin in circles with my siblings and I shake like crazy and foster mumma laughs when water spays her and she sees the silly look on my face and bounty in which I chase my wet tail and trip over my foster brother and bite him with a playful nip until he’s chasing me in circles through the sand and trees. Mumma tells me again that I’m handsome. I’ve never been called handsome until recently. I don’t know what it means but when she says it, she says it gentle and sweet and pats me and I feel…Handsome!! And most imrpotantly, I feel home. Funny, how I don’t know what a lot of things mean, but I know what home means.
Shaina R. Fraser Mugford
Underhound Railroad Author/Foster/home visitor/fund raiser