Having cancer and having access to a computer has led me to be a little barkier than usual: I find myself eager to write to you humans and tell you more about what’s on my mind. Maybe it’s just that after being ignored for so long, it is pretty amazing to have an audience. Thanks for reading.
I want to tell you all about my morning walks with my mom and my sisters. Remember that I spent my whole life chained up in someone’s backyard before I came to live here? Well, every morning at about 9 o’clock, my mom takes my sisters and me for a walk in the woods. No leashes. No roads. No cars. No other humans. We just go out and start walking in the backyard and keep going. For me, it is pretty unbelievable: like I was in jail all those years and now I’m free. I can run, sniff, eat deer poop, and just do whatever I want. It is amazing.
Our family lives in the Catskill forest, inside “the blue line” which is an imaginary line delineating the park boundary. The Catskill Park is not like a city park with playgrounds and flower beds. The Catskill Park is forever wild, and is partly designed to give humans an experience of wilderness and solitude. Where Mom lives is at the edge of the park, and it isn’t very mountainous – just wild. The trees are almost all conifers: white pines, hemlocks, spruce. Mom leads us into all the different areas so we can learn about the differences: white pines grow big and tall but they have branches that poke Mom’s face. Hemlocks have no low branches at all, but lots of them fell over in the hurricanes. The spruces are covered in lichens and the witch hazel is all covered in moss. Right by our house we have low bush blueberries and dwarf ginseng. Mom knows a lot about weeds and little plants and she loves looking at them. I just keep asking her which ones I can eat.
I like to hang out with Cinder when we’re out in the forest. Iske does her own thing, and Lily stays really close to Mom. I feel bad for Lily because all those hemlocks that are lying on the ground are so fun for Iske, Cinder and me to jump over, but it hurts Lily’s hips to jump. In fact, Mom has to find ways for her to go around most of the time. Later, after our walk, Lily cries because her hips hurt so much. It makes me really sad. But I stay with Cinder. Cinder says things to me like “Mom will forgive you. Let’s RUN.” And we go. We run. Sometimes we run because we’re chasing animals, but mostly we run because it feels really fantastic to run. When I run, Cinder runs next to me saying “Go! Go! Go!” and I go. I leap over downed trees and little streams. I fly over snowbanks and roots. I jump right over Iske or Lily if they get in my way. Cinder likes having me around to run with and I like having a dog to hang around with in the woods. I’m not really used to it yet and I don’t always know what to do, but when I look over at Cinder she is just so confident and so strong and fast, I know that sticking with her will work out. I kind of have a little girl crush on her but don’t tell anyone.
Mom doesn’t talk when we’re out in the woods. She uses her eyes and ears the way we dogs use our noses. She pays attention to everything. She doesn’t want to see any other humans so she watches and listens all the time. We have never seen another human in the woods, but once Mom found some footprints. She followed them a little to see where they went. We never went that way again.
Mom does say some things when we’re in the woods. She tries to keep us all together and to make sure she can see all of us at the same time. She says “this way” and “let’s go.” I know what that means now. She says “leave it” and that means stop eating the poop. She yells “Cinder!” and that means all of us need to go stand next to her. She also stands very still and holds one hand up sometimes. That means freeze. Iske is the best at understanding Mom and doing exactly what she wants. The rest of us try, but all those interesting smells and fun things to chase distract us.
Mom follows animal tracks. She showed me a fisher’s footprints today – they were really cool. She tracked a pack of coyotes last week. In the big woods on the mountain she saw weasel and snowshoe hare footprints, but here at our house it is mostly squirrels, mice, fishers, and sometimes beavers. And coyotes and deer of course.
I can’t even begin to tell you what it is like for me to feel free like this. When Mom says “let’s go out” my whole body trembles. I know I will be allowed to run. I am so thrilled by being free I just can’t even find the words to explain it. Everything changes for me when I’m outside. I feel alive in a way that I have never felt before. Movement equals love and life for me and I am moving, running, flying out there. Mom says I am beautiful when I am so happy. But then again, Mom also says I’m beautiful when I’m asleep. She’s a pushover.
Mom hoped and hoped that someone who was a better dogmom would adopt me. She says she loves bad dogs, and lets me get away with murder. Cinder too. She’s a spoiled brat. She bit mom today just playing around but it left a mark. Mom just laughed and called her a bad name. At my old house if I was mouthy brat I would not have been snuggled and petted at all. Cinder either. She probably would have been hit. She showed me her mouth the other day: she has no teeth on the bottom in front. Humans kicked them all out. Do you know how hard you have to kick a dog’s face to knock their teeth out? I wanted to cry when Cinder showed me, but she seems so happy now I let it go. Iske doesn’t ever talk about it but humans cut off part of her tongue – I saw the ragged edge. She was like me – a barky complainer, and someone got mad and sliced her tongue off. Humans can be total jerks. There’s a car that drives past our house and when Cinder smells it she gets all upset. I asked her why and she said that the human in the car kicked her in the ribs. She admitted that she was being pushy with that human’s dog, but the dog got in her face on our property. Cinder gave him a shove and he yelled at Cinder. The next thing she knew, the human was kicking Cinder. Cinder lay down and put her belly up, but the human kept kicking. Humans, take it from me: Cinder showed a lot of self control. She could have broken every bone in that foot. I’ve seen her eat chicken legs. She crunches bones like they’re candy.
I think most of the dogs in rescue have stories like Cyree, Cinder, Iske and me. I think humans could learn a lot from reading our stories. There are so many ways to help dogs – fostering or adopting us, but also helping with fundraising or transport or just helping spread the word when one of us is in need. You know, my mom makes jewelry and gives money from what she makes to the organization that saved my sisters and me. Buying her jewelry can help us too. (There ya go, Mom: I put in a plug for your business!)
For now I still feel ok, and the cancer isn’t making me slow down. I’ll keep you guys posted and stay in touch. Find me on Facebook to hear me bark some more.