This story is by Sue Bick and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Bye. Bye sweetheart. We’ll be home before you know it.” Sasha drooped her head, and as the wooden gate clicked shut, she lifted her face towards where the speaker had disappeared. Even though it was too late, her liquid brown eyes pleaded, “let me go out the gate and be with members of the pack.’’ That gate held the key to the exciting world beyond the house and garden.
Sasha, the Labrador, tells her story of loneliness after the lockdown when everyone resumes life as usual, but it doesn’t include her.
Come to think about it, she thought to herself; I haven’t been out for many, many, many days. Brenda gave me a netball and I had a great time using my front paws and nose to send the ball soccer-style around the garden. I called the name of the game “rabbit ball” with my goal, to “kill” it. I would shake rabbit from side to side, throw rabbit in the air, catch it, and then my excellent soccer skills would exhaust the rabbit. It took me two days of hard work, but finally, the rabbit gave in, and I pulled its guts out and had a good old chew.
Now my pack can go out as they wish, but the dog remains at home. Life has changed for the worst. I lie around on the various sofas in the lounge and curl up with my tail tightly around me. I’m more relaxed in the Regal Chair as it’s oversized, leaving plenty of room to sprawl out resting on my back with four paws in the air – very relaxing. When I’m tired of my own company, I quickly trot to the bedrooms where I select my bed and gaze out the large windows. I sit up tall and alert and sometimes bark at passers-by inviting them to come and play with me. They are too busy with their thoughts to see a lonely and friendless dog crying out for the company.
I do have company, but not to play with on the lawn. Opposite our place lives two yappy dogs. They certainly can yap. They yap at other dogs, and anybody who uses the footpath. The postie, in her mini motorized cart, is the favourite victim. One of them screams at a soprano pitched level and can hold it there for as long as he wants. The offsider is the baritone type bark that comes in waves. Neither can get in tune with the other making it an annoying mishmash of irritating noise. That’s what Gran calls them, Soprano and Baritone. My nerves tingle and I turn my back on them, clean my paws, and have a snooze.
The garden door is left open for me. The pack didn’t think an intruder might come in and terrify me. Usually, when people come, I use my best authoritative bark and then dash inside for a gift. A shoe or a sock being the present of choice. But I trick them. They smile and say thanks, but as they put out their hand to take the gift, I whip the gift away from them. I want them to play, but Gran calls me a false gift giver. Now, if anybody comes to the door when I’m alone, no gifts will be offered. I’ll hide in my cave behind the Regal Chair. With eyes averted, I’ll pretend I can’t see them and then they won’t see me.
When someone isn’t too busy in the outside world, I get taken for a sedate walk around the neighbourhood. I must put up with the indignation of being on a leash. No bush play, no leaping in the air to grab the ball- I am incredibly good at that. Even the dog park was closed, so no river swimming. Being on a lead, I cannot chase my arch enemies, the cats. They sneer and taunt me to flight or fight, and I pull hard on the leash, but it won’t release me. As I walk past, head in the air, they arch their backs and spread their claws while nonchalantly yawning at me.
With me off the lease, the cats wouldn’t act so smart, and a good chase would ensure. It’s a pity I can’t climb trees. The frustration is enormous. No highly respected dog would volunteer to tie themselves to the walker, making them unable to sniff around other people’s gardens, get information from gutter smells, and close up investigation of objects to decide whether they are eatable or not.
Now THEY go out all the time, meaning I don’t get fed until THEY come home. I am so hungry that every day I must drag the cushions off the sofas and give an intensive investigation to find the minutest crumb, that will help to keep my tum from that distressing hunger craving. Now there is nothing left under or on the couches. My misery just continues.
I sulk on the bed that has the cuddly blanket labelled ‘only for display purposes’. I heard one of my pack members saying to Gran that it didn’t matter the length of time one was away from a dog; the dog had no understanding of time. It could be five minutes or all day as far as a pooch is concerned. Rest assured; I know. The time between the feed bowl being filled with kibble for lunch and early dinner is how I judge time. In the morning, before my pack depart for the day, I’m given a much-needed treat, with words of kindness, and final cuddles as they leave. My rumbling tum says it is lunchtime, but the empty bowl fails me. I like my dinner early, but that fails to eventuate. You know I am starving at lunch and ravenous at dinner. Not fair.
I’m very lonely and unhappy. Labradors have a little switch within their brain that reminds them, shortly after eating, that they need to search for more food, just in case some disaster befalls them, and the kibble disappears. There could be a disaster here as I look continually into my bowl, but it doesn’t fill up automatically.
Before Lockdown Gran would be home most of the time, and we would have daily walks, lots of loves and cuddles, and she would talk to me all the time. When I woke in the mornings, I would go up to her room, snuggle down on the forbidden blanket and end up snoring happily. All’s changed now. I’m just lonely. Dogs should not be isolated from their pack, and have their mealtimes rudely interrupted.
Today things have changed. Gran stays home and has resumed her duties as my career. The food bowl fills at the right time, and I feel playful and happy.
In celebration, we walked to the beach. When lockdown happened, visiting the beach remained a forbidden pastime in case someone had an accident. I love racing along where the water meets the sand. It’s even more fun to chase the high thrown tennis ball into the breakers and come back to shore triumphantly. I love the challenge of the waves as they pound at me, push me and then try to drag me back to them. The long-legged dogs, with their hair flying out and people on their backs, race along the wet sand. My short fur makes the difference between us. It’s been a beautiful day, and all is well. Now, home for afternoon snacks.