a short story by Peter Jehrio

Hi! My name is Ryan! How do you do?

I am a cute and furry and special little boy, my foster Mom is always telling me. I was rescued some time ago by the kind people in an animal shelter down in the country. I came from a breeding operation that was on a hilltop all by itself. Up that high and out in the open, the wind would often blow, the snow would pile up in winter, and boy would it ever get cold! The owners there seemed okay to me—but what did I know back then? I was only a young puppy. Still, the food tasted like cardboard and there was never enough of it. Or really fresh water.

Hi! Did I already say that?

Here at my foster Mom’s, I have the run of her house and yard—although I am supposed to stay off of the furniture, which I do most of the time except when I get excited, forget myself, and jump up to rest, or sit on her lap.

My best and most favorite place to be in this whole house and yard is the step by the back door. I really like that place there, I do. While I like running in the yard, especially with Lily, on that step I am close to my bed, my food bowl, the safety of the house, and my foster Mom.

Sweet little Ryan in his most favorite of all spots in his new and happier world.

(Photo by Peter Jehrio)

Close is good, I always think and tell myself.

I also have a good and special friend here, Lily, and like to play and spend time with her all day long.

Where I was on that hill, when I wasn’t so happy, I was kept mostly in a cage with several other dogs. They were always barking and making noise, hogging the food as bad as it was, and moving around and taking up much space that I might have wanted to use myself.

Here, my friend and I are always together, but she never barks, is quiet like me, and always makes room for me, and I like that. I am a friendly dog, you see, and like to be close to other nice dogs and, especially, nice people. I love to snuggle and nuzzle, I sure do!

The people on that hill were okay, I guess, but they never petted me, they never ruffed up my fur with their hands, and they never talked to me nice like the people did at the shelter, or like my foster Mom does.

My one friend here, Lily, my dog friend, talks to me all the time. Why, I could talk with her for hours on end!

I am glad to get to know and talk to you and if you were here right now, I would crowd in against your legs and feet, rub my furry little body all over and around them, then wait for your hand to come down and start petting me. I love people, and want to be loved by them in return.

I also love to run around here and then stop so many times and sniff things like a puppy with a nose for new and interesting things, even a little mild trouble! I like to roll back and forth on the green and soft grass until it is flat as a pancake and my fur feels all kind of funny and stands up on end. I like to play like a little kid with my Lily, and also my foster Mom, and catch and return the ball, hide from the others and then go get found, or dance around in a circle to make like I am doing just as they are.

I am a cute little dog, my foster Mom is always telling me, although I have so much hair on my face and around my eyes, I sometimes think I must look like an old goat, even though I am still only a young dog. Thank goodness there aren’t too many mirrors around here!

Back at the old place where I came from, my entire world was a cage it seemed, and one that wasn’t big enough for us, and where I could barely stand, let alone stretch up in the air, or move around in a circle, chasing my tail—and that only depending on whether the other dogs in the same place would give me enough room to do it.

Here, like I think I already told you, I have so much room to run and play, I don’t think I will ever get tired of taking advantage of all of it.

Back at that old place, I saw my real Mom once after they had taken us new puppies away from her forever. She looked old and tired and sad to see me and was in a cage all by herself. My ears went up when I first saw her. I barked to say hello but she didn’t hear me, or was thinking of something and just lying there in her tight cage. Boy, I thought, that cage would even be small for a little guy like me! As quickly as I saw her, she was gone from me again, as one of the owners was carrying me somewhere in a hurry and we were only passing by her cage.

Even though I only saw her by accident, and was doing nothing that was really my fault, I was sorry I made her sad and felt bad about it.

I see a lot of my foster Mom here, and I love that, love her.

Back on that hill, after I was born and right away after I stopped taking milk from my Mom, the owners took me away from her and put me into that cage with the other young dogs.

I never saw my real Mom again except for that one time and I didn’t like that. I never even saw my real Dad, not once, and that isn’t too good, I think. Boy, do I miss seeing my real Mom, being close to her and all (not that I don’t like my foster Mom, because she is great too) but then, a little guy has only one real Mom and will always have just that one.

Did I also tell you I was special?

Lily, my friend here at my foster Mom’s place, kind of likes the way I walk around. She is just like another friend I had back at the animal shelter, I remember, who was kind to me too. Lily is almost like that same delicate and pretty flower, and is a Yorkie. She is pretty and sweet, and is now my best (and only) friend. She is also my play buddy who even likes to slap me nicely in the face with her paw, run like crazy with me in the yard, and then just sit beside me and listen to me go on (about practically nothing) for hours at a time.

At the shelter where I used to stay, all the other dogs—while they didn’t laugh at or make fun of me (that is something most dogs won’t do, since they don’t have mean or nasty feelings inside them, like some humans do)—would look the other way when they saw me coming, would get busy digging in the grass or finding a new place to relieve themselves, or just pretend they didn’t notice me so they wouldn’t hurt my feelings when I saw what was on their faces when they were looking at me.

Lily is different though.

She doesn’t look away from me, just watches me walking awkwardly along, nods her head nicely, and smiles. She likes to hang around with me, despite my funny walk. She likes to eat with me, roll around together on the grass, and even just lie next to me in the cool shade under the tree on a hot day. Sometimes, when we are hunched up on our front paws together like that, she will quietly slide her one paw over, push it under mine, and just keep it there. I am happy when she does that. It tells me something, I think. It makes it seem like we are best friends and that is great. A guy like me is like everyone else, and has got to have at least one good friend in life.

Lily says she even likes my cool kind of way of walking.

She is so nice and sweet. She says it kind of looks like the walk and shuffle that John Wayne used to do in the old western movies, although I don’t know who that human is, what movies are, or even what a walk and shuffle is. She knows a lot more than me though, is a little older, and before she was rescued by my foster Mom, used to live in a house with a human family that watched a lot of television all the time before they moved away and left her behind. Me, I’m just a poor and uncultured mutt that came out of a bad breeding operation in the country where they didn’t like me because I wasn’t normal and where they thought I wouldn’t be too easy to sell as a puppy.

I think of me and the way I look, smile, and I say, thinking more about myself, look at how funny and wobbly I walk sometimes, almost like a duck!

My foster Mom tells me that even though she loves me to pieces and would like to keep me forever, that there are many other dogs waiting and wanting for her to foster them too, and that I will someday soon find a nice and caring and loving real forever Mom, or Dad (or even both!) who will take care of me, play with me, and protect me for the rest of my life. Even more so because I am special, she adds.

I am happy now and have my foster Mom to thank for it.

I wasn’t always happy, especially on that hill in that crowded cage with the other dogs, and also after seeing my Mom—and so sad and lonely looking—squeezed and squashed into her small cage all by herself.

Even after the nice people at the animal shelter rescued me, and life suddenly got better, I had some bad days, even some scary days.

I remember that one day real well, especially how I didn’t get anything to eat after dinner the night before and was so hungry that morning I could have eaten my food bowl! The nice people at the shelter put me into a cage in a truck with several other dogs and we drove for a long time before they took me out again. I thought I was going back to that horrible hill again and cried but was wrong. They took me right from the truck into a building and a man I remember not liking so much took a big old needle and stuck it right in me. I remember going ouch, then crying some more, then falling asleep and dreaming. While my real Mom was watching from her cage up on that hill and worrying about me, they picked me up without waking me up and held me in front of a strange machine. It made funny noises and also made my hair stand on end. While that was happening, I could hear my real Mom saying, softly and sweetly, don’t worry, Ryan, it will be alright. I wanted to cry again, and did.

My foster Mom remembers that day too, and told me about it. She said I had been scared all that day and that I had gone to someone called a vet for the first time in my life. She said after he poked me with the needle and used the machine on me, he called her at the animal shelter where she was helping out at and scared her too.

He said he had checked me and that I wasn’t so good and also that I had been in pain because of the checking and that he wanted to do something special to me, He said it quietly, she told me later. It was something big that starts with an “e” and a “u” and means something really bad. Something that ends right away after it begins, she added.

I remember being in pain at his office in my dream but don’t think I wasn’t so good like he said.

My foster Mom told me she didn’t like that word or idea he told her and yelled something like "Noooooooooooooooo, get him back here" at the phone. Then started trembling. I’m glad she said that, and that they brought me back to the shelter, even though the second ride in the truck was as bad as the first. I cried some more, not knowing where I was going or what was happening. All I could think about was that hill again. And my real Mom. Then, after getting that bad call, my foster Mom told the people at the shelter that she would do something called foster me and that I wouldn’t have to worry about that doctor, or his needles, or that bad and big word of his.

The more I think of what she told me about that bad word and thing, even though I’m not really quite sure what it means, I know it isn’t something good, that it is very terrible. Even though I’m not sure how bad it would be for me, I worry about what my real Mom back in her small cage might think about all that happening to me, how she would start feeling bad for me again back there up on that hill. That makes me feel bad now, because she should worry about herself, and her cage, and not about me.
She has enough worries.

Still, thinking again of Lily, the kind words she says to me sound good coming from her, even though I sometimes think she is saying that to be nice to me, to make me feel better about myself.

It’s nice though to feel and be loved. It’s almost like being part of a family, which is something I have only heard about, but never enjoyed. It makes me feel even better about myself.

Speaking of how I am so special, did I tell you about my legs?

Sometimes when I walk, or especially when I run and get excited and forget to remember things, my legs will kinda fall out from under me. When I am standing and this happens, it just looks like I am plopping down to sit. When I am running, Lily says, smiling and winking at me with those beautiful baby eyes, it almost looks like I am sliding into second base. I look at her kinda funny when she says this, even though I know she is being playful and not mean with her words. It is something to do with baseball, she says, another thing that her former family watched a lot of on the television. I don’t know what the base part is, but since getting out of my cage on that hill and then into the shelter and now here where I am free to roam about, I’ve always liked playing with a ball.

Run, fetch, return. Run, fetch. Run. Back and forth. Go, go, go.

So, I think, smiling back at Lily, I would kinda like baseball, especially since I apparently know how to slide so well.

My foster Mom too, tells me not to worry about the way I walk, that it is a special gift from God, who lives somewhere high up, although not on a hill like I used to. And probably not in a cage either, I think.

She also says that someday soon I will go to another doctor—a much nicer one—who will try and find out what is wrong with me. She says I will lay down in a different machine and maybe take a nap and dream some more. It will be much louder than that other machine you remember, she tells me, stroking my head, and will do something called vibrate. It will tell her what is wrong with my legs and whether they can ever get better, It will cost money though, she adds.

I already know what is wrong with my legs though, they work kinda funny and not all the time.

When I saw myself in a mirror once in her house—yikes, that was scary—I really looked at me and saw (besides a hairy looking goat!) that my back legs looked too close together when I was standing, that I almost looked uncomfortable, even though I wasn’t.

My foster Mom tells me not to worry. She likes me even more because I am so special, she says, and not to think too much about it—which I try not to. Since my legs don’t even hurt, sometimes I don’t have any trouble not thinking about them.

Boy, I am real lucky, I think, with both a foster Mom and a real close friend, both of whom love me, like me for what I am, and say such nice things to me.

Copyright 2014, Peter Jehrio, all rights reserved

(reproduced with permission from The Streets Are Not Your Best Friend, an upcoming book by Peter Jehrio. All rights reserved. The workin-progress is a collection of stories about cats and dogs, either on the streets or in trouble near them—as well as the people who both care about them, and couldn’t care less.)

NOTE TO READERS: Ryan is a two-year-old dog weighing just eight pounds, who has a major disability that doesn’t, thankfully, affect his happy disposition. Born in a small breeding mill operation in rural New York State, this little boy knew his mother only for as long as it was necessary for her to nurse him, before he was pulled away from her and placed in a small cage with other puppies awaiting sale for profit. When potential buyers noticed his disability, however, they turned their backs on him. The breeders caught on to his ‘defect’ and tossed him into a batch of undesirable dogs being ‘disposed of’ with a local animal shelter. When the group, Joyful Rescues, sent the young dog to the vet for an initial routine check-up and shots, the doctor recommended euthanasia.

The prompt reply to the vet, "Noooooooooooooooo, get him back here,” along with the
story of the sweet boy’s life since his rescue, inspired this fictional account.

The short story was based on true situations and events, with the fiction aspects relating mainly to the little dog’s personal take and youthful thoughts about his situation.

Ryan has been recommended for an expensive MRI, which may determine the cause of his problem. In addition to him, however, Joyful Rescues has recently received several dozen
other dogs from the same breeding mill, including mothers and fathers who suffered
physically during the abusive breeding process. Care for these new dogs, as well as several
hundred other animals, leaves the non-profit group with a $10,000 debt with the vet’s office.

Won’t you please help the Joyful Rescues shelter, a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit, with a generous gift so it can continue its work with Ryan, as well as with other abused and
neglected dogs? You can make your contribution right now by clicking on the button at the
top right of your computer screen. Be sure to direct your gift to Ryan and his friends.

Your generosity is appreciated. The staff—and dogs, including Ryan—will thank you from the bottom of their hearts—and paws.

Ryan's Tender Story
Joyful Rescues