It was time for a conversation with George. Mummy thinks he’s still too unpredictable – so we had a chat to figure out what and how he thinks.
Me: So George, what do you miss about your old life when you were in Hungary?George: When I was in Hungary, I lived on the streets. My life was mine and I went wherever I wanted to go. Every day I went in search for food. I would go scavenging near food vendors, near places where they sell food by the roadside. I also quickly learnt that humans are good sources. Maybe because I am so small they took pity on me. But there are a lot of other stray dogs so we had to fight for our share. I can’t think I am small and let the bigger dogs get the better of me. I bared my teeth when I had to show them I am to be reckoned with. Some days we go hungry because it was not certain that we find food on the streets.
The street life wasn’t without threats and scary moments. Those big trucks had no consideration for me. They honked very loudly should I get in the way of their path. We had to dodge all sorts of vehicles – cars and bicycles. And feet. We get shoo-ed away too – not all humans like us.
Then one day I got caught and I ended up in a cage.
Me: Were you afraid?
George: Maybe for the first time in my life I really did not understand what was happening to me. The surroundings were unfamiliar. I was put in a cage. I had lost my freedom to roam. The only good thing was they gave me some food and water. I stayed in that confined space for a while. I was confused and I cried but no one cared and no one heard. Or maybe they did because one day, a human came and took me out of the cage and away from that place.
They cleaned me up, gave me lots of injections and gave me a haircut. I was taken to a house and lived within the boundaries of the fenced in space. I was not allowed out on the streets. The house had a good size garden so I didn’t feel caged in. And they gave me food and water. I still wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not.
Then a few weeks later, I was put in another cage with other dogs and we went on a very long journey on the road. Again, I was nervous but I did not tell anyone how I felt. I thought – at least I am not alone and all these other dogs were with me. But we had no idea where we were going.
Me: Georgie, do you think you have a better life now than when you were on the streets of Hungary?
George: I think so. It sure is different. The biggest change is I have lost my freedom. I am confined to spaces though I feel safe in them. And there are lots of nice humans here. Most of them seem to like me a lot. I get lots of cuddles and treats. But when I go outside I can’t go where I want to go. I have a collar around my neck and I am attached to a lead. It took a little getting used to I have to say.
And there were a lot of scary things – the streets where we walk along are very busy. At first I was still terrified of the big trucks and buses. I would put on all my brakes. But Mummy would say to me, “Come on, George, everything will be ok.” Over time, I trusted her and now I am no longer afraid of them.
And I learnt to walk on different surfaces – I was also afraid of them.But there were also a lot of things to discover – especially behind fencesAnd on table tops. I quickly learnt there are lots of rules in this world – like that I could not pee and poo where and when I wanted to – basically anywhere that does not have open skies I was not allowed to excrete. It took me awhile to get what Mummy was trying to teach me. My biggest relief – I never have to seek shelter again. I have a safe and warm home – and I get to sleep on the bed with you and Mummy. And even when I stay over at Jaffa’s or at Sarah’s – they share their homes and beds with me. I never have to shelter from the weather and danger ever again. And when I wake up each morning, I get fed and there’s a bowl of fresh water. Then I get fed again in the afternoon – but that’s it – even my eating has been regulated. When I had my freedom, I ate whenever I wanted to and whatever food I found. So that’s a habit, and therefore I do not stop scavenging for more food.
But here, I learnt that if I do tricks I get something else – TREATS!And I love getting pampered – washed and groomed. I don’t mind it. Makes me feel better.Me: So you realise you have a good life. Then why do you keep running away and scaring Mummy each time?
George: But I’m not running away. I’m just having fun!I’m not trying to get away from you or Mummy. I just want to chase squirrels. If you came and looked for me in the undergrowth you will see me there – happily focused on catching one of those rascals. Actually it was you who made me aware of squirrels. I had never seen them before when I was on the streets in Hungary. But in the London parks, goodness me, squirrels galore! And they are fun to chase!!!!
Remember, I have no concept of time and space like you do. And I have very little fear because in many ways I have been lucky. Even when I wandered the streets I was never harmed.
Now I get the sense that when I get to run freely I am supposed to be answerable to my name. But at times I choose not to listen because it is rather inconvenient for me when I am having fun. I do like to show my sense of self and purpose. Back to your question. Why would I want to run away from a safe home? From a Mummy who feeds me and lets me sleep on a cosy bed? Why would I want to leave you, Darcy? You’re fun to tease and you let me be. You’re funny.
Me: Gawd!!! Really?
George: Yes, Darcy, I love you to bits but you get so annoyed with me at times. You’re too serious about everything and I know Mummy loves you a lot and sometimes I get jealous. I thank you for showing me how to live in this confusing human world. Me: Georgie, you have seen more of this world than I have even though I might have travelled more than you. I am glad you’re a part of our world. Even though I don’t show it, I am glad you are with us. You and me – together we will explore this great big world together for the rest of our lives.We will run together – always and not run away.
May’s comment: George is the best at home dog. He knows how to snuggle and cuddle. He can be a lap dog if he chooses to be.
Within two months since he arrived as a street dog, he was toilet trained. He knew to sleep on the bed with all of us. It took a little while to get over resource guarding but before long, he knew his turn when it came to feeding, and he learnt that Darcy is entitled to as much attention as he demands.
But when out in the wide open fields, he knows no boundaries. But the main difference about him today and the first few months of his arrival is that he knows he belongs. At the beginning when let off the lead, his whole body language changed and he was constantly looking ahead and surveyed the landscape – looking at where he should target to get his next feed. He walked with no direction, he just looked at who and where he might get something. These days, he runs with a different purpose, he runs happily and freely. He runs with delight. He either chases Darcy or he makes other dogs chase him or he’s off doing his favourite thing – hunting down those rats of the earth! The biggest discerning factor is that he is not running away. He wouldn’t run off into the distance just to be away from us. He wouldn’t run into the streets in search of something new. He loves green fields and he loves the undergrowth. He doesn’t like water. He has immense patience and determination. And he is actually mischievous. When he doesn’t want to go home, he literally makes me run around in circles chasing him from tree to tree.
So George, what’s in your head? What do you see? What do you know?You’re a little mystery. We’re always trying to figure out why you do what you do. We don’t fully understand each other yet but I have hope. I only think I know where you came from and what you know and have seen.You have come so far. Your aggression is far and few in between. And when you do, it reminds me that you are not just a cute little cuddly black dog but a survivor and a fighter. Yet I love your snuggles in the mornings when you look at me with familiarity. I love your warm body against mine when we settle down for the evening. And I love your need to be held. You are a very special little being. People always say you’ve landed on your feet. I think I’ve been given a GIFT in you to learn life lessons.