Wednesday, April 30, 2014

z is for Zebulon: a short story about where I'm from

I know that this post will be too long for some of you A-Z'ers - so I wanted to say a big thank you for joining me through the challenge: for reading and commenting.  It's been wonderful making new friends and getting to know new pets and pet-parents.  Hope we can all stay in touch!  

My first night with mommy, daddy
and my green blanket <3

Zebulon is where I was born and lived until I was almost 14 weeks old.  It's a small town outside of Atlanta that's surrounded by farms and pastures.  The block I was born on was very large, with a house at the top and a backyard almost entirely lined with big cage-like enclosures.  It was in one of these enclosures that me, my poodle-mama and sister were kept.  The other ones held different types of dogs, I remember there were Malteses, Yorkies, Pugs and various crossbreeds like Maltipoos and Yorkiepoos (no doubt all bred there as well).

My human mommy didn't like the look of it when she first saw it; instantly feeling the same unhappiness that all the dogs felt too.  I was mainly unhappy in that enclosure in Zebulon because I was stuck inside it with my bully of a biological sister.  I was the runt of our litter of three and she never let me forget it - always pushing me around, biting me or shoving me out of the way whenever I wanted something to eat.  Our poodle mama never did anything about it either, which I've never quite understood because almost as soon as my human mommy saw me she promised she'd never let anything bad happen to me again and so far, she's been true to her word.   But I digress...

It was tough spending 14 long weeks at a (mommy calls it) puppy-farm.  As soon as  I was old enough to understand things, I noticed strange new humans often arriving, picking up puppies, taking them away and never bringing them back.  My older brother was just 7 weeks old when he was taken away.  I used to wonder where he'd gone and become anxious every time a new human turned up - wondering if I'd be next to leave.  It was actually a bittersweet anxiety: someday's I'd think anywhere would be better than in there with the bully sister and indifferent mother; yet on the other hand, going somewhere unknown with someone equally as unknown is utterly terrifying!  Better the devil you know and all that... I couldn't do it again!  

I'll never forget the first time I saw my human-parents.  As I said I had waited close to 14 weeks in that enclosure in Zebulon, watching puppy after puppy be taken away, when all of a sudden one morning the lady who ran the puppy-farm picked me up, took me inside the house, bathed me, put a leash on me and sat me in the front yard.  She also put both my poodle-mama and papa (whom I'd never met before) in a large crate behind me and my horrible sister in a smaller one next to them.  I had never been in the front yard before and it was a beautiful, sunny day in Fall; with plenty of leaves to play with and butterflies to case.  But the puppy-farm lady had tied my leash to my parent's crate and I couldn't go far.

It wasn't long before a car pulled up - daddy's big red truck that I know and love so well now - and my soon-to-be human-parents got out.  Mommy took one look at me and fell in love: she couldn't wait to hold me but I backed away, terrified, as she made a dash toward me.  At this, the puppy-farm lady told mom and dad to take a seat on a nearby garden bench, untied my leash and walked me over to them.  Mommy made a squealing sound that scared me so I ducked under daddy's legs.  Even then daddy felt safe and strong to me: he's always very calm and supportive.  Once I was hidden behind his legs, it seemed like all the humans had forgotten about me!  They sat under the shade of the oak tree and talked about me as if I wasn't there!  Well after a few minutes I'd had enough and felt safe enough to poke my nose out from between daddy's calves, but they still didn't notice me, so then I worked up the courage and nudged daddy; who instantly picked me up and sat me on his lap.  I was okay with this.  I sat quietly in his confident, relaxed lap and looked all around: at him, my new 'mommy', the farm lady, my poodle parents, devil's-spawn sister and pondered my fate.  

I already knew it was my turn to leave.  I'd never seen a human pick up a puppy that they didn't end up taking and although I felt safe in 'daddy's' lap, every now and then a terrible thought would enter my mind and make me tremble with fear.  Where was I going?  Would it be worse than Zebulon?  Daddy helped by putting his big hand on my chest and applying just enough pressure to calm my nerves.  I fell in love with daddy.  His face was so warm and friendly, smiling every time I looked at him.  I was sure he'd keep me safe and before we even got up off that bench after our very first meeting, I tried to give him a lick!

'Mommy' was a different story.  I wasn't sure about her and I don't know how any dog could be - she projected way too much emotion (all of which dogs can feel) and I couldn't keep up!  She went from excitement, to relaxation, to apprehension and when at last we got up so the farm-lady could show them around, 'mommy' felt fear and sadness when she saw the enclosures where we lived.  I stayed close to daddy but before long she insisted on holding me, which made me cry.  I couldn't get the slightest read on her, it was all emotions which was overwhelming because of how fast they changed! 

When it was time to leave, daddy gave the farm-day a check and she gave daddy a small bag of the food I'd been eating, along with a booklet of my current vaccinations.  I took one last look at that farm-lady, my poodle parents, devil's-spawn sister, that house and yard; and then I let daddy pick me up and carry me to the car.  'Mommy' sat in the front seat, put a soft, green blanket on her lap and beckoned me.  It looked comfortable but I didn't want to sit with her; all I could feel from her was anticipation and excitement.  Her heart beat so fast and I didn't trust her or what she would do once she had me in her lap.  I only wanted to sit with daddy and I insisted on it!  We'd driven for about a minute before he got uncomfortable and tried to hand me to the emotional woman but I just jumped straight back on him that time and the other few times he tried.  Even though it was my very first time in a car, I felt at peace on daddy's lap and tried to sleep.

About 10 minutes later, just outside of Zebulon, 'mommy' got upset - saying I was her dog and she wanted to hold me.  I tried to tell daddy I wanted to be his by wriggling and resisting when daddy finally managed to place me on top of her, but he kept his heavy, comforting hand on my back and soon I fell asleep: worn out from the day's events.  I awoke when the car's engine turned off, just in time to see daddy get out, leaving me alone with 'mommy.'  I panicked!  Where was daddy going, I frantically thought, and what was this 'mommy' character going to do to me? 
      "It's alright Baxter," she said in a soft, soothing voice.  She was completely calm and I could read her for the first time.  As she continued speaking, I realized she wasn't dangerous and felt myself calming down too. 
     "Baxter's what we've named you, little guy.  I wanted to call you Onslow, but your daddy thinks you look more like a Baxter."  I listened to her.  I understood.  This lady-human seemed to care about me just like the comforting male-human called 'daddy' did.  I remember how my gratitude soared for daddy at that moment - thank goodness he said no to Onslow! - what a horrible name!  Onslow the poodle, can you imagine?

After that, mommy and I sat in silence.  She was looking down at me, gently petting me with a smile on her face; while I got to feel her without emotions and familiarized myself with her face.  I felt calm until I saw daddy approaching.  Then I remembered I didn't like this lady and I wanted to be his!  I didn't trust her and I had to sit back on daddy's lap!  He opened the car door, sat down behind the wheel and took a sip of the drink he'd just bought while I bellowed.  But nothing changed!  'Mommy' held on to me tightly and all daddy did was tousle my hair and say "you're alright boy."  I couldn't understand this sudden turn of events, it was cruel and I felt like I'd been duped by daddy.  

We were roughly 25 mins out of Zebulon, with still 20 to go before we reached wherever they were taking me, and I made sure to yell, cry and fuss the whole way there.  Daddy's hand on my back no longer comforted me because I knew that something horrible was going on and the worst was still to come. By the time we reached the big house (see my homes post) in Peachtree City, I was exhausted so after taking a potty break and coming inside, I found the darkest, safest cubby hole I could find (under the coffee table), curled up and fell asleep.  Luckily mom and dad - who in my mind were still torturous villains - let me sleep.   

When I woke up I peed straight away on a nearby rug (what do you expect?  I wasn't yet toilet trained!) and ate the meal of chicken and rice mixed with the dry morsels I was already used to, that 'mommy' had prepared me and I thought maybe she doesn't mean me any harm, but I wasn't going to take any chances.  I kept my distance and instead went exploring throughout the house.  There were so many new smells, textures and sounds!  I'd always been an outside dog until then and I'd never seen a couch or bar stools, fake plants or lamps; it was all frightening!  After a while, daddy appeared with that same calming energy and I was so relieved that I forgot all about being duped and ran straight to him!  I could tell that this upset 'mommy' but back on that first day, I didn't yet care.  For the rest of the night I sat on daddy's lap (aside from potty breaks) and completely ignored 'mommy' with her mile-a-minute emotions and ever increasing frustrations.  She kept trying to engage me with toys but I turned away.  Treats? Ha!  She would soon learn that I wasn't a treats-oriented dog.  Eventually she gave up and in a fit of fury, left me and dad alone.

My first night with m&d - I was daddy's dog completely

As we sat together watching the Sports channel, like we've done so many times over the years, he explained a few things about that emotional woman.  He told me that I wouldn't be with them if it weren't for her.  He said that my new green blanket was purchased earlier that day because she knew I'd want something soft and cuddly.  He explained how she'd bought everything else in preparation for today - my crate, food and water bowls, my leash, harness, all the toys and even pillows for my crate for me to sleep on.  Daddy said she'd been searching a long time for me.  That she'd been taken far away from her family and home too.  That she was also frightened.  Then he told me that although he knows she's a handful: she's going to give me a wonderful life and will never let anything bad happen to me.  She was mommy.   Although I truly listened and tried to understand, daddy's talk couldn't change the way I felt.  I just preferred him.  The next day this all changed.

My first night with 'mommy' and daddy was rough.  I hated not being near daddy and hated the crate even more!  I cried most of the night and kept them both awake.  Every couple of hours, 'mommy' took me outside to potty but most of the time I couldn't make it that far and peed or pooped on one of the rugs instead.  Then she had to stay up to clean it while I ran in search of daddy, who was on the bed I wished to be on too - snuggled safely up to him the way I used to snuggle with my poodle-mama every night of my life so far.  But every time, the human 'mommy' would walk back into the bedroom where I was jumping up on daddy's side of the bed and place me back inside of a crate that was on HER side of the bed.  And each time I could feel her growing angrier and angrier.  

In the morning daddy left to go to a place called work.  It was just 'mommy' and me and things were tense.  She fed me breakfast, only this time I wasn't allowed to eat it laying down.  She raised it every time my legs started to droop so that I had to stand in order to reach it.  Then she picked me up and carried me outside where we stayed until I pottied (which was ages back in those days because I absolutely preferred the inside rugs).  After that, we stayed out of each other's way: I explored the house some more while she ate her breakfast and did some stuff on the computer.  Soon I fell asleep under the coffee table again and she didn't disturb me.  

Once more, I peed on the rug as soon as I woke and once more I could feel 'mommy's' anger burning me from across the room as she cleaned it up.  Afterwards, she called me to her but I refused to come no matter what she tried.  In the end she picked me up again and I was afraid, when she placed me in front of her, of what she would do to me.  Then just as quickly as it had arisen, the emotional woman's anger turned to joy when we discovered how good I was at learning commands!  That's what mommy had been doing on the computer earlier - learning how to teach the basic commands in a way a puppy could quickly grasp.  And boy, was I quick!  By the time daddy returned from work, I'd already learnt my name, how to sit, stay and come.  (Drop took me a while to learn and I still hate doing it most of the time - it has to be something really, extra special to entice me to drop).  And I enjoyed showing off, but what I enjoyed the most was how connected mommy and I felt to each other, how proud of me she was: I could feel it!  From that day I've loved command training.  Even right now, if mommy said 'Baxter let's train' I'd stop whatever I'm doing, run as fast as I can to her and wag my tail in excited agitation!   

It's never been about the treats for me.  It's 100% for the praise.  I love being told I'm a good boy by mommy and I love it when she shows me off in front of other people but mainly because I love how proud of me she is. My quick ability to learn and my brain power in general has always impressed her more than it has anyone else.  Something in mommy lights up whenever I get a command right.  She glows!  She always has, my mommy, ever since our first morning together when we bonded over 'sit.' And after that very first "good boy Baxter" there's never been anyone else in the world I'd rather be next to.  

She's still totally emotional and often overreacts to things, but daddy's helped mellow mommy out and I've learned to ignore the moods that don't apply to me.  She's never (nor will she ever) hurt me and just like the promise she made to me in the car ride from Zebulon: just like daddy told me on that first night: she's always protected me and never let anything bad happen to me.  

Now Dorothy's in the picture, with a completely different story about where she's from, but just as happy and loved as me.  The four of us belong together.
A daddy from Ohio.
A mommy from Australia.
A mixed-breed girl from Blue Ridge, Georgia.
And a poodle from Zebulon.


  1. I loved the story, and it reminded me of the dogs over the years that I chose and how they learned all the things a dog has to learn...

    1. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment :) I wasn't sure that humans would get it from my point of view - Bax