Her tail wagged once.
She looked up at me with hope leaping out of her eyes. That hope curled itself around my heart and I was lost. Her tail wagged again, very tentatively. It was her eyes that caught me though. Vulnerable and full of a kind of expectation: Please…please..!
She was an elderly black Labrador called Queenie.
“Queenie! That’s a beautiful name,” I said crouched down in front of her, rubbing her ears. “Do you feel like coming for a walk with me, Angel-Face?”
At the word ‘walk’, she gave an exciting whine and her whole body seemed to curve into a gigantic series of mad wags.
“You and Queenie will go well together. She’s a lovely docile dog,” said the lady handing me the lead.
That immediately put my hackles up. Queenie’s too, I’m sure.
Docile! Why did I require a ‘docile’ dog? Yes, I had a limp but I could limp faster than some people could run. Well, maybe not that fast but I was definitely not a docile individual. I would lay down my life that Queenie was no docile dog!
“C’mon, Queenie, we’ll show her,” I whispered to my new non-docile friend.
My friend, B, had excitedly shown me this advertisement in the paper: “Be a rainbow of colour and join Oudtshoorn Dogs in Need (Odin) at Tantivvey in Blanco for their Odin Mutt Run and 5km Family Colour Run.
Participants are asked to wear a white t-shirt and bring a lead to enjoy a 5km run/walk with a shelter dog.”
Odin is a pro-life organisation that focuses on outreach programmes for animals in need. Their kennels are at the Municipal Pound in Oudtshoorn and Blanco, George. They educate, medicate, rescue and re-home dogs.
I told Perdita, my own little rescue dog, that I was leaving her at home.
“I am taking another dog who still needs to be rescued, out for a walk today. You can’t come with me. I will see you later.”
B and I had told our friends about this walk so on that Saturday we all pitched up. I was given the gorgeous Queenie, B had a lovely young playful dog, Snowy, that leaped up at her in his joie de vivre. Everyone was given a dog, with their individual character traits. In the same way, every dog was given a person with their individual character traits! The dogs set off joyfully, almost seeming to drag the people at the end of the leash with them. Everywhere I looked, there were dogs streaming before and behind me. It was this wonderfully endless chain of dogs and people.
I was singing very softly to myself: ‘How much is that doggie in the window, the one with the waggly tail, how much is that doggie…’
I was suddenly sprayed with this dust like purple paint. Glory be, I had totally forgotten about the paint.
“Careful of my Cochlear Implants!” I shouted. I suddenly remembered that I was wearing a coloured hat that was doing precisely that. It was protecting my Cochlear Implants. Queenie looked back at me reassuringly. Like me, she was sprayed purple.
“It’s okay,” she seemed to say. “It’s actually quite a fun colour. Just enjoy!”
The pink paint sprayer didn’t surprise me when the dust cloud landed on my shirt. By then I was expecting it. The green and yellow followed suit. Queenie was quicker than me and dodged the paint. The purple dog merrily led the pink, purple, green and yellow woman on her way.
The laughing sprayed procession began it’s walk around the dam. That was when I heard a loud shout behind me. I turned to see that my friend, Jan’s Labrador cross Bulbul had decided that as well as being a great day for a walk, it was also terrific day to have a swim. He proceeded to pull Jan into the dam with him. Amidst much laughter, protests and imploring to Brutus to come out, a wet bedraggled friend swopped dogs with Tim. He was being led by a cheeky faced Jack Russell who went quite willingly to Jan. He gave her a few comforting licks and continued on his way leading a laughing Jan around the dam.
At the end of our five kilometre walk, we approached the kennels once more. I felt Queenie’s steps begin to falter and slow. She did not want her walk to end. I did not want it to end. I imagined what it must be like for her. It must feel like going back to prison. Being caged up, sleeping on a concrete floor and worst of all, being deprived of love. My steps slowed but there was no getting away from it. Queenie and I arrived back at the kennels. I knelt down and looked into her beautiful deep eyes.
“Thank you for taking me on a wonderful walk, Queenie. I wish that you could come home with me but…”
“Can I take her now?”
This young boy looked at me eagerly.
“You’re taking her for a walk?” He nodded. “Terrific,” I exulted. “Her name is…”
“Queenie,” he finished for me. “And she’s getting impatient.”
I watched the two of them run off. Go, ‘docile Queenie’, run. Run like the wind!
How I wish that amazing institutions like Odin and the SPCA didn’t exist because every animal that needed a home had one. That they all had a special person that loved and cherished them. Suddenly I thought of Perdita, the little dog that shared my home with me. She had been by herself for hours. I must get back to her and take her for a walk. I laugh at her. Despite now being sixteen years old, she welcomes me with these big yelps and then charges from room to room with me chasing her.
Dogs love you unconditionally. You have no idea of the love that streams out of them to you. If you are thinking of getting a dog, please don’t go off to a pet shop or a breeder. There are so many dogs crying out for love at organisations like the SPCA and Odin. Perdita came to me from the SPCA as a two year old who had just had two puppies. I waited until her puppies were weaned and then joy entered my life!
I wish that those dogs on the walk that day, could be given the same chance to show their love.
I know that Queenie would!