Read Ellie's Story Online

Authors: W. Bruce Cameron

Ellie's Story (2 page)

BOOK: Ellie's Story
9.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

The woman had come out into the yard to watch.

“Most of them take a minute or two to puzzle it out, but this one's pretty bright,” the man remarked. He knelt down and took hold of me, flipping me over onto my back in the grass. I squirmed. It wasn't fair. He was so much bigger than I was!

“She doesn't like that, Jakob,” the woman said.

“None of them like it. The question is, will she stop struggling and let me be the boss or will she keep fighting? I got to have a dog that knows I'm the boss,” the man answered the woman.

I heard the word “dog,” and it didn't sound angry. I wasn't being punished. But I
being pinned down. It was kind of like the way Bernie had pushed me down into the grass, the first day I had met him. And this man
bigger than me, the way Bernie was bigger. Maybe that meant this man was supposed to be in charge, the way Father was.

Anyway, I figured I didn't know what kind of game we were playing now, so I just relaxed. No more struggling.

“Good dog!” the man said again. I guessed his name was Jakob. He sure had some strange ideas on how to play with a puppy.

Next he took something flat and white from his pocket and crumpled it up. It made the most fascinating noise while he was doing that! I wished I could get a better look—and more than that, I wished I could get a taste. What
this new thing?

“Want it, girl? Want the paper?” Jakob said.

I wanted it! He moved it around in front of my face, and I chased it, snapping, trying to get a hold on it. I couldn't do it! My mouth was too small, and my head moved too slowly. Then the man flipped the thing into the air and I raced after it. Pounce! I landed on it with both my front paws and settled down to chewing it.
Ha! Try to get it now!

It tasted interesting but not as good as I thought it would. It had been more fun when it was moving anyway. I picked it up and brought it back to the man, dropping it at his feet. Then I plopped my rear end into the grass and wagged my tail, hoping he'd get the hint and throw it again.

“This one,” Jakob said. “I'll take this one.”



Jakob scooped me up and carried me out of the yard. I was amazed. Outside was bigger than I had ever thought. It went on forever!

In front of the house, big, loud things zoomed past, smelling of metal and smoke and other sharp and unpleasant odors. I had no idea what these things were, but I was pretty sure they were dangerous. Jakob opened the back of one, and I squirmed against his chest and whimpered.

“It's okay, girl,” Jakob said. “Just a quick ride in the truck. Don't worry about it. Okay? Just a truck.”

His tones were soothing, but I was plenty worried. I didn't want to go anywhere in anything that smelled like this.

There was something like a box, only made out of metal, in the back of the truck. Jakob opened it up with one hand and with the other dumped me gently inside.

Then he left me. He left me!

This was
right. I was sure about it. Of course I didn't like the idea of being taken away from my mother and brothers and sisters, but something told me that it was the way things had to be. Dogs were supposed to be with people. Jakob was going to be my family now.

But that meant Jakob was supposed to be
me! He wasn't supposed to go far away and leave me in a cold metal box in the back of a loud, smelly truck!

I barked. I whimpered. I did everything I could to let Jakob know he had made a mistake and was supposed to come back. But he must not have heard me, because he didn't show up to take me out of the box. I heard a loud
and then the metal box started to shake, and we were
It was just like being carried in a box out into the yard, my body rocking back and forth. I really didn't like this! The truck growled and roared and I was pretty sure it was going to eat me. Where was Jakob?

My frantic barking must have gotten through to him at last, because he came back and took me out of the cage when the truck finally stopped moving. “Not too bad, huh, girl?” he said to me.

He seemed awfully cheerful after what we'd just been through together. Still, I was so grateful that he had returned I didn't hold a grudge. I just rested against his chest as he carried me up several flights of stairs and into my new home.

There was a lot to explore. A kitchen, with fascinating smells and little doors that I couldn't open, even when I pawed at them. A living room, with a couch that smelled like Jakob and a box that made noise sometimes. A balcony, where I could sit with Jakob and look over houses and yards and trees and more zooming, loud things like the truck.

There was a bedroom, with a big bed that smelled like Jakob, too. I tried to climb up on it the first day, and Jakob firmly dumped me off. “No, girl. This is your bed,” he said, and showed me a soft, furry circle on the floor. It felt a little like the blanket I used to sleep on with Mother and my littermates, but it didn't smell like them. It smelled empty and cold.

What I liked the best, though, was the park. Jakob took me there more than once that first day. There was more of the springy grass that was fun to run around on, and Jakob tossed some sticks for me to pounce on and bring back. Then he pulled a little round thing from his pocket and threw it for me. I chased it down and tried to get my tiny mouth around it.

Then a little animal darted past, shaking a strangely fuzzy tail. I dropped the ball immediately and dashed after it. This was much more fun!

Obviously the animal was made for chasing. It zigged and zagged across the grass and headed for a tree. To my astonishment, it went straight up the trunk! I tried it myself and fell over on my back. The animal sat on a high branch and laughed at me as I ran around the trunk yapping in frustration. Why wouldn't my paws take me up? The little animal had done it so easily!

Jakob came to sit beside me and scratch behind my ears. “Don't give up, girl,” he told me. “Never give up. Now, I can't keep calling you girl. Elleya.” I wondered what he was talking about. “It's Swedish for ‘moose.' You're a Swedish shepherd, now.” I knew he was talking to me, so I wagged, even though his words made no real sense. “Elleya, Elleya,” he said, and moved a little away from me. “Come, Ellie, Come.”

Pretty soon I started to recognize that word, “Come.” It was one of Jakob's favorites. When he said it, I'd sometimes wander over to see what was going on and he'd pet me and give me something tasty from his hand. “Come” meant praise and petting and a treat, so pretty soon I always showed up for it. But my favorite words from him were “Good dog!” “Good dog!” always meant he would pet me, rubbing my fur until I wriggled from my toes to my tail with happiness. His hands smelled of oil and his truck and of papers and other people.

Jakob never seemed to get angry about anything, even when my little bladder signaled that it was full and let go all in one rush. When I did manage to get outside before anything happened, he gave me such praise that I decided I'd try to do it as much as possible, since it seemed to please him so much.

I wanted to make Jakob happy. I just wasn't sure how.

He was patient with me, always. He petted me and called me Good Dog and seemed to like having me nearby. But I could tell that he wasn't happy. When he wasn't taking me out for walks, he mostly sat on the couch. Sometimes he'd turn on the talking box; sometimes he just sat or lay down flat and looked at the ceiling. If I went over and nuzzled at his hand, he'd rub my ears a little, but never for long.

I would sigh and lie down beside him. I thought he'd probably feel better if he let me up on the couch with him, and so would I—but I'd learned that wasn't going to happen.

On our first night together, Jakob had watched the noisy box for a while and then he'd yawned and wandered into the bedroom. I followed him. After he'd undressed, he crawled under the covers on the bed. It looked so comfortable that I immediately went up after him. It was all I could do to leap so high, so I figured I was due for some praising and maybe a treat.

Instead, he got out of bed and put me back into the furry circle on the floor. “This is your bed,” he told me. “Yours, Ellie.”

He climbed back into the big bed. I could see he didn't want me to join him up there, but I couldn't understand why. He had so much room! My bed was comfortable, but it was lonely. I was used to sleeping with Mother and my brothers and sisters. This was not at all the same. I whimpered, to let Jakob know something was wrong.

“You'll get used to it, Ellie,” I heard him say from the big bed. “We all have to get used to being alone.”

After some time I got used to it, but that didn't mean I liked it. I still tried to sneak under Jakob's covers every now and then. He never shouted or pushed me, but he never let me stay. In a few minutes I'd be back in my own bed. After a while I decided it was less trouble just to stay there.

For a few days, Jakob was home with me all the time. Then one morning, he got dressed in different clothes. Everything he wore was a dark color, and he pulled on a heavy belt with things hanging from it. “Got to go to work, Ellie girl,” he told me. “Don't worry, I'll be home soon.”

Then he left.

This did not seem right. I hadn't liked it when Jakob had left me alone in the truck, but he had come back. I remembered that. He'd come back this time, too. I settled in to wait.

Waiting was very hard.

I lay in my bed for a while, but then I nosed my way under Jakob's blankets. They smelled like him, and that was comforting. But after a while I got restless and went to the living room so I could look out of the glass door that led to the balcony. Maybe I'd see Jakob from there.

I didn't.

I sniffed the couch cushions. They smelled like Jakob. I chewed a little on one of the rubber bones he'd gotten me. It was odd to chew something with so little taste, but my teeth
to gnaw something and Jakob said, “Good dog!” when I bit this. So I chewed it and waited some more.

Jakob still hadn't come back.

Maybe this time he'd really forgotten me. Or maybe something had happened to him! Maybe he was hurt and couldn't come back to get me! Maybe he needed me! How could I get to him, shut up in this? I paced back and forth in front of the door, whining.

Then the lock made a clicking noise. I jumped back. The door swung open. Jakob! He'd come back!

“Oh, hello there, sweetie!” cooed a voice.

It wasn't Jakob at all.

It was a woman. She came in as if she belonged here, and sat right down on the floor, putting out her hands to me.

“There, there, sweetie, don't worry. I'm Georgia. I'm here to take you out. Oh, aren't you cute. Aren't you the cutest thing! You're Ellie, right? You're Ellie-wellie Cuddle-Coo. Come here, Ellie, sweetie; come to Georgia.”

I knew that word, “Come.” Was this woman like Jakob? Did she want me to move closer to her? I did it, and she petted and praised me. “Good girl, Ellie. Good girl!” She clipped the leash onto my collar and took me outside to the park.

I decided I liked Georgia very much.

She laughed when I chased the small, fuzzy animals, and she petted me a lot, rubbing her hands through my fur, talking to me in a stream of words. None of it made any sense, except for “Ellie” and “Come,” but I liked hearing her anyway. She was happy to see me. She was happy to be with me. She was happy in a way Jakob never was.

But then Georgia left, too. She brought me back to the apartment, petted me, checked that I had water in my bowl, kissed me between my ears (Jakob definitely never did that!), and went out the door.

These people! Why didn't they understand that a dog was supposed to be
humans? Not left behind in an apartment. Not chewing on a tasteless rubber bone. I tried to sleep, tried to chew my bone, but mostly paced around, whining a little in frustration, until the door creaked again and Georgia came back to take me out once more. Finally, when I thought I couldn't stand it any longer, Jakob came home.

I ran to him and got so excited I jumped up on my back legs. “Off!” he said sternly, and pushed me back to the floor. Of all the words I'd heard so far, “Off” was my least favorite. But then he petted me and rubbed my ears, sighed at a puddle on the floor, took me outside to the park, and brought me back to feed me dinner. After that he went to sleep in the big bed while I curled up alone in my little one.

That was the way things went until we started Work.

“Let's go to work,” Jakob said one day. I was a bit older, then, and Georgia had started coming only once a day to walk me while Jakob was gone. Jakob seemed as calm as ever, but I could tell there was something extra under the calmness, some kind of excitement. Work must be something important.

At first Work was just more words. I was already pretty good at Come. Now Jakob took me to the park and taught me Drop, which meant to lie down, and Stay. That was a hard one. I would Drop and then Jakob would walk away from me, as if he'd forgotten (again!) that it was my job to be near him. But I had to stay, with my belly in the grass, until I heard “Come!” Then I bounded after him. It took me a little while, but I got good at Stay. I could tell that Jakob was pleased, and I was glad.

Jakob didn't love me the way Georgia did. It didn't make him happy just to see me. But it did make him happy when we did Work together. So I decided there and then to be very, very good at Work.

If it made Jakob even a little bit happy, it was what I should be doing. But I still loved the times Georgia would come to see me and call me Ellie-wellie Cuddle-Coo.

After I'd gotten good at my words, Work changed. Jakob took me to a new place. There were lots of trees and plenty of those distracting little animals—I knew now that they were called squirrels. But I did my best to stay near Jakob, waiting patiently until he showed me what kind of Work he wanted me to do.

BOOK: Ellie's Story
9.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Delia’s Crossing by VC Andrews
The Ancient Curse by Valerio Massimo Manfredi
Take My Hand by Haken, Nicola
Jokerman by Tim Stevens
The Violet Crow by Michael Sheldon
Unbreakable by Cooper, Blayne
PERFECT by Jordon, Autumn