Dog For Free

Australia is an amazing country.

Here, probably more than anywhere else in the world, living creatures are looked after and enveloped with concern and love. Therefore the beasts here arent really beastly; they are amazingly docile and trusting and dont shy away from humans as they did in Russia. This relates not just to cats and dogs, possums and kangaroos and other animals; the same can be said about us immigrants. Upon arrival, we quickly relax in the warmth and repleteness being lulled by the welcoming smiles and polite tones of Australians.

But you have to keep your eyes open.

Soon after landing in Australia, my wife had to return to Russia. We agreed that our daughter should stay with me. For a whale my wife was doubtful as to whether I would be able to cope with a doubling of my parental responsibilities. I firmly convinced her that everything would be okay.

The farewell went amazingly well. Our daughter mollified by mothers promise to bring her soft-toy bear, which wed accidentally left behind in Russia, waved joyfully after the departing plane. My handkerchief stayed dry too. At the time, I just couldnt have imagined what experiences lay in store.
            
This evening my daughter began to misbehave and demand that I return her mum. This was repeated the next day, then the next, and again and again, the further, the louder, and lasted from morning til evening and vice versa. We rang her mum every day and the telephone receiver was constantly damp from tears. I reckon the ether between Melbourne and Moscow was full of weeping and moaning, and their loving promises to meet each other soon.
          
I tried my best to cheer my daughter up. I jumped around like a little hare and howled like a wolf. But what had earlier made her happy now only horrified her and she hid in fear behind the chair. The porridge I cooked exactly to her mothers recipe and which she once enjoyed, was now spat out in disgust and rejected.

At night I sang her the lullaby, Sleep my little one, go to sleep but my little one wouldnt hear of sleeping. On the contrary, she started to sob bitterly, touched by my singing or something. I told her stories, and long after midnight, when I myself was falling asleep, I began to talk such drivel! The old man cast his net into the sea and pulled out a turnip, at which his furious wife suddenly began pleading with him in a human voice.
          
Looking for a replacement for the soft-toe bear, I took my daughter off to a toy shop. I asked the salesmen whether they had any Russian bears and he showed us a wild-blue creature. He said he didnt know exactly what nationality it was, but he was sure it was a bear.

The salesmans conviction was so impressive, that we bought this local variation of Russian bear, which reminded me a mix between a hippopotamus and a koala. In the next morning this blue hippoala was lonely getting dusty under daughters bed, and everything had returned to as before.
          
A week, perhaps two, passed like this. I wasnt exactly sure since, just as when you are working extreme conditions, the days seemed two or three times as long. One day my daughter and I went for a walk in a park and run into a lady with two little dogs on leads. The dogs first carefully sniffed my shoes, but something was not to their taste there. They jumped off from me and merrily ran to my daughter, who was by then frozen in wonder.

Then the lady and the dogs minced off. My daughter cast a long, pensive look after them. Finally she whispered, I want a little dog. My first thought in response was, All we need to be fully happy is a little dog, yet experience had taught me that if my daughter announced her wish with a whisper, then there was no going back.

When, the following days we went out again, my daughter dragged me each time to the spot where we had seen the lady with the dogs. But they didnt turn up. However much I tried to distract her, she stubbornly repeated, I want a dog. At night she would whimper demands first for her mother, then the dog.

I pretended to be a dog, but my daughter looked at my contortions without smiling and said, I want a little dog: youre big.

Reflecting on this unexpected problem, I decided that perhaps it was for the best. Of course we know no dog can replace childs mum: no one and nothing on earth can. But who knows? Perhaps a little dog could replace her dad. Somewhere, somehow, of course it could.

I began to make inquiries and sought out the organisation which, Id been told, could help us. I rang and told them that I was having trouble looking after my daughter.

They politely answered that Id rung the wrong number that they werent a kindergarten, but were involved with the care of homeless animals. I hastened to say that they were just the people bi was after or rather, they werent, but a dog was, and I wasnt after it, my daughter was.

The voice on the telephone was interested in what sort of life I led and also, for some reason, my financial position. I answered everything was OK in this regard, but just in case asked how much it would cost me to get a dog.

The voice in the telephone announced, with a great feeling of his own worth, that they were a charity organisation which looked after the rights of animals and didnt seek any profit from their activities. It was quite the reverse: on behalf of animals they expressed sincere gratitude to all who shelter any unfortunate creatures and make them happy with attention and care.

Then he asked me what breed I would prefer, and enthusiastically began to list the breeds they did have for me and lavished enthusiastic praise on the merits of each one.

The dog show began to drag and I was forced to interrupt him saying, in my best English, that I was like a pig in oranges when it came to the study of breeds of dog. He answered that they dealt in dog and cats, not pigs, and that one time someone had even handed in a tame crocodile which had grown up in a bath, but could no longer fit.

I wasnt so keen on taking a bath with a crocodile and answered quickly that the only thing we needed was a little furry dog. He answered that right at that moment they had no little dogs and promised to ring us as soon as they received one.
          
The days and nights stretched on in expectation of some good news. For days my daughter raved about this dog, and at nights would mumble in her sleep, I want a dog.

And not just daughter! Once,I myself had a dream about a huge pack of different sorts of cats and dogs, lead by a crocodile sitting solemnly upon a bath. A little dog rushed amongst them, yelping and barking.
          
At every ring of the telephone my daughter would leap ahead of me, grab the receiver and yell gleefully in hope, Have you found one? My friends asked sympathetically what we had lost and I would explain that wed lost our mum, peace and quiet, and that we could only be saved by a little dog.

They started calling with offers of various dogs. It seemed like the whole Russian community had joined in the search for a dog. Once they even brought something resembling the hound of the Baskervilles, but little furry dogs were in short supply.
          
Finally, we received the offer from the organisation to pick ut our order. Just in case I asked how much it was going to cost and again, they gave me a word for word repetition about the organisations noble pursuits. They thanked us for my contribution toward the protection of wildlife.
          
Infused with the grandeur of sacred mission, and accompanied by the delightfully twittering of my kiddy, I arrived at the organisation. They met us with welcoming smiles and brought out a puppy just like the one Id seen in my dream.

It started racing around us as through possessed, yelping and constantly letting out little streams, obviously from overexcitement. Soon the white floor was wreathed in little yellow puddles, promising a rich harvest of berries to come.

My daughter grabbed the dog and, pressing it to her face, began to shower it with kisses, while the little dog, letting out a exciting yelp, started licking her face. I winced, but said nothing. The joy in this meeting was too great to darken with comments on the rules of hygiene.

I just whispered, How much? The employee answered loudly and with pride, Its free

We thanked him. We were just about to head out the door but stopped by an alarmed cry:
 
Where are you going? Wait a minute please!

We were explained that before a dog joins a new family it must undergo a veterinary check-up, and that I would have to sign some official papers. We waited a whole hour while they examined the dog. Then they brought out a pile of some papers.

I was surprised to learn that you needed many more documents to certify a dogs identity than humans. It reminded me the old days in Soviet Union when you had to provide information confirming you were married, morally sound and that you had no intimate relationship with foreigners.

At last, the identity of the dog and my ownership rights toward it were officially certified. Once again I nodded my head in thanks and we headed off. But we were stopped again.

Wait a minute!

I was perplexed. What else? It seemed they really were after information about soundness of my morals.

But they asked I least of all expected.
          
How would you like to pay?
          
But I already asked you that! I exclaimed, in the confusion slipping into Russian. Encountering their polite and obliging smiles I realized what I was doing and continued in English:

But you you told me that the dog was for free.          

The dogs for free, but and they listed for me mass of all kinds of procedures, including sterilization, which is performed at the owners expense. In short, it came to 159 dollars and 1 cent.

I was shocked most of all by that final cent. For what? What service did this single cent pay for? The phrase: Well, you and little dog can go jump, flashed through my mind.

I would have liked to give these charity workers my opinion on their dog racket and wave goodbye to this whole enterprise, but when I looked over at my daughter, who was delirious with joy, I realised the trapdoor had snapped shut on me. I couldnt go back on my word, even if they added on another 5 noughts to that one ill-fated cent.

It turned out I had some change and an unpaid bill in my pocket. I went to the nearest shop, bought some chocolate for my daughter and took out 160 dollars from my account. After handing it over to the official from the charity organization, I told him he could keep the change, but he answered, not without a little pride, that they dont need tips and returned me one dollar.

Thinking a bit he added that if I wanted to donate any sum toward the welfare of unfortunate animals I would have to fill out some documents. I replied that I would do it next time, muttered thanks and we moved toward the exit.

Where are you going? Wait a minute please! we heard again.

What where? We are going home.

Do you have a collar for your dog?

We had no collar, of course.

We cant let you outside without a collar, came the warning from the most impressive and obviously senior philanthropist. His tone was polite but discouraging of any further discussion. He smiled friendly and tapped his thick finger on the display of collars. The cheapest was $29.99

However much I tried to convince them to let us go, indicating that my car was directly opposite the entrance and that we only had to cross the footpath, it was all useless.   

The officials from the charity organization suddenly multiplied in number, probably more than dogs theyd helped. There was an impenetrable wall of them in front of the exit.

You go nowhere without a collar, they announced and told us a story to chill the soul. One time someones dog had gotten loose and been run over by a car. I felt like a collar was around my neck now.

Once more I dragged myself or to the shop, bought another chocolate and took out 30 dollars. I gave the philanthropists, do-gooder, the money, muttering to keep the change, but this they didnt react at all.

The senior philanthropist began to expound on the importance of a dogs diet and led us to a shelf where the huge bone of a mammoth or, maybe, dinosaur.

I took the bone shoved it in the arms of the do-gooder and whispered in his ear in Russian:
Choke on this yourself.

With the same radiant smile hed shown us I added, Please.

While he was thinking over things, I gave the order to my daughter:

Were out of here!

And we rushed headlong to the car in fear of again hearing:

Where are you going? Wait a minute please!




Australian dogs. Perth, Western Australia. Writer's picture.


Dear Refat,
It is such a great plot with a wonderful writing style and amazing sense of humor. I really enjoyed it!
Thank you!
Best regards,
Irina

  09.07.2019 21:11    
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Dear Irina
I appreciate your opinion.
Thats very nice of you!
Thanks a lot!
Yours sincerely
Refat

-   10.07.2019 20:36  
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