Fluffy’s new home, a short story by Annette Bryan
Annette Bryan is a writer and a member of the Red Roan Writers and Platform One. Her work has been published in magazines and newspapers. Her latest story “Site 666” is included in the award winning anthology “Circle and Square”. Her love for the Arts started at a very young age when she could be found taking the leading part while acting and singing at stage school. She studied painting in oils back in the eighties, and was overjoyed when she received her first commission. She lives with her husband Paul in Templeogue.
As my car meandered up the steep dark roads of the mountain I wondered how on earth I was going to find Millie’s house. As I looked back over Dublin bay the street lights lit up the city showing it off in all its glory. The snow covered rooftops made it look like a scene from a Hans Christian Andersons story book.
The directions were quite clear, turn right at the Blue Lagoon pub and follow the road until you come to a signpost that says “Millie’s Kennels”. That would have been alright on a warm sunny evening, but tonight it was impossible to follow the sign posts that were dotted around the little villages on my way. The wipers went to and fro as the snow slid down the side of the windscreen giving me just a second to see what was ahead. When I reached the next village I stopped to check directions, and asked myself why I left it so late to get a pup. My heart was pumping with anticipation, I couldn’t let my daughter down again this Christmas.
My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of music. “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” crackled in the air every time someone opened the door of a pub nearby. People were sitting at snow covered tables outside of it, wrapped up in their winter hats and scarfs. I watched one or two of them laughing as they sucked on a cigarette, then blew the smoke through their nose or made circle’s from the smoke as it bellowed out of their mouth. The whiff of nicotine greeted me as I rolled down the window to ask directions to Millie’s Kennels.
“The one at the very top of the hill is Millie’s cottage” said an old man who appeared to be a bit tipsy as he gave me directions. Everyone was in good spirits.
“Come back and have a drink with us, if you get lost” said another guy and they all went into fits of silly laughter.
As I headed up the dark country lane, a signpost was covered in snow. Not knowing what house to knock on I opened the boot of the car and rummaged through the wet hurling gear still there from yesterday’s match. I pushed it aside to see if there was something there that I could use to clear the snow, gagging at the damp smell of grass. To my delight I felt something wooden. It was my hurl. It was ideal for brushing the snow off the signpost that was to guide me to my destination.
My heart was light as I knocked on the front door of the house that had a sign saying, “Millie’s Kennels”. A cluster of dogs ran to the door, barking as they greeted me. One little pup stood firm in front of her owner, it was no bigger than my hand, barking her guts out then running a little trot here and there, keeping her eye on me at every turn she made.
“Be quiet Cindy” said the lady who opened the door, her hair tied back in a loose bun, strings of it hanging around her face, her nose sticking out from under it. She pushed her glasses onto the top of her head, then, stretched her hand out and introduced her-self to me.
“Millie,” she said then directed her attention to the little dog at her feet.
“Don’t be a naughty girl,” she scolded the pup who stopped barking on her command, then toddled off with her head held high. Pleased she had shielded her owner from the stranger at the door.
“Do come in” she said and stood back to make room for me to enter into her small dimly lit hallway. As I entered the room off the hallway I noticed statues of dogs sitting proudly on her mantel piece. A piano sat in the corner of the small crowded room. A couple of small dogs, some still only weeks old circled around me, and proceeded to follow me as I sat on one of the floral settee’s that trimmed the fireplace.
“As you can see I don’t believe in locking little doggy’s up in the kennels all day,” she said with a big smile on her face, as she picked up one of the smaller puppies who was struggling to keep up with the others.
Although the cottage was dated and the furniture well worn, there was a lovely atmosphere, as the puppies played with one another, rolling around and tugging at one another. Squeals of happy puppies could be heard in every corner of this small house. The smell of dogs wet coat filled the air but it wasn’t offensive, as it was very clear to me that these little guys were well looked after.
One little Yorkshire terrier pup totted over to have a drink in a dish that was three quarters full. It was a dish for a bigger dog. As she climbed up the side of the dish it was obvious to me what was going to happen. She slid down the side of the dish into the water. The squeals from her as the cold water seeped into her silky brown coat, made me jump up out of my seat heading towards her, thinking she was going to drown.
“Where’s that bold puppy” said the owner as she picked up a towel and beckoned me to go with her as she went to rescue the pup. She was swimming around the dish, her little head popping up and down as she splashed around the water. There was little squeaks and plenty of barks as she wrapped the little pup in the towel.
“This little devil insists on having her daily swim,” she said as she patted the puppy dry.
I wondered which of the pups was for sale. Or if I had a choice, all the advertisement said was ‘Yorkshire Terrier pups for sale. Good homes wanted.’
After drying the little puppy with the towel the owner placed her in a basket at the fire. She told her to stay. I wondered how she could be so firm with such a tiny creature.
“Stay” she said again louder. Eventually the pup got the message and her master gave her a treat.
“Good girl” she said in a sweeter voice and smiled at me.
“Now my dear, as you can see, puppies demand a lot of your attention,” she said. “They get up to all sorts of devilment. Just like children,” she said her piercing blue eyes checking me over as she waited for my response. “Will there be someone at home twenty four seven?” she said.
I was taken aback. I didn’t expect this kind of interrogation. I thought I just had to hand over the cash and be on my way. The more I sat talking to this woman, the more she fascinated me. She was right. Dogs have feelings too and although I am a city man and wouldn’t hurt a fly. I didn’t think the breeder would be that fastidious about whom she sold her pups too. She loved dog’s that was very clear, and she would rather keep them all, than give them to someone who didn’t understand them.
“Dogs need a lot of looking after. They have to be fed and walked every day you know?” I just nodded, as I didn’t get a chance to say anything.” They are very loyal animals, you see” she said looking at me over the rim of her glasses, “and the thoughts of one of my pups going to a bad home doesn’t bare thinking about. Are you sure you can give my pup the life he is use too? She asked this time smiling at me as she led me out to the kennel in the back garden, collecting her coat and the key to the kennel. When she opened the door, to what appeared to be a garden shed. I was very impressed with the vision that greeted us.
There were five little kennels set out around the big shed, all divided by a wire mesh. Each one had a concrete path that led up to a wooden dog house. Each one a different colour, she stopped at the yellow one. There was straw thrown around the outside of it. There were little puppies crawling around under a red infra red light. A bigger dog popped her head out of the door of the wooden kennel and looked up at us.
“Hello Holly” said the owner “this man is going to give one of your puppies a nice new home,” she said then picked the dog up into her arms, gently placing her under her left arm then patted her, as she kissed her on the snout.“He has a little girl who has asked Santa over the years for a small Yorkshire terrier pup.” She lowered her voice and continued talking to the dog making sure I heard everything she said.” But it’s only now that she is nine years old that Santa has allowed her wish to come through. She knows all the work involve with owning a puppy. So you see you won’t have to worry about this one,” she said kissing the dog again. Then she looked at me and pointed at the pups, beckoning me to pick which one I wanted.
She was definitely making sure that I got the message that dogs are not just for Christmas. They are for life. This pup was to become part of our family and our home was to be her home. My heart melted as I looked at all the beautiful pups squeaking and crawling around the bed. Which one would I pick? I wanted them all. They looked so cute and I was delighted that the mother was a placid dog who didn’t growl at me as I checked her pups out. There was a little pup sitting at the back of the kennel all on her own. Her coat appeared to be longer than the rest of the litter. It looked really fluffy. She seemed to be very quiet. I gently picked her up and stroked her head with my finger she snuggled up close to me. I knew straight away this was the one for my little girl. She was a pretty little pup with a nice shaped head and she licked my finger as I stroked her.
“She seems to have the same temperament of the brood bitch” I said to the owner and smiled, still holding the little pup in my arms.
“She’s a little beauty” she said stroking the puppy.
“Yes you are beautiful. My little girl will love you” I said a bit shocked that I found myself taking to the pup as though it was a baby. I placed my little friend in a basket I had brought with me and duly brought her home to my mother who would look after her until Christmas Eve.
The excitement on Christmas morning was electrifying. My daughter arrived down to see what Santa had left for her under the tree. Fluffy (The name given by my daughter) was sitting in her basket with a nice red bow pulling all her hair up out of her eyes, the three different colours of her hair (known in the dog world as a trio) made her look like she had a crown on her head. She gave a little bark as if to introduce herself to my daughter.
“Oh my God, I can’t believe it. Oh I love her” she said rubbing the pup against her face and kissing her just like Millie had. Something told me deep inside that this was definitely the right time to bring a puppy into our home.
“Welcome to your new home Fluffy. I will love you forever” she whispered then smiled up at me and winked.
© Annette Bryan