His true name was Smart One. Knowing this, he cringed every time the people of the
house used their name for him. Perro Chin: Dirty Dog, Pig Dog. Because of one little
accident on the first day they brought him here. Would they never let him forget that?
Was there no way at all to tell them the name his mother had given him? He had tried,
but they had yelled at him to be quiet so he merely cried himself to sleep every
night by repeating Smart One, Smart One, Smart One until his own sad little whimpers
changed into his mother’s sweet voice and he was once again snuggled up close to her
warm belly in a pile of his brothers and sisters, not alone in the dark chained under
a tree.

He was not meant to be alone. He desperately wanted to belong somewhere but he knew
that this place was not the right one for him, no matter how excited he became when
the young boy ran and laughed with him. That did not happen as much now as it had
when he himself was smaller, a roly poly little fuzzball struggling to keep up with
The Boy. Now he was ten months old and lean,like a sharp-faced coyote with collie-tip
ears. He preferred to slink rather than run with joy. He felt safer that way. He had
forgotten what joy felt like. It had been replaced with hunger, thirst, fear and

The worst was when the big man would come to his tree. Smart One always flattened
himself to the ground, muscles tensed for whatever might happen. Sometimes the man
gave him a small bowl of slop, other times he simply beat him. If Smart One was lucky
the man would unclip the chain from his rope collar and walk away. When that happened
Smart One would stay very still until the man was out of sight, then creep quietly to
a gap in the fence and run like the wind through the streets. He would find the other
dogs of the neighborhood and play with them, learning valuable lessons about how to
behave in Polite Society.

But always the moment came when his companions would return to their houses, to their
duties, to their people. Smart One was never certain what to do then. He did not want
to return to his house. He had duties, but even when he barked in the night, warning
the people that SOMEONE WAS WALKING PAST THE HOUSE, they yelled at him to be quiet. So
what was the point? And he did not feel about his people the way the other dogs
seemed to feel about theirs. He knew his people did not really care if he was
there or not. Except for the little boy. Whenever he was out loose, Smart One could
hear him calling….Perro Chin!! Perro Chin!! Where are you, Perro Chin?! And Smart
One would sigh, try to convince his heart that it was wrong,that nothing would change.
But his heart simply said The Boy. So Smart One would return to his lonely home. The
Boy would fuss over him for a few minutes, then the man or the woman would grab him
by the scruff of the neck, drag him to his tree and refasten the chain to his rope
collar. And there he would stay until the next time the man released him.

Smart One remembered all of these things the night he could not get back into the
yard. He had heard The Boy calling as usual, but he had also heard the man yelling, so
the young dog decided to wait before heading home. And when he did return, his secret
gap in the fence was blocked. He ran to the gate. It was securely closed and he was too
big now to squeeze through the space underneath. He rushed back to the fence to double
check the gap, then sat down to think about what he should do next.

Bark? No, the people never paid attention when he barked. Dig under the gate? No, the
ground was too hard. Curl up and sleep here in the street until morning? He could do
that, but why? Clearly they did not want him anymore. His heart whispered frantically
The Boy!! The Boy!! But this time Smart One silenced his heart with one simple word….

For the first time in months he had a feeling of hope. He could be free from the cruel
man, free from the woman with her broom, free of the heavy chain. He could find a new
home, one where the people treated him the way he knew he deserved to be treated. Or
better yet, he could find the Street Dogs and join their group. They did not belong to
any people, they were responsible for themselves. It could be a hard life but Smart One
decided it would be better than any life involving people.

Then his heart asked What About The Lady? Ah, The Lady. Smart One looked up the hill
towards The House On The Other Side Of The Fence. There was a Lady in there who
understood him. Whenever she was outside, she talked to him, usually without words. He
would have given up on life long ago if not for her. But she was not outside now. And
Smart One did not think she would let him live with her. She was too involved with her
plants. She would not want a dog in her yard. No, she might have fed him tortillas when
he had told her he was hungry, and she might have clucked to him and laughed with him
when he let himself be silly for her, but she would not want him to live with her. She
was an angel, not an owner. But he would remember her forever.

His decision was made. Smart One stood up, stretched himself forwards and backwards,
lifted his nose to see if he could smell anything that might tell him which way to go
on the first step of his new life. And then he set off down the hill, tail wagging,head
high, and a grin on his coyote face. When he got to the corner he yipped a joyous Good
Bye to his street and never looked back.


The night work is done: food has been scavenged, water has been discovered and lapped
up, perhaps another generation of Street Dogs has been created. Some nights there are
changes in the social order, with arguments between one or more dogs who are ready to
attempt a step up on the ladder of Polite Society. But there were no grudge matches
last night and with the first hint of daylight, the Street Dogs made their way to The
Field, ready for their morning ritual.

Story Tell began in the early days of the Street Dogs, but no one remembers exactly
when or even why. It has become a healing time of bonding, of reminding each other that
they have much in common, even when it seems otherwise.Each dog tells his or her story,
taking as many mornings to do so as they need. Story Tellers are listened to with
respect and attention. Even the most shy dogs soon get over their nerves and are able
to relax while sharing the sometimes painful details of their lives, knowing there are
sympathetic ears taking in every word.

But Story Tell does not have to be serious. If all the current dogs in the group have
shared their tales, anyone is allowed to speak. Some save a funny story for such days,
others are able to take the previous night’s adventures and turn them into hilarious
entertainment. Still others have such a talent for sharing their histories that the
dogs will request a favorite chapter from their lives, such as The Day I Caught The
Cat, told to perfection by Hunter.

Three months ago when Smart One was accepted as a new member of the Street Dogs, he
was surprised by what he heard in Story Tell. He had never realized that most of the
Street Dogs used to live with people who were even more cold and uncaring than his own.
Even though he was shy about speaking, when his turn came he discovered that he was
able to recreate events and emotions easily. Now Smart One was one of the most popular
Story Tellers in the pack and this morning the other dogs were asking him to speak. He
thought for a moment as his friends settled in, then began his Story for the day.

I have told you many tales of my life with people. You have heard how I was left alone
for a week, chained under a tree with a little dirty water and no food. I have told you
about the Lady On The Other Side Of The Fence. How she gave me tortillas that week and
kept me alive, how she used to talk to me and laugh with me. But I have never told you
about The Day The Lady Threw The Turkey.
My people kept pigs, chickens, and turkeys. The two pigs were in pens and never
got out but the chickens and turkeys ran around loose a lot of the time. They had a
small shed to sleep in but it was so stinky I could smell it from my tree. I was never
surprised that they preferred the freedom of the yard. I used to watch them when they
were out. They are such funny creatures, always scratching in the dirt and eating bugs.
Once the turkeys ate all of the green plants lined up near their shelter. The people
got mad about that and locked them up for a long time afterwards.
The next time I saw the turkeys out, there were little ones with them. These were even
more fun to watch. They ran every which way, swirling around the mama turkey like a
cloud. They peeped a lot and would seem very excited about everything they saw. I was
fascinated by them.
There was a wire fence that separated my people’s land from The Lady’s. One day the
little turkeys discovered they could get through the openings in this fence, and they
went over there a lot because there was plenty of green grass, not like the dirt on our
side. Well naturally The Lady did not want those turkeys in her yard. Whenever she
would hear the louder peeps that meant one or more had slipped over, she would come out
and chase them back through the fence. I think maybe she also watched for me to tell
her when a turkey had crossed because I used to stare at them on the other side and
wonder what it would be like to be there myself. Every time I did this, she would come running
out of her house and shoo the them away.
One day she got mad after an especially fat little baby insisted on going over to her
place even after she chased him back. The mama turkey was upset, calling to the baby,
making it run around even more and The Lady was trying to catch it, saying “You do NOT
belong here!!” She finally scooped up the turkey in both hands and flung it over the
fence all in one smooth move. I don’t know if she did it on purpose but The Lady threw
that chubby turkey right to me!! I had stretched my chain as far as I could to get a
good view of the excitement. Suddenly all I could see was a fuzzy baby turkey getting
closer and closer. I could not help myself….I snapped it up before it hit the ground
and I swallowed it. Then I smiled at The Lady and asked Could we do that again?
She laughed with me, but then she went back into her house so I curled up to have a
nap after my snack. I kept a close eye on the turkeys for days after that but I never
got to play catch again because mine was the last little turkey that ever dared to go
through the fence.

The Street Dogs all chuckled, imagining what it must have been like to catch a turkey
in mid-air. Many of them dreamed of juicy young turkeys that morning. And Smart One
wondered for a moment, just for a moment as he was falling asleep, what The Lady was
doing right then.

III ~~ Leona And The Lady

At the very minute that Smart One and his companions were dropping off to sleep, The
Lady was outside in her garden, planning her workday. Should she trim the roses that
day? Or work on those stubborn weeds along the back wall? Or maybe simply sit in the
sun for a few minutes and let the garden tell her what it needed the most? She liked
that idea, and promptly sat on the steps, settling into the peace of the morning and
looking around.

She tried not to feel too proud of herself when she saw the difference between the
neighbor’s yard and her own, because she understood that some people liked to create
while others destroyed. But she always felt a little smug comparing the green grass
and neatly tended plants on her side of the fence to the chaos of weeds and dirt on
the other side.

While she was indulging herself in this ego boost, she realized that something was
missing. The Lady had gotten used to greeting Perro Chin anytime she was outside, and
even now, months after he had run away at last, she felt lonely when she noticed the
empty space around the tree he had been chained to most of the time.

But just three weeks ago, a new puppy had appeared, a fat little golden creature full
of life and demanding attention. Shouts of Fea, Feona mixed with the young boy’s
giggles, and The Lady had hoped that Feona would have a better life than Perro Chin’s.
But very quickly the shouts and giggles stopped and the puppy was left to herself. She
had not appreciated this at all. She would waddle along the fence when The Lady was
nearby, so obviously lonely that The Lady often stopped her work to reach her fingers
through the fence and scratch the puppy under the chin. Deliriously happy at this small
touch of affection, Feona would close her eyes, roll over onto her back, and sigh with
pleasure as The Lady whispered “I will call you Leona, little one….you are much more
like a lioness than an ogre!”

Since that time Leona and The Lady had visited every morning, starting their days off
on a happy note. But now, Leona was not in sight. The Lady thought for a minute, then
remembered what had happened the night before. The neighbors had driven away early in
the afternoon, apparantly for a weekend trip. Leona was left all alone but at first she
had not seemed to notice. She had slept, then roamed around exploring as much of the
yard as she could scramble over.

Than she must have gotten hungry because she sat down and began to howl. She was still
a small puppy but she had a very loud voice and knew how to use it. Pretty soon every
person that went up or down the hill past her gate would look over to see what torture
the poor dog was enduring. When they saw nothing but a lonely puppy, they continued on
their way, but one girl and her brother stopped, calling to Leona not to be scared.

This was all the encouragement Leona needed. She bounded over to the gate, wriggled
through the small gap underneath and proceeded to tell the two children her story. They
were both delighted and concerned. Now what were they supposed to do? They had only
meant to comfort the puppy, nothing more. The brother picked her up and plopped her
back into the yard, then he and his sister began to run up the hill. But Leona slipped
under the gate again and followed them, determined to catch up and telling them so.
This time the girl picked her up and put her back in the yard, but more than a little
reluctantly after Leona showered her face with puppy kisses.

The Lady was outside all this time but finished her chores and went in as the girl
started to run up the hill again. So she did not see Leona escape one last time. And
she did not see the girl scoop up the puppy, look at her brother with a shrug of her
shoulders and say “She has chosen us, we have to take her!”

So now this morning, when The Lady realized that Leona was missing, she remembered the
two children and decided that Leona had either followed them and got lost or followed
them and got adopted into a new family that hopefully would appreciate her special
personality. And as she stood up to start her work day, The Lady made a wish that the
neighbors would give up on dogs and stick to turkeys.

Copyright Debbie Zapata ~~ June 30,2014


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