Being Cici

When I was what humans call a dog, the sounds that humans made seemed like meaningless noises to me, nothing like the completely meaningful — and feelingful — barks and whimpers and tail swishes of dogs. I didn’t understand why humans made all their odd noises, or what was with them when they sat quietly staring at their flickering TVs that made the same kinds of noises. But now that I understand words and so much more — and more about all that later — I’ll try to tell my story in a way that you who are still humans can understand.


My First Year

My puppyhood was great — while it lasted. While I was the smallest of the pups, the runt of the litter as they say, tussling with my three bigger brothers only made me scrappier. Plus suckling with them, napping with them… My earliest memories were like the deepest sniffs of pure happiness. How could I ever forget snuggling against our mommy’s warm belly till the rhythm of her heartbeat lulled me into my dreams? I would carry that profound comfort with me always. I relived it every time I closed my eyes.

But the humans outside our cage reach in and snatch away my brothers one by one, till only mommy and me are left. Then a couple of days later, a big human hand reaches in and grabs me, too. A grown man who still lives with his mother buys me. He tosses me onto the bed of his pickup truck — I’m too small to climb over the sides — then he drives all the way to his house in a rural county of eastern Virginia. Once we’re there, he throws me into a chicken wire pen under his back porch.

The man, who often wears a uniform when he goes to work in a nearby city, isn’t satisfied with his income from his law enforcement job in a nearby city. He’s bought me so that he can breed me and sell my puppies. After all, I’m a dachshund and many people will pay extra for their favorite breed of dog.

Now my life is nothing like when I was with my mother and my brothers. I spend long hours alone, staring through the chicken wire of the pen as I yearn to run through the nearby fields, to frolic in the grass, to sniff everything. I never get to explore the sights and sounds and smells of my new surroundings. Of course I catch things on the breeze, wondrously tantalizing scents I’d love to get a noseful of. As a hound, especially a dachshund whose nose is never far from the ground, I long to savor the infinite aromas of the countryside. Perceiving and analyzing and enjoying smells of all kinds is what a large part of my brain is dedicated to, what we hounds have evolved and been bred to do for ages.

The man and his mother never let me out of the pen, never let me run free. They never even walk me or pay any attention at all to me, except to open the door of the pen once a day and throw in their table scraps, always things like gnawed fried chicken legs and hotdog buns and French fries, stuff not even good for humans to eat. It’s summer and hot and humid, and as I eat, the fleas and flies and mosquitos eat me. Neither the man nor his mother ever cleans my pen.

There’s another dog in the man’s yard, a big mean-looking black dog who’s chained to a stake. I had never seen a dog with such long legs before! Since his chain is long enough for him to reach my pen, sometimes he sniffs around it and snarls at me. He seems just as miserable as I am and just as hungry. Who knows? He might even eat me if he could. Every time he comes up to my cage I bare my teeth and snarl back at him, which always makes him finally leave me alone. The scrappiness I picked up from my brothers is paying off now.

When I’m six months old I come into heat, and the man breeds me. At least I get to see another dachshund again — another dog whose back is as long and legs as short as mine. I’m thrilled at being in heat, but I’m also terrified because the male dachshund, whom I’ve never even seen before and who’s so much older and stronger than I am, is violently aroused. He bites the back of my neck and I shriek as the man and his mother laugh. They’re both greedy and ignorant and stupid, even more so than most humans. They don’t even have enough human sense to care about me or the puppies, since breeding a six-month-old dog is about the same as impregnating a twelve-year-old human girl.

One day about two months later when I’m about to give birth to my puppies, the man is careless when he opens the door of the pen to throw in the table scraps. The countryside, the great out-there that I’ve only barely been able to sniff or see, that has been beckoning me ever since the man locked me in this pen, suddenly overwhelms me. I scurry out, right between the man’s legs, as fast as I can run in my condition. But the man easily chases me down. He even kicks me in his rage, kicks me hard in the side. The next day when I give birth to my four puppies, two of them are stillborn — but the two who live, a male and a female, seem normal and healthy.

Now the man keeps my pups and me locked in the filthy pen as I nurse them. We stay there several months until the pups start eating the man’s table scraps too, even as winter approaches and the pen gets colder and colder, especially at night. The man is trying to sell my pups, and he’s brought a couple of people into the backyard to look at them already. Then one day a woman from an animal rescue organization shows up — along with two men in uniforms, both of the men bigger than the man. They’re deputy sheriffs. One of the man’s neighbors has finally reported how he was treating my pups and me to the county sheriff’s office.

The rescue woman and the deputies say they’ve even heard about how the man kicked me, and they can plainly see all the moldy turds cluttering the pen. They threaten the man with prosecution if he doesn’t let the rescue woman take my pups and me away. When the man’s mother claims that she and the man take good care of us, the rescue woman asks her about the scraps they’ve been feeding us. The man’s mother huffs, “They eat it, don’t they?” But now the man is worried about how he might lose his law enforcement job if he gets charged with animal abuse. “Go on then, goddammit,” he says. “Take ‘em if you want ‘em so bad.” The deputies keep staring at the man as the rescue woman quickly gathers up my pups and me and loads us all into her van.

When we reach the shelter that Cindy, the rescue woman, works for, she gives me my name — Cici. Never again will I hear the ugly sound the man and his mother would spit at me whenever they saw me. Cindy gives my pups names too — Hansel and Gretel. Then the pups and I get our first baths, including a flea treatment, which we need. While being in the water is traumatic, at least the people around me now aren’t growling at me and kicking me, plus my pups and I finally have good dog food to eat, plus a clean, warm I place to sleep at night. Now my dreams of being with my mother and brothers again seem more vivid than ever.

When we get our first medical check-ups, the vet says my pups, who have grown to be as big as I am, are doing fine. But I have to have some of my lower front teeth pulled because of all the neglect and bad nutrition. I also get medicine for my ears, which are frayed from bug bites.

Then it’s time to find new homes for us, and Cindy has one in mind that she thinks would be perfect for me. A woman named Georgette is looking for a dog to adopt, because the dog who lived with her and her husband, Ray, for many years died. Georgette and Ray live in a cottage by the beach, and they don’t have any children — thank God! I say that because the pups are driving me crazy. Everything’s nip and tuck and rough and tumble with them now, constant heavy-duty developmental playtime, and I’m not longer bigger than either of them. I’m always caught in the middle. But Cindy finds the pups a nice home together, with a human couple who have never had dogs before and who live in another state. These humans will even send the pups to agility classes. They’ll get so into dogs that they’ll even start a dog treats bakery!

Cindy tells Georgette and Ray my story. She says she figures all I want is to be treated like a puppy again, since my puppyhood was cut short by the horrors of that man. She says she feels bad that she didn’t rescue the big black dog too, because a week after she rescued the pups and me, one of the man’s neighbors found the big black dog shot to death in the woods behind the man’s house — the man who is a law enforcement officer. Ray calls me a prime example of survival of the cutest.



(Please be patient. It isn’t easy channeling things through a muddled mind like Ray's.)

“We may be in the Universe as dogs and cats are in our libraries, seeing the books and hearing the conversation, but having no inkling of the meaning of it all.”

— William James