That weekend, here in England, saw the RSPB's "Big Garden Birdwatch", where one is meant to take a note of all the birds that visit one's bird-table and send it to the Society, the reason being that bird populations and activities can be monitored. However, my schedule over this particular weekend would not permit me the necessary time to undertake this task. Perhaps next year. However, I did venture out into my garden in the morning on Sunday, to survey my estate, and I arrived at the base of my bird-table at the same time as one of the regular visitors alighted on the feast of nuts provided by my partner. It was one of the nice little Robins that lives in the hedge opposite my grounds. I was feeling particularly cheery, so I hailed him.
"Good morning!" I barked; gently, so as not to startle him.
"Hello!" He chirruped back, in between beakfuls of nut.
"What's your name, then?"
Ah, well. At least it was original, I suppose... My new little chum continued. "Over there is my wife, Robin. On that branch to the right is my oldest egg from last year - his name is Robin. And across there in the allotments, you can see my brother. He's called Robin. Just to the left of him is his wife; she's called-"
"Don't tell me." I put in, "Robin?"
The little fellow looked at me as if I was deranged.
"No." he replied, sounding aggrieved.
"What is she called, then?" I asked.
"Of course not! That would be utter lunacy!"
"Actually," continued Robin the Robin, as I made to myself a mental note to avoid conversing with small garden birds in the future, "My mother (who was generally known in these parts as Robin) never really did trust her. She always suspected there was something odd about her. But, hey, my brother liked her, so what could we do?"
"Indeed..." I replied. "Um... would you excuse me, er, Robin? I have to go now and be... uhh... not here."
I don't think I will ever understand birds. I believe I shall confine myself in future to assisting my partner with simply providing food for them.
And so our life continued for some time in much the same vein. Three times during the week, Bobby would be taken off somewhere called the "Hydrotherapy Pool", a deep indoor tank of warm water, where a lady would get into the water with him and help him to swim up and down the pool's length. These were the high points of his week. Bobby explained that the swimming helped his legs and joints grow strong again. I wanted to go with him, but my injuries weren't the same, so I couldn't. I always enjoyed listening to him describe the experience, though. I had never been swimming before and it sounded brilliant.
My shattered ribs were the first to heal properly - and the moment of release from the secure bindings that held me immobile was exquisite. The stitching had to remain in place but, at last, I could shift myself around my cage. Bobby taught me a few naughty songs, to celebrate this landmark, and we laughed as we sang them together - until one of the vets opened our door and crossly told us to "pack it in".
Not long after, my broken jaw was deemed to have successfully fused back into its correct place and, with much joy and a whole new naughty song, I was gradually introduced to solid food once more. I learned how to walk properly again (without constantly stumbling and falling on my bottom) and - most important of all - I learned that life was an enjoyable experience, in which beatings and torture played no part whatsoever.
One day, I was fetched from my cage and taken to one of the vets' consulting rooms. There stood Jo, my vet (the lady from the day I was brought in), waiting for me; along with someone else. With a quick sniff and a big wag of my tail, I recognised the tall, kind young man in the dark blue suit - the man who had taken me from the van and brought me to this place of my salvation. In between times, I had gleaned from the nurse Claire that he was what people called a "policeman". A strange name, but I was in no position to judge.
"Blimey!" said the policeman, as he fondled my head whilst I licked his hand, "It's a different dog! I can't believe it!" Jo, the vet, grinned.
"I know." she said, "He's a real fighter. He surpassed all our expectations. Amazing." She opened a large folder on the table, in which were held a great many big photographs, strange spooky-looking black and white images, and printed documents. I looked down at the photo on the top of the pile, and gasped. It was an horrifically-injured young dog. The white fur on his back and flank was streaked with much blood, and a massive black stain on his right side indicated a bad inside-injury and bleeding. The side of this poor critter's face had been reduced to a red, pulpy, bloody mess. Only the eyes were bright.
"Poor b*st*rd." I thought to myself, unable to tear my eyes from the image. "He's not long for this world." It was only when Jo picked up the picture and other documents from the folder and began to discuss them with the young policeman that I realised. The dog in the picture was me.
"The former owner is in custody." said the policeman, wincing slightly as he glanced through the early pictures of my injuries. "Quite a nasty character really. When my colleague spotted him getting back into the van after we'd picked up this little chap-" He patted my head again, and idly scratched my ears as he continued. "-the bloke was so drunk he didn't even actually notice that the side-window had been smashed through or that the dog was missing. So we were able to make an arrest for intention to drive whilst drunk." Jo tutted and shook her head. The young man continued. "He didn't have insurance on the van either. A number of unpaid fines, plus several arrests for assault on his ex-wife - she wanted the charges dropped, unfortunately, - quite apart from what he inflicted on the poor dog."
"Sounds like a real charmer." muttered Jo. "So, we sent you the X-rays a while ago, as well as copies of the injury photographs. What's the problem?"
The policeman sighed.
"He's saying that we inflicted the injuries on the dog when we removed him from the van. The girls who discovered the dog all provided witness statements, but he's saying we coerced them - they're all under 16. Obviously we'd like to have a watertight case against the defendant. He's not someone who I'd want to see walking the streets."
"Understandable." replied Jo. "I would certainly want to see him banned for life from keeping animals. Incidentally, if you are in contact with those girls again, you can certainly thank them for saving this dog's life. He wouldn't have lasted much longer if they hadn't acted."
"It wasn't so much the injuries, but the internal bleeding and shock. For example, the other dog in our overnight care had far more serious injuries, but he was brought to us immediately. This Staffie had fewer injuries, but he would have bled internally to death without intervention. Those girls can feel very proud of their actions."
"Yes. I'll let them know. Thank you."
"Right then," continued Jo, "Our delightful hero is claiming that YOU did this to his dog?"
"Hmmm... claims we gave him a good hiding with our batons, to get at the chap."
"But some of the dog's injuries were inflicted hours before you picked him up!"
"It's what he's claiming." replied the policeman, sighing again, with a slightly apologetic smile.
"Okaaay..." said Jo, flicking through the items from the folder until she found what she was looking for. It was one of the large spooky-looking black and white papers. Jo carried it over to a flat box mounted on the wall, and clipped it up. She then flicked a switch and the box behind the image lit up, changing how the image looked. I was intrigued to see a picture of me - but you could hardly see my outside bits - my skeleton was showing really clearly! When had they done that?!? But it WAS fascinating. Jo indicated a specific part with the end of her pen. "Do you see this dark shading on the X-Ray here?" she asked. The policeman squinted at it. "It's hard to spot unless you know it's there."
"Oh yes..." said the policeman.
"Well," explained Jo. "That's healed-over scar tissue from old injuries. Patches of it, of varying degrees of recovery and size can be seen on almost every X-Ray, all over the dog's body. So unless your chap is going to claim that you and your colleagues have been breaking in and out of his house - undetected - at regular intervals over the past year for the sole purpose of tormenting his dog, I'm afraid that that allegation is not going to stick."
"Excellent." said the policeman, looking grim. He glanced down at me. "Poor boy." he said. "What a life you must have led." I contented myself with licking his hand again.
"Also," continued Jo, switching off her light-box and bringing the image back to the table. "Take a look at this photograph of the dog, taken shortly after you brought him in." She handed a large picture of my rump - not flattering - to the man. "You can see a definite trace of part of a shoeprint on the left hind-quarter - obviously from where the owner gave him a good booting, probably the night before. That might help, if you are able to compare the print with the defendant's shoe."
"Absolutely." said the policeman, gratefully, "Thank you so much. Your help is absolutely invaluable. We really appreciate it."
"Not at all. Anything we can do to get people like this off the streets."
"What's going to happen to the dog now?"
"Well, he'll need a new home, once he's fully recovered."
"I'd love to take him myself," said the young policeman. I felt a glimmer of hope - I liked this man very much. "But my girlfriend has got four cats. Don't think it would be a good idea!"
"Possibly not!" laughed Jo the vet. "What about the defendant's ex-wife?"
"We DID contact her." replied the policeman, "But she's getting married again shortly. Her fiancé's in the forces and they're being posted overseas soon. She didn't think it'd be fair on the dog. She did send a cheque through though, to help out with the bill. I gave it to your receptionist."
"Ah. That's nice. Well, never mind. One of the local rescue shelters will take him, I daresay."
The policeman and the vet concluded their business, and it was time for me to return to my cage. The young man gave me a big hug and a smile.
"Bye, mate." he said, fondly. "Good luck to you."
After one final lick of his hand, Claire came and took me back to my cage. Bobby was over at the Hydrotherapy Pool. I felt saddened by this last parting with my rescuer. It was also the last time that I ever heard reference to my first owner - the man; my tormentor and, almost, my killer. And you may be assured that I felt no sadness over this whatsoever.
So here I was. Recovering well, gaining strength, confidence and fitness... but homeless and unwanted. What would become of me when my veterinary treatment was concluded? I had no idea. But I would face it with a brave heart. I had sniffed the bottom of death - and returned. I could deal with anything now. But I did crave the sensation of being wanted by someone. Would I ever know that feeling again...?