I saw the Master as soon as I opened my eyes…
Together with my twin I lay, pressed against the warm belly of our mother. What a pleasant smell the mother has, her belly is fluffy, and her nipples are so soft. I can still taste the sweetness of mother’s milk… I was asleep in bliss, happi-i-ily. Suddenly a strong hand, grabbing at the scruff of the neck, tore me from my warm place. I trembled all over, for the first time since birth I opened my eyes.
Looking at me, staring, were two giant eyes.
These were the eyes of my Master. He lifted me, looked at my belly with the words “Yes, it’s boy. Give him to me. I’ll give you at least for five hundred dollars!” he bargained and threw me back to mother’s belly, and took some crispy green papers out of his pocket.
“I’ll come back in two weeks, but for now let him get stronger,”– with these words he went out.
I didn’t know then that even though my mother gave birth to me, my days will now be connected with this Master. The next day my twin and I, having eaten our fill, began to jump and run around the house. Our family is called the Chow Chow. We are look bearlike, with thick fur, big-headed animals, which in the times of Chinese emperors, who love cleanliness and order, were kept in palaces. Perhaps, this aristocracy came to me with blood, since I too was pure-bodied since birth, I did not do my business inside the house, where I easily could have.
At the promised time the Master came to take me. He grabbed me by the scruff as he did the first time and dropped into a cardboard box. I didn’t know that I was to see my mother and twin for the last time…
The master brought me to his home in the box. The beloved daughter of the Master ran out to us.
- Father, you brought my puppy, hurray! – she said and, embracing, kissed my Master.
- Ho-o-o-ney, take him! A dog is a friend of a man, good is foreshadowed to a child who loves dogs, - with these words he pulled me out, taking me by the scruff of the neck, and put me on the floor.
This house was not like the one where we lived with my mother, it was a big palace. I did not have time to look around, as the girl grabbed me and pressed me to her. She was very warm. But still it can’t be compared with the warmth of my mother! I missed my fluffy mother and whimpered. I wanted to suck on her nipples.
- Daddy, the puppy is crying, - said the girl, and, still hugging, began to treat me with milk from a bowl.
- Your puppy is still small, my baby. He must be given a drink through a teat, - said the master’s wife and gave her daughter a bottle of milk. The child began to give me milk through baby bottle. Though the teat looked like my mother’s, it was hard for my palate, so I could not get pleasure. And the milk was not tasty like my mother’s. And I couldn’t drink it with indulgence. I drank only half of it and whimpered again. I wanted to lie down and fall asleep under my mother’s side. I missed her smell. Lying in the corner and thinking about her and my brother, I fell asleep…
And so, laying on the couch, I spent the first night alone…
The whole winter I lived in the hallway of the palace, where people left their outer clothing. In a bright and spacious room, they laid a rug, on which I could lay comfortably. When the daughter came from school, she took me outside to play, comb my hair, and feed me.
Even my name was hotly discussed on the family council. Both the wife and the children offered their options. The owner, listened attentively to all, said:
- You gave nicknames to dogs that were before him, and I’ll name this one myself. He will be Ernest.
Representatives of the “Chow Chow” breed, who can trace their lineage from the most distant ancestors, where bred to be attached to only one person, belong to only one master. I accepted and recognized this man with clever eyes, who was kind and reserved, as my Master.
Since then, I have become the favourite dog of my Master…
My Master was a very kind person. “A dog is one of the seven riches,” he would say and lift me up. He was tall, broad, with a big head, and an open forehead. He usually entered the courtyard, bowing his big head to one side in thought. I recognized him by the sound of the approaching carand ran to the gate. Fondling, I wrapped my paws around him. I could sniff his human smell from the moment he got out of the car, and never made a mistake. In one hand he held a large leather bag. When he saw me, he put the bag on the bench in the yard, scratched my ears with both hands.
Even if he came with someone, he always paid attention to me when I ran up to him. I do not bark at guests who come with the Master, for he brought home only those people whom he considers necessary. If I bark at them, my Master will be ashamed. But, if someone comes to the gate, when the owner is not at home, my loud bark “au-ay” frightens them. When I pull my muzzle out from under the gate, strangers, seeing my huge head, immediately run away. Seeing this, feeling their fear, I remain satisfied and continue to bark a little more.
For me there was no greater happiness than when the Master looked at me with his large, intelligent eyes, and scratched my ear. Fawning, I accompanied him to the door. He entered the house, and I would stay to wait for him at the door. I lay there until he comes out. All night I don’t sleep, I run around the house, and in the afternoon, I go to the terrace and sleep in the shade…
The Master tried to give me food himself. He opened the door, took out my favourite green tray. Then he put it near the bench. I run up but don’t take off from the tray. He gets more comfortable on the bench. He was a short-spoken man, always thinking about something. While I’m enjoying food, he would gaze into the distance with his thoughts.
On sunny days of spring, the Master would begin to plant trees. Pine, birch, willow and fruit trees were all planted by him. He especially liked to water the trees. He poured from a long rubber hose, and sometimes, playing with me, directed a spray of water at me. I ran away, but then came back again, biting and dragging the rubber hose.
He brought his friends to show and boast of the trees brought from such distant cities as Almaty, Karaganda, trees: apple, cherry, plum. I also went along with them with interest. Growing up, I began to notice that not all guests came with good intentions. I was especially tuned to one unfriendly hawk-nosed swarthy man. A bad smell of envy emanated from him. As soon as he crossed the threshold of the house he would look around with excessive curiosity until he entered into the house with the Master. And when he left, he simply burned in the fire of anger and envy, anxiously glancing to the side, even at me as I lay in front of the house and was ready to pounce for a kill. My good-willed Master did not even feel it. He escorted him to the car, said goodbye. I kept close to the Master until the hawk-nosed swarthy did not leave, because, it seemed to me, if I were not around, he was ready to push the Master under the car. This upstart himself was very much afraid and avoided me, he asked the Master, “Take this animal away!” People don’t say in vain, a dog will distinguish bad people, in fact, we distinguish people with bad intentions by their smell…
Once the hawk-nosed swarthy man approached the gate without the Master. When he pressed the bell, and when he saw my protruding muzzle, ran back to his car. Hearing the bell, a child ran out of the house, opened the gate and shouted at me:
“Ernest, go away, people have come!” I stepped back. The hawk-nosed walked home. When he saw the absolutely new car of the Master’s daughter in front of the door, his eyes blushed, the smell of envy grew even worse. With this smell coming into the house, he joked:
- Where does your father get all this money? That car is brand new!
I did not like his bad smell, I wanted to grab him. Laying on the steps, I waited for him. Soon he went out. Envy grew even more, the smell spread throughout the yard. Seeing me, he kicked me in the ribs with the words:
- Hey, animal, get out of the way!
I myself was looking for an excuse to grab him. Although the kick was not strong, I grabbed him by the leg. I pierced my teeth into his lower leg.
- Oh, uncle, why did you kick him? He doesn’t touch anyone, but if someone attacks, he’s pretty ruthless, - said the child, rushing to me. He dragged me into my enclosure with the dog house.
- The dog is the same as his master! For god’s sake, - the guest clutched at his leg. The wife of the Master came out to the noise from the house:
- Ernest, what’s wrong with you, did you just do that? – she shouted.
- She led me to the enclosure behind the house and locked me in it. In general though, the Master never locked me in it, Ernest does not touch anyone, he used to say, and allowed me to walk freely around the yard. But this time I didn’t meet my Master’s expectations and failed him. Not only did I fail, I created problems for him. I was taken to the vet. Hawk-nosed swarthy harassed the authorities, and the next day they came to kill me. “If he’s infected me with something, I will not pity anyone,” he threatened my Master.
- He’s not a wild dog, he's regularly vaccinated and checked, - the Master protested.
Ten days a woman came in a white dressing gown and watched me. She wrote everything down on paper and finally told my Master:
- His behaviour is good. There are no signs of rabies.
I have already said that my Master is a very kind person.
Not only is he empathetic to other people, he’s also considerate of animals. Our friendship is the only thing we feel together. He was so kind that he did not even put a collar on me. I always walked freely, like the king of the yard.
Someone had a pug-dog in our town. This poor thing was beaten by the owner every other day and she resorted to us. Hunched over, she often walked nearby. Most often she was hungry. Sometimes I climbed out of the hole in the corner of the yard and walked with her around the town. I visited many places with her. And when I returned, I saw that my Master and his daughter were looking for me around the town. They both took offense at me, shouting, lead me into the yard. Thinking that I was hungry, they began to feed me. Once, the pug-dog, barely dragging, appeared in front of the gates with a broken pelvic bone. She lay bent and suffered. Seeing the poor thing, the Master’s daughter burst into tears with pity and carried her food in my bowl. The pug was hungry, although it was hard for her, she lifted her head and stood on her paws.
When the Master came home from work, he saw the poor dog and regretted:
- What a cruel master you have. How could someone beat a dog like that and break their bones. In the end, he’ll have to answer for the mutilation, - he was very upset. He was going to the opposite street, where a neighbour lived, and punish him for his cruelty. His wife begged him not to do this, somehow calmed him down. After that, I had even more respect my Master and began to love him even more.
On a warm autumn night, there was a commotion near our house. The children brought me into the cage. Through the bars, I saw people scurrying around the door. Some embraced, crying with tears, “Oh, my dear.” I heard a shrill cry from my Master’s wife. His favourite daughter ran outside with a cry, the adults grabbed her, started kissing her forehead and comforting her. The eldest son also came, hugged his sister and cried. All the children and relatives I knew were walking, but there was no Master…
Even in the dead of night I could not sit still, I felt something bad had happened. And had no appetite. My wool rose on end. When I got up, my tendons were shaking. Weakness. I lay down. My whole body trembled even as I lay. I decided sit up. But still my soul was aching. Putting out my blue tongue, I was breathing heavily. As if there is not enough air…
The next day, two guys brought my Master wrapped in something, and carried him out of the car. I could smell him…
Then I howled in a terrible voice. Not only the people, even I was frightened of my own howling. From my howling, the women who walked in the kitchen and the men in front of the door were alarmed. One of men came up and pounced on me with the words “Shut up!” I ran away, hiding in the depths of the enclosure. But all the same inside everything burned, I wanted to cry. The beloved daughter of the Master came out of the house and, embracing me, said, “Ernest, Daddy’s gone now!” We were both orphans now… Hot tears flowed from my eyes, whining, I pressed myself against her…
I could not get up because of the suffering. My mourning would not allow me to eat. His beloved daughter, despite that she herself was very depressed, pitied me and called a veterinarian. She is like her father, kind, ready to help those in need. The vet came for a few days, gave me injections. I didn’t run away from the nagging injections like before. Pain from the stabbed needle is not stronger than the pain of the soul from grief for the master…
The Master used to go often on trips. But he always returned sooner or later. I went out to meet him, caressing him. It was a happy time. Now, he will not return no matter how long I wait.
Since there was no Master, cars stopped appearing in front of the house, there were no guests coming and leaving in the courtyard. Nobody stroked me on the back, everyone was gloomy. The meaning of life for this house, its inhabitants, and even mine, was the MASTER. As if without him, the whole world was empty. A grave silence. Silence can also frighten. Though I wasfed, sadness didn’t pass. The soul was orphaned. I imagined that the gate will open at any minute, and the Master will come. As if he’d put down his briefcase and scratch my ear.
Sometimes men come into the gate, resembling a physique of my Master. With my ears dropped, I go to them. Although they are afraid, I sniff them. Homemakers pull me out of the nape with the words: “Don’t worry, Ernest misses our father. When men come into the house, his sniffing is just him is looking for his owner.”
Oh, that smell of my Master!
No one has such a smell. Only once, long ago, laying at the belly of my mother, I felt also wonderful from her smell. Being with the Master, I felt like I’d returned to what was then. And it was a happy time!
So that I didn’t get cold in the chilly October nights, I was taken to the entrance hall, where they leave their shoes.
Here I smelled something like Master’s! It turns out that at the top, on the hook, hung a winter sheepskin coat that the Master wore when he went out into the yard. It was soaked in this wonderful smell. I whimpered, tears flowed from my eyes, and I howled. On my voice from the room the Master’s wife came out. I froze, staring at the sheepskin coat. The wife realized that I recognized the Master’s sheepskin coat, took it off the hook, wrapped it around me, snuggled me up, sat next to me, and sobbed…
Thus, began the grey days.
One of the cold autumn nights, the neighbouring pug-dog ran to our gate. Again she was beaten to death, she was hunched. The beloved daughter persuaded her mother to let her into the yard. To make her my friend, she called her “Friend.” Now we were both fed at the same time. Friend also wanted to be faithful, so she lay in the yard right in front of the gate. I didn’t give her a place by the door. The mother and children in our house are as kind people as their father. Friend, probably, also understood this and spent all night running around the house, watching. At every rustle she began yapping. But she was stupid when she became well-fed, began to run after all the people, sometimes she did not even listen to the householders. Sometimes she got out from under the fence, went to other people’s yards.
Also Friend had a bad habit, she ate everything that the unknown people threw at our gates. Going out of the gate, he began to sniff everything around. I ate only food from my dishes. While he was walking, someone fed him bread with poison. Because of his gluttony, he was poisoned. For several days, foam came from his mouth, he just lay down, twisted. People say, “A good dog does not show how it dies,” but Friend was not even able to do this, he could not go anywhere, and died one day in the courtyard…
One day the Master’s daughter put a collar on me. Unaccustomed to such horror, I resisted it but submitted in the end. Although the rawhide collar did not squeeze my neck through my thick coat, it still felt like I was suffocating. The next day, the beloved daughter tied a long rope to the collar and led me through the gate.
We walked for a long time.
I could hardly keep up with the girl on my short paws. Finally, we reached the cemetery, there gravestones with photos attached to them, all surrounded by a fence, among graves that looked like small houses. The beloved daughter went to a monument carved from a stone, and she tied me to the fence. She stroked the photo on a standing stone and cried in a voice with the words “Father! Daddy!”
I looked at the photo and recognized – this is my MASTER! My heart ached, I whimpered. It became so depressing!
The beloved daughter asked, “Ernest, did you recognize your Master?” And scratched, like him, behind my ear. And she cried. I realized that he lay here. This is where my Master is!
When the beloved daughter took me back, I remembered the way.
Winter in our lands is frosty. Snow falls down in a thick layer. When people walk, it creaks underfoot. It freezes at night. In the afternoon I walk in the courtyard, and at night I lay down on the mat at the entrance.
When I look at the frozen bench in the yard, everything was burning inside me. I could see the Master was sitting in it. And me laying at his feet. Sometimes he sat on his knees. He looked into the distance and sat up thinking. Sometimes he talked on the phone. At the same time, he would scratched my ear with one hand. How I miss those days!
Sometimes I wander around the garden. Every tree in this garden was planted by the Master himself. On warm days we went to water them together. I bit the hose for irrigation, became wet under the splashing water. The Master grabbed me gently and pulled out from under the water, stroking my wet hair. How I miss those days!
My Master’s children don’t play in the courtyard as they used to.
When their father was alive, a children’s Snow Town was built in the courtyard, he was happy when he poured an ice rink in the middle of the yard for his grandchildren. The Master played snowballs with them. His favourite daughter would hang on to her father’s neck along with his grandchildren, knocking down the large man. I, too, did not lag behind them, grabbed and pulled at the chapan. How I miss those days!
On a soft rug, I tend to sleep, as soon as I fall asleep, I see the Master. We walk around the town together. I can also see how he took me to the park near the house, when the traffic subsided. The Master sat thinking on the bench under the trees. I ran back and forth, admiring the rays of the setting sun, which peeked through the leaves of trees. I drank water in the fountains. And when I run back to the Master, I wake up…
After a while, the beloved daughter and her mother stopped showing up. Their relatives fed me. As if loss of the Master was little to me, now the others have gone somewhere. I missed them too…
This melancholy oppresses my soul. Will the Master ever come back?! Why won’t he come. Can I go look for him?! I know the way. Even if I decide to go, the iron gates will never open to me. And those who came and went did not forget to close them. They are careful not to let the dog didn’t run away.
But one time the Master’s relatives left the gate open to clear out the snow. They didn’t think that I would escape and went into the house. I took advantage of this and ran without looking back. I headed for the cemetery where my Master lay. I ran and ran along the road I knew. If my short paws got sucked into a snowdrift, I got out of it and kept running. Without getting off the right path, I found the cemetery. This place is so quiet, without a single living soul. As if all turned into stones and froze inside the fences. My Master, too, froze. I saw the Master on the photo. He looked at me. The same piercing eyes that he had when he was sitting on a bench! The wind must have opened the fence door, and the snow that fell made it remain half open. I squeezed myself through, lay down on a white hillock and thought about the MASTER. I was longing so much that I even forgot that there is another life in this world, that I need to eat. In my mind there was only the place with his image, and the days we spent together. And so I lay… I lay…