My earliest memory is that of being parted from my mother, I was taken away for my own safety. It was the saddest day of my life and I cried for days; my new companions, all youngsters of my generation and orphans like me, were a help but could not substitute for the loss of my mother. The orphanage was not huge and during the day roughly thirty of us roamed between the two rooms; however, at night only the youngest stayed in this part of the building. Whether out of frustration, panic or fear, the floor became my toilet and I suppose it was because of this that I was introduced to the ‘cage’. There was no subtlety to the introduction, I was thrust through the metal gate and given a bowl of water and a bowl of food; unfortunately for me, both were outside the cage and whilst tantalisingly close they were still out of reach.
At first I was only allowed out to use the toilet, that is, if I had not fouled the inside of the cage. The punishment for the afore mentioned took the form of me being frog marched outside and made to stand in the toilet area until I had completed whichever bodily function I needed at the time. Once I could be trusted by the owners of the orphanage not to foul inside the cage they allowed me to go outside for some exercise which could take place either before or after me going to the toilet in the designated area. What didn’t help was the fact that I spoke an entirely different language to the owners; like all detainees, I had to rely on the severity of the voice when being commanded do something and my ability to interpret any sign language that they might use.
Then, one day, I think that we had been at the orphanage for about one month, a stranger arrived. He wore all white and he had a lady assistant dressed identically. We were all marched up to him and the lady took our names and made us sit and wait for the stranger. When my name was called I was taken into another room and put onto a table. The stranger ran his hands all over my body and forced (what I now know to be a thermometer, because I heard the word so often), a glass tube into my bottom; very uncomfortable I can tell you. Then I was held tightly by another person whilst the man dressed in white stuck a needle in me. It stung for a while but the sting soon wore off, I am pretty sure that the man in white said that the needle was a ‘noculation’, or something like that. To this day, I still don’t know why I needed a ‘noculation’. After that he pulled the tube from out of my bottom, shook it, held it up to the light and then threw it away; very strange indeed. We were then all marched to the bathroom and given a good scrubbing by our tormentors; I remember crying because the foul smelling soap that was used got into my eyes and made them hurt like Hell. Once we had been rinsed off we were all towelled down and our hair was dried with a hair dryer. The good thing was that we were all treated to extra food after the man in the white coat had gone.
Shortly after the visit from the man in white we were all required to parade in front of strangers; I remember that there was a lot of excitement amongst the older ones when this happened. Before the parade we all had to take a bath or a shower after which, our nails were neatly trimmed and our hair was combed and brushed so that it gleamed. We were informed that we had to be looking our best when these days were organised so that the strangers who came to see us parade would take some of us away and give us new homes. I say informed, a lot of it was guesswork and plain old intuition because the language was still a major obstacle.
It was on my second parade and after another visit by the man in white that I was taken out of the parade and made to stand in front of two of the strangers. I remember that they smelled really weird and the most annoying thing was that they insisted on picking me up, holding me so that my face was level with theirs and then laughing and giggling. It was quite frightening and I had a little accident when they put me back on the floor; they seemed to think that this was amusing as well. The next thing that happened was that I was put into a smaller cage than the one that I had been living in and the two strangers carried me to an even bigger cage where they deposited me and then climbed in themselves.
What really frightened me about this cage was that it moved all by itself and I found it difficult to stay on my feet. Again, the strangers found my discomfort amusing, and continued giggling and then commenting about me in that strange language of theirs.
Do they not realise that we Cocker Spaniels have some dignity!
©Phil Bottomley 2015