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Loving Corka

Love has no boundaries.

Crikey can go anywhere with me and he doesn’t have to wear clothes. He only wears a medal and a collar. This year his medal is red. Last year it was blue. Before that it was green and it didn’t suit him. He only has his collar replaced when needed. He’s proud of his outfit. He should be; it’s better than mine. He’s never worn clothes and he’s old.

I’m envious. I can’t go anywhere naked. It’s illegal, even though I was born naked. My best suit is my birthday suit. It seems crazy that I should have to wear clothes over it. They are inferior. My Mum insists though. It’s not fair. My Mum said that if I was hairy like Crikey and made my arms into legs it might help. Also, he has a medal which tells everyone that it’s ok because Crikey is a dog. There are so many things I envy him for.

I started with the hair. I bugged my Mum until she bought vitamin tablets for me. I didn’t tell her why I wanted them. I took them for more than a month and it made no difference. I tried rubbing raw egg on my body and all it did was make a mess. My efforts were secret; very secret. I practiced barking. I tried scratching my head with my toes. It wasn’t easy but I got better at it.

After school I always went to Mr. Ebb’s place. He had six greyhounds and I helped with their training. My favorite was Corka. Mr. Ebb encouraged me to help with her training. It was wonderful. He let me take Corka for long walks. It didn’t take long and I was doing all of Corka’s training. I took her to the track and taught her to chase the mechanical hare after the gate opened. I brushed her and stroked her. She was beautiful. Mr. Ebb gave me plenty of advice.

“Don’t get too close to her,” he kept saying. I didn’t think it was fair that only Corka was training. I trained with her and I was too slow. I wanted to be faster so I could keep up with her. The experiments started. My legs and arms were longer than hers. Why couldn’t I run as fast? I started to sneak in to see Corka at night. She licked me and pushed her cold nose against me as I unchained her.

Secretly, at night, with Corka, I started to walk like a dog, not on hands and knees but on fingers and toes. It was difficult to run, but I learned. It’s not easy to pull one’s hind legs forward and outside of one’s front legs. I had to trot first, then canter and when I was fast enough I could gallop. I didn’t only use my legs, I used my back like it was an extension of my legs and with it was able to generate speed and power.

I learned how to thrust forward with my hind legs to land on my front legs which pulled me forward as my hind legs positioned themselves for another thrust. In time my fingers and toes became very strong. The whole of my body was involved, it took a lot of effort and hurt my back but the speed was exhilarating. The more I ran, the more I wanted to.

For a long time I was too slow. Corka watched me as I trained. Sometimes we played, she ran around me as I tried to catch her. One day I caught her. My fingers and toes had thickened and strengthened. There was more spring to my run.

When we were both exhausted we lay together and shared each other’s warmth for a time before we went back to the kennel. I could talk to Corka. Though she couldn’t speak I could understand her. We had wonderful conversations. She would lick me and touch me with her nose. I stroked and kissed her, we both wanted to win.

Some nights we were too tired to train and I would sleep with her in her kennel. She knew I shouldn’t be there and would gently lick me to wake me in the morning. Before my parents and Mr. Ebb got up, I went home so I would be found in my bed.

Every month Corka raced. She loved it. I wanted to run with her, but Mr. Ebb said the races were only for greyhounds and that Crikey wouldn’t be able to race. If a Jack Russell terrier like Crikey couldn’t run in the race, I knew it would be impossible for me. If I was allowed to run, I thought I might win.

I learned to sit and to lie. When no one was looking, I tried to eat out of a bowl, without knife, fork, spoon or fingers and I licked the bowl clean. Dog food tastes funny. I also learned to drink from a bowl.

Eventually, I thought I had the qualifications. I wasn’t hairy, but some dogs aren’t. I had also saved the money. With the amount of pocket money I received, it had taken a long time.

I walked to the council chambers and stood in the queue. It was exciting. When it was my turn I walked to the counter. I got the money out of my pocket and pushed it towards the woman.

“What’s this for?” she asked.

“I want to register a dog.”

“Has the dog been registered before?” she asked.

“No,” I assured her. She got out a piece of paper and started to write. As she looked over her glasses she asked all the questions and wrote the details on the certificate. Some of the questions were tricky and I made the answer up. I only wanted the medal. I didn’t want them to know who I was!

She counted the money and handed the medal to me. I was so excited, I couldn’t wait. I took the collar from my pocket and attached the medal. Then I put it around my neck and did up the buckle. She watched. I think she was trying to say something. I quickly took off my clothes and dropped them beside the counter. My new red medal didn’t go with them at all.

I heard a voice,

“What do you think you’re doing?” and another voice,

“Get your clothes back on!” it said, but I was too excited to take any notice.

A man in the queue stepped forward and tried to grab me. I dropped down onto all fours and growled at him. He jumped back. Another man tried to tackle me. I started to run. I only got to a canter. The door was closed and I couldn’t get out. My paws wouldn’t grip the handle. I cocked my leg up against the door frame and wee’d. I couldn’t help it. I ran to another part of the room. It was too small for me to be fast. More men came and they looked at me. I snarled back and showed my teeth.

They surrounded me in the corner of the room. I growled again. One came closer and I threatened to bite. He leapt back. Suddenly the door opened and I ran. I knocked two men down as I went between them. A security guard came through the open door. I went past him as I galloped at top speed. Outside I howled with my success. On toe and finger tips I ran, my red medal swung as it hung from the collar around my neck.

It was raining. Perhaps it was just as well because no one saw me. I found my stash of clothes, took off my collar and medal, and dressed. My Mum was in the kitchen and I said hello as I passed her.

That night, on the news there was an item about a savage boy/ dog. The lady who had helped me was interviewed. A policeman also had a talk and it seemed that the boy/ dog had given a false address. I laughed.

My Mum was watching me. She watched for a long time. I could see her wondering but she said nothing.

In a few days an athletics meet was to take place. I had to be there. I’d sent in the entry forms. They had official, electronic timing. I wanted to know how fast I was.

At the starting line I waited. There were others who walked around; I was the only one without shoes. They wobbled their muscles as I stretched my back and took deep breaths. I went to the starter’s podium and wee’d on it. Everyone was watching as I cocked my leg but no one said anything. They looked embarrassed. Soon we were called to the starting line. I took the starting blocks away and took off my shirt. My red medal hung from my collar. The starter got onto the podium.

When the gun went off I stripped off my shorts and, naked, I started. The others had a big lead but I went from trot to canter and quickly into a gallop. I stretched out and with big strides, on finger and toe tips, caught up with the others. Then I increased speed and felt the wind in my hair as my fingers and toes drummed on the turf.

With my mouth open I sucked in air and yelped with the pleasure. I ran faster than I had ever run and was quickly over the finish line. I looked back and saw that the other runners had stopped. They were watching me. I stopped and looked back at them. I sat, and with my toes I scratched my ear. Then I stood and with my head up, I howled. I’d won the race easily.

There was silence all around the arena. I could feel the eyes on me. I howled again and stood to look back at them. People were beginning to move. I ran along the track to its end and away, into the area with trees, where I could put on the clothes I’d stashed.

Dressed, I left. I went home and turned on the T.V. My Mum sat and watched with me as I waited. Soon, I was on. I’d slashed the time for one hundred metres. There was film of me running, I’d never seen me run before and I watched as my hind legs stretched forward and carried me through with a massive thrust to touch my finger tips on the ground. I watched the balance and my back as it transmitted the power. There was commentary- disbelief, mixed with laughter and wow.

I couldn’t wait. I got up and went to see Corka. Together we went to the track and we sat. I kissed her and told her of my win. She licked me and rubbed her head against me. She was very pleased. We trained lightly that day but had a race. It was good. I ran faster than at the athletics meet because I already had my clothes off to start. Corka tried to keep up with me but with the excitement of the day I had energy.

Corka walked to me at the finish line and we stood as we gathered our breaths. Her eyes twinkled with pride, she had trained me well. She told me to enter another race, a race in which I really would be tested. We practiced our starts and how we jumped out of the box when it opened.

The evening arrived. I’d entered the same race that Mr. Ebb had entered Corka in. I waited with both of them, anxious about our prospects. Mr. Ebb was relaxed. He’d learnt to be as Corka had a long winning streak. It was the top race of the season and he was confident Corka would win the cup.

It was time. We walked out of the kennel and into the arena where we paraded around. We walked behind the starting line. Then Corka went into her starting box. The gate was secured behind her. I moved up near the boxes and pretended to watch. I was as close to the starting line as a handler could get. My box was empty. I had to get into it to start. I waited. Mr. Ebb was watching me. There was a strange look on his face.

Suddenly, the gates went up and the race started. I stripped off my clothes and ran to my box. Through the back gate and out of the front gate I went, and on the track I stretched out. I ran, with my medal so bright, as fast as I could. My back screamed with pain as it powered my legs.

At the turn I caught up with the back runners and with half the race to go I put in more effort. I caught up with Corka and looked at her. She looked back and I could see she was telling me to go. I quickened the rhythm of running, and balanced, I ran past the mechanical hare.

There was noise in the stadium. The hubbub of the crowd was huge. I could hear the cheers and noise. They’d heard about me. I saw the camera flash as I crossed the line and stopped. Corka came second and we kissed as we touched. I looked around, the crowds in the stadium were cheering. I stood, scratched myself and howled. Corka was excited and jumped around me. She touched her nose to me and ran circles around me.

It was time to go. We ran and looked for a way out. There was nowhere. We ran the arena circuit and there was no escape. The gates were shut. I could see people approaching me. They were trying to catch me. I howled again. They came closer. I ran to a corner of the track. There was nowhere else to go. I watched them as Corka got closer to me. We waited, looked around and tried to find an escape. They were so close. I growled at them. They talked but I couldn’t understand them. There was a small gap. I cocked my leg and wee’d as I watched. Corka growled.

Between two men I saw a space. Quickly I ran. I knocked a man down but another had hold of me. More hands grabbed me and I turned to snarl, I bit one man and tried to bite another as I felt a needle go in. After I was injected they let me go. I stood and tried to find an exit. There was nowhere. The drug was working. I walked around trying to find a way out. I tried to stay on my feet. The drug was strong. I felt my front legs buckle and…

Slowly I woke. I was in a room, on blankets on the floor. There was a tube running into my arm. With my teeth I pulled it out. Blood flowed and I watched. I looked for Corka, couldn’t see her and sniffed around the room for something familiar. There were no windows, only a door. I went to it and tried to open it. My paws couldn’t grip the handle. I lay on the bedding. The bleeding stopped and I slept.

I saw a cup of water. My mouth was dry and I was thirsty. I tried to drink but it was impossible. I tipped the cup over and lapped up the water. I could see a camera. It was tracking me. There was food on a tray. I sniffed it, saw the bread and knew it wasn’t for me. I walked up and down the room. I was worried about Corka. I looked for an escape but there was none. I lay on the bedding and watched the door as I waited. I had to wee. I went to scratch at the door to get out. I was locked in. I needed to go outside.

There was a hole in the door. It opened and an eye looked in. I got up and moved away. I heard a bolt move and the door opened. There were lots of people outside looking in. It made me whimper. I lifted my leg and wee’d. Slowly men approached. I snarled at them. They didn’t stop. They were getting closer. I tried to bite the closest one. The others jumped and held me. I felt the needle. It hurt. When they took it out they left. I tried to lick where the needle had been. Quickly I was asleep again.

I had no idea how long I’d been there. I missed Corka terribly. Every time I woke I was being injected. I needed to shit but couldn’t. They kept putting people food in the room. It wasn’t for me.

Eventually, I heard it.

“Sit!” I sat.

“Lie!” I lay down. A man came into the room. He put two bowls on the floor. One had water in it. Someone passed him a can and with a spoon he filled the other bowl with food. Then he left the room. I heard the bolt slide to lock the door. I stood and approached the bowls. I drank water, lots of it. I ate everything in the bowl and licked it clean. Then I lay on the bedding.

Days passed and three times a day I was fed. I only ate once a day and they took out the food I didn’t eat. A new bowl appeared with dried food in it. To pass the time I often took something and chewed it. Slowly, I developed trust in the person bringing the food. I stood and waited, sat and lay without command. One day the person extended his hand to me. I sniffed it and withdrew. Next day, when he did the same, I gave his hand a lick. For a week it was the same. Then one day he reached beyond and patted my neck. I was very surprised and got up to get away. He spoke softly to me,

“Sit,” he kept saying. Next day he did the same and I lay as he stroked my neck a few times. Every day he tried to stroke me and I let him extend the area. A new word was added.

“Come.” I approached and he told me to sit. I sat and he stroked me. One day, he waited for me to eat and as he was leaving the room, he said,

“Come.” I wasn’t sure what to do and looked at him. He waited a little while.

“Ok,” he said, as he left. Next day, the same happened and I followed him. We went out into a corridor. I looked for Corka. People moved into the room with mops and buckets. We went to a shower room and there he told me to sit. He tried to take my collar and medal off but stopped when I growled. I sat as he turned on the hose and with lots of soap and flannels he washed me, then with towels he dried me. He was very gentle.

“Come,” he said and I followed him back to the room.

Next day he came to me early and I followed him. It was wonderful to be out of the room. People were all around and I knew he would protect me. “Come,” he said and I followed him. “Sit,” he said, and I sat. Where ever we went I was watched. People were interested in me.

Next day he came early. We went to the shower room and I was washed. Then he brought my bowl of food and I ate. I followed him everywhere. Then we went to a room and I saw my parents- a lot of other people were in the room too and it was wonderful to see them. I looked for Corka. I wagged my bottom as I approached and rolled onto my back. My Mum reached and stroked my chest as my Dad watched. Then my Mum started to cry and my Dad did too. I got to my feet and gave her hand a lick.

“Come,” I heard. I turned, went to the man and we left the room. We went to my room and I was bolted inside.

Next day my Mum and Dad came again. I met them in the same room. Mr. Ebb was there too and I looked around for Corka. I rolled over to be patted again. Mr. Ebb must have left the room because after a while I heard something. I looked. I knew the sound. I got up and there, beside Mr. Ebb was Corka. I went to her and licked her face. I was crying. She was too. She stood and looked at me. She’d lost a lot of weight. I gave her face another lick and went down on my haunches to stretch. She did the same. Suddenly we were running, around the room, first she chased me and then I chased her. She was beautiful.

Someone must have opened the door because suddenly we were outside the room racing up and down the corridor. I couldn’t resist giving her licks. Everyone was watching us. It was beautiful. Eventually we were exhausted and we lay down as we gathered our breath.

Every day Corka came to see me with Mr. Ebb. We were very happy when we were together. I loved her so much. A week later Corka came to stay. We slept, ate and showered together. The man walked around with us following him. We had the same visitors and shared the pats and special treats they brought. Many of the visitors I’d never seen before.

******************************************

On the wall of our room someone put pictures of us winning races. Corka had run more than me but mine were apparently interesting. There was a story written about us which was pinned to the wall. “A celebration of capability developed into ability”. But that wasn’t the point. It was about “the wind on our faces, the rhythm of the body, the stretch of muscles, the use of bone coordinated into a whole that fuelled the imagination with more challenges.” I read that one day, a caption under a picture, and I wondered. It had never occurred to me. Corka thought it was “very self indulgent”. I laughed and gave her a quick lick. Once I had sought to justify my life. Now, I was living it, a constant celebration with Corka beside me.

I knew I wouldn’t get any faster, my body was changing and though it was stronger, I had more weight to carry and wasn’t as fast. I was losing some of my agility. My hands were useless for anything else and with their flexibility gone they looked increasingly like paws with thick calluses on my finger and toe tips. My back and abdomen were strong and I had difficulty standing on two legs. I don’t think the doctors understood. Corka did and that was all that mattered.

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