by Patricia Diane Olson
There was once a little white dog named Lacy. Now Lacy was a very pretty dog with freckles on her nose and long, silky ears. And lovely little white, stubby teeth. Yes, teeth. Because Lacy was the only dog ever that smiled. Really smiled, showing off her teeth whenever she was happy. And wagging her tail and wiggling her little bottom till the freckles on her nose danced. If you saw her you couldn’t help but love her. At least that’s what you’d think. Because Lacy wasn’t always loved. In fact, for a long time, she was very unloved, despite the smiles, the wiggly tail, and the freckles.
When she was only a Pup, she was bought by a man who wanted to train her to be a watch dog. He sent to a mean, mean, school where all they did was yell and wave sticks, sometimes even using them to smack. Still little Lacy wagged her tail and wiggled and smiled, sometimes even tried to roll onto her back to have her tummy rubbed. But this was no tummy-rubbing place; no place for smiles either. Somehow, though, Lacy got through it.
But bad things for Lacy were not over. Soon she found herself outdoors on a chain, in the summer’s heat and the winter’s cold for hours and hours, just waiting to be let back indoors. She was so hot and thirsty, or so cold and wet — and so scared — that she shook till her pretty teeth chattered. She couldn’t even muster a smile if she tried.
When she was finally allowed back indoors, first thing she’d do was smile and wag and wiggle, hoping for a teeny bit of love and approval for all of her good behaviour. But she didn’t even get a pet, never mind a hug or a kiss. Instead, she was scolded for not being a good enough watch dog. Good enough watch dog! Had she ever heard the like! Not only did she not want to bark at all those nice people who passed by, but she wished one of them would come up to her and pet her and maybe take her home!
Then one day she decided to do it – she’d growl at one of those good souls. And so she did (albeit, very reluctantly). And then when he lets me in, she told herself, the rewards will be waiting - there’ll be a nice fire and I’ll curl up at his feet with a nice bone. And maybe, just maybe, if I smile and wag and wiggle enough, I’ll get a hug. Not a chance. No hugs. No kisses. No pets. Not even a kind word, even though Lacy nearly smiled her face off. No bone either. Just stale water, some mushy old food, and the cold back porch to sleep in.
There were some evenings when the grouch – what else could she call him? – had his friends over. They sat around the kitchen table and played cards. Lacy went from one to the other, smiling, wiggling and wagging for each and every one of them. But all each and every one of them did was send her back to the dark, cold porch.
Sometimes, the grouch went out. Now you would think little Lacy would have been glad. But she wasn’t. Not at all. Because before he left, he locked her in that awful old porch where she had to wait all day for him to come back. And when he did return, he didn’t even say hello, just put her outside on her chain and locked the door.
It was getting harder and harder for Lacy to smile and wag and wiggle, that was for sure. Some days she didn’t smile even once. Then one day the doorbell rang and a nice lady came to the door. Her voice was soft and gentle and sounded to Lacy just like music. The first thing the nice lady did when she saw little Lacy hiding in the porch was exclaim:
“Oh, what a lovely dog!”
She was just about to reach out and touch Lacy when the grouch barked: “Leave her alone. Don’t give her the soft stuff! She’s a watch dog!”
The nice lady withdrew her hand and left. After that, Lacy felt so sad and so lonely that two big tears welled up in her eyes. But no one even saw them.
A long time passed like this and soon Lacy stopped smiling, wiggling and wagging altogether. In fact, she hardly even lifted her tail anymore.
It was one day in deep, dark winter, while Lacy was lying in the cold porch that the doorbell rang and she heard the nice lady’s voice again, just like music. This time, to Lacy’s surprise, the nice lady walked right over to her and gave her a great, big hug. Just like that. Lacy thumped her tail.
But she was wary. Would the nice lady leave again and then she’d be stuck with the grouch? So she kept all the smiles, wags and wiggles that she felt inside for the nice lady all to herself.
I’ll bet you can’t even guess what happened next?
Lacy surely couldn’t. That nice lady marched right over to the grouch, handed him some pieces of paper and said, “She’s my dog now.”
To which he replied, “Good riddance. Take the useless thing.”
That was the last Lacy ever saw or heard from the grouch. Because right after that the nice lady snapped onto Lacy’s collar and nice jeweled leash and walked her right out of the grouch’s house. Lacy didn’t even look back. It she could have talked she would have shot back the words over her shoulder, “I am not useless!”
But she couldn’t, so she just trotted alongside her new owner to her car - where she rode in the front seat, with a nice warm blanket to snuggle under, all the way home.
Not even in her wildest dreams (and we all know how doggies dream) could Lacy have pictured such a nice den. There were soft armchairs everywhere. And fuzzy rugs. And as soon as she got inside, the nice lady lit a huge, crackling fire in the big, brick fireplace. Lacy lay down in front of it on one of the fuzzy rugs and was served – yes, served – her supper — a nice stew followed by fresh water. And for dessert, the biggest, juiciest bone ever, which she gnawed on for the entire evening, until bedtime, when the two of them toodled off to bed. For the first time in her life, Lacy slept up high on a real bed. So soft and fluffy, it felt as if she were sleeping on a puff of cloud.
Soon spring came and Lacy and the nice lady went splashing through all the puddles they could find, the nice lady wearing high rubber boots. Then in summer she took Lacy for long walks in the woods behind their house where she picked flowers while Lacy chased butterflies and birds. When autumn came, the nice lady raked huge piles of leaves and gathered nuts and berries; Lacy chased squirrels and mice. Then it was winter time again with long, dark nights and a crackling fire.
All the year round, Lacy loved her new life, days filled with fun and nights with comfort in her forever home. But what she loved best of all was that every time she wagged, she got a kiss; every time she wiggled, she got a hug; and every time she smiled, she got both.