Paw Tracks Here and Abroad: A Dog's Tale by James Mikel Wilson by James Mikel Wilson - Read Online

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Paw Tracks Here and Abroad - James Mikel Wilson

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Paw Tracks Here and Abroad is a book for children of all ages. It chronicles the adventures of Snickers, a stray dog with a strong will to survive. When Snickers is adopted by a family in Peoria, Illinois, she quickly becomes part of the family—but that doesn’t keep her from trying to escape whenever the opportunity presents itself! Over her twenty-two long years as a beloved member of the Wilson family, Snickers moves across the country and halfway across the world, makes new friends, observes and engages in bizarre behaviors, and experiences the thrill of encountering other cultures. A Dog’s Tale is Snickers’ story, told from a dog’s-eye view.

Animals make the world a better place. Let us then make a better place for animals. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) was established in 1866 as the first humane society in North America, and today maintains programs that extend its anticruelty and animal welfare missions across the country. Snickers and the author are proud supporters of the ASPCA® and its mission, including encouraging pet adoption.

First Sniff and High Five

Like our previous dog, Chancey, Snickers strayed into our family quite unexpectedly. She looked like she had been in a spat with an alley cat, with gobs of hair missing and patches of skin showing. What little hair remained was matted and dirty. It was clear that she had recently given birth to puppies, but they weren’t with her. Who knows how long she had been wandering the streets? Apparently she possessed enough courage and spirit to beg for handouts wherever she could get them. When those were unavailable, she no doubt devoured scraps and garbage and whatever else nature had to offer to stay alive.

How such a sad creature as Snickers, exhausted and thirsty, survived the neighborhoods and countryside to arrive at our front door has remained a mystery. An even bigger mystery is why we invited her into our home! The answer may simply be that she needed a home and we had one to give.

But something about her caught our eye. As poorly as life treated her, Snickers demonstrated a friendly disposition and a playful character. Even in a bad outfit, we could see that she was working hard to make a good impression on us during her first interview.

Over the next two decades, Snickers proved time and again how unusual she was. There were many sides to her personality: survivor, comedian, clown, watchdog, show dog, lady, tramp, explorer, diplomat, snuggler, eager pupil, teacher.

Before I give Snickers center stage so she can tell her story in first person, I’ll tell you a little more about how she recovered from her trauma and became a rescue dog. In Snickers’ world, these introductions would be different. Dogs meet and greet one another with a friendly and curious round of ritual sniffing to size one another up. In addition to their eyes and ears, dogs can learn a lot about another critter by using their noses! Not only can they tell whether the other dog is a male or female, they seem to be able to sense how young or old the other is, and whether that creature is friendly. They are more casual and informal around a puppy than an adult or old dog. But since you probably wouldn’t like the dog kingdom’s approach to hello, Snickers has agreed to give you a high-five handshake.

At the time that Snickers begins to tell her story in the next chapter, she is about twenty-two years old, a terrier weighing slightly less than twenty pounds and standing fifteen inches at the hip. Snickers still sports a luxurious black, silver, and tan coat. When she hasn’t been to the groomer in a while, she takes on the appearance of a shrunken sheep dog. Her weight and waistline remained pretty constant throughout adulthood, in part because we always watched how much and what she ate and made sure she got plenty of exercise. The tip of her tail ends in a corkscrew, which we tease her about, saying perhaps we could use it to pull corks from wine bottles.

As she blissfully sits by my foot in front of a warm fireplace on a cold, raw, damp southern winter day in Houston, I do notice that she has a few more gray hairs than she used to, but nothing that would reveal her true age. Our vet, Dr. Barry Schmitt from Stuebner Airline Veterinary Hospital, estimates that if Snickers were human, she would be about 125 years old. She is his favorite geriatric patient and he takes great pride in preserving her health.

Snickers pursued life to the fullest whenever the world opened a door to her for adventures and new opportunities, and what follows is Snickers’ story. She wants to begin sharing it with you while she is still alive and her mind is sufficiently clear to recollect events and places in some detail.

Because you are clearly special and love animals (or you would not have chosen this book), Snickers wishes to entertain and amuse you with her experiences in moving around the world, exploring with boundless curiosity, staying healthy, and growing older. She wants to tell you how it all got started and where it ended up. As you will soon see, some aspects of her life have been pretty bizarre.

Chapter One

Abandoned, Seeking a New Home and Identity

My recollections of early puppyhood are a bit vague. I don’t remember my brothers and sisters in any detail. I am told that in my formative first few weeks, I spent most of my time napping, eating, messing, and tussling with my siblings . . . nothing too memorable. If we got too bold and started to escape, I recall Mom using her jaws to gently grab us by the napes of our necks and return us to the warm blanket in the straw basket. Even at an early age, I was usually the puppy who ventured the farthest from the nest.

I vaguely remember leaving the litter and receiving my mom’s last lick goodbye. Just a youngster and not worldly at all, I was frightened as I entered the home of the complete strangers who adopted me. I whimpered for days and was very lonely.

I will spare you how awfully I was treated by those owners over the next couple of years. If I’d had the choice, I would not have chosen them to be my new family. When the opportunity presented itself, I darted out the front door and never looked back.

After escaping from the intolerable conditions of that home, I strayed into my next owners’ lives in 1982. Mr. Jim, Mrs. Kathy, and their son Kevin had recently moved to Peoria, Illinois, a town better known for Cats than dogs. It is the worldwide headquarters for Caterpillar Inc., a manufacturer of very large yellow machines.

Mr. Jim is fascinated with history, and wherever we encounter an outdoor monument, he reads it to the family despite their protests. So listening to him, I learned a lot about many U.S. presidents. For instance, I was born in Illinois, the Land of Lincoln, the eleventh president of the United States.

Just six months before my arrival, my owners buried Chancey, my predecessor, another stray dog who had enchanted their lives for almost ten years. Chancey jumped into the back seat of their car at the Eat Here and Get Gas station in Merrimack, New Hampshire. This countryside establishment was featured on the front page of Time Magazine years ago because of its name. Get it?

Anyway, Chancey got her name because she arrived entirely by chance. From the pictures my owners showed me, she looked just like a German shepherd, but was about half that size.

Chancey saved Mrs. Kathy’s life once when an intruder broke into the house on a cold, snowy winter evening. Chancey scared him off with ferocity and bravado that belied her much smaller physique, and stayed by Mrs. Kathy’s side behind a