The Adventures of Cletus
Cleet, Cleet Runs Away
Copyright ©2012 Barbie Perkins-Cooper, All Rights Reserved
Thursday, November 8, 2012, was a bitter day, with an early and cold winter’s chill, the first for the fall in Charleston, South Carolina. The morning sunshine could not warm the grounds of the coastal area where Cletus rested. He sniffed the coldness under his belly. Shivering, he was so tired, weak and getting thinner every day.
How long has it been since he ran away? Although he struggled to remember, his brain was tired from so many nights of little sleep. He dug deeper under the house. He heard the noise of a motor. Someone’s coming. I need to hide. She might see me again and this time, she might catch me.
With his docked tail tucked between his legs, he rushed away. The dark skinned lady with white hair knew where he hid at night. She tried without luck to catch him, but he always managed to move quicker than her crimpled body would permit. Her arthritic legs would not bend so she could stoop down to get him. Cletus knew how to outsmart humans. Yes, they were taller than he was. Bigger, and humans had long arms that stretched out with fingers that felt more like shovels than something warm to touch him. His sandy blonde and cream colored fur usually kept him warm, but this morning it was cold in Mt. Pleasant.
Cletus looked back as he moved. Why can’t I run like I did when I ran away? Why is every step feeling like I will fall and never get up?
Cletus crept down under the bushes. She could not see him here. “Here little puppy. Come here to me. I got some food for you. You look so skinny. I just want to feed you little puppy.” The lady walked with a cane, dragging it behind her as she shook the food bowl. For three early mornings, Cletus ate the food, warm with runny looking yellow grains of corn, oats, bread, egg, and other ingredients. Cletus didn’t care what it was. He ate every bite, wanting more.
Cletus heard the softness of a human voice before, at the house where he escaped. The woman living there was blonde, with big green eyes, colorful red fingernails and a sweet sounding voice, and a great smile. Every time Cletus looked at her, she smiled at him. Yes, her voice was a nicer tone than before…in the puppy mill. When Cletus lived there all he ever heard was a harsh shouting of Move…get on over there…do your work boy…now get! Cletus knew what to do, and he rushed away before the bald headed man with a belly that jiggled every time he moved, turned the water hose on again. He didn’t want to get wet again. The waters stung him every time they hit his tiny body. The waters made him feel like he was drowning. He didn’t want to drown. He hated when the man picked up the shovel, grabbed him, throwing him into the next kennel where a frightened girl dog shook next to him. He wanted to hear the soft voice again…the gentle voice and the sweet words, “Cleet…Cleet…Come on Little Buddy. It’s OK. No one will hurt you here.”
Cleetus curled into a ball to get warm. His tired eyes closed. Cleet. Cleet. He dreamed. The soft, musical voice of a woman soothed his tired, emaciated body. Cleet….Cleet…Hi, Little Buddy. It’s ok. No one will ever hurt you here. Your sadness ends, starting today.
Isn’t that what the blonde headed human said when she met him? The day he left Maddy, his little black schnauzer friend, and the vet’s office? Yes, she called me Cleet…Cleet. I didn’t know what it meant, so I jumped out of her arms. Humans hurt. I was afraid she might hurt me while smiling at me. If only I could find my way back to the place. The red brick house with a gold car in the front and a white ornament next to it. There were trees in the yard. Sweet Jasmine. A magnolia tree. Dogs…Dogs barked at me. Dogs played with me. Dogs told me I would be happy here. One dog, a salt and pepper color talked to me, telling me I would be happy here, but he said I had to learn the rules. Try not to poop on the floor. If you have to poop, do it on the doggie papers, or wait until you’re outside. Cletus didn’t like the outside. He didn’t like rules. He wanted to make his decisions. He was scared.
The world outside is a cold, cruel world. Cars are on the road. Kids rush around and on bikes. Bells rang during the day from a big brick building with lots of children. When they’re on bikes, they play games, trying to run over me. Just like today. A boy in a gray hoodie and jeans rode on a bike. When he saw me on the sidewalk, he darted over to me. “Get out of the way you stupid dog.” The bike tires caught up to Cletus, but he ran, not as fast as before; he managed to scatter away from the bike, bumping into a fence. The gate was open. Cletus rushed to the corner of the fence, waiting for the boy to come after him. The boy stopped the bike. “Stupid dog. You’re nothing but a scaredy cat! You know I can’t go back there. Stupid…stupid dog!”
Cletus took a deep breath. He fell fast asleep. If only he could find his way back to the red brick house.
Dreaming again, he thought of the place he left. If only he hadn’t been so curious. Walking around the fence, he found a loose piece of wood. His feet scratched at it. The soil was soft. Before he knew it, the hole was big enough for him to slide through. He looked back, at the door. The blonde headed lady with a sweet voice wasn’t there. Cletus wasn’t certain he should leave, but something inside of him said Run. Go on. Set yourself free…where humans can’t hurt you. Go…Run!
The dogs told him he was in a safe house. Shakespeare, the alpha dog, teased him, but he could tell that Shakespeare, Sandy Bear, and Shadow were happy in the red house. Shakespeare didn’t know what a cruel world it was. Sandy Bear knew. Sandy Bear was the same color of Cletus. He told Cletus he might want to give these humans a chance. Sandy Bear barked, “If you give her a chance, you’ll love her. She pets you. She rubs your belly, and at night, she lets you snuggle up close to her. Sometimes she sings to us. We watch TV together. Sometimes we watch doggie shows, and she laughs, telling us Doggies on TV. And if you’re scared when storms happen, she’ll hold you close and sing to you. Such a soft and sweet voice, you’ll feel safe and warm. She doesn’t raise her hands to hit you, and she’ll give you treats and make sure you eat well. There’s no violence here. Ever.”
Shakespeare jumped. “Violence?” He barked. “What’s violence?”
“Oh get real,” Shadow interrupted. “Don’t you know what violence is? I forgot – you came to this house when you were a puppy. No one’s ever been mean to you.” Shadow was midnight black, a giant schnauzer that loved to jump high in the air. Tall with wiry fur that shined in the sun, Shadow pranced around with grace. “Violence is when humans throw their hands up and hit you. Sometimes they’ll kick you with their big feet with hard shoes. And sometimes they’ll get a shovel, and poke it at you. Sometimes the shovel cuts. It hurts. Humans don’t give you food. And if you tear up things, they’ll take you for a ride and drop you off somewhere. You’ll end up sleeping outside in the dark of night. Alone. You’ll have to find your own food. Maybe that’s why I love to catch squirrels. Humans are mean. But Mommy and Daddy, well, they’re from a different world. The sweet lady I call Mommy has a pretty smile. They drove all the way to Georgia to rescue me. They let me sleep on a soft and warm blanket in the back seat and drove a long ways to bring me here. I met Shakespeare and Sandy Bear when we arrived. They told me to let these humans love me, but Shakespeare said, he was first…the most important and alpha dog. He gets the most attention. At least he thinks he does. Never have I seen these humans hit any of us. They sit with us on the floor when feeding us. I’ve never seen a human do that. And the lady? She walks us, but she won’t allow us to chase squirrels. I guess that’s the only bad thing I can say. She wants us to behave and prance around with grace. She combs us. Heck, she even sings to us. This house is a good and happy place to live. You’ll learn to find out what love is.”
“Love?” Cletus barked. “What’s love?”
“Oh silly. Hush,” Sandy Bear spoke. “Love is something that makes you feel warm and toasty inside. Just like you feel after eating a good meal. I fell in love with Mommy when she looked into my eyes after rescuing me. She rubbed my floppy ears, smiled and kissed my forehead. She told me I was going to a new home with her and some more doggies who would play with me. She said I’d have a warm, fluffy bed and a soft blanket to sleep on. Mommy gives us all attention. If she feeds one, she feeds us all. She even sits in the floor with us, to make certain we all eat and no one steals the food. This family will give you a good life, Cletus. You might be sorry if you escape.”
Cletus turned to look at all of them. “Don’t you want to go with me, guys? I can dig a deeper hole, Shadow.”
Barking in unison, they sang, “No. Don’t go, Cletus. Don’t go!”
Cletus rushed away. Shakespeare poked his head out, watching him as he ran away. “You’ll be sorry!”
Sandy Bear rushed to the back door, barking a high pitch. “Mommy. Help!” Mommy!”
Sandy Bear jumped by the window. Mommy wasn’t there. “But she’s always here,” he barked. “She sits there and has her hands working across some silly board with a big picture screen on a shelf.”
“Computer, stupid,” Shakespeare grumbled. “Mommy’s always at the computer.”
“Not now,” Sandy Bear barked.
“I hear her,” Shadow shouted. “See. She had to get some coffee.”
“Mommy!” Sandy Bear screamed. “Help Cletus!”
The door opened. The dogs rushed inside. “What’s all that barking for? Where’s Cletus?” Mommy said. “Cleet…Cleet…Here Cleet Cleet. Here Little Buddy…”
Cletus was gone. Escaping into the sidewalks, woods, bushes, roads, and shrubs of the Old Village of Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina.
Mommy rushed around the back yard, looking, sighing, singing, “Cletus…Here Cleet…Cleet. Come here, Cleet…Cleet…Mommy won’t hurt you.”
Cletus heard her sobs but he kept running. No one will ever mistreat me again, He cried.
Later, as Cletus frolicked along the sidewalks, he chased squirrels. He drank from a stream. He heard sounds from a school. Children on bicycles. His eyes widened. Quickly he dove into the shrubs. The ground was warm. For the first time in his sad life, Cletus felt safe. He curled his body into a tightly woven frame and slept, the first real sleep he felt in much too long. When he awoke, it was dark. He listened. Only the sounds of night were around. An owl on a tree. A cat meowed a frightening sound. A fog horn hummed along the coast. Cletus heard a growl recognizing it was his stomach.
I should’ve caught that squirrel. I could’ve had a nice meal with him. I’m hungry. Maybe I should go back. He stood, rushing away from the shrubs. Which way do I go? Oh no. I’m lost. Help me. Shadow. Shakespeare, Sandy Bear — where are you?
The next morning, Cletus awoke lost and frightened. He heard a familiar voice.
He ignored it. He sniffed the familiar scents of Shakespeare and Shadow, choosing not to respond.
I’ll be all right. The world is a big place. I don’t need humans to take care of me. No one will mistreat me again. Ever! I am free. Tears rushed down his face.
“Here Cleet Cleet…Little buddy…”
Cletus lifted his head. She’s here. He lifted his tired body, praying she would not hear his growling stomach. He sniffed. That smells like her.
Moving closer, he heard the school bells ringing. Cletus dropped to the ground.
“Come here, little Buddy. I’ve got you some food. Aren’t you hungry?” She shook a brown bag dropping it. Cletus sniffed. Food!
Shivering, Cletus did not move. If he moved or made a sound, she could grab him. He was tired of people thrashing their long, extended arms to him, only to hit him or push him around. The lady seemed nice, but he was still afraid what she might do. He let out a gentle sigh falling into an exhausted sleep as the lady turned and walked away.
The next morning, Cletus sniffed the bag, finding kernels of dog food. He tore the bag open, eating every bite, hoping she would return soon.