RAGS (The Story of a Dog)
By Karen Niemann
The Camas Press North Hollywood, California
DEDICATION to all the boys and girls who ran over the green hills of Edendale and to one old black shepherd dog "Beachy"
THE CAR stopped and a shaggy little dog named Rags was pushed into the street. Rags' owner was very angry.
"That's the last slipper of mine that you'll chew up!" he said, and sped away.
Rags stood in the street.
"So that was it," he thought. "But he had so many slippers in his closet, how was I to know he'd mind if I just chewed a few?"
The street was wide and empty and Rags was frightened. What was a small dog to do? What could he do? Of course ... he must find another home!
Suddenly Rags grew up. He would never again chew a slipper! Up on the sidewalk he scrambled, ready for adventure. He didn't feel sad at all now.
"Surely," he thought, "I can soon find a nice home."
He walked down the sidewalk looking at every house. In front of one was a lady watering her flowers. Rags walked up to her politely.
"Woof! Woof!" he said, and wagged his tail.
The lady turned.
"Oh, you dirty, ragged creature!" she cried, "Get off my lawn!" And with that, she turned the water upon him.
Rags ran. He didn't want a home in that lady's house—or in her neighborhood.
Cold and wet and frightened, he ran along the street. He was too tired to run any more, when he saw a man rocking on the porch of a very pretty house. Perhaps this man would give him a home. Rags stood still. Did he dare go up and ask him? Timidly, he crept up, stood very still, and wagged his tail.
The man looked over his glasses and said, "Well! Well!"
Rags looked up and said, "Woof!" which meant in dog language, "I need a home."
Rags didn't see the cat on the arm of the man's chair. He didn't know she was there until, arching her back, she sprang forward and landed on his face.
"Rrrow!" she screeched. Her claws were sharp. She was telling him, "This is my home! GO AWAY!"
Rags ran. "Yip-yip-yip-yip-yip," he cried. He ran and ran. The houses were smaller now, and not so close together. He saw some boxes on a vacant lot. He went over, crawled into one, and went to sleep.
The boxes belonged to a little boy named Gary. He was building a playhouse with them. And as soon as he had carried in the wood and swept the walks, he would call, "Grandma, everything's done! May I play in my box house now?"
"Yes, dear," said Grandma.
So Gary hurried to the vacant lot. He was proud of his box house. For days he had worked, dragging the boxes to this grassy spot and nailing them together. Carefully, he crawled inside.
There in the corner lay Rags ... fast asleep!
"Why you poor little dog!" cried Gary
Rags woke up.
He said, "Woof. Woof!"
Gary understood him.
"You want to stay with me, don't you?" he asked.
"Woof! Woof! Woof!" Rags answered.
And Gary knew that he meant, "Yes! Yes! Yes!"
Gary gathered him in his arms.
"You're so ragged and dirty," he said, "I'm going to name you Rags."
And Rags said, "Woof." Which meant, "All right."
"Grandma!" Gary shouted, as he ran toward the kitchen. "Rags has come to live with us."
When Grandma saw Rags she dropped the potato that she was peeling. It rolled across the floor. "Good gracious, Gary! Where did you find him!"
"In my play house."
"Well, I don't believe that I ever saw a dirtier, more ragged dog in all my life!"
"But isn't he dear?" Gary pleaded. "Look, he is wagging his tail at you."
Indeed, Rags did wag his tail. He wagged and wagged. Then he had a bright idea. He scooted across the floor, picked up the potato, and carried it to Grandma.
"See." Gary cried, "Rags will be a helper."
Rags stood still.
His brown eyes looked hopefully into Grandma's face.
She hated to turn him out.
Yet she could scarcely manage their own meals, and felt that she could never feed a stray dog.
She looked down at Rags. "We'll keep him until tomorrow," she said, "Then we will hunt a home for him."
Rags was happy.
Grandma gave him some milk.
He said, "Woof! Woof!" for "Thank you." And lapped it up, hungrily.
Then he played with Gary.
And took another nap.
Grandma put an old pillow on the kitchen floor. It was warm by the stove and Rags was happy. He curled up and went to sleep.
Grandma and Gary went to sleep, too.
SUDDENLY Rags woke up. Sniff! Sniff! What was that queer smell? Crackle-crackle-crackle! There was a red light on the wall near the chimney. Something was wrong.
Rags sat up. He didn't want anything to happen to this home.
Grandma jumped up and ran to the kitchen.
"Oh, the house is on fire!" she screamed.
Snatching the broom she beat at the flames.
But she could not put them out.
She was wide awake now.
Quickly she filled her dishpan with water and threw it on the wall.
Five dishpans of water .. and the fire was out!
Grandma stooped and picked up the shaggy little dog. "You saved our home," she crooned softly. "And you can stay with us ... always."
Rags licked her hands.
Grandma didn't go back to bed. She sat by the kitchen window with Rags in her lap. It was almost morning.
Grandma watched the clouds turn pink and golden over the dark hills. She was very thankful. Rags had saved their home.
After awhile Gary woke up.
So did Rags.
Grandma told Gary what had happened.
"So we'll keep him," she said, "But I don't know how we will manage to feed him."
Gary had an idea.
"Come, Rags," he said.
Rags scampered down the street beside him.
They went to the meat market, where the butcher was just opening his doors.
"I want a job," said Gary, "Is there a some way I can earn meat for my dog?"
The butcher looked into Gary's earnest face and down at the little raggedy dog.
"I think so. I need someone to sweep out the store every morning."
Gary set to work and the store was soon clean.
Then the butcher wrapped up some meat and handed it to Gary.
"Here's a dime, besides. You did a fine job."
"Oh, thanks," gasped Gary.
He ran down the street with Rags at his heels.
They burst into the kitchen.
"Grandma, I've got a job, and here's meat for Rags, and ten cents and I can do it every day."
Rags was nosing happily about his new home ... around the chairs and under the curtains. In the bedroom were two blue slippers. He picked them up ... carefully ... and carried them to the kitchen and laid them at Grandma's feet.
Rags had grown up.
Rags would never chew slippers any more!