Nubia took me to a place unlike both the beautiful area where Kate and Greg shared their huge house and unlike Lety’s small and clean apartment. Nubia’s neighbourhood was dusty, and the houses were all different from each other, as if they had been cobbled together like patchwork. Some looked normal and were surrounded by fences, and then there were other dwellings which were simply made of carton, aluminium, or thin strips of painted wood.
There were a lot of dogs on the streets. Some looked well fed, but there were others that were frighteningly thin. One black dog shot out aggressively at every other that had the audacity to pass by his corner. Nubia knew that already, so she crossed the street and took a small detour to avoid him.
Another huge brown dog saw us and followed us across the street, curious to know who I was. He did not look friendly though. His hair stood right up and he growled. Nubia was afraid; I knew that she was not used to walking dogs and that she always went through here alone. She did not know how to handle these dogs, and now she made me nervous too. If she was afraid, what was I supposed to do?
She picked up a rock and threw it at him, but she missed. Watching her warily, he approached me but could not get close enough before Nubia moved us along.
Once we had passed the black dog’s street corner from afar, she crossed the street again and returned to the side we had been walking on. From there, she turned into another street. At that corner, garbage piled up against a wall. It reminded me of my early days in the dump, something I would rather forget. I still did not like the smell of trash, as weird and different as that made me seem. Dogs usually loved to inspect trash cans and trash bags, rip them open and steal the little treasures from within. They loved to stick their noses into stinky stuff, but I did not. I preferred to sniff flowers. That was always much more pleasurable to me.
Nubia and I walked up a few blocks before the paved areas faded into a dirt road. Here, I started seeing more of those run-down houses, along with a few more dogs out and around. There were two black dogs that started barking as soon as they saw me. They were not mean though. They came closer and stopped barking when they picked up my scent. One of them was a little chubby, but the other one was very thin. Nubia ignored them both; she was not afraid of them, but that was because they lived on her street and she knew those dogs. They were harmless. Nevertheless, I was a little nervous when they both approached me. I hurried after Nubia, and they soon returned to the little sand mount they had been resting on.
We passed by a very big house—it seemed to be the biggest house on the block—where I heard the voices of two men who had been drinking too much of that stuff that made people far happier than normal. They laughed and talked in boisterous voices under the deafening roar of music.
We walked past a blue wooden wall which hid two rickety rooms behind it, and a shabby outdoor kitchen that concealed more loud voices. I heard a dog bark behind that wall; he sounded quite ferocious. I wondered where Nubia lived. She just continued walking until the end of the street. There, she crossed a dirt road intersection and walked down a dead end street.
At the end of that cul-de-sac she went down a sandy slope and entered a little house made of wooden walls. Half of the roof was aluminium, and the other half dried palm leaves. The walls had many holes through which the wind blew. A black Pit Bull was resting in the entrance, and he did not bother to look up when we arrived. He had to be really fast asleep. Only when Nubia touched him gently on his shoulder did he look up, and when he saw me his eyes opened in mild surprise. Now he stood up and stretched, his wide yawn displaying a set of very sharp teeth. Then he walked over to me and sniffed my face and my behind. He wagged his tail mildly, apparently pleased with what he saw.
‘Tyson, this is Rusty,’ Nubia said. ‘She is going to stay with us.’
Although this book has only around 220 pages or so, it took me more than ten years to write it whereas other books of 500 or even 700 pages take me only a year or two. Why did this one take me so long? Because it is the real thing. It is based on what I have seen in animal rescue and it took me so long to put it in writing because I often didn’t have the courage to remember… to remember the pain my rescues had gone through, and what it took to get them back on their feet. It was easier to think back of the battles I had won, but it was hard to remember the battles I had fought for them and lost, or the times when I had arrived too late … To put this in writing is not easy, but I felt I had to write this; I owe it to their memories. I know that many people are aware of street animals’ plight, but judging by the amount of suffering that is still happening, perhaps not enough people know it yet…
This story is written from an abandoned dog’s point of view, but it does not only tell us its life journey, but also describes our human world the way the dog sees it – how I imagine they see our world. 🙂 Rusty’s story has received an excellent review. It is not an easy read, but it is well balanced and so there is also humor, love, and hope, and unique characters, which – as stated in the review below – will remain with the reader for a long time after they have finished the novel.
Read Nia Liversuch’s review of A Right to Live:
A Right to Live: A Review by Nia Liversuch
Learn more about A Right to Live on Amazon:
Featured image: stray dog in Costa Rica. Credit Kim Bartlett – Animal People, Inc.