For Children

Matthew Langendorfer

A Dog's Life

2013 5th-6th Grade Prose Winner

A dog’s life is filled with many things:  joy and sorrow, life and death, curiosity and disappointment.  And while all of these have a powerful effect on their lives, it’s the good things that they remember in the end.

My name is Billy, and I’m old.  I can feel it in my legs, my back, and in my brain.  Time has caught up to me, and I know that I am on the last legs of my life, but I do not fear death; I’ve led a happy and long life.  These days I find myself remembering this life, and I think that it’s what’s keeping me alive.  I’ll tell you about some of my happiest moments.


One of my first memories was of a rainy afternoon.  I was with my mother, my brothers and my sisters.  I was about two months old, and all I can remember before that day was that everyone mistreated me. I hated being alive because I was so miserable.  I wanted to die.  But just when my despair was unbearable, my life was changed forever. That was the day I met my new family.

I knew that child was special when I first saw him.  All we could do is stare at each other, but he mustered his courage first and walked toward me.  There was something about him, he was young, probably a pup, just like me.  He was still coming toward me, and I was having doubts about his intentions.  Then something strange happened.  He started to scratch my belly and… it felt good!  I looked at his happy face, and knew that he would be my friend for life.  Just then the big one, the alpha, came over and started talking.  Then suddenly, he picked me up and carried me to a big shiny thing (I later learned it was called a car).  Of course I was scared, but I didn’t realize that I had nothing to fear. I was going home.

Life with my new family started out with fear, but in truth I had nothing to be afraid of.  They loved me and I loved them.   One of the things I loved the most was the way they rubbed my belly to make me happy;  I just loved it when they rubbed my belly.  And their excitement when they first came home and saw how happy I was to see them; I jumped on them and tried to lick their faces, but they didn’t like me licking their mouths (they prefer to use their lips not their tongue, which I think is strange).  That’s what they call kissing.  I also loved the way they played with me, like when they threw a ball between each other until I lunged at the ball and attacked it. This made them laugh and hug me.  That’s what they do when I’m happy, but when I’m sad we howl together and it helps me get my sadness out.  And then all the little things, like how they each secretly fed me when no one else was looking, how they sat by me when I slept, how they turned on shows with dogs to make me bark, how they took me on long walks around the city together, and how they each talked to me in different voices. These are the things I remember the most about my family, the big things, but also the small caring things they do for me to make me love them.  And I do. It’ll make it that much harder for me to leave them.

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I think I was six then, I can’t remember.  What I do remember is that I was really excited because I was getting a puppy.   Dad and I decided that we would go to a place he called a puppy mill, so we could rescue a dog from what my dad said was a terrible place.  I saw many dogs at first, but none caught my eye.  Then I saw this puppy, a chocolate brown dachshund puppy.   I knew that this was the runt, but I didn’t care. I cared about that dog, and I knew it instantly.  Thinking back on this later, I don’t think that I chose Billy, more that he chose me.

Billy, which we named the dog, was terrified of basically everything when we first got him, including cars, horses, all loud noises and people.  He was even afraid of other dogs.  It brings me back to what is probably my fondest memory of Billy.  

One day we decided to take Billy to the dog park. Billy was ignoring everyone, but noticed a dog menacing me.  Suddenly, the dog lunged at me, but Billy was faster.  He knocked the dog aside and stood in front of me protectively.  Then he walked away as if nothing had happened.   But something had. I knew that he would risk himself to protect me.  I never loved him more.

I don’t think I’ll cope well when he dies.  It’ll be so sad for me, but remembering happy moments like this will help me through my loss.  I pet his head.  He licked my hand and I smiled.  These were our last moments together.

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I started out life traumatized, and I thought I would never leave the terrible place I started out in.  But then my family came, and they gave me a great, happy, and long life. In my dying breath, I just want to thank them for everything they’ve done for me, and tell them how much they mean to me.  I know that they love me and will miss me when I’m gone.  I think that I’ve done everything I could for them, but now I’m ready to sleep.