A Boy, a Dog and a Warden

© 2012 Sam Lelliott

This story is copyrighted by Sam Lelliott, all rights reserved. Distribution, including but not limited to: posting on internet sites, newsgroups, or message boards, or in book form (either as a whole or part of a compilation), or on CD, DVD or any other electronic media, is expressly prohibited without the author's written consent.

Cruelty to children can happen in many forms. This story is true:

Names are changed however as the boy will still be alive

The day was extremely hot and my cross Collie Labrador "Lucky" was keeping cool on the storeroom tiles, Laid out prone as dogs do. I heard the minibus wheels crunching on the pebbled drive as the special needs school minibus arrived. They were coming for the week and I had agreed they could arrive earlier than 5pm, the normal time for youth hostel arrivals. I went to meet with the leaders Tom and Sue who were in charge of the eight children.

I was greeted with a loud young voice shouting out "Cor this place looks nice". "Yeah, better than where we ******g live." Another voice said, a girl this time. In no time at all eight children were exploring the grounds. Tom and Sue had to quickly round them up to get them all signed in and berthed in the 2 dormitories allotted to them. Lucky had stayed put in the storeroom and not come out to explore the new arrivals as usual. I handed out the sleeping bags (a one piece envelope of cotton used in hostels instead of sheets) and off they all went to their respective dorms to settle in. I heard a lot of the usual laughter and crash-banging, normal with excited youngsters. I was just about to close the booking in hatch when a young tubby boy appeared and asked if I had a dog. I told him I had and his name was Lucky. As if on cue, Lucky came up and place his paws on the counter.

The boy's face cracked into a wonderful smile and he asked if he could stroke Lucky. Lucky never slow in coming forward leaned further into the hatchway so the boy could reach his head. One thing about Lucky was that he didn't like all humans but when he did he showed it with great affection. David (the boy's name) proved to be one of those humans from then on. Where David was Lucky was. They were almost inseparable, except when the school was out of the hostel, even then David wanted to take Lucky along.

I can't remember how it came about now but I remember asking Tom the leader why David was so attached to Lucky, as in all my time as a warden I had never seen a boy so obviously happy with my dog. It was then that Tom told me the story of David's earlier life. David had been nine years old and a child with severe learning difficulties and difficult to manage (so his parents said.) David's one Joy in life was his dog and when he was selected to board at the school he asked to take his dog with him. He pleaded with his parents but sadly the rules of the school were such, that pets were definitely not allowed. Tom said he had heard that David cried every night as the day for his move drew near. David duly arrived at the school escorted by a social worker, no sign of his parents.

For three weeks David was withdrawn and cried a lot, so it was decided to get him counselling. There was a brilliant newly qualified young councillor in the town and we managed to convince him to see David. Fortunately David bonded with the young councillor and started to open up to him more and more with each visit. David had had ten visits when we were told there wasn't any more money in the budget for any further visits. David started to slip back so we explained the problem to the councillor who immediately agreed to see David using funds from a charity he knew. During the renewed meeting David was asked to do drawings of things he liked. Strangely, he always drew a dog on a lead with what was obviously a child. The councillor probed into the reason and finally this story came out amid floods of tears from David.

As previously mentioned David had tried unsuccessfully to be able to keep his dog and take it with him to the school. On the day before David was due to move to the school his father had taken him and the dog to the vets and made the boy watch as his beloved pet was put to sleep, with the explanation from his father that if he (David) wasn't going to look after it then it had to go. The councillor finally managed to release all those pent up feeling within David.

I had never heard such a cruel, vicious tale in my life. I was in tears, real blubber tears. I was filled with so much anger.

I told my assistant warden the story later, she was also in tears. We put our heads together. The school had just one more day before they returned home.

My assistant and I duly made up the individual hostel cards with the hostel stamp and the dates of the visit...except one... on that we had filled three pages instead of one. Page 1 a hostel stamp, same as the others. On the second page a Polaroid picture of Lucky and David together in the garden and finally, A paw print of Lucky with the words underneath saying. "With love to David from his best friend Lucky".

The next morning I handed Tom all the cards and told him not to give them out until they were well away from the Hostel. As they left Lucky sat at my feet looking up at me with sad looking eyes. I patted him and said. "Thank you boy."

Within the hour my assistant and I were down at our local drowning our sorrows as we often did after school journey parties went home.

It was 2 months later when during the hectic morning schedule the postman arrived. "Big envelope for you Sam Lelliott to be signed for" he said. I gave him his regular cuppa while we finished our work. It wasn't until later I opened the padded envelope. First to drop out was a leather dog chew in the shape of a bone. Secondly, another 2 envelopes. I opened the first one it was from Tom the leader of David's school party. I read it through and it basically said to thank me for a great break for the children, a cheque with a booking form for the following year and a PS stating that David was sorry about printing his letter as he could not write yet but was learning.

I opened the letter. This is it verbatim.

Dear Baz,

Thank you for letting Lucky be my friend when we visited you. Tom told me he told you about my dad and what he did to my dog. I hated him for doing it but Tom said to hate does no good. Better to love something else instead. I loved the Hostel card, it made me cry for a while until Tom explained that the card was done by you to cheer me up.

My good news is that I now go to the local dog rescue and have lots of dogs to love. Please give Lucky a kiss for me.

Love from David.

I am coming up to74 years of age. I have the letter still.