Treasure in a Cardboard Box

The big T at Toombul Shoppingtown – Image from neylanarchitecture.wordpress.com

Have you ever received an unexpected gift? I have, and it came from the carpark at Toombul Shopping Centre.

In the picture above you can see the iconic ‘T’, torn down a few years ago.  If you follow the bitumen down behind the ‘T’ in the middle of the photograph, where it slopes away from view, there is a creek at the end of the parking spaces.

I was in a particularly good mood that day.  It was the height of summer, a Friday afternoon, and I had raced down to Toombul to catch the bank before it shut.  My husband and I had decided to go out that night.  Dinner, maybe some dancing or a show, or just a walk around town. We hadn’t been out on a date on a Friday night for far too long. We’d been managing a farm in crippling drought, and we really needed a break.

The shopping centre was mental.  It was the last weekend before school went back and there were cars everywhere.  I struggled to find a park, ending up in the corner down near the almost dry creekbed, and then raced in to the bank, getting there as they were beginning to close the doors. They let me in and rushed me through.  When I came back out I went straight to my old ute, baking in the scorching afternoon sun.  I was about to jump in when I heard a sound like a chicken peeping.  Just one or two little peeps then nothing.  But it aroused my curiosity.

I got back out of my car and looked around. I heard one more little peep, and my eyes went to a big cardboard box, all stoved in on one corner, sitting on the baking bitumen. Why would there be a chicken in the box I wondered?

I walked over, dragged it clear of the traffic and opened one corner.  I almost gagged.  That was the corner that had been stoved in as cars had driven over it.  Inside were two tiny puppies, flattened.  The blood pounded in my ears.  Who could do such a thing?

I yanked open the rest of the box, and there he was.  Huddled in behind a big bag of dry dog food was another tiny pup, skin stretched taut over ribs and bones. He looked up at me with his big eyes, but the rest of his body stayed motionless. He looked barely alive. I reached in and pulled him out and he sat like a hot stuffed toy on my palms. The puppy wobbled there unsteady for a moment and then collapsed.

A man came to see what I was doing, and squatted beside me. “Bastards,” he muttered.   “These two are dead, love.  Nothing you can do for them.”

He handed me a scrap of paper. On it was written ‘plese look afta thes pups, there mother is a boxa and dad is a heela. both good dogs’

The man stood up. “Looks like they’ve been here since this morning with nothing to eat or drink. I’d say that one’s a goner too.  Why don’t you put him back in the box and I’ll chuck them in the skip?”

I clutched the puppy’s hot limp body to my chest and shook my head, unable to speak.

“I’ll get this off the road. Good luck, hey?” He patted me on the shoulder, grabbed the box and walked off with it.  I watched him toss it into an open industrial bin.

I walked back to the car and placed the limp puppy on the seat beside me.  His head lolled, and one gummy eye cracked open.

“Don’t you die,” I said to him. “You’ll ruin my Friday night.”

I took him home, where I promptly burst into tears.  My husband then drove us to the local vet. The duty vet was female, and clearly not impressed with our find.  She barely touched his tiny, filth-encrusted body with the flea scabs and pus-filled bite marks.

“You found him, you say?” she said, arching one eyebrow in distaste. “I wouldn’t be spending any money on him.  He’s not going to make it.”

“But what if he does?” I asked.

“If he does, bring him back.”  Her tone was dismissive.

We brought him home and while Ben found another cardboard box and some old towels I found an eyedropper and tried to give the pup some water.  I managed to get a scant dropper in.  Then I mixed up some sugar and salt in some warm water and tried again.  Two droppers full.  It didn’t seem to make any difference.  I tried not to let myself get emotionally attached.

Ben asked if I wanted to stay in.  No, I decided.  Let’s go out.  We had dinner somewhere local, and when we got home a few hours later the pup was still alive.  Barely.  I said a little prayer for him, got a few more eyedroppers of fluid into him, and said goodbye.

When I came down to the laundry the next morning I heard peeping, like a chicken.  The little dog was scrambling to climb the side of the box.  I lifted him out.  He stank, covered in shit and pus and muck, so I bathed him and towelled him dry. Then I put a saucer of water in front of him.  He wouldn’t drink.  I got a few more mouthfuls of fluid into him, and then mixed up some calf-milk mixture and found some minced beef and an egg.  I put them in a bowl and set it down beside the pup.  He sniffed at it but ignored it.

And then I understood.  He wasn’t weaned.  He’d come straight off his mum.  I put my fingers into the milky eggy mixture and let him suck it off.  Slowly I led his little nose down to the bowl and let him suck a little more off my fingers.  The next instant he was snout into the trough, eating for all he was worth.

“He’s still alive? my husband asked, incredulous. “I’ll start ringing round and see if any of our friends want a dog.”

He was right, we already had a great dog, Charlie.  We weren’t in the market for another.  “Okay”, I agreed.  “But let’s wait another day.  Just in case he doesn’t make it.”

By the end of the weekend the little pup was following us everywhere, and eating like a pig.

“I’d better start calling people,” Ben said.

“No!”  It came out stronger than I meant it to. I softened my tone a little as the pup climbed into my lap and licked my face. “I want to keep him.”

So, that’s how we came to have Bert in our lives. I’m so glad for that day.  He’s a brilliant dog, and we love him dearly. Best thing I ever got from Toombul Shoppingtown.

I think you’ll agree he’s pretty special!

62 thoughts on “Treasure in a Cardboard Box

  1. I had no idea this is how you came to find Bert. Bawling my eyes out, I love that pup more than ever [insert masses of love hearts here]. Touching, beautifully written story. I love you Bert, you little piggie! xoxo

  2. That is so heartwarming..and you have now planted that seed in me…that we ALL choose our parents, partners, children, experiences and even pets…or they choose us…Bert is one very smart and lucky dog..sweet as. You’ll be pleased to know I’ve just made a batch of Basil Coriander Macca pesto…and some yummy Anzac bikkies for a friend I’m visiting later in Brisvegas today. Seeing my Dad in the rehab unit at the PA…nearly 1 month ago he had
    his leg amputated…this is my first visit to the rehab unit and my sister braced me for the lesson I’m about to receive…with gratitude and an open-heart hither I go…X

  3. Hi,
    Your story had me in tears. How cruel people can be, and I certainly would not be going back to that vet, that was disgusting how she just seemed to dismiss the pup.

    Good on you for sticking it out with the pup, he looks gorgeous, and of course having a bit of cattle dog in him as well he would be very intelligent. He is one very lucky dog to have you as the person who found him.

    • Nope, no going back to that vet ever again. Any of our local vets would have put their heart and soul into saving the pup if that was what we wanted. He’s a lucky boy, though!

      • She doesn’t work there anymore, thank goodness. I guess vets judge dogs by their covers just like some people judge other humans. Bert’s certainly no pedigree pooch, but he has his own peculiar charms.

  4. Oh, there’s nothing like a sweet cry on a Sunday morn to release some estrogen and head forth into my cathartic day! Thank you Nicole… I can certainly relate to this story. My beautiful cat came to me via trauma and I named her Suki because she was so little and also not weened yet that she sucked on my eyelashes and was a little sooky too (as anyone could understand)… So sook and suck became Suki, which I later found out means love in Japanese… of course it does – that is absolutely what we give each other unconditionally!

  5. He is divine Nicole. – what an incredible story. I’ve been looking back on the way our dogs have made it into our family – in hindsight it’s like a map we’re not aware of following directing us to them. About 13 years ago I bought my eldest daughter a pup and promised my younger daughter that in a couple of years she could also get a puppy. When the time came I was happy with the dog we had and things were quite settled so ideally I would not have chosen to get another dog – but a promise had been made. At the time my daughter was 11 years old so obviously it was non negotiable! I was talking to my cousin on the phone and she said we should get a whippet X as they are beautiful dogs but they aren’t available very often. We ended our phone conversation and 2 minutes later she rang and said there was a whippet X litter advertised in the paper. It was the day before school holidays ended so we jumped straight in the car and drove for an hour to have a look at the pups. The owner was a young woman who bred King George spaniels but her sister’s whippet had mated with one of her dogs so this was a once off litter. They were very gangly puppies – not the cute little nuggets I was used to. I said to my daughter that she didn’t have to have one of these that we could keep looking but within a few minutes she had chosen one. – a white and brindle boy with spaniel eyes and ears and the sleek coat of a whippet. A week later we went back to pick him up. Needless to say he has been the most amazing dog. He has been my constant companion through all the ups and downs of the last 11 years. and he has brought so much love and joy to our family. He was totally meant to be and I’m contantly grateful for having him in our lives.

  6. Oh G**. What a treasure! What a wonderful, sad, perfect, humanE story. I’m sobbing big doggy tears. Oh Bert is perfect! Perfect! A gift from God. The puppies, my heart stopped for a minute.

  7. This is such a heart warming story with such a good ending. He sure was meant to be in this world, kudos for finding, caring for this beautiful dog.

  8. oh my, what an amazing story, read it twice, what a blessing for both your family and bert! and he clearly adores you! dogs are the best!! sx

  9. What a truly amazing and beautiful story. I love the picture of him with the laptop, as if to say ‘can’t you see I’m busy?’ I can understand how you couldn’t bear to give him away. I’m just thinking how interesting it is that, thanks to the choices people make, life can unfold in a myriad different ways. If the guy who took the box away had got there first Bert would have died as a puppy in a skip, but instead there he is grown up and not only a healthy, happy dogy but working away on a laptop. (I’m beginning to wonder….you’re not the genius behind this blog, are you Bert? Is that you typing all this inspiring stuff? You can tell me, I can keep a secret.)

  10. I LOVE this story Nicole! Thank you so much for sharing it. I was almost in tears, but couldn’t quite cry because I was so angry and sick to my stomach. What a very, very special boy you have. I understand why you are so connected. <3 <3 Xx

  11. Even though I know that story…..loved the read….u write so well….I hang onto every word. Can’t wait 4 the novels.
    Love Bert, Charlie, U and Ben 2 of course.
    Love Trouble xx

  12. Wow! (as I wipe tears from my eyes). As I started to read the story, I knew it was about Bert. What a battler! and what a saviour you are! It is hard to wonder for those of us so passionate about animals, how someone could do this. I always have those same thoughts and feelings when we rescue an animal… but why! how! it just doesn’t make any sense. What does make sense is the love we exchange with our animals… and Bert gave you both an opportunity to love… and that is out of this world amazing! Dogs ROCK!!

    • Dogs DO rock, and I know you know that!!! Bert eats everything now – he has even stolen mandarins from the fruit bowl and hidden under the coffee table to peel and eat them. He’s the goofiest boy I know, and he has en extra special place in my heart!

  13. Wow. That is incredible! I am so glad that you didn’t give up on him. I also can’t believe so many people were so quick to pass judgement on whether he would make it or not. No one knows these things, and I applaud you for not being cynical and hoping for life instead of death.

    Bert is very lucky to have been found and loved!

  14. I loved this post Nicole. So many people walk away from animals in need and act like it’s not their problem. I’m so glad you brought him home and gave him a life. Am sending you both love and light.

  15. Thank you Nicole – that made me cry. I’ve always loved seeing the pictures you post of Bert and I always wondered how he came to be with you. What a beautiful life you’ve given him – from such a sad beginning he has certainly landed on his feet!

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