Ilze Berzins

I thought that no smell on earth could be more vile than the revolting stench of pig manure. I was wrong.

After a sleepless night for all of us at Larry’s we had made it to Cook’s Corner in Brunswick.

As we were driving along Bath Road, Mum suddenly threw up her hands and squealed: “STOP! There’s a Days Inn!”

As if mesmerized by the promise of stench-free sleep, Dad immediately pulled a sharp turn into the parking lot. This was going to be heaven.

Er… what was to become of me?

Despite Mum and Dad’s cheery hello there was a cool reception at the desk. Cool became cold when they mentioned me.

“Dogs by permission and then only in a smoking room,” intoned the clerk. Mum and Dad looked at each other. And then at me. What to do? Options:

  1. put me back in Pauline’s horror kennel
  2. make me sleep in the car
  3. take the smokers’ room

There was no need to vote on it since the very memory of Pauline made my paws start to shake and my teeth chatter. The car was out too since someone could nab someone as gorgeous as me. (Believe it or not, there’s a waiting list for my puppies. I’ve been waiting too. Where is the bitch of my dreams? Where is she?)

We settled for option three. After paying a fee for my inclusion in the smokers’ room we climbed a set of narrow stairs and proceeded to our room.


The stench pushed the three of us back into the hallway. This can’t be. Dad went back to reception to negotiate. Finally the clerk was persuaded to put me down as a cat, and as such, snuck us into a non-smokers’ room.

We went out for lunch.

Back inside we were approached by another clerk who noted right away that I was most definitely not a cat. So back to the foul-smelling room for us.

Windows were opened and an ionization machine was provided for our use. But that thing had a nasty smell of its own. As did the AC system. Dad said it smelled as if some human had pissed into it. Along with this also came the noxious fumes from the parking lot right under our window.

But at least there were a few redeeming features: a king-sized bed, wireless Internet, a bar fridge, a microwave and a big TV with cable.

Check out the photo of Mum and me on the bed. Mum is drinking again.

“Life’s so short,” she mutters when Dad tells her to cut back.

“Well if you ever take up smoking, it’ll be a lot shorter,” Dad retorts.

And he means it.

No sweat. Mum was simply photographed and fingerprinted and then ‘released’ by the US Department of Homeland Security.  Who knows what Immigration will do about her. I’ll miss her, of course.

Once again we’re on the road. Gazing out at the lush foliage of autumn in Maine I had no way of knowing then that the most traumatic event of my young life lay just ahead.

I didn’t have long to wait. Some three hours across the border we pulled into Larry’s pig farm.

A dismal rain had started again and the bed & breakfast Dad had been promising us looked like Bleak House (apology to Charles Dickens).

Mum and Dad leaped out of the U-Haul (well, Dad leaped;Mum crawled). They looked around and spied a heavy-set  elderly lady carrying two pails walking towards them. Dad recognized Larry’s wife Pat. He had met them both before.   Instantly both Mum and Dad started their friendly chatter. But I pulled back, feeling a sense of foreboding. In fact the fur on the back of my neck stood straight up in the air. Something bad was about to happen.

I overheard Pat say: “No dogs in the house.” She didn’t say this nicely. I could sense the aversion and disgust in her body language as she glanced my way. She looked as if she’d sooner have me slaughtered with the sows than have me set paws on her tidy front porch.

And so it was.

Minutes later, daughter Pauline, pulled up in her pick-up truck. Already I was gagging from the smell of pig manure. I wondered how Mum was taking it. I glanced her way and noticed her holding her pashmina over her nose. I had to laugh. This reminded me of the Muslim ladies I had seen at Billings Bridge Shopping Mall with only tiny slits revealing their downcast eyes.

Things happened so fast. Before I knew it, Pauline was upon me. She had me by the leash and was dragging me away. Mum and Dad looked sheepish. I couldn’t believe that they would let this strange woman abduct me in broad daylight.

But I was in too much shock to protest and was shunted into a cement bunker and then pushed into a cage.  

I wasn’t the only one. There were other prisoners too. Little yappy ones causing a racket but at least, being small, they had more room than I had. This was certainly no Comfort Inn like I’d seen so many times in TV ads. In fact it was the kennel that dared not speak its ghastly name. 

Any time Pauline checked in on me I growled at her. I wondered if she would be the one to slaughter me since I had heard her point out to Mum the next pig to be slaughtered.

I didn’t sleep a wink.

The next morning I guess some sort of ransom had been paid for my release since I was freed from the cage and reunited with my pack.

I couldn’t help but overhear Mum and Dad discussing their discomfort and their amazement at Larry’s operation. Larry had erected a chapel on his property some distance from the pig enclosure. Regular services were held, including mass confessions and the sale of sacred candles that had been blessed by the visiting prelate.

There must be a lot of sinners in them here hills, I thought to myself. Then, as if reading my mind, Dad pronounced: “They’re good people,” as we headed for the turnpike.

If I live to be fifteen, the night spent at Larry’s pig farm will remain one of the most hideous memories of my entire life.