Hi. I'm Bella. I'm a one-year-old, Shih Tzu, living in Hertfordshire, in the United Kingdom. This is my diary; from the day I was born to my first birthday.
Mum gives me big hugs, runs around the house playing 'chase' with me, telling me she's going to get me but I'm too fast for her. She gives me baths and uses special shampoo for little dog's delicate skin. Dad says it's just ordinary shampoo with a dog printed on the label so they can charge him twice as much. Mum blow-dries my hair, brushes me and puts bows in my hair. She buys me clothes too. I think Dad despairs sometimes, like the time Mum sent him out to buy a Santa costume for dogs last Christmas.
Mum does talking with me. Everyone says "You're so beautiful" or "she is so fluffy", but with Mum it's different. Mum and I have our own, special conversations.
She talks Portuguese and I talk Dog. It's not normal woofing or growling, like at cats or pigeons. It's proper talking, but I only do it with Mum. No-one else. Not even Dad.
Dad plays 'fetch' with me in the house, helps me get on the sofa, buys me dog sticks to eat and takes me to the park. He tells Mum going to the park is good exercise for him and will help with his diet, but really he just wants an ice cream from the van when it's there.
When he drives me to the park, I like to sit on his lap, so I can look out of the window at all the people. When he lies on the sofa, watching TV in the evening, he lets me lie on him where I fall asleep. Bedtime for me is about 9pm. I'm only little so I've only got little batteries. I need lots of sleep......
Saturday 8th March, 2014. "Born"
I was born on the 8th March 2014 with two brothers and three sisters. I was the last to be born. The youngest and the smallest. I am a Shih Tzu girl.
Yes, I know it's a funny name. It means ‘Lion Dog' and it's pronounced "Shi" and "Tzoo". Don't get the "T" in the wrong place, thank you very much.
We, Shih Tzus are a distinguished, ancient breed, going back a thousand years, where we lived in Temples and Palaces in China. We were the companions of royalty and the most important people in society. We would keep them company and alert them to intruders, using our acute hearing and loud bark.
Fast forward to today and here I am, on the kitchen floor in a small apartment, sharing a cardboard box with five idiots, being looked after by a lady who smells of porridge. Not very regal.
When I was born, I couldn't see or hear anything. My eyes and ears were shut tight, which is really useful for snoozing, but challenging when it's feeding time and I have to find my Dog Mum. My brothers and sisters keep climbing on top of me pushing my away. Porridge Lady has to pick me up and put me next to my Mum, so I can get some milk.
Mum is always warm and smells really nice. Can't say the same for the others. Sharing a bed with five other dogs can get a bit stinky. You'd think my sisters would have some class but they're the worst and they blame it on my brothers. Porridge Lady sprays air freshener around the kitchen. I'm not sure which smells worse - my brothers and sisters or the air freshener?
After two weeks of being deaf, blind and gassed by my siblings, my eyes and ears opened. It was really weird at first. All these new sights and sounds. The first things I saw are my brothers and sisters. They're the same shape as me but bigger and some are a different colour. I'm white and brown. They have black and gold hair. They like running around, fighting, jumping on each other and making loads of noise. I try and stay out of their way.
My home is Porridge Lady's kitchen. It has cold tiles on the floor, yellow walls, very bright ceiling lights, kitchen units and a small table with two chairs. It's not a very big space for all of us.
There is a gate with bars across the kitchen door to stop us going into the rest of her house. I can see the other rooms but I can't get to them. I'm stuck in here. With them. In this prison with the ‘general population'. Porridge Lady even dresses like a prison guard. Grey jumpers, grey trousers, sensible shoes. I definitely need an escape plan.
My brothers and sisters aren't very nice to me. Apart from jumping on me, smelling terrible and generally being a nuisance, they make fun of me because of my front legs. Mine are curved and my elbows stick out. I can walk and run around OK but they're not straight.
One of my sisters says my legs are ugly. She has nice straight legs. When she isn't looking, I do a wee on her. She gets really angry and chases me around the kitchen. She soon learns my ‘ugly' legs work just fine when she can't catch me.
The highlight of my day is when my Mum comes into the room. I know it's her because of her nice smell, but now I can see her. She is just like me, only bigger. Same face. Same colour hair. Her hair is very long and she has a bow on top of her head. My Mum is really pretty.
When she comes into the kitchen the others make a big fuss around her, scrabbling and pushing for her attention. Mum lies on her side, so we can get some milk. The others are fighting and pushing. Poor Mum. They have no manners.
"Make room for me", I tell them.
"No. Wait your turn", says one sister.
I sit there and wait. Hungry. Porridge Lady waits until one of the others has finished, then she picks me up and puts me next to Mum, so I can get a drink. Maybe Porridge isn't so bad. She just needs a make-over.
Once I've had some of Mum's milk, I like to fall asleep against her body. She is so warm. This is the best part of my day, curled up next to Mum.
One day, I sit there waiting for Mum to come in. I wait and wait but she never comes. Porridge Lady puts some plastic bowls on the floor and pours biscuits into them. The others run over and jostle for position, eating them as fast as they can.
When they've finished, I wander over and have a look. There's a few left, so I try them. They're horrid. It's like eating feet flavoured house bricks, but there's nothing else, so I have to eat them. No Mum, no milk, horrible biscuits, horrible brothers and sisters.
I wait every day for Mum but she never comes to see me. I'm so sad. Over the next few weeks, every day is the same. Sleeping, playing on my own and eating the horrid biscuits the others haven't scoffed when I can get near the bowl.
My brothers and sisters are getting bigger and stronger but I haven't grown as much as they have. I'm still the smallest. My legs haven't got any better either. I don't think they will ever grow straight.
They continue to make fun of me and push me around, so it's just safer if I stay out of their way. I sit in the corner of the kitchen under Porridge's small table, on my own, hour after hour, watching the others play together but I never join in. They never play nice with me anyway. I really miss my Mum.
Saturday 3rd May. "Strangers"
When I was eight weeks old, two people came into the kitchen and began talking to Porridge Lady. They point at us, ‘ooh and aah', pick up my brothers and sisters and hug them. They're all jumping up, making a real fuss. Showing off.
"Pick me! Pick me!" they shout.
Why should they pick you? I don't get it. What are they doing? The humans said that one of my sisters was their favourite and they take her away. These people just take my sister and everyone just accepts it as normal. That can't be right!
"Porridge! She's being dog-napped! Help her".
Porridge Lady doesn't do anything; she just leaves the rest of us in the kitchen. My brothers and sisters have figured it out. ‘This' is the escape plan from Stalag Porridge. You have to be chosen by the humans and they release you.
Every day, new people would come. They look at us. Pick us up. Cuddle us. I try my best, jumping up and down. I do my best woofs and give them dog kisses if they pick me up. Some of them don't like that. These visitors talk to us like we are human babies. I can't understand a word they are saying.
"Just go along with it", says my brother. "Do you want to get out of here?"
After a few days, it was just me and my two brothers. All my sisters have been chosen. No-one chooses me. The humans pick me up, give me hugs, tell me how cute I am but then they see my front legs, frown and put me back down. My brother says that he's next and I'm never getting out of here. I'll have to stay with Porridge Lady forever.
Saturday 8th May. "New Parents"
Today was a normal day. My brothers take turns teasing me. One bites the end of my tail and when I turn around, the other one pushes me over. I'm looking forward to when they are chosen and it will just be me and Porridge. That would be preferable to staying with these two much longer. In the evening, two more people come to the house. A man and a woman. My brothers start jumping up and down. Barking. Trying to get their attention. I don't bother. What's the point? They won't choose me anyway, so I sit under the kitchen table and watch my brothers make idiots of themselves.
The woman is very glamorous. Skinny jeans, stilettos, big sunglasses on top of her long black hair, gold jewellery and a gold watch. She has a pretty face and a nice smile. The man is tall, but everyone looks tall to me. I'm only fifteen centimetres. He's not quite as glamorous as the lady. He looks like he came straight from an office. An office that gives out free donuts, looking at his round tummy. He starts playing with my brothers as they compete for his attention. He strokes their hair and tickles them. He picks up one of my brothers and says he likes this one because it has a white stripe across his head. The lady ignores him and looks at me. She keeps looking at me under the table, so I go further under it, so she can't see me. The lady bends down, even in those high heels and offers me the back of her hand to sniff. She smells really nice. I give her hand a quick lick and she smiles. The woman stands up and begins talking to Porridge Lady. I hear her say that she wants a girl. Porridge says she only has me left but if the woman doesn't want me because of my front legs, she would understand. She asks the man what he thinks. He bends down ad before I can run away, he picks me up and holds me against his chest. He puts his hand under my bum so I don't fall. It's a really long way down when you're a little puppy.
He says "Hello" and rubs my face. He looks at my front legs and strokes and pulls them, bending my paws at my wrists and my legs at the elbow.
"Oi! Mate! They're attached. They don't come off".
He begins rubbing behind my ears.
"Ooooh oooooooooh ooooh. Don't stop".
I love that. No-one's ever done that before. It's awesome. It makes my feet wiggle. I like him. I get a bit carried away and climb up his chest and give him big kisses on his face. Uh-oh, I forgot. People don't like that but he smiles and laughs. The man talks with the woman and they nod to each other. He gives me back to the glamorous lady and he gives Porridge a handful of money. The woman is holding me tight in her arms so I won't fall, but not too tight that she's squeezing me.
Then she says, "You're coming home with us. I'm going to be your new Mummy". Oh my God! They chose me! You should have seen the look on my brothers' faces. Total shock! They stop jumping up and down and look up in amazement.
"They chose me! Not you! You stay here with Porridge Lady. I'm out of here", I shout down to my brothers. They look at me then go back to teasing each other. I have a new Mummy. And a Dad too. Never had a Dad before. I wonder what they do. My new Mummy's name is Francielly. I like that name. She is from Brazil which explains why she is so pretty and has long black hair. I wonder what her hair would be like to eat. I don't think English is her first language because she talks with a funny accent. I'm fluent in Dog and English. My English is better than hers already and I'm only two months old! You can tell Daddy is English. He has pale skin, not nice and brown like Mum. He has crooked teeth and he's lumpy around the middle. I bet he's comfortable to sleep on, once I've flattened him out.
New Mum uses words I don't understand. "Bonita [beautiful]". "Linda [pretty]". "Minha filha novo [my new daughter]". She thinks I understand.
"I'm English mum. I speak English. English woman!" This is going to be hard work. At least I can understand Daddy. He's funny. When Mummy tells him off, he makes funny faces behind her back. He seems to understand Mummy whatever language she uses. New Mum carries me downstairs and I go outside Porridge Lady's house for the first time ever. It's amazing. Things I've never seen before. Lots and lots of houses, trees, grass, sky, clouds, pavement, road, bushes.
"Put me down. I want to explore! Put me down".
But she won't. We walk over to a car and Daddy opens the passenger door. Mum gets in very carefully, holding me against her chest. Dad gets in the other side, fumbles around with a key and then the car makes this really loud noise. It is so loud. I don't like it. Frightening.
I bury my face into Mum. She holds me tight and says, "Everything is OK".
"No it isn't. I don't like it".
The car starts moving really fast.
"Aarrghhh. I want to get out. I don't like it!". I keep my eyes closed as I hear Mum and Dad talking.
"What she we call her?" asks Dad. She thinks for a second, holds me up to her face and says, "How would like to be called Bella? It's Portuguese for beautiful".
"I like Bella".