Daughters of the Dirt / Sarah Higdon

Wagless World - A Children’s Story
by Lin Sutherland

Once upon a time in the future of a crowded, modern country, the government decided that people owned too many dogs. These dogs were walked on the streets, whacking people with tails, taken to parks and let run, and taken to lakes and creeks, where their wet tails would splash water on the picnickers.

The government could not tell people to get rid of their dogs -- why, they already had shelters and city pounds choked with dogs who had no families -- but there were too many dogs crowding things up, and their tails knocked you in the legs and whacked things off coffee tables. So to make more space in the crowded, modern country, the government got together and passed a bill that ordered all dogs’ tails removed. They called it "The Wagless Motion." All dogs must be tailless, and all new puppies had to have their tails docked by the age of two weeks, or owners would be fined. There would be no more unnecessary space-taking-up with all this wagging.

Suddenly, clinics popped up and dogs and their owners stood in line to get the dogs’ tails removed. The dogs going in looked at the back door and saw all the dogs leaving the clinic with stubs wrapped in bandages behind them. These dogs hung their heads low and walked slowly.

Soon the whole country was filled with wagless dogs. Soon, no one knew when their dog was happy. Soon, they weren’t sure when they were happy either. Nothing felt the same. People came home from work and their dogs stood there looking at them, very still, no leaping and tail wagging. Children asked hard questions of their parents like where the dogs’ tails had gone.

It was a gray and dismal world the country had entered -- a wagless world.

Except for one place.

Hidden on a creek behind big ancient trees lived a lady who loved all animals. When the Wagless Motion was passed, she spread the word that she took in all dogs whose owners did not want them tailless. There they were cared for, and the owners could visit them anytime.

It was called The Wagful Refuge.

People brought them in droves, the cars driving up and dogs bounding out of them to the gates, barking and wagging their tails at the other dogs. Here, they ran free and happy, grinning and playing and tail-wagging.

It was a beautiful sight to see. There were spaniels waving their graceful plumes; and beagles sniffing the ground with white-tipped pointers straining straight up; and golden retrievers flying auburn flags; and greyhounds whipping as they ran; and poodles strutting, proudly showing off their fluff; and all the mixed breeds, just plain mutts, tails flapping and blowing and streaming and fluttering and wagging.

It was such a pleasure to see that soon the Wagful Refuge became known, and people began to come in secret to watch the happy tail-waggers. They brought their children sometimes, and sometimes they brought the old folks, their grandmothers and grandfathers, whose faces would light up at all the dogs with tails.

It made the old folks remember and tell stories.

"Well, remember Old Blue, Edna?" an old fellow said. "He had this big old long tail -- that thing just went crazy with waggin’ when he caught smell of a squirrel." And the old man laughed and laughed, remembering. He took hold of his wife’s arm and said, "Remember when he lay down asleep next to the rockin’ chair and you were knittin’ in it and rocked back on that old tail -- wooo! -- he howled..."

"...and I jumped five feet in the air!" she finished, laughing.

The man pointed out to the green pasture full of dogs --"That’s Old Blue’s daughter right there -- Bluegirl!" he shouted, "Come!"

A lively young blue tick hound came bounding out of the pack, grinning and wiggling her whole back end in pleasure -- but mostly showing off a stupendous long tail that waved back and forth in greeting.

The Wagful Refuge became so crowded, that one day there was no more room. It was a sad day. A box of setter puppies had to be turned away, and all the people there turned their heads aside and their eyes filled with tears. But one visitor, a senator’s daughter who was showing her children all the dogs with tails, stood up. She looked at everyone and shook her fist.

"Enough is enough!" she shouted angrily, and the people cheered.

They marched to Congress and there she stood up again and began an impassioned speech.
"You have robbed this country of joy by taking the dogs’ tails. You have taken all the spontaneity and happiness people gain from an animal’s delight and thrown it away! We will not take it any more! We will not live in a Wagless World!"

Hundreds of people in the balcony of Congress stood and cheered, and around the country thousands of people stood and cheered and stamped their feet.

The concerned lawmakers called a special caucus and met and worried they wouldn’t be elected again. "Perhaps we’ve made a mistake," said the Senior Senator, the father of the lady who made the speech.

When they returned to session they unanimously voted to reverse the Wagless Motion. In fact, they bent over backwards, as lawmakers sometimes do, and passed a new law saying that every dog must wag their tail at least once a day. It was called The One-Wag Law.

If you had a dog and it didn’t wag its tail at least once a day, you were fined, and that money was spent to buy treats to give to lower income dogs so they could wag their tails.

The country cheered and acclaimed loudly that this was a good thing. The clinics were closed and reopened as free spay and neuter clinics to solve the dog population growth. New litters of puppies with soft tiny tails grew bigger every day, wagging their tails at each other and their mothers when they lined up to nurse.

The people of the crowded, modern country began to step lighter, smile more often, and not bark at each other as much. They began to pet their dogs more, and laugh more when they came home from work to see their dog leaping and wagging their tail at them, for now they knew how precious it was, having seen what life was like in a wagless world.

The End
Lin Sutherland is a writer and horse rancher in Austin. She teaches riding and natural horsemanship through the University of Texas and has published in Field and Stream, International Living, Woman's Day, American Cowboy and Persimmon Hill of National Cowboy Hall of Fame, and other national magazines.


For those Mamas who want to learn more about writing and/or illustrating for children, there's an organization right here in Austin that can help: The Austin chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Go to www.scbwi.org to read about the national chapter or contact the Austin SCBWI Regional Advisor, Nancy Jean Okunami at: NJO@NancyJeanOkunami.com