Today on LBG we warmly welcome Fiona Curlew and her wonderful novel “Dan Knew”.
We have a spot on this much-anticipated blog tour. This is Fiona’s second novel and a fictionalised account of her travels told through the eyes of Dan, her rescued Ukrainian street dog.
A Ukrainian street dog is rescued from certain death by an expat family. As he travels to new countries with them a darkness grows and he finds himself narrating more than just his story. More than a dog story. Ultimately it’s a story of escape and survival but maybe not his.
The world through Wee Dan’s eyes is told in a voice that will stay with you long after you turn that last page.
The animals in this book are all real, as are their stories. The people’s names have been changed to protect their privacy. Fact or fiction? Well, dogs can’t talk, can they?
Extract ~ Dan Knew ~ F J Curlew
The People Place
There was a loud bang and I woke up with a jump. I had forgotten where I was, what had happened. The smell of human brought it back and a sorrow covered me. I shook it off. I had to survive and it wouldn’t help me. I knew that.
I peered out from under the woman’s arm. It was black, dark, for a second, then a light flicked on. It made a funny buzzing noise and blinked on and off a few times before it settled.
I had never been in such a bright light before that wasn’t the sun. It hurt my eyes. I closed them a few times until I got used to it. We were inside a building. There were stairs. Lots and lots of them. We kept going up and up. I could smell other dogs and humans and food and dust. It was very strange.
The woman opened a door on the third floor and we went in. She closed the door quickly behind us. I could feel a nervousness from her. Then I saw them. Two great big dogs charging along the hallway, running straight at us!
I could smell that they were both girls. One of them looked like a bear: huge, black and so hairy. The other was beautiful, like many that lived on the streets in Kyiv, but clean and bright and very happy.
The woman laughed and then said, ‘Down! Behave!’ nicely, but strictly.
Their tails wagged and wagged and they were sniffing at her. I could see that these dogs were her friends. They were people dogs, like the ones I had seen walking past my home sometimes. We would bark at them, us street dogs. They were different from us. There was always the chance of danger from them and their people and we had to keep them away from our territory.
There was more of her smell here too. The woman’s smell. This must be where she lives, I thought. I had never been inside a people house before. It was so different from the place I had lived in. The ground wasn’t made of dirt and it had a feeling of safety like nothing bad could get in.
‘Will they be okay with the puppy?’ the man asked.
‘Sure. They’re a pair of big softies. Well, most of the time!’ She laughed.
We walked along a corridor and into a room which had big doors with glass in them. You could see the outside from there. That was good. It was important to be able to see what was outside in case you had to run, or fight, or hide. I knew that.
There was a piece of soft carpet on the wooden floor, some big chairs that looked really comfy; huge, big, wooden cupboards along the walls full of books and china things. So many things I had never seen before.
The woman put me down on the biggest chair which she called a sofa. ‘You two be nice,’ she said to the other dogs, pointing her finger at them.
Their tails were still wagging and they were sniff, sniffing at me. I barked, just to tell them I was tough and not afraid, then I added my scent to the sofa.
‘Noo..Not there!’ the woman called out, as she lifted me up and put me on a piece of paper on the floor.
The black dog backed off as if she was a bit scared. But the creamy coloured dog started licking up where I had scented on the sofa, then she licked my tummy like my mother used to do. I liked her. I liked this. This felt safe.
‘Oh Ceilidh,’ the woman said with a laugh. ‘Are you going to mother him too?’ She stroked her head.
Ceilidh wagged her tail.
I wanted to smell everything, to explore. My nose followed trails on the carpet, on the wooden floor, on the linoleum. There had been other animals here too, not just these dogs. And other people. Strong other people smells. I caught the scent of something like mouse, I thought, but a bit different. Everything here was a bit different and it was all very confusing. I had a lot of learning to do.
The woman picked me up and carried me through to another room. It was small and smelled of food. All kinds of food. My mouth was wet at the thought. It had been such a long time since I had eaten anything. I had almost forgotten because of all the new that was happening. The new place, new people, new dogs, new!
She put a plate on the floor with some meat on it. It was the best thing I had ever eaten. I gulped it down so quickly, my eyes and ears on alert. I can’t lose any of this! There was a bowl of milk too. I had never seen a bowl before and I tipped it over as I was trying to drink from it. The milk spilled all over my paws and the floor. Yes! A lot of learning!
‘Ceilidh, Lada, come!’ the woman called.
The dogs were there super-quickly. She pointed to the milk on the floor and they licked it all up. Then the cream one, who was the one called Ceilidh, licked me clean too. My belly was fat and I could hardly move. That was a new feeling for me. And I liked it. I liked it a lot!
The woman put some paper on the floor of the kitchen and a cushion in the corner. She put me on the cushion and stroked me. I had never felt a thing like this before. It was so soft and full of people smells. My feet sank into it and made little hollows. I turned around and around on it, sniffing and sniffing, pawing and pawing. My tail was wagging.
‘Now you be a good little boy and stay there,’ she said.
She stood up and flicked at a switch on the wall. It got darker, but there was a light shining in from outside making everything look orange, so I could still see. I didn’t like it when she closed the door. There was no way out and I was trapped. I had never been trapped like that before. It was a very bad feeling. My heart began to thump.
Ceilidh and Lada were in another room, so was the woman. I could still smell them somewhere close by but I felt frightened. It wasn’t nice being locked in here. It was scary. I began to whimper, then to howl. The sound made me feel worse. Lonelier. It seemed to bounce back at me off the walls. I kept howling and the walls kept answering me. Somehow I just couldn’t stop. I missed my mother, my family and I was all alone in this strange place. And I didn’t feel safe any more. I didn’t like this any more.
I heard the door open. The woman was there. I wagged my tail at her and jumped up to let her know I was happy to see her. I made sad whimpers and happy yelps all mixed up.
‘Shhh. It’s okay. I’ll leave the door open for you. All right?’ she whispered softly, stroking my back.
I followed her out of the linoleum kitchen and into the wooden hall but she closed a door in front of me so that I couldn’t get into the room she was in. Perhaps she had forgotten me? I barked to let her know I was there; I was locked out.
The sound of her footsteps got further away and then stopped. I could hear a squeak and then nothing. The whole house was very quiet apart from a snuffling dog noise.
I sat down and looked around. It was darker in this bit of the house. There were doors around it, but no windows. I tried to scratch my way into the woman’s room but the door didn’t open. Ceilidh and Lada must be in one of these other rooms. I sniffed but their smell was everywhere. Maybe if I howled again? Told them I was here?
The woman’s door opened and I was so happy to see her that I stood on my back legs and made special happy noises.
‘Come on then,’ she said. ‘But just for tonight.’
She picked me up and it felt so good. The light from outside shone in this room too so that I could see better. She put me down on something soft beside her bed. I curled myself into a safety ball and fell asleep very quickly.
It Felt Like She Was Mine
The sun was shining through the windows. It was hot. I padded through to the kitchen and had a drink of water from the bowl that had been left there. It was big and smelled of the other dogs. The water went up my nose and made me sneeze.
Ceilidh came through and wagged her tail. I wagged mine back. She sniffed at me and nudged me with her nose so that I fell over. I could feel her tongue licking at my stomach, over and over. Yes, I liked this dog called Ceilidh.
She taught me so many things and I soon learned to copy what she did. She knew everything! Everything about chasing and stealing and keeping quiet and putting on special ‘people’ faces so that they went, ‘aww’ and stroked you or fed you. She was a very clever dog!
There was a noise at the front door. The woman picked me up. I could sense that she was nervous about something, but also a bit excited. Good and bad. The door opened and I could see two people, a man and a lady. The lady had big hair and a big smile and big friendly eyes. A happy face.
The man was smaller than her but there was a big feeling to him. An important feeling. They had large bags with them that carried a lot of smells which were new to me. I sniffed at the air, at them.
The lady laughed and stroked my head very softly. ‘What have you got there? Oh…he’s gorgeous. Whose is he?’
‘Um,’ the woman said, in a funny sort of a way. ‘He was a stray.’ She paused. ‘I thought, maybe…?’
Ceilidh and Lada were jumping around, their tails whipping, trying to say hello to the two new people. They were very happy to see them. Ceilidh was making this really funny noise and throwing her head back. It was a happy noise like a “herroo” sound. That must be good, I thought.
‘Can we just get in first. Please!’ the man said, in a not-very-nice voice. He smelled angry. I thought this must be HIM.
They took their bags into one of the other rooms. The woman waited in the sitting room. She was whispering soft noises in my ear. It was nice.
‘Let me see him then, Lily,’ the lady said. She had a soft smile and I could tell she was nice, she was friendly.
The woman, Lily, handed me over to the lady who she called Mum. I licked at her nose. The smells were all good. It felt like she was mine.
‘So, what do you think?’ Lily asked. ‘Can we keep him?’
‘What do you think?’ Mum replied, with a laugh in her voice. ‘Of course!’
‘And I have no say in this, then?’ HIM said.
‘But he’s so cute. What is he, a Jack Russell?’ Mum asked.
‘If the landlord finds out…’ HIM said, in a not-nice voice.
‘I don’t know,’ Lily replied to Mum. ‘I didn’t see his mother but he does look Jack Russelly, I think…’ She made a funny face.
‘For the record,’ the man added, ‘I am not happy about this.’
‘Two dogs, three dogs, what’s the difference?’ Mum answered. ‘And he’s so tiny. Look! He fits in the palm of my hand!’
‘We’re keeping him, then?’ Lily asked with a smile.
‘Yes. We are,’ Mum told her.
‘Looks like it,’ HIM added in a mumble, walking away from us with heavy feet.
Mum and Lily smiled at each other in a funny kind of a way, like they had a secret.
F J Curlew
Fiona dropped out of school aged 15, because being the consummate rebel, she hated it! After becoming a single parent she decided to return to education, graduating in 1996 with an honours degree in primary education. Ah, the irony!
As soon as she graduated she packed everything she owned into her Renault 11, including her daughter, two dogs and a cat, and headed off to Estonia to become an international school teacher. After fifteen years of teaching, predominantly in Eastern Europe, she returned to the UK .
She now lives on the east coast of Scotland with two Scottish rescue dogs and a disgruntled Portuguese cat.
Fiona is the author of two books:
To Retribution – A love story/political thriller set in times of turmoil.
To Retribution ~Amazon UK
Thank you to F J Curlew for my ARC copy of the book with a review to follow very soon on the blog. We use Amazon UK buy links in our features.
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