When Joe awoke early he knew that today wasn't going to be an ordinary day. Once a year the circus came to the small Village in which he lived and today was the day it was arriving. The usual boring fields would become magical as the Big Top would be erected in a vast array of colours. The childrens' rides would be assembled and the wonderful caravans would look so elegant as their chrome handles and trimmings gleamed in the light. There would be hustle and bustle everywhere and the normally quiet little Village would somehow come alive.Joe could see the fields from his bedroom window and he loved to sit, with his friend Danny, and watch all the action as it took place and to listen to the music that seemed to play night and day.1
After breakfast Joe asked his Mother if he could call on Danny, who was just a excited as he was about the arrival of the circus. She said it would be Ok and before she could change her mind he grabbed a coat and ran out of the door. His Mother smiled as she knew that for the next few weeks she wouldn't have Joe asking what he could do to pass the time as he was bored - he was never ever bored when the circus was around. Joe and Danny decided they would sit on the bench close to the fields and from there they would hear when the giant lorries were trundling their way to the village. As soon as they heard the first sound they both ran over to Joe's house so they could sitat his bedroom windowand eagerly await forthe excitement to start. It wasn't long before everything was beginning to take shape. The Big Top was very soon erected and looked so magestic Joe thought. He and Danny agreed that it looked almost like a giant castle. Next the rides were being assembled - Joe loved the roundabout that had beautiful painted horses that went round and round and up and down at the same time. Danny liked the giant swing that went so high that it felt as though you would turn over before it came to a stop. As the boys sat there the smell of onions began to fill the room - this was from the burger and hot dog stand that both Joe and Danny loved to visit. This smell was something Joe's Mother always grumbled about, but Joe thought it was great - it really proved that the circus was here.2
The circus itself didn't open until the next day, but the rides and the stalls with various games, such as hit the coconut andhook the plastic ducks, test your strengthand lots of others games, were open soJoe and Danny took their pocket money that they had saved forweeks and set off to havea good look around. Theyhad a great time and although they didn't win any prizes it didn't worry them, they were so lookingforward to tomorrow when Joe's parents were going to take them both to theopening show of the Big Top. That night Joe thought he would never sleep as he was so excitedabout tomorrow, but all thefun of the day and the walking around the grounds had worn him out and before long he was soundasleep, dreaming of clowns and elelphants and everything that made the circus exciting.3
Joe awoke early the next morning and despite trying he could not get back to sleep. He peeped out of his bedroom window andseeing all the caravans and the Big Top he knew that forthe next two weeks theschool holidays were going to be very special. Joedecided to creep downstairs, trying not to wake hisparents. He took a freshglass of milk from the fridge and curled up in the big comfortable chair in the kitchen, and as he sipped the milk he thought he must be one of the luckiest boys he knew. Suddenly Joe heard a sound from the front door - it must be the windhethought. The door was old and did sometimes rattle when the wind blew.However, it suddenly struck Joe that it wasn't that windy and the sound he could here was more of a scratching sound than a rattle. Joe took the little stool that was close by and put it near the front door, then he climbed up onto it and peeped though the letter box. As he looked out he could see two big brown eyes looking at him. Joe thought the eyes looked very sad and very tired, but whodid they belong too? He slowly opened the door and there before him was a lovely big greyhound dog, who was much toothin and looking as though he was starving. Joe gently called him into the kitchen - the dog followed Joe and looked longingly athim.. Joe went to the fridge and took out the chicken that had been left over from yesterday's dinner and put it in a dishfor the dog. It was gonein no time and after having a drink of Joe's milk the dog settled down besidehim and fell asleep. He must be a stray thought Joe, nobody would let apoor dog starve like that and also how would he bewandering about alone if someone really cared about him. As Joe gently stroked the dogs coat he really hoped that he was a stray and that his parents would let him keep him. As Joe day dreamedhe was brought down toearth by the sound of movement from upstairs - his parents were getting up. What would they say? Would they let him keep him? Well the dog had no collarand no means of identification, so he desperatelyhoped that by the end of this day the dog would be his.4
As Joe's Mother entered the kitchen, she gasped"what have you there Joe- how did he get in"? He's a stray and needs a home said Joe hurriedly, hoping that he wasn't going to get into trouble. "He must belong to someone" said his Mother, "He probably comes from the circus and his owner is probably extremely worried about him. We can't keep him here, after breakfast we will go over to the circus grounds and ask around". 5
After breakfast Joe's Father put on his coat, found a thick piece of rope and tied it to the dog and together with Joe set off for the circus to see if anyone knew to whom the dog belonged. Joe was praying that nobody would know anything about the dog. Just when it seemed that nobody was going to claim him, there was a loud shout from one of the caravans. "Oi!" said a rough voice "that's my dog you have there - the little blighter is always running off - that's why he is useless when it comes to racing and earning me some money!". Joe looked over to see a big rough looking man. He was tall and fat and looked as though he hadn't washed in ages. His caravan was scruffy too, so different to all the others on the site. "You should have a collar and a name tag on him" said Joe's Father, but the man just grunted, grabbed the dog, and closed the caravan door, without even a thank you. Joe's eyes filled with tears, he felt so upset that such a lovely dog belonged to such a horrible man. Dad put him arm around Joe's shoulders and they set off for home. He told Joe not to worry, andthat the manmay haveseemed harsher than he really was and that he probably loved the dog very much and wasreally very happy to have himback. Joe felt sure that Dad only said that to make himfeel better and how right he was.6
The next day should have been very exciting - they were going to the opening show of the circus, but all Joe could think about was the dog. Even the thought of the hotdog they always had after the show and therides and games to follow, couldn't cheer him up. If only the dog's owner had been a nice kind person Joe wouldn't have been so disappointed that he couldn't keep him, but thinking about him being shut up with that horrible JimSmith, as he now knew hewas called, really worried him.7
Danny called quiteearly and Mother agreed that they could go and havewander round the grounds,as long as they got back early for lunch as they had to get ready for the show. As they wandered around Joe thought he heard a bark and as he looked around he saw the dog, which henow knew was named Sam, bounding towards him. Sam looked scared and Joe could see he had a long wound on his back. He could be wrong, but to Joe the wound looked as though it could have been caused byarope of some kind and wasdefinitely not caused byan accident!Joe was quite sure that Jim Smith was responsible and he wasn't taking the dog back to him. Hedecided he would take Sam home to his Mother and ask her totend to the wound and ask if she thought it was caused deliberately. In the distance Joe could see Jim Smith - he looked red with rage and was calling Sam's name, getting angrier and angrier when the dog didn'trespond. Luckily they were behind one of the caravans and so Jim Smith couldn't see them. Joe and Danny hurried towards home behind all the caravans and cars, followed closely by Sam. They dashedto Joe's house pounding on thedoor. Joe's Mother looked cross when she first opened the door, what with the crashing on the door then seeing they had Sam withthem again. She told them they had no right enticing the dog away from it's owneragain, but when Joe showed her the wound on Sam's back she looked concerned and agreed that this was no accident. She bathed the wound with antiseptic lotion and then applied some ointment. After some warm milkSam fell asleep on a cosy blanket beside the fire. Joe just sat watching him and prayed and prayed that somehow he would be allowed to keep him, although he felt that this was very unlikely. Suddenly, there was a very loudbanging on the door and when Joe's Mother opened the door Jim Smith was standing there looking as though he was about to explode. He started shouting about how Joe had stolen his dog and he was going to call the police. Joe was scared and started to cry, but that was when Joe's Father came in. "How dare you shout at my son that way" he said "and whilst we are of the subject of the police, can you explain how Sam came to have such a deep wound on his back?" Jim Smith looked uncomfortable and mumbled that the dog had tried to escape from the caravan and he had somehow got caught in the door as he tried to close it to prevent him running out. "A likely story" said Joe's Father "but why wasn't the wound treated, if that was the case?" Smith then said that dogs in the wild recovered from any wounds they had without being fussed over and that Sam would have done the same and he didn't appreciate interference from anyone else. Now he wanted his dog back immediately as he was due to run in a race the next day and he wanted him to get some exercise. Although Joe's Dad wanted to tell Smith to get off his property and that the dog wasn't going anywhere, he knew that legally he could not do that and so reluctantly let Smith take Sam home. Joe was crying and Danny tried to comfort him by telling him that they still had the circus to look forward to that afternoon, but Joe couldn't get excited at all, all he could think about was Sam. All the time he was with that awful man, anything could happen, he thought.8
Although the circus was great, Joe couldn't really enjoy it the way he usually did. As the days passed and there was no sign of Sam or Smith and it was almost time for the circus to pack up and go Joe felt that it wouldn't be long before Sam would be gone and out of his life forever and he would never know what was happening to him. Danny suggested that they had one last look around and spend the remainder of their money before the circus left the next day. Joe didn't really feel like it but didn't want Danny to be disappointed so he agreed to go with him. As they passed Jim Smith's scruffy caravan Joe could have sworn that he heard a little wimper. He pulled over an old bucket that was resting by the side of the caravan and climbed onto it - Danny steadied him as he balanced on the bucket and tried to look into the dirty windows. "What you up to?" called a voice from behind. It was a young lad of about 16 who was obviously connected to the circus. "Oh!" said Joe " I was just trying to see if Sam was in there, I am sure I heard him wimper. "Poor old thing" said the boy, who told them his name was Tom. He told them that Smith only had Sam for racing so that he could earn him money, but now that Sam was older and didn't win many races anymore that Smith would thrash him and deprive him of food." that's how he gotthe wound on his back." he said. Tom said he was willing to be a witness if Sam's parents wanted to report Smith to the RSPCA and would stand up in court if needs be. When Joe got home he told his parents what Tom had said and immediately his Father phoned the RSPCA. In the meantime Joe's Father went over to the circus and said he wouldn't be very long. After what seemed like hours, but was probably only about 40 minutes, Joe heard his Father's footsteps and his key going in the door. To his amazement and delight his Father had Sam with him. "Don't get too excited" he told him "I have seen Smith and told him that I have sent for the RSPCA and he has agreed to hand over Sam until they arrive and then he will abide by what they say". Joe just hoped and prayed that the RSPCA would realise that Sam would have a safer and better home with them. When the RSPCA inspector arrived he discussed with Joe's Father what had happened and told him that despite whether he thought the dog was being cared for or not he had no right to take him from his owner, without legal action being taken. After the interview Joe's Father took the inspector and Sam back to Smith's, so they could interview him and get his side of the story.9
After what seemed like forever, Joe's Father arrived back, alone. Joe burst out crying - to think of all they had done to try to help Sam and he was still being made to live with that hateul man - but his Father gave him a beaming smile "Don't cry Joe" he said "we won". Smith had agreed to hand Sam over - he was no good to him anyway he had said, now he couldn't race. Sam had just been taken to the vet for an injection for his back wound and was then being returned to Joe and his family to live forever. Joe was delighted and was even more delighted a week later when the RSPCA inspector rang to tell them that Smith had appeared in court charged with cruelty and was given 3 months jail and was banned from ever keeping another animal again.10
As Joe looked at Sam lying beside him he felt sure he saw Sam smile and feltcertain that he was trying to say "thank you". Joe was so relieved that Smith was now gone - out of Sam's life forever and he would never be able to hurt him or any other animal again.11
When the circus arrived in the Village the following year, much to Joe's relief, there was no sign of Smith and Joe knew that this time he would really enjoy the circus with Danny and, of course, his special dog Sam.12
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