Having escaped the creepy neighborhood of giant houses guarded by professional attack dogs, Huleekalabulee found himself on a street of small cute houses.
“This feels better,” said Huleekalabulee, stopping to pee on a fire hydrant.
“Wouldn’t do that if I were you,” said a sleek brown and white dog sitting on the front porch of a little blue house. “Because unless she’s taking a nap, Mrs. Tuttweiler is probably watching you with binoculars from her front window and ready to call Animal Control if you so much as lift your leg.”
“Darn,” said Huleekalabulee, grimacing. “I really have to go.”
“Note the big hedge about thirty feet further along,” said the brown and white dog. “Duck behind there and Tuttweiler won’t be able to see you.”
“Thanks,” said Huleekalabulee. “Very much appreciate the tip.”
“No problem,” said the brown and white dog. “You seem like an affable mutt. You live around here?”
“Hold that thought,” said Huleekalabulee, dashing to the hedge. “I’ll be right back.”
Having emptied his bladder on the far side of the hedge, Huleekalabulee retraced his steps to chat with the brown and white dog and found the hound sharing his porch with a beautiful shorthaired gray cat.
“The wanderer returns,” said the brown and white dog. “Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Myron. And this is my feline housemate Zazu.”
“Buenos dias,” said Zazu, assessing Huleekalabulee with a practiced eye and sensing no threat. “Como se llama?”
“My given name is Huleekalabulee,” said Huleekalabulee. “But I’m hoping to come up with a shorter more rough-and-tumble name.”
“Good idea,” said Zazu. “Huleekalabulee is a marvelous moniker. If you were a cat, I’d say keep it. But you’re a dog. Thus the music and poetry of your name will be lost on most of your kind. So yeah, let it go.”
“Any suggestions?” asked Huleekalabulee, panting hopefully.
“Do you have any special talents?” asked Myron. “Fast runner? Ferocious fighter? Wily problem solver? Irresistible to the opposite sex?”
“Fairly fast runner, though not exceptional,” said Huleekalabulee, quickly self-assessing. “I had an aggressive older brother, so I’m an excellent fighter but prefer rational discourse for resolving conflicts. I’m smart, but wouldn’t describe myself as wily, and, well, come to think of it, female dogs do seem to like me.”
“Then how about Romeo?” suggested Zazu, batting her eyelashes.
“The problem with Romeo,” opined Myron, “is though females may like that name, males will want to kick your butt for presuming to be some kind of dog’s gift to females.”
“What does your person call you?” asked Zazu, enthusiastically licking her chest.
“I don’t have a person,” said Huleekalabulee. “I’ve just today embarked on a quest to find him or her or them.”
“Whoa,” said Myron, taken aback. “Aren’t you starting your search a little late in the cuteness game? I secured my person when I was a roly-poly cutie pie puppy. And just ten months after Tina adopted me, I was the nondescript brown and white pooch you see before you.”
“Oh I don’t know,” said Huleekalabulee, smiling at Myron. “I think you’re still pretty cute.”
Myron blushed. “Really? You do? Seriously? That’s the first time I’ve had the adjective cute applied to me since, well, since I was the aforementioned cutie pie puppy all those years ago. Wow. Really? You think I’m still pretty cute?”
“Unquestionably,” said Huleekalabulee, nodding emphatically. “Verging on handsome.”
“You’re a most unusual canine, Huleekalabulee,” said Zazu, admiringly. “Reflexively kind, refreshingly honest, and sweetly encouraging of others. Baby I’m amazed. Pero Myron es correcto. Tina brought me home when I was ten-weeks-old and so cute every time I saw myself in a mirror I’d swoon. Now… not so much.”
“My sibs got chosen when they were cutie pie pups, but not me,” said Huleekalabulee, remembering his brother Jurgen as a pup playing with Mr. Zimbalist who became Jurgen’s person. “I think as far as puppies go I was fairly non-descript. So I guess my person will have to recognize my nobility of spirit and my inner beauty and…”
“Have you been listening to inspirational dog stories?” asked Myron, arching an eyebrow.
“My mom loves those stories,” said Huleekalabulee, feeling nostalgic for Mom and his food bowl and his red tartan dog bed in the garage. “Her people gave her a new Doggie Bedtime Stories CD every Dogmas. So, yeah, maybe I am something of a romantic, but I honestly believe there’s a person or people out there waiting for me, whether he, she, or they know it or not.”
“I wish you good luck,” said Myron, still tingling pleasantly from being called cute. “I’m tempted to suggest you try with our person, Tina, but I won’t because almost every day now when she picks up my poop she says, ‘I will never have another dog.’”
“Poop fatigue,” said Zazu, nodding thoughtfully. “Happens.”
“This has been fun and informative,” said Huleekalabulee, grinning at Myron and Zazu. “I could hang out with you guys all day. But I really should be going. Any advice about the best way to get to the beach from here?”
“Shortest way is to turn left at the next intersection and go straight down the hill through the middle of town,” said Myron, his eyes narrowing. “But that way is so dangerous. Crazy fast cars and gigantic buses and terrifying trucks and hordes of people and gendarmes on every corner. The much safer though longer way is to turn right at the next intersection and skirt the north edge of town. You’ll find two big parks along the way full of places to hide and sleep. Creeks to drink from. Garbage cans full of picnic leftovers. Fields. Forests. Cows. Horses. Sheep. Country dogs. Takes a couple days to get to the beach that way, but that’s how I’d go.”
“Have you made the trek to the beach from here?” asked Huleekalabulee, feeling confused and overwhelmed and on the verge of tears.
“I’ve gone the short way on leash with Tina,” said Myron, nodding. “And I’ve heard detailed descriptions of the long way from Rex. You’ll be going by Rex’s place if you make the next right. Big red farmhouse. Rex is an elderly Australian Ridgeback Chocolate Lab. Tough as nails with a heart of gold. If you see him, please tell him Myron said hello.”
“Bon voyage, Romeo,” said Zazu, yawning majestically. “And now I’m off to the sunny kitchen windowsill for yet another nap.”