Later that morning, Rex and Huleekalabulee reached the park beyond Mona’s park, a forest of oaks and pines surrounding a man-made lake where people came to picnic and camp and ply the waters in canoes and kayaks and small sailboats. Hiding places were less abundant than in Mona’s park, but Rex led Huleekalabulee to a huge old oak tree with a hollow trunk quite removed from the nearest camp or trail.
“Here’s where we part ways,” said Rex, giving Huleekalabulee a friendly nudge. “A pleasure knowing you.”
“Likewise,” said Huleekalabulee, returning the nudge. “When I get settled with my person or people, I shall endeavor to come visit you, if you wouldn’t mind a visit from me now and then.”
“You’re always welcome to drop by if you’re in the hood,” said Rex, gazing fondly at Huleekalabulee. “Don’t make a special trip just for me.”
“But you are special to me,” said Huleekalabulee, with a tear in his eye. “You’re the closest thing to a father I ever had.”
“Bit of advice,” said Rex, winking at Huleekalabulee. “Sentimentality won’t fill an empty stomach. Kapish?”
“I know,” said Huleekalabulee, shrugging. “But food isn’t everything.”
“Actually it is,” said Rex, turning to go. “Food and a dry place to sleep. See ya.”
And Rex was gone.
Huleekalabulee ate a few hunks of turkey jerky, ruminated about life, and realized he was not actually longing for a person. In fact, he didn’t particularly like most of the people he’d met so far in his life.
“I like dogs,” he said, looking out of his tree-trunk den, the day sunny and warm. “I like Rex and Myron, and I even like Drago and Killer. And I really really really like Mona.”
“Do tell,” said a husky female voice.
“Mona!” said Huleekalabulee, bounding out of his den. “What are you doing here?”
“Need a little more good loving, Honey Boy,” she said, kissing him. “You up for that?”
“Do dogs bark?” said Huleekalabulee, spinning around in a circle. “You bet I’m up for it. And then we’ll go back to your ranch and live happily ever after. Okay?”
“You are such a romantic,” she said, kissing him again. “But no. Not a chance. The last thing Diana wants is another dog.”
“But what if you have puppies as a result of our loving?” asked Huleekalabulee, nuzzling Mona.
“No if about it, Sweet Stuff,” said Mona, dizzy with lust. “Ten weeks from now… puppy time.”
“Okay when you have puppies. Then Diana will have several more dogs. So why not me, too? Please? You’ll love living with me. I’ll help with the pups, keep you warm on cold winter nights, and any time you want to…”
“No more talk, Lover Boy,” said Mona, leading him into the hollow trunk. “Right now we’re all about animal husbandry. You the husband, I the animal.”
Their tryst at end, Mona sighed contentedly and said, “Huleekalabulee, you’ve done well. I am indubitably enceinte. Many thanks for your copious contributions to the procreative process. Now I’m gonna trot home, eat a hearty meal, take a long nap, and get ready for the coming of the pups.”
“You’re sure you don’t want to introduce me to Diana?” said Huleekalabulee, longing to go with Mona. “If you like me, she probably will, too. Don’t you think?”
“Please don’t take this wrong,” said Mona, looking into Huleekalabulee’s eyes, “but the truth is… I don’t like males. Dogs or people. Diana feels the same way. You were a superb mate, but this will be my one and only litter, so… sayonara Daddy-O.”
“Wait,” said Huleekalabulee, following her out of the den into the bright light of day. “You don’t like me? You sure seemed to like me? You even gave me a slew of new nicknames reflecting how much you seemed to like me. Honey Boy. Sweet Stuff. Lover Boy. And lastly Daddy-O. Those are terms of endearment. Right?”
“I desired you,” said Mona, matter-of-factly. “Craved your vital ingredients. But I don’t need you anymore. I love Diana and she loves me. I want no one else, person or dog. And when you find your person you’ll understand where I’m coming from.”
“But I don’t particularly like people,” protested Huleekalabulee. “I like dogs.”
“I hear you,” said Mona, trotting away. “You’re a dog dog. I’m a person dog. A one-female-person dog. Some dogs are people dogs. Some dogs are even cat dogs. As you move through life you will discover there are all kinds of different kinds of dogs. Nature or nurture? Who can say?”
“May I at least come visit the pups?” asked Huleekalabulee, calling after her. “I’d love to see the combos resulting from the mingling of our potentialities.”
“Please don’t,” said Mona, glancing back at him one last time. “You won’t be welcome.”
“Gosh,” said Huleekalabulee, hunkering down in the hollow trunk of the ancient oak and consoling himself with his last few pieces of turkey jerky. “So far my quest isn’t turning out like any of the inspirational dog stories I used to listen to with Mom.”
Then he drifted off to sleep and dreamt he lived on a beautiful farm with Myron and Rex and Zazu and Mona.
When he woke a few hours later, he was thirsty and hungry and sad. But rather than mope around feeling sorry for himself, he went in search of water and vittles.
Water was easy. The lake was nearby, the water tasty, and his oak tree den was in the least visited part of the park, so there were few people around. He waded into the lake up to his knees, had a good long drink, and then followed his nose through the woods to a clearing where four people were sitting at a large wooden picnic table eating hamburgers and French fries.
One of the four people was a woman, the other three her children. Huleekalabulee watched the foursome from behind a tree at the edge of the clearing, and he could tell at a glance the woman would chase him away if he approached. However, he felt fairly certain that one or more of the children might be inclined to feed him. In his one year of life, Huleekalabulee had learned that the younger the person, the more likely he or she would be to give him food or be easy to take food from.
After several minutes of patiently watching and waiting, Huleekalabulee was pleased to see the woman get up from the table and go away with the oldest of the three children. This left the two youngest children at the table: a four-year-old girl and a six-year-old boy.
When the woman did not immediately return, Huleekalabulee trotted across the clearing to within ten feet of the picnic table and performed a few of the many tricks Mom’s people, Alex and Monica Kronkite, had taught him. He spun around in a circle three times, went up on his hind legs, and then lay down and covered his eyes with his paws.
“He’s so cute,” said the little girl. “Can I feed him, Larry?”
“Mom said we’re not supposed to,” said Larry, looking to see if their mother was returning, which she was not.
“I don’t even want the rest of my hamburger,” said the little girl, pouting. “Or my French fries. Please, Larry. Can I?”
“Okay,” said Larry, who not so secretly wanted to feed the dog, too. “He seems nice.”
So the little girl flung her half-finished burger and bun at Huleekalabulee and he caught the mess mid-air and swallowed the entirety in a single gulp.
Excited by the dog’s remarkable dexterity, Larry threw a succession of French fries in Huleekalabulee’s direction and the agile hound caught them before they hit the ground.
“Do more tricks,” said Lena, clapping her hands.
No problem thought Huleekalabulee, sitting on his haunches and pawing at the air, his theatrical begging inspiring Larry to fling an entire burger, sans bun, to the hungry hound.
As he deftly caught the burger with his incisors, Huleekalabulee saw the children’s mother returning, and so ran away to dine on the burger in the privacy of his lair.
“That was lucky,” he said, licking his nose to garner the last remnants of burger grease. “And now I will wait until tomorrow when, at the crack of dawn, I will make my way to the next place Rex told me about where I hope to safely sequester as I make my way to the beach.”