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The Dog Who Wanted A Person Part 8

An hour before dawn, a sharp chill in the air telling of the nearness of winter, Huleekalabulee and Toshiro ate the last of Cassius’s kibble and walked through the gravestones to a big iron gate at the downhill edge of the graveyard. They crawled under the gate and found themselves in a neighborhood of two and three-story apartment buildings, some old and stately, some more recently built and resembling stacked boxes, the wide streets framed with sidewalks.

“The land of no trees,” said Huleekalabulee, sorrowfully. “Maybe I don’t want to live at the beach. I dearly love trees. The more the merrier.

“I, too, love trees and open country,” said Toshiro, wary of this treeless place. “I wouldn’t mind living where Cassius lives. But first we will walk on the beach and then we’ll see what the fates have in store for us.”

The streets of apartment buildings gave way to a commercial district of two-story buildings with shops on the ground floors, apartments on the second floors. Huleekalabulee and Toshiro saw a young woman unlocking the front door of a bakery. She turned to watch the two handsome hounds go by and she called out to them, her voice full of music and kindness, and both Huleekalabulee and Toshiro felt sure she would not call Animal Control.

“I like her voice,” said Huleekalabulee, looking back at the woman. “Maybe she would like to be my person.”

“Go to her and see,” said Toshiro, resolutely. “But I’m going to the beach, with or without you.”

“No,” said Huleekalabulee, nudging Toshiro. “I’m with you.”

Beyond the streets of shops, Huleekalabulee and Toshiro found themselves in a neighborhood of all sorts of houses on wide streets without sidewalks, the ocean roaring faintly in the distance. Some of these houses were large, some small, some old, some new. Some of the houses had yards with trees and gardens, and some of the houses were so large they filled their lots entirely.

“Fascinating mix of abodes,” said Toshiro, looking every which way. “Speaks of all kinds of different kinds of people living around here. And the air is rich with the scents of myriad dogs and cats. Thus we may deduce that animal people abound here.”

They stopped in front of an old two-story house with red trim around the windows and a turquoise front door, a big cypress tree in the backyard, the large grassy lot surrounded by a low fence.

“Now wouldn’t this be a nice place to settle down,” said Huleekalabulee, imagining living there.

“Fat chance,” said a medium-sized black and tan mutt with pointy ears. “I got this turf covered. Move along now or I’ll start yapping.”

“Yap not, brother,” said Toshiro, speaking quietly to quell the dog’s impulse to bark. “We were merely admiring your good fortune.”

“If you like cats,” said the dog, grimly. “Mimi, that’s my person, has seven of those slinky felines. Can you imagine? Seven. Large. I’m seriously outnumbered and always the last one fed, the last one petted. You hounds going to the beach? Better hurry. Once the sun comes up, Animal Control starts cruising the coast road looking for dogs without people.”

“Might we hide in your yard after we’ve seen the sea?” asked Huleekalabulee, hopefully. “We’d be as still as stones and quiet as mice.”

“Sorry,” said the mutt, shaking his head. “Mimi hates stray dogs. Years ago she lost a favorite kitty to a vagabond hound. Only reason she keeps me is she inherited me from her daughter Katrina when Katrina went off to college. I’d give you the long version but you better get going. Sun will be up in an hour.”

So Huleekalabulee and Toshiro hurried away, their progress punctuated by barks and growls from sequestered dogs responding to the scents of strangers.

*

At last they came to the beach, a wide expanse of sand stretching far to the south and even farther to the north. Huleekalabulee recognized the glorious vistas and oceanic odors from his visits here with Mom and Jurgen and Venus, and he raised his snout to the lingering half-moon and moaned in memory of those halcyon days.

For Toshiro’s part, when he felt the sand beneath his paws, he burst into song.

I’ve dreamt of you most every night

Through thick and thin and countless plights

But nothing that I ever dreamed

Could match the real you

Then Huleekalabulee and Toshiro ran together to the edge of the sea and gamboled in the welcoming waves before they trotted north for a mile or so, chasing gulls, racing each other, running for the pure joy of running.

Happily winded, they reversed direction and walked south for a while, finally sitting down side-by-side to watch in wonder as the sun brought color to the world and the ocean changed from gray to blue.

“This takes the cake of all cakes,” said Huleekalabulee, gazing at the endless waves spending themselves on the shore. “No wonder I want to live here.”

“I am fulfilled,” said Toshiro, sighing profoundly. “It matters not what happens now, for my dreams have become reality.”

Toshiro then walked a few paces toward the water, turned to face Huleekalabulee, and performed a ceremonial dance full of graceful turns.

When his dance was done, Toshiro said, “You, dear Huleekalabulee, judging me worthy of your friendship, guided me here, for which I will be forever thankful.”

Moved by Toshiro’s words and dance, Huleekalabulee walked a few paces away from Toshiro, turned to face him, rose up on his hind legs, spun around in a circle, and then bowed low to his valiant friend.

And as the hounds performed these rituals of thanksgiving, a man was watching them with binoculars from the deck of his house overlooking the beach.

“Honey,” said the man, calling through the open door to his wife who was in the kitchen making coffee. “You must come see these two remarkable dogs.”

His wife came out to him and together they watched Huleekalabulee bow to Toshiro, and Toshiro bow to Huleekalabulee.

“If they don’t have tags,” said the man, his eyes full of tears, “I want them.”

“Me, too,” said his wife. “You call them while I find some enticing comestibles.”

*

And that is how Huleekalabulee and Toshiro came to live with Edward and Fiona in the wooden house overlooking the beach. Those two dogs, let me tell you, were as happy as two dogs could ever be and had so many adventures together it would take a very fat book to recount them all, for both Huleekalabulee and Toshiro lived to ripe old ages.

Not that Edward and Fiona didn’t have other animals. They certainly did. Their old dachshund Desdemona slept under their bed, their enormous black cat Juneau was queen of the living room sofa, their tortoise Warp 5 spent his daytime hours patrolling the backyard dune grass, and their sassy red and green parrot Buckminster Fuller lived in a gigantic cage in the sunniest corner of the kitchen.

But in the grand scheme of things, Huleekalabulee and Toshiro were definitely the apples, so to speak, of Edward and Fiona’s eyes.

fin

one of the times Rex came to visit

Todd and Marcia perform Beautiful

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The Dog Who Wanted A Person Part 7

Their tummies and saddlebags full of Cassius’s kibble, Huleekalabulee and Toshiro bade the gracious old hound adieu and skedaddled from the stables before the horse people arrived for the day.

Encountering no traffic, they raced along the road to the pullover and made their way down a slender trail through brittle brush to a narrow creek bed, the creek barely a trickle as Cassius had foretold.

“I’m always enormously relieved to get off a road, aren’t you?” said Toshiro, stopping to have a drink from a pool of water.

“Roads are death to dogs and cats and all living things,” said Huleekalabulee, quoting his mother. “Not to mention being hard on the paws.”

“Roads are somebody else’s idea of how to go,” said Toshiro, listening to the leaves of the maple trees clatter in a sudden breeze. “I prefer finding my own way.”

“I appreciate the suggestion of a trail,” said Huleekalabulee, watching sunlight touch the tops of the trees. “Rather than something set in stone.”

“So tell me, friend,” said Toshiro, as they made their way downstream. “Why are you going to the beach?”

“Well,” said Huleekalabulee, taking a deep breath. “I just turned one and my mom booted me out of her place, so now I’m seeking a home and the requisite person to provide me with that home. From Mom’s house I went to the top of Bullwinkle Butte and looked out over the town and the mountains to the north and south and east of the town, and then I looked to the west and thought if I could live anywhere I’d like to live at the beach. Why? Because Mom’s people used to take my mom and my brother Jurgen and my sister Venus and me to the beach, and we always had a fantastic time chasing balls into the surf and swimming, so… why are you going to the beach?”

“Where to begin?” said Toshiro, looking up at the brightening sky. “I am two. When I was one, the people who got me when I was a wee pup took me way out into the mountains of Colorado and left me there. At first I thought they’d forgotten me and would soon come back, but they didn’t come back, and thus began my wandering.”

“How terrible,” said Huleekalabulee, his heart going out to Toshiro.

“No worse than what happened to you,” said Toshiro, shaking his head. “Abandoned by your own mother. I tell you, my friend, the world is full of abandoned dogs, abandoned cats, even abandoned people. But what can we do? We must try to live.”

“True,” said Huleekalabulee, nodding. “But why the beach?”

“To be continued,” said Toshiro, stopping abruptly. “I think we have come to where Cassius said we would find hiding places galore. And since the sun is now shining brightly, I suggest we find our hiding place for the day.”

Indeed, they had come to where the creek bed widened dramatically and there were willow trees and thickets of shrubs and brambles. After a quick search, they found a commodious space beneath a tangle of blackberry vines, and there they hunkered down for the remaining daylight hours.

*

“So,” said Huleekalabulee when he and Toshiro were sprawled comfortably in their lair. “You were about to tell me why you want to go to the beach.”

“Yes,” said Toshiro, collecting his thoughts. “Unlike you, I have never been to the beach. In fact, I have never even seen the ocean except…” He paused portentously. “In my dreams.”

“You’ve never been to the beach or seen the ocean?’ said Huleekalabulee, dumfounded. “You’ve been wandering for a year and never been to a beach?”

“I have been traveling west since the day I was abandoned,” said Toshiro, nodding gravely. “I have traversed mighty mountain ranges, swam across countless rivers, crossed vast plains and prairies and deserts, my journey guided by my dreams.”

“Wow,” said Huleekalabulee, shaking his head in wonder. “What you’ve done makes my quest seem like a miniscule insignificant itsy bitsy barely anything.”

“Every day is a lifetime,” said Toshiro, solemnly. “Every moment holds a universe of possibilities. Your quest is as grand as mine. You’re just nearer the beginning of yours.”

“But why do you want to go to the ocean?” asked Huleekalabulee, in awe of Toshiro.

“I want to go to the ocean,” said Toshiro, smiling, “to fulfill the imperative of my dreams. Beyond getting to the beach and walking on the sand, I have no plans.”

“You’re not seeking a person?” asked Huleekalabulee, perplexed. “A home? A bed? Food? Affection?”

“First I will walk on the sand and listen to the roaring waves,” said Toshiro, closing his eyes and imagining strolling on the beach. “Then I’ll consider my options.”

“I shall attempt to emulate you,” said Huleekalabulee, pondering Toshiro’s words. “First the beach, then the person.”

*

As dusk descends, Huleekalabulee and Toshiro emerge from the blackberry tangle and continue their journey down the creek bed for another hour until they encounter a tall wall of stone blocking their way, the wall pierced by a large ceramic drain pipe clogged with branches.

“Here we must ascend,” said Toshiro, giving Huleekalabulee a questioning look. “Do we go up the right embankment or the left embankment?”

“Right,” said Huleekalabulee, remembering the wall of stone he and Rex encountered two days ago.

“Why right?” asked Toshiro, squinting curiously at Huleekalabulee.

“Because I hear traffic sounds to the left,” said Huleekalabulee, “and my instinct is to avoid traffic whenever possible.”

“A dog after my own heart,” said Toshiro, leading the way up the embankment. “Right it is.”

And their choice proved propitious for they found themselves inside the graveyard Rex told Huleekalabulee to seek.

“Ah,” said Toshiro, surveying the vast sloping field dotted with crosses and gravestones. “A burial ground. I wonder why Rex told you to come here.”

“He said this was the last place on our way to the beach where he was certain we could find a safe place to sleep until the hour before dawn. From here, he said, we must try to reach the beach before sunrise.”

“Ooh I love the idea of being on the beach at sunrise,” said Toshiro, excitedly. “Let’s find a good place to while away the hours swapping stories.”

They found a nice spot in a grove of Japanese maples overlooking the town below, lights going on in myriad houses as the sun went down.

“So,” said Toshiro, lying on his back as the first stars of the evening came into the sky, “what’s the most exciting thing that ever happened to you, Huleekalabulee?”

“Until a couple days ago,” said Huleekalabulee, thinking back over his life, “I would have said going to the beach with my mom and sibs was by far the most exciting thing that ever happened to me. But now I’d say it was when I practiced animal husbandry with a beautiful hound named Mona.”

“Ooo la la,” said Toshiro, bouncing his eyebrows. “You lucky hound, you.”

“How about you?” asked Huleekalabulee, sighing at memories of Mona. “What’s the most exciting thing that ever happened to you?”

“Oh heavens,” said Toshiro, pondering the question. “So many exciting moments to choose from. But I suppose nothing can quite compare to the time I slid down a snow-covered mountainside, landed in a raging river and was swept downstream for several miles to a rocky beach where I was pursued by a huge brown bear. I outran the raging beast to the top of a ridge, raced down a dirt road and came to a cabin where a man chopping wood stopped chopping and picked up his rifle to shoot at me, the bullets missing me by inches.”

“It’s a miracle you’re alive,” said Huleekalabulee, gazing in wonder at Toshiro.

“It’s a miracle any of us are alive,” said Toshiro, nodding sagely. “Every day a gift, every moment a universe of possibilities.”

“Hey maybe we’ll find a person who wants both of us,” said Huleekalabulee, smiling at the thought of sharing the rest of his life with Toshiro.

“Maybe so,” said Toshiro, yawning. “But also maybe not. Only time will tell.”

Mystery Jump

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The Dog Who Wanted A Person Part 6

Huleekalabulee woke to roseate fingers of dawn tickling the eastern sky. His stomach growled and he thought of Rex saying, “Actually food is everything. Food and a dry place to sleep.”

“I see his point,” said Huleekalabulee, donning his now empty saddlebags and emerging from his cozy den. “I don’t entirely agree, but I see his point.”

After knocking over a garbage can and dining on two perfectly good pieces of pepperoni pizza, Huleekalabulee trotted north on the narrow two-lane road that followed the contours of the lake until he came to the four-way intersection Rex called The Place Where You Must Make A Momentous Decision.

“If I go straight,” said Huleekalabulee, recalling Rex’s description, “I will enter a vast wilderness, the next town many miles to the north. If I turn right, I will be on a road that climbs for a few miles to the top of a mountain and goes no further, the mountain also a wild place where no dog can survive for long. If I turn left I will descend into town and be heading due west toward the beach. And if I choose the town way, I will first enter a neighborhood of old houses surrounded by orchards and pastures, then I must traverse a neighborhood of apartment buildings and stores, and should I survive all that, I will finally arrive in a neighborhood of many kinds of houses beyond which lies the beach and the deep blue sea.”

Huleekalabulee looked back the way he came and was tempted to retrace his steps and hang out near Rex and Myron and hope for the best. And he might have done so had not a large brown and white and black dog come loping up from the lake to engage in conversation with Huleekalabulee.

“I say,” said the large brown and white and black dog, his accent distinctly British, his size approximately Huleekalabulee’s, “would you happen to know the best way to get to the beach from here? Best as in least likely to be attacked by wild animals, vicious dogs, and irrational human beings?”

“Left,” said Huleekalabulee, nodding. “You would turn left here and descend into town. Or so I’ve been told. That’s what I’m about to do. Go left. Though in truth, I’m lost. You?”

“I used to feel lost,” said the dog, nodding sympathetically. “When I first set out on my journey many moons ago I felt utterly lost, helplessly lost, miserably lost, irredeemably lost. Now I don’t feel so much lost as in search of, if you get the distinction.”

“I do,” said Huleekalabulee, cautiously approaching the dog. “You seem like a decent sort. I love your accent and how your use of words verges on the poetic. No. Spills over into the poetic. Should you have an equally positive impression of me, maybe we could go in search of together.”

“Love to,” said the dog, sensing in Huleekalabulee a noble soul. “Safety in numbers. Joy in companionship. I’m Toshiro. My mother was an Anglo-Scottish border collie with a touch of English Deer Hound, my father a purebred Bazenji. What’s your name?”

“Huleekalabulee,” said Huleekalabulee. “My mother is a Golden Retriever, my father a big brown mutt of unknown antecedents.”

“Say your name again, please,” said Toshiro, the look on his face suggesting both amusement and curiosity.

“Huleekalabulee.”

“Sounds distinctly mystical to my ears,” said Toshiro, nodding thoughtfully. “An incantation. A beckoning of the spirits.”

“Which spirits are those?” asked Huleekalabulee, greatly relieved to have found a likeable companion.

“Friendly spirits,” said Toshiro, heading west with Huleekalabulee. “I’ve had enough unfriendliness to last a lifetime.”

*

As Rex foretold, their road descended from the lake into a region of old houses surrounded by orchards and pastures and fields.

“Soon the people will be getting out of their beds,” said Toshiro, scanning the area for likely places to hide. “My instinct is to rustle up something to eat before the sun arises and either lay low until dusk or find a less-travelled path.”

“Agreed,” said Huleekalabulee, liking the way Toshiro’s mind worked. “The hound who told me about this way to the beach said there is a place near here where people come to ride horses. He said he’s often had good luck with the garbage cans thereabouts.”

“Excellent info, my friend, coinciding with a whiff of horse poo,” said Toshiro, wrinkling his nose. “Ergo, horses must be coming up soon. Might be guard dogs. Often are when horses are involved, but certainly worth a look-see.”

Another hundred yards of fast trotting brought them to a wide gravel drive transecting fenced pastures before ending in a large parking area at a big outdoor riding ring and stables, no people in evidence. There was, however, a large elderly hound on guard, his once black coat now speckled with gray.

“Halt. Who goes there?” said the old hound, his voice deep and gruff.

“Couple of friendly young chaps looking for breakfast,” said Toshiro, stopping several yards from the old fellow. “I’m Toshiro. This is none other than Huleekalabulee. We heard tell of a cornucopious garbage can hereabouts.”

“Aye,” said the old hound, showing no signs of aggression. “Right over there. Full of yesterday’s after-school snacks. Moms bring their daughters to ride horses. The girlies throw most of the food away except for the candy bars. Won’t be much good in there, but you’re welcome to what you can find. Or you can have my leftovers from yesterday. The stable people always fill my bowls with kibble before they close up for the night and I never eat more than half a bowl by morning, not since I lost most of my teeth.”

“What a good job you have,” said Huleekalabulee, smiling at the old hound. “You ever have any trouble?”

“Back in the day,” said the old hound, clearing his throat, “I’d chase away the occasional mountain lion. And one night a horse thief tried to get by me and I caused such a ruckus he fled, but for the last few years things have been pretty quiet. My name is Cassius Andronicus Magnanimous, by the way, but everybody calls me Cassius.”

After a quick peek into the garbage can, Toshiro bowed to Cassius and said, “We would love to nibble your kibble, kind sir.”

“This way,” said Cassius, leading them to his little house attached to the stables. “The horse people will be here as soon as the sun takes to the sky above the hills. You don’t want those people seeing you or they’ll call Animal Control faster than you can say Jack Robinson.”

“Can you recommend a hiding place?” asked Toshiro, gladdened by the sight of two brimming bowls of kibble.

“Aye,” said Cassius, squinting at the brightening sky. “Half-mile down the road here you’ll come to a pullover on your right. From there you can follow a deer trail down the steep embankment to the creek that’s but a trickle this time of year. Follow the trickle downstream a few hundred yards and you’ll find hiding places galore.”

“Can we follow the creek all the way to the ocean?” asked Huleekalabulee, pausing in his kibble devouring to look at the Cassius.

“As for the ocean,” said Cassius, shaking his head, “I cannot say if the creek bed goes that far. I’ve never gone beyond the graveyard because the trees and fields end at the graveyard and thereafter all is concrete and terrible roads. I’m no coward, but such a place terrifies me.”

“Ah the graveyard,” said Huleekalabulee, his eyes lighting up. “That’s where Rex said we should spend the night.”

“Rex?” said Cassius, blinking at Huleekalabulee. “Did you say Rex? Big chocolate ridgeback?”

“You know Rex?” said Huleekalabulee, excitedly. “He’s… he’s my grandfather.”

“Well I’ll be a blue-nosed gopher,” said Cassius, grinning at Huleekalabulee. “Rex and I go way back. When did you last see him?”

“Just yesterday,” said Huleekalabulee, overcome by a wave of nostalgia for the good old day. “He’s still going strong at twelve.”

“Good to know,” said Cassius, smiling at memories of Rex. “Good to know. Rex and I met many a time and oft in our salad days whilst courting the same dames. Came to snarling and snapping at each other a few times, but we never had a serious fight. Terrific hound, Rex. Say hello for me if you ever see him again.”

“I will,” said Huleekalabulee, the serendipitous unfolding of the day filling him with hope. “I most certainly will.”

Sugar Mornings

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The Dog Who Wanted A Person Part 5

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.”

Questions

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The Dog Who Wanted A Person Part 4

Leaving Drago and Killer dining on bloody steaks, Rex and Huleekalabulee resumed their trek via the creek bed in high spirits, having been informed by Drago and Killer that the person who used to raise goats is now raising ostriches and is therefore no longer shooting dogs because ostriches can easily kick the poop out of even the most enormous dogs.

“What a relief,” said Rex, stopping to have a drink from a pool of water. “I wasn’t looking forward to crawling on my belly through dense undergrowth for half-a-mile, and now we’re just rollin’ along, singin’ a song, side by side.”

“Are we sure Drago and Killer know of what they speak?” asked Huleekalabulee, having a quick drink, too.

“Drago and Killer might be vicious,” said Rex, sniffing the air. “But they know the lay of the land.”

“So…” said Huleekalabulee, clearing his throat, “at the outset of our collaboration you mentioned your motives for joining me, for which I am most grateful, were not entirely altruistic. Care to elaborate?”

“Ah,” said Rex, walking on. “Yes. Well. As I’m sure you’ve sensed, I am not fixed, which means I am still called to pursue females of our species, and I have it on good authority that across the road from the park where we’re going there lives a lovely hound ripe for motherhood. This comely dame, so say my sources, has no interest in lesser dogs. Thus I thought to present myself to her and see if she might be inclined to trip the light fantastic with me.”

“I see,” said Huleekalabulee, choosing his words carefully. “And I, as I’m sure your proboscis has informed you, am also not yet fixed, but I swear to you I shall not interfere in your courtship.”

“Appreciate that, Huleekalabulee,” said Rex, picking up the pace. “Thus we shall not have to fight.”

*

They arrived at the park an hour before sunset, and seeing no park rangers lurking about, Rex and Huleekalabulee crossed a neglected baseball field to a copse of alders transected by a burbling brook where they hunkered down in a grotto formed by the propitious coming together of four massive boulders.

Shedding their saddlebags, they refreshed themselves with long drinks from the brook and then followed their noses to the ranch across the road from the park where a large lovely female hound awaited her suitors.

A four-year-old Lab Malamute with big black eyes, silvery brown fur, and a fabulous physique, she was exactly Huleekalabulee’s size. And when the lovely hound smelled and heard and finally saw Rex and Huleekalabulee approaching, she came halfway down her driveway to see what the winds of fate had blown her way.

“Well well well,” she said, her lip curling to show fang. “Finally some big handsome fellows come to court Mona. But what else besides good looks have you got to recommend yourselves? I’ve waited four years and I’ll wait another four before I’ll have the pups of louts.”

“I like a female who speaks her mind and speaks it well,” said Rex, his tail held high in honor of Mona’s charms. “My name is Rex. My father was a mighty Ridgeback, my mother a brilliant Chocolate Lab. Our children will be big and strong and handsome, and good swimmers, too. I’ve battled a puma and lived to tell the tale, never been sick a day in my life, and you, my darling, are very much my type.”

“Got it,” said Mona, turning to Huleekalabulee. “What’s your spiel, kiddo?”

“Oh gosh. I’m just a one-year-old questing for a person,” said Huleekalabulee, blushing. “Rex is showing me the ropes as I make my way to the ocean. I’m greatly drawn to large bodies of water and not really looking to…”

“What’s your name?” she asked, a tender quiver in her voice.

“Huleekalabulee,” he said, smiling shyly. “You’d do well to hook up with Rex. He’s kind and generous and strong and intelligent and…”

“Did you say… Huleekalabulee?” said Mona, breathing hard. “Say it again.”

“Huleekalabulee,” he said softly. “Huleekalabulee.”

“Zounds,” she said dreamily. “What are you… some kind of Serbo Croatian mesmerist?”

“Not that I’m aware of,” said Huleekalabulee, lost in the depths of Mona’s big brown eyes. “My mother was a Golden Retriever and my father was a big brown mutt. But if I could choose my father, he would be Rex.”

“Noted,” said Mona, glancing at Rex before returning her gaze to Huleekalabulee. “Tell you what. I’ll weigh my options and you two come back tomorrow morning and we’ll see what develops.”

“I shall barely sleep,” said Rex, bowing gallantly, “as I await your decision, dear Mona.”

“Whereas I will sleep like a log,” said Huleekalabulee, disingenuously. “Because I am definitely not in your league, Mona. No howl, no way.”

*

Settling down for the night, lulled by the burbling brook, Huleekalabulee and Rex drifted off to sleep, Rex dreaming of Mona, Huleekalabulee dreaming of…

Huleekalabulee’s eyes popped open as a tantalizing scent set his nostrils a’quiver. He listened to Rex snoring sonorously and deduced the old dog’s sniffer was not what it used to be.

With the stealth of a cat, and almost-but-not-quite against his will, Huleekalabulee got up to investigate the source of the irresistible scent. He walked out of the alder copse, and there on the outfield of the neglected baseball field, her silvery coat shimmering in the moonlight, stood magnificent Mona.

Huleekalabulee approached her, his tail wagging furiously. She touched her nose to his, her tail wagging with equal enthusiasm. Then they sniffed each other from head to toe, gave each other several sweet kisses, and Mona said in a deep husky voice, “Now’s the time, Sweet Stuff. Time your love came tumbling down.”

*

Rex woke at dawn to find Huleekalabulee sprawled nearby, snoring loudly.

Ah youth thought Rex, recalling how soundly he used to sleep when young and exhausted after a long day of running and playing. This is my chance to make time with the lovely Mona unencumbered by my young companion.

So Rex had a good long drink from the brook, and as the morning sun painted the treetops golden, he crossed the road to Mona’s driveway and waited for her to come out to him.

After a short infinity, lovely Mona emerged from a dog door onto the front porch, her sweet smile giving Rex the impression she wanted to mate with him.

But then she said softly, “Dear Rex, had you been a few years younger I would have chosen you. But I was drawn to younger blood. Forgive me.”

“Nothing to forgive,” said Rex, smiling bravely. “I appreciate your kind words. Adieu.”

“Oh Rex?” said Mona, calling after him. “Take good care of that young friend of yours. He’s really something special.”

“I think so, too,” said Rex, feeling a surge of paternal pride. “Today I’ll guide him to the park beyond this one and then loose him upon the world.”

“The park beyond this one,” said Mona, reverently. “Safe travels.”

One Fell Swoop

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The Dog Who Wanted A Person Part 3

His route to the ocean decided upon, Huleekalabulee bid Myron and Zazu adieu, made the next right onto a two-lane road sans sidewalks, and trotted north along a slender footpath adjacent to the road.

“I love this place,” said Huleekalabulee, smiling at puffy white clouds in the cerulean sky. “All this open space and trees and fields and orchards and hills and dales. Who wouldn’t want to live around here?”

Having said this, he came to a winding drive leading to a big red farmhouse, and halfway up that drive sat a big old hound, a chocolate brown ridgeback, gazing intently at Huleekalabulee.

“Hello,” said Huleekalabulee, stopping at the mouth of the drive. “Are you by chance Rex, friend of Myron?”

“Who wants to know?” asked the old hound, his voice deep and rumbly.

“I’m Huleekalabulee,” said Huleekalabulee. “I’m a one-year-old searching for a person to call my own. Just had a long chat with Myron about the good long way to the beach. He said he got his info from you. If you’re Rex.”

“I am Rex,” said the old hound, standing up and walking stiffly down the winding drive until he was a few feet away from Huleekalabulee. “Kind of late in the cuteness game to be looking for a person, aren’t you?”

“Maybe so,” said Huleekalabulee, nodding. “But I remain optimistic. Seems to be my nature.”

“You abandoned?” asked Rex, squinting at Huleekalabulee. “Happens to lots of one-year-olds. Once the cute puppy phase passes and poop fatigue sets in… the shelters are full of youngsters. Most humans, if you’ll pardon my French, are fickle as merde.”

“Even so, I’ve got to try,” said Huleekalabulee, bravely. “It was very nice meeting you, Rex. Myron spoke highly of you. I’d love to keep chatting, but I want to get to the park before dark and find a place to spend the night.”

“Good plan,” said Rex, sitting down to give his right ear a good scratching. “Only there’s a problem.”

“What’s the problem?” asked Huleekalabulee, innocently.

“Between here and the park,” said Rex, ceasing his scratching, “live two vicious farm dogs who would surely do you harm, and if you somehow manage to get by those two, there’s a crazy human who raises goats and therefore shoots unfamiliar dogs. With a gun. Kills them. Dead. Kapish?”

“So what do you recommend?” asked Huleekalabulee, shivering at the thought of vicious dogs and death. “Myron said this was the safer way to get to the ocean?”

“Well it is,” said Rex, now scratching his left ear.

“Therefore?” said Huleekalabulee, waiting expectantly.

“I’ll come with you,” said Rex, nodding to affirm this. “You seem like an affable mutt and you’re a fine conversationalist and I haven’t been to the park since spring. Be nice to see the leaves changing. Hold on a sec while I get my kit.”

“Wow,” said Huleekalabulee, greatly relieved. “This is very kind of you, Rex.”

“My motives are not entirely altruistic,” said Rex, trotting up the winding drive to the farmhouse. “I’ll explain later. For now, I suggest you hide in the bushes until I return. Humans around here are wary of dogs they haven’t seen before and are quick to call Animal Control.”

So Huleekalabulee stepped behind a bush, and luckily so, because while he waited for Rex, three pickup trucks went by, each with a large dog riding shotgun and looking for trouble, or so Huleekalabulee surmised.

“Here I am,” said Rex, outfitted with well-worn saddlebags. “We’ll go via the creek bed and stay out of sight of the road until Drago’s Farm. Creek’s but a trickle this time of year.”

“Sure is beautiful around here,” said Huleekalabulee, trotting along behind Rex and noting the old dog’s stiffness had disappeared. “Do you think your person might possibly want another dog in the family?”

“Sorry,” said Rex, glancing back at Huleekalabulee. “I’ll be Louise’s last dog. She tells me so evenings of late when the peach brandy loosens her tongue and she pokes at the fire with her long stick. ‘I’m old, Rex,’ she says with a plaintive sigh. ‘If I’m still alive when you’re gone, I’ll sell the place and move into my daughter’s guest house and have a cat or two.’”

“How old are you?” asked Huleekalabulee. “If you don’t mind my asking.”

“I don’t mind,” said Rex, stopping to sniff the news at a local pissing spot. “I’m soon to be twelve. Hey get a load of this.”

Huleekalabulee sniffed where Rex was sniffing.

“Good grief,” said Huleekalabulee, alarmed by the pungent scent. “Who the heck is that?”

“That’s puma piss,” said Rex, wrinkling his nose. “Ever seen a puma?”

“Not that I’m aware of,” said Huleekalabulee, his hackles on the rise. “What’s a puma?”

“Mountain lion,” said Rex, looking for other signs of the mighty feline. “Giant cat. Bigger than moi. Fought one once when I was five. He killed three of Louise’s chickens, then he killed my good friend Cecil, a Boston Terrier poodle, and then before he ran away, he gave me a gash on my snout the scar from which still aches on cold nights.”

“Yikes,” said Huleekalabulee, glancing around nervously. “I thought this was the safer way to the beach.”

“It is,” said Rex, chuckling. “Don’t worry. Pumas only attack little dogs. The one who recently pissed here is, I believe, a female, and she won’t mess with two big hounds like us. Trust me. I know my pumas.”

*

A mile further along, Rex explained, “Soon we’ll come to where the creek bed is blocked by a wall of stone atop which runs the road. The drain pipe running through that wall is too small in circumference to accommodate hounds of our height and girth, so we must ascend to Drago’s Farm and traipse along the road for a hundred yards until we are able to descend once more into this commodious creek bed.”

“Is Drago’s Farm where the vicious farm dogs dwell?” asked Huleekalabulee, trying not to panic.

“Indeed,” said Rex, winking at Huleekalabulee. “But they know me and I’ve brought along a treat for them. Fear not. As long as you’re with me, they will not hurt you. But do refrain from making eye contact with them, for they are both easily incited to riot, if you know what I mean.”

“I can contribute turkey jerky to the bribe,” said Huleekalabulee, eager to help.

“We will sup on your turkey jerky tonight,” said Rex, bouncing his eyebrows. “But for these blokes… raw bloody steak.”

And sure enough, upon climbing out of the creek bed and resuming the footpath adjacent to the road, Rex and Huleekalabulee arrive at a gravel driveway guarded by two very large dogs, one a German Shepherd, the other a tawny English Mastiff.

The big dogs come charging down the driveway, murder in their eyes, but when they recognize Rex and see he’s chummy with Huleekalabulee, they slow to a walk, hackles bristling.

“Well if it isn’t old Rex,” said the mastiff, his upper lip curling to reveal fang. “Haven’t seen you in ages. Thought you might have croaked.”

“Hello Drago. Hey Killer,” said Rex, avoiding eye contact with either of them. “I’m still going strong. You’re both looking well.”

“We’re peachy,” growled Killer, the German Shepherd. “Who’s the punk?”

“This is Huleekalabulee,” said Rex, gazing at Huleekalabulee. “For all I know he could be my great grandson, but whoever his progenitors he’s my pal and we’re going to the park. Brought you a couple steaks in thanks for letting us pass unscathed.”

“Hulee what?” said Killer, scrunching up his cheeks.

“Kalabulee,” said Huleekalabulee, looking skyward to avoid eye contact with the dangerous dogs.

“What kind of name is that? Navajo?” said Drago, the mastiff. “Hopi?”

“Maybe,” said Huleekalabulee. “My mother is a Golden Retriever, my father a big brown mutt.”

“Fascinating,” said Killer, studying Huleekalabulee. “You look kind of Italian to me.”

“I was gonna say French,” said Drago, smiling hopefully at Rex. “But whatever his origins, steak sounds divine.”

Lions

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The Dog Who Wanted A Person Part 2

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.”

Missing You

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The Dog Who Wanted A Person

Part One

Once upon a time there was a dog named Huleekalabulee. His mom called him Hubu or Hubee, his brother Jurgen called him Hube, and his sister called him Bulee. Huleekalabulee’s sister was named Venus.

One morning Huleekalabulee’s mom served Venus and Jurgen and Huleekalabulee their breakfast and said, “Well today you are all one-year-old and you will have to find new homes because I am officially done being your mom. You can come visit me on Dogmas Day and for Dogster and Doggiving, but for the other days you’re on your own.”

“Fine,” said Venus, who was a very beautiful dog and looked more like Mom, who was a Golden Retriever, and less like Dad who was, according to Mom, a big brown mutt. “Jenny Jones who lives next door adores me. I’ll go live with her.”

“Whatever,” said Jurgen, who was quite handsome and looked like a giant Cocker Spaniel. “Mr. Zimbalist who lives across the street already built a house for me in his backyard. I’m outta here.”

“What about you Hubee?” asked Mom. “Where will you go?”

“Well,” said Huleekalabulee, who was an affable big brown mutt, “I guess I’ll do what the dogs in all my favorite dog stories do. Go on a quest to find my person.”

“Good luck with that,” said Jurgen, sneering cynically. “Those are just fantasies, you know. In reality most mutts end up lost and desperate and hungry.”

“Yeah,” said Venus, also sneering cynically. “That’s why Jurgen and I pretended to like Jenny Jones and Mr. Zimbalist. So we wouldn’t end up lost and desperate and hungry.”

“It’s true, dear,” said Mom, who liked Huleekalabulee and found his naiveté charming. “It’s a person-eat-person world out there. You’d better find a person while you’re still kind of cute.”

*

And so after breakfast, Huleekalabulee packed his saddlebags with his favorite squeaky toy and seventy-seven big hunks of turkey jerky and embarked on his quest.

For starters he walked as far as he usually went with Mom’s humans, Alex and Monica Kronkite, which was to the top of Bullwinkle Butte. From there, Huleekalabulee could see the whole town spread out below him, with mountains to the north and south and east, and the ocean to the west.

“Wow,” said Huleekalabulee. “What a great big world it is. I guess if I could live anywhere I’d like to live near the beach. So that’s where I’ll begin my search for a person to call my own.”

He started down a path going west and only went a little way before he came upon two old mutts blocking the path. One of the old mutts was black, the other a dirty blond.

“Slow down,” said the old dirty blond mutt. “Where are you going?”

“The beach,” said Huleekalabulee. “I’m questing for a person to live with.”

This was so funny to the two old mutts, they laughed for five minutes until the old black mutt said, “Hey, what’s your name?”

“Huleekalabulee,” said Huleekalabulee.

Hearing Huleekalabulee’s name made the two old mutts laugh for another five minutes until the old dirty blond mutt said, “What are you… Hawaiian?”

“Not that I know of,” said Huleekalabulee. “My mom is a Golden Retriever and my father was, according to my mom, a big brown mutt.”

“A bit of advice,” said the old black mutt. “Out here in the rough-and-tumble person-eat-person world, you need a rough-and-tumble sort of name.”

“Or at least a shorter name,” said the old dirty blond mutt. “Who can remember Hakableebleenoonoopoopee?”

“But my name isn’t Hakableebleenoonoopoopee,” said Huleekalabulee. “My name is…”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” said the old black mutt. “Whatever it is, it should be shorter.”

“What are your names?” asked Huleekalabulee, wondering if either or both of them had a person or people.

“I’m Butch,” said the old dirty blond mutt.

“And I’m Garth,” said the old black mutt.

“It was a pleasure meeting you,” said Huleekalabulee. “And now if you’ll excuse me I want to get to the beach before…”

“Not so fast, kiddo,” said Garth, growling to add menace to his speech. “Why should we let you go by without biting you?”

“Why would you want to bite me?” asked Huleekalabulee. “We just had a lovely interlude full of laughter and potentially helpful advice. Why spoil such a happy time with conflict?”

“He makes a good point,” said Butch, nodding. “I haven’t laughed so hard in years. Not since that person, remember? The jogger? Stepped in my fresh pile of poop and slipped and landed on her face in your fresh pile of poop?”

“Now that was funny,” said Garth, remembering the glorious moment of their poop triumphant. “Okay Hukunanazulu. Go on. And good luck. You’ll need it.”

“One more bit of advice,” said Butch, as he and Garth stepped aside to let Huleekalabulee go by. “If you go to the beach, people will call the park rangers, and if they catch you…”

“You don’t want to know,” said Garth, ominously.

“Only dogs belonging to people are allowed on the beach,” said Butch. “Dogs on leash.”

*

The path took Huleekalabulee down from Bullwinkle Butte into a part of town where he’d never been before. The houses here were much bigger than the houses in the neighborhood where Huleekalabulee grew up. And around each yard was a tall fence or wall, and the driveways were gated, and those gates were closed.

“Smells very unfriendly here,” said Huleekalabulee, wrinkling his nose.

And just as he was about to leave the street of giant houses, a very large dog with pointy ears and shiny black fur came rushing through the one gate that wasn’t completely shut, and stood between Huleekalabulee and a neighborhood of small pretty houses where human children were playing happily on little lawns and there were no fences or gates.

“Hold it right there,” said the very large shiny black dog. “Just where do you think you’re going?”

“To the beach,” said Huleekalabulee. “Dog willing and the creek don’t rise.”

“Not likely,” said the big pointy-eared dog, his voice full of growls. “I’m a professional attack dog and it is my job to try to bite you and possibly kill you.”

“Why would you want to do that?” asked Huleekalabulee, aghast. “I’m just a lost one-year-old who will never ever ever never ever never ever come back here. And I will give you ten pieces of delicious turkey jerky.”

“Make it twenty pieces and I’ll put on a convincing snarling and lunging act but not bite you,” said the big galoot.

“Twenty it is,” said Huleekalabulee, shaking out twenty pieces of turkey jerky from his saddlebags.

“Yum,” said the big black dog as he chowed down. “By the way, what’s your name?”

“My name is…” And then Huleekalabulee remembered Butch and Garth’s advice. So instead of saying Hulee etcetera, he said, “Hercules.”

“Bit of advice,” said the big black pointy-eared devourer of jerky. “With a name like Hercules you better be one mighty strong canine or lots of dogs are gonna try to kick your butt.”

“Thanks for the tip,” said Huleekalabulee, hurrying away. “I’ll definitely consider alternative monikers.”

Boody Boody Ba