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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.”

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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.”

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