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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