Friday, January 29, 2016

Traveler - A Dog's Tale. Part Five

Popsy called me, and I came running over to him. He picked up some of the snow, and squeezed it between his hands until the snow became a ball. He threw the ball far off, and I flew after it at full speed. I reached the spot where the ball had made a deep hole in the snow. I used my muzzle to reach into the hole, but the ball had disappeared! I couldn’t understand it. I could smell the faint scent of Popsy's hands, so I knew the ball had to be there. I kept digging deeper and deeper into the snow with my head and my paws, but I couldn’t find the ball. Popsy called me back and threw another snowball for me - this time high up in the air. I jumped up and caught it between my jaws. To my delight, this ball exploded in my mouth, turning into small bits of cold, wet snow.

 Next, Momsy threw the squeaky ball for me to chase. I ran after it, and buried my head in the snow to find it. I could smell my scent on it, and grabbed it in my mouth, making it squeak. I brought it back, and we played fetch a few more times. Then Popsy put the leash back on my collar, and the three of us went for a walk together, the fresh snow making creaking sounds whenever Momsy or Popsy took a step. After we had walked for a while, my paws started to hurt, and I shook them each in turn. Momsy bent over to check my feet, and pulled some cold, hard stuff - she called them ‘ice balls’ - out from between my toes and my paw pads. That made my paws feel a bit better, but Popsy said that we should probably go back.

The next few days flew by. During the day, we played in the snow, went for walks, and had lots of fun together. In the evenings, we relaxed in front of the television set - another new experience for me. How did all those people and animals live in such a small box? And, why didn't any of them smell? I tried to walk around behind the box and find where everybody went when I couldn't see them anymore, but there was no one there. I don't know why, but it made Momsy and Popsy laugh when I looked for the missing people.

Then, one morning, something changed. “It doesn’t look as though anyone is going to call,” I overheard Popsy saying to Momsy after we had finished breakfast, “and tomorrow is the end of our holiday. We’ll have to take Traveler to the shelter.”

Momsy nodded with tears in her eyes. “I know,” she said. “When do you think we should go?”

“Now,” he replied with a sad voice. “There’s no point in prolonging it.”

Momsy swallowed so hard that I could hear her, and went to find my leash. “Want to go for a ride in the car, Traveler?” she whispered.

I looked uncertainly from Momsy to Popsy. For the first time since I’d met them, I hesitated before walking over to have my leash clipped on. We rode the elevator all the way down to the bottom of the building, and walked over to a car. Popsy opened the door and told me, “Jump in.” I leaped onto the car seat; Popsy got behind the wheel, just like The Mister used to, and Momsy took the seat beside him. I curled up in the back seat right behind Popsy, and the car started to move. It was a different feeling riding inside Popsy's car instead of in the back of The Mister's pick-up truck - softer, warmer, and more comfortable. I could get used to this, I told myself, as the gentle hum of the car put me to sleep.

I awoke when the car stopped moving. Popsy and Momsy both got out before Popsy opened my door and told me to jump out. I could hear lots of barking coming from inside a low, long building. It wasn’t happy barking, and the strong smell of dog was mixed with the scent of fear. I didn’t like this place, and I was afraid to get out of the car. But Popsy gave a gentle tug on my leash, and I jumped out. We walked into the building and up to a counter. A girl with a friendly face and a cheery voice greeted us, and asked us if she could help. Popsy talked with her for a while, and she kept nodding. Then she handed him a sheet of paper, and Popsy wrote something on it before giving it back to her. She held out her hand, and Popsy handed her my leash. “Come on, boy,” she said to me, giving me a pat on the head. “Come with me.”

I dug in my feet; I wasn’t sure what was going to happen to me, and I didn’t want to go. Momsy and Popsy crouched down beside me and gave me hugs. “Go with Sarah,” Momsy whispered to me before standing up and running out of the building. Popsy gave me a final pat before following Momsy.

I stared after them, and tried to follow them outside, but I felt a strong tug on my leash. “Come on, boy,” Sarah said. “Time to see your new home.” I had no choice. I walked very slowly as Sarah pulled me gently along after her. We passed through a door into a large room with rows of cages. Each cage had a dog inside. The dogs were all different shapes, sizes and colors, but they all had two things in common. They were all barking, and they were all scared. The smell of their fear was so strong that it flooded my brain. I cringed, and dragged on the leash until we came to an empty cage. Sarah opened the door, pushed me inside, and closed the door behind me; then she reached through the wires of the cage and removed my leash. As she walked away, I added my voice to the chorus of barking.

I don’t know how long I was there, but I had grown weary. I went to the far corner of the cage, circled around, and lay down in a tight curl, my nose tucked under my tail. I couldn’t sleep, though. I didn’t know what would happen next, but I had a bad feeling about this place. Dimly, I heard a door open in the distance, and then I heard someone open the door of my cage. Sarah came inside and clipped my leash onto my collar. “Come with me, boy,” she said. I didn’t care any more where she was taking me; I stood and went with her. She took me back the way we had come, past all the cages of barking dogs. We walked through a door into the front area of the building, and there they were. Momsy and Popsy were standing there, calling my name. Sarah let go of my leash, and I ran over to them, jumping up and covering their faces with my wet kisses.

They knelt and hugged me, laughing and crying at the same time. “We couldn’t do it, Traveler,” Popsy said. “We couldn’t leave you here. We’ll figure something out. Let’s go home.”

©2016 Phyllis Entis. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Traveler - A Dog's Tale. Part Four

I opened my eyes when I felt Popsy's chair move. He was standing up and saying something to Momsy. When I heard him say, “I’m off,” I sprang to my feet, barking and whining. Popsy was leaving? What if he didn't come back? What would I do? I ran to the door, and flopped down across it. No way was he leaving without me! But he grabbed my collar and told me to stand up. “Sorry, Trav,” he said, “you can’t come with me. We’ll go for a walk together later. All three of us.” I didn’t understand all of the words, but I wagged my tail anyway. “You take him,” Popsy called out to Momsy, and she came over to hold my collar as he left the apartment.

I sulked the whole time Popsy was gone - I couldn’t understand why I had to stay behind. I lay down across the doorway, determined to be the first to greet Popsy the instant he came back. I ignored Momsy completely, and pretended that I was asleep when she knelt down beside me and spoke to me softly as she stroked my head. Her touch felt nice, but I was mad at her for letting Popsy leave without me. Finally, she stood up and said, “Have it your way, then,” and walked away.

I don’t know how long Popsy was gone, but it felt like forever. After a while, I must have really fallen asleep, because I suddenly heard a noise right outside the apartment. I leaped to my feet just in time to avoid being hit by the door as it swung open. And there stood Popsy! In one arm, he was holding a big sack that smelled like something good to eat. A bag with a couple of strange bulges hung from his other hand. He stepped inside and handed everything to Momsy, so that he could take off his boots and coat. “The pet shop said this is a good food for a dog his size,” he told her. “There’s a leash and a few other things in that bag.”

Momsy put the sack of food on the kitchen counter, and set the bag on a chair. I decided to help her empty the bag, and stuck my head right inside. I found something big and round, and picked it up in my mouth. As my jaws closed around it, the thing squeaked! I pulled my head out of the bag and raced all over the apartment, squeezing the round thing with my jaws and making it squeak. “Bring it here, Traveler,” Popsy called out, laughing. “Bring the ball here.” A ball! That’s what it was - a ball. I had never had a ball before. The Mister didn’t believe in toys. While Popsy and I chased around the apartment with the ball, Momsy removed something else from the bag. Curious, I trotted over to investigate. It smelled like the harness that The Mister used to put on his horses. I loved the smell, although I missed the overlay of horse-scent. I licked it; it tasted pretty good, too.

Momsy pushed my head away. "Don't eat your new leash," she said, and reached into the bag again. “Here. Popsy got you something to chew on.” She handed me a hard bone-shaped object that smelled sort of like cow. I picked it up and carried it to the far corner of the living room. Circling a few times to find the perfect spot, I lay down with the chew thing between my front paws and went to work on it. After a while, I felt pleasantly sleepy; my eyelids drooped, and I drifted into a dream.
 I was back on the farm, sleeping in the barn. I could hear the horses snorting and nickering in their sleep, and the cattle were lowing. The barn cat was curled up at the far end of the barn. He and I had worked out an arrangement; we slept as far apart as we could, and ignored each other most of the time. The straw tickled my nose, and I sneezed; the cat meowed in protest. That got my dander up, and I growled. The cat hissed, and spat in my direction. That was too much for me. I got up and headed over to the cat. He saw me coming and ran off. I gave chase. We had an exciting round of catch-me-if-you-can, knocking over milking pails, and creating a fine ruckus, until The Mister came in, his leather belt in hand. “Enough,” he yelled. “Pipe down, Traveler, or I’ll take my belt to you.” I cringed, and settled back down on the straw.
I must have whimpered out loud, because the next thing I knew, Popsy was on his knees beside me. “Are you all right, Pooch?” he asked, as he stroked me gently. “Bad dream, boy?” I raised my head, and reached up to lick his face. “Ready to go for a walk, Traveler?” he asked. I jumped up, tail wagging and tongue hanging out the side of my mouth. Momsy and Popsy already had put on their outside clothes, and Popsy snapped my new leash onto my collar. Momsy grabbed the squeaky ball, and we went over to the small room that Popsy called an elevator. I wasn’t as scared of the elevator this time, although I crouched down when I felt the floor start to move. The three of us went outside through a different door from the one that Popsy and I had entered the night before. In front of us was a field of snow, and I could tell by the smell that we were right near the river. Popsy unclipped the leash from my collar, and I ran off a little way to take care of business before zooming around in big circles - something I hadn’t done since I was a puppy. It was great to be outdoors. The snow was soft, and I kept sinking in it up to my chest.

©2016 Phyllis Entis. All rights reserved.

It would appear that Traveler's old life with The Mister and The Wife wasn't all beer and skittles. Tune in again tomorrow to read the final installment of Traveler - A Dog's Tale.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Traveler - A Dog's Tale. Part Three

It seemed as though Traveler's troubles were over when Popsy found him in the parking lot and brought him home. But is he truly safe? Or will Momsy and Popsy deliver Traveler to the SPCA shelter?

Momsy’s eyes filled with tears, and Popsy’s eyes took on the glittery look that I’ve seen in humans who were trying hard not to cry. “Let’s keep him through the weekend at least,” he suggested. “I’ve given our phone number and Traveler’s description to the police and to the SPCA. They promised to be in touch if anyone reports him missing. I’m going to call the local radio stations next, and ask them to include him in their Lost and Found segments. And I’ll call the Tribune and Free Press, and place ads in their Classified Ads sections.”

“What happens if no one gets in touch by the end of the weekend?”

“We’ll see,” he said. “You were planning to take off all of next week, weren’t you?”

Momsy nodded. “Yes, there’s nothing much going on at work between Christmas and New Year. But, we need some stuff for him - food, a leash.”

“I can go out tomorrow morning and pick up what we need,” Popsy offered. “The storm should be over by then, and the roads will be passible.”

I had been lying on the floor while they talked, looking from Momsy to Popsy and back again, trying to follow the conversation that bounced back and forth like a ping-pong ball. Before long, the drinks of water and the chicken dinner began to have their usual effect. I needed to go outside. I stood, walked over to the apartment door, and barked a quiet 'woof.' Popsy understood what I wanted, and went to find his coat, but Momsy stopped him. “You don’t have to go out in the storm,” she said. “He can do his business on the balcony for tonight.” She walked over to a glass door and slid it open. 

There was a small outdoor room on the other side of the door. It had a layer of snow on the floor, but was sheltered from the wind. Momsy called me over and gave me a little nudge before sliding the door shut behind me. I wasn’t entirely sure of this inside/outside room, but I did my business with my back turned to the door. When I was finished, Momsy opened the door and let me back inside. She held a dry towel in her hand, and told me to sit. I knew what was expected - The Mister had taught me to sit while he or The Wife wiped my feet before I was allowed inside their house. I offered my front paws in turn, then stood and raised each hind leg a couple of inches to allow them to be cleaned off. As soon as Momsy was done wiping my feet, I was off in search of Popsy again.

This time, I found him sitting at a table, writing something on a piece of paper. “How does this sound?” he called out to Momsy. “Found in the Hudson’s Bay House parking lot at Main and Assiniboine. Large black dog with white markings on front paws, chest, and forehead. Left ear flops over. Call 204-555-3437.”

“What about his name?” Momsy asked.

“I don’t want to put it in. His rightful owner will know his name. That way, Traveler won’t be claimed by some stranger looking to get a dog for free.”

“Sounds good, then. When will you run it?” she asked.

Popsy stood and walked over to the telephone. “I’ll call it in now,” he said, picking up a dumbbell-shaped thing that The Wife used to call a receiver. “That way it will make the Sunday paper. I’ll let it run for a week.”

I slept that night on the floor in the bedroom, at the foot of Momsy's and Popsy’s bed. I felt safe hearing the sound of Momsy’s soft snore and Popsy’s regular breathing. This was a new experience for me. On the farm, I slept in the barn with the horses. The barn was sheltered from the wind and snow, but it wasn’t very warm, and I would sleep all curled up with my tail resting on top of my nose to keep it warm. It was nice and cozy in the bedroom, and I lay on my side with my legs stretched straight out. At one point, I had a wonderful dream about chasing a cat. I must have talked in my sleep, because Popsy called out quietly, “Are you okay, Pooch?”

When I woke up the next morning, Momsy opened the door to the balcony so that I could go outside. The air was fresh and crisp, the sun was shining, and the snow made crunchy sounds when I walked out the door to do my business. After Momsy wiped the snow off my paws, I went looking for Popsy. He was looking at himself in the mirror, and rubbing his face with something that was making a buzzing sound. I think The Mister called it shaving. I waited while Popsy put on his clothes, and then he and I went into the kitchen together. Momsy had put down a fresh bowl of water for me. Beside it was a second bowl that had some rice and chicken all mixed together. She and Popsy sat down at a table to eat while I scarfed down my breakfast. I washed down my food with a long drink of the cool water, and settled myself on the floor beside Popsy’s chair for a nap.

©2016 Phyllis Entis. All rights reserved.

Will The Mister see Popsy's newspaper advertisement and come to claim Traveler? What does the future hold in store for our hero? Tune in again tomorrow to read Part Four of Traveler - A Dog's Tale.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Traveler - A Dog's Tale. Part Two

Yesterday, we left our cold and tired hero curled up between two cars in a parking lot. He was lost in the big city, far from home. 

I was awakened by the feel of a hand patting my head. A friendly voice was saying, “Hello, Pooch. What are you doing out here all alone in a storm? Are you lost?” I raised my head, and licked the man’s gloved hand. He tasted good - a mixture of leather and snow. I whined. “Good doggie,” he said, and turned to walk away. I didn't know what else to do, and the man had a nice voice, so I decided to follow him. Stiff from laying so long on the snow, I pushed myself slowly to my feet. I gave myself a shake, snow flying off my coat in every direction, and trotted off after the man. The snow was piled high in some places - higher than my head. But I had no trouble walking; I just stepped in the grooves made by the man's boots. He turned around once, and saw that I was behind him; he smiled at me, and continued walking.

We seemed to walk a long way. He kept a close eye on me when we reached a wide street. Next, we crossed a bridge over the river. Eventually, we came to a tall building with the kind of door that you can see right through. The man opened the door. “Come inside, boy,” he said. He led me to a door that slid open, revealing a tiny room. He walked into the room, but I hesitated. “It’s okay, Pooch,” he assured me. “It’s just an elevator.” I stepped inside; the door slid shut, and we started to move. Startled, I cringed down on the floor, whimpering. After a while, the elevator stopped moving, and the door opened. I bounded out and waited for the man to tell me what to do. He walked past me and stopped in front of yet another door.

As he reached for the knob, the door flew open. A woman stood in the doorway, her eyes wide with surprise and confusion. “What…?” she began.

“He followed me home,” the man answered. “I couldn’t leave him outside in this weather.”

The woman gasped and ran off, returning almost at once with some big, fluffy towels. They both got down on their knees and rubbed me all over with the towels. It felt so good that I reached around with my head and licked the man’s face. He laughed and gave me a hug, then rubbed even harder. When I’d had enough, I grabbed a free end of his towel and started pulling. He pulled back, and we had a fine game of tug-of-war. The woman found a bowl, filled it with water, and put it down on the kitchen floor. “You must be thirsty, boy,” she said. “Want a drink?” When I started to drink, I realized how thirsty I was. I finished the entire bowl of water in a jiffy. She refilled it right away, and I slurped up the second helping at a more polite pace.

The man and woman looked at each other. “Now what?” he asked. “I wonder whether he has a collar and tags.” He bent down and felt around my neck. “There’s a collar here, hidden by his coat,” he reported. “I can’t find any tags, though. Maybe he lost them.” He knelt down in front of me, took my head in his hands, and gazed into my eyes. “What's your name, boy?”

I tried hard to answer, to tell him my name. Traveler. My name is Traveler. But he didn’t understand my bark. Then the woman looked more closely at my collar. “This collar has some stitching on it. It could be a name.” She removed the collar from around my neck and examined it closely. “It reads ‘Traveler’,” she said.

I barked when I heard her say my name. “Traveler it is, then,” the man said, laughing. He gave me a scratch behind the ears, and then his voice became serious. “He’s obviously a well-behaved dog. He’s not a stray. Somebody must be looking for him.”

“So, what do we do?” the woman asked.

“I’m sure he’s hungry. Why don’t you find something for him to eat while I make some phone calls to see whether anyone has reported him missing.”

I looked back and forth from the man to the woman. My tummy was feeling very empty, and was making strange rumbling sounds. Did ‘eat’ mean what I thought it did? I sure hoped so. I followed the woman into the kitchen. She opened the door to a big white box that I recognized as a refrigerator, and peered inside. “This should do,” she called out. “We have some leftover roast chicken. I’ll just peel off the skin and cut up the meat for him.” I heard the man answer from another room, and looked around. Oh no! He had disappeared. I needed to find him. I left the kitchen and started to look for him in every room, but he was nowhere in sight. Finally, I picked up his freshest scent, followed it into a bedroom, and over to a closed door. He was behind the door. I sat and waited.

When the door opened, I was so excited to see him again that I put my front paws up on his chest and tried to lick his face. Gently, he pushed me away. “Down, Traveler,” he said sternly. “You’re getting me all wet.” Just then, I heard the woman call to me from the kitchen. My head swiveled back and forth; I couldn’t decide whether to stay or go. I was hungry, but I didn’t want to lose track of the man. He started to laugh at me. “It’s okay, Traveler, go ahead,” he told me. “I’m not going anywhere. Go to Momsy.”

The woman had come looking for me, and she arrived just in time to hear what the man had said. “I guess I have a new name,” she laughed, looking at the man. “Well, if I’m Momsy, then you must be Popsy.” I liked those names; I barked, and wagged my tail to tell them so. Then, with a backward glance at Popsy to remind him of his promise not to disappear, I followed Momsy to the kitchen, and sat politely while she put a bowl of roast chicken on the floor for me. I was so hungry that I practically inhaled the chicken. Then I washed the bowl clean with my tongue before chasing down my food with another long drink of water.

Popsy came back into the kitchen just as Momsy was picking up my empty food bowl. “Any luck?” she asked him.

He shook his head. “I called the police,” he told her, “but no one has reported a missing dog to them. Ditto the SPCA shelter.”

“What should we do?” Momsy asked.

“Well, I talked to the SPCA about taking him in. They said they’re really overcrowded. Lots of dogs are lost or abandoned during the build-up to the holidays. If we were to take him to the SPCA, and no one claimed him within 72 hours, they’d have to send him to the back-up shelter.”

“How long would the back-up place keep him?”

“It’s a kill shelter,” Popsy said.

©2016 Phyllis Entis. All rights reserved.

Oh, no! Momsy and Popsy wouldn't consider a kill shelter, would they? What will happen to Traveler? Tune in again tomorrow for Part Three of Traveler - A Dog's Tale.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Traveler - A Dog's Tale. Part One

I grew up on a farm owned by Robert and Bethany. At least, that’s what they called each other when they were alone. When they were talking to other people, though, they referred to each other as The Mister and The Wife. And so did everyone else.

One day, The Mister and The Wife decided to drive into the city to buy some things for Christmas. “Want to go for a ride, boy? Want to go with us to Winnipeg?” The Wife asked me. I didn’t give it a second thought - just wagged my tail and bounded into the back of the pick-up, where The Mister kept a pile of old blankets for me to sleep on. I pushed the blankets into a comfortable heap, then circled a couple of times and lay down. The even rhythm of the truck’s tires on the pavement made my eyelids droop, and I drifted off to sleep.

I woke up when The Mister turned into a parking lot and bounced over a speed bump. Scrambling to my feet, I put my head over the side of the truck. There were people all around, and everyone seemed in an awful hurry. Lots of people were walking toward a big building - The Wife called it the Sears store; most of them were pushing metal carts that made strange rattling noises as the wheels rolled over the pavement. Some people were walking away from the store, pushing carts piled high with packages and shopping bags. There were cars and trucks all around, too. The people were dodging the vehicles, and the cars and trucks were dodging each other. I didn’t really understand what was going on, but it was fun to watch.

The Mister and The Wife climbed out of the truck. I was all set to follow them when The Mister looked at me sternly and told me to stay where I was. “We won’t be long,” he promised. I barked a couple of short, sharp ones - just to let him know that I would obey, even though I wasn’t happy with the arrangement - and settled back down to wait. I must have dozed off again; when I opened my eyes, I discovered a thin layer of cold, white fluff had covered everything in the back of the truck, including me. I stood up and looked over the side to see what was going on. That's when I smelled it - the unmistakable odor of CAT!

I swiveled my head all around, trying to find the source of the smell. And then I heard the ‘meow’ coming from right below me. That cat was underneath our truck! I had to check this out! The Mister would understand - I was only protecting our territory, after all. And I’d be back in the truck before he was the wiser, anyway. I leaped over the side, crouched down low, and peered underneath the truck. Sure enough, a pair of unblinking, green slit-eyes stared back at me. I growled. The cat hissed. I barked, and bared my teeth. The cat hissed again, and swiped at my nose with its paw before scooting out from under the truck and running off. I gave chase. It was great fun. We dodged people and vehicles until we were out of the parking lot and racing across a field toward some trees. I was fast, but the cat was faster. It sprang for the nearest tree, and scampered up to a high branch. I jumped up and down, barking and scrabbling at the tree trunk with my front paws, but to no avail. Tired and frustrated, I settled down to wait for the cat to climb back down. But he outsmarted me by jumping from tree branch to tree branch, agile as a squirrel - another critter I love to chase - and got clean away.

I looked around me, and realized that the snow was getting thicker. I trotted back to the edge of the clump of trees, and started back across the field. I knew my own particular smell, but the deep snow made it hard for me to find my scent trail. I wove back and forth across the field, sniffing and snorting, picking up and losing the trail over and over again. At last, I found the parking lot. Now to get back to the truck. I trotted right over to the spot where The Mister had parked it, avoiding cars as I ran, and wincing each time an angry driver honked his shrill horn at me. But the truck wasn’t there. I panicked, running up and down the rows of vehicles, nose to the ground, trying to recover my scent trail and track it to the truck. But I couldn’t. There was too much snow, too much traffic, too many smells that overpowered my scent.

I ran over to the place where all the cars and trucks seemed to be heading, and sat, hoping against hope that The Mister would drive past and see me. When it started to get dark, I realized that I would have to find my own way back to the farm. I walked in the direction that I thought home should be, sniffing for familiar countryside scents, listening for familiar sounds, and watching for landmarks as I went. But I was hopelessly confused. I wandered into another parking lot with lots of cars. I could smell that I was near a river, although not the river that flowed past our farm. The snow was swirling all around now, blown into tall drifts by the wind. I had been walking all day, and I was hungry and thirsty. And cold - colder than I had ever been in my life. I found a sheltered spot where the wind wasn’t blowing so hard, curled my body up into a tight ball, and closed my eyes.

©2016 Phyllis Entis. All rights reserved.

What will happen to our hero? Tune in tomorrow for the second installment of Traveler - A Dog's Tale.