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.