Wet. I never felt so wet. I was soaked. Trying to make myself smaller, I hunched my shoulders and leaned to the right. A rivulet of water streamed down from the big limb above my head. The drops hit smack-dab between my shoulder blades.
Leaning to the left, I got away from that stream, but more water leaked from a knot on the other side of the limb. It hit right between my ears, trickled down to the tip of my snout, and dripped off my whiskers.
Beneath this huge tree was the driest spot I had found. Even so, I was still drenched -- soaked clear to the skin. Water even dripped from my tummy, adding to the puddle at my feet.
I couldn't understand. My boy would never leave me out here...not all night...not all alone....
We played chase in the backyard. He petted me and hugged me. I licked his face and ears and he laughed. I loved him. He loved me. My boy would never desert me.
Just then a big drop of rain hit right inside my ear. I flinched and shook my head.
It wasn't my boy. It was the daddy. He was the one who brought me here.
The day had started out okay. My boy fed me, petted me, and we'd had a little romp. When my boy left for school, the daddy put me on my leash and we went for a drive in the car. I should have known then, because there was something different about the way he acted. Something strange and unusual. Besides that, my boy wasn't with us. He was always there when we went for a ride.
I sat in the backseat and watched the road. Things didn't look familiar when we stopped. The daddy took my collar off and let me run. But when I came back to the car...the car was gone. Maybe I romped and played too long. Maybe I didn't come back when I should have. I don't know.
Anyway, I sat and waited and waited and waited. I just knew he wouldn't leave me.
The first night was really bad. When I was little I'd slept in a big basket with my mother and brothers and sisters. When my boy took me to live with him, I had to sleep outside. I had my own doghouse, though, and there was a big fence to keep all the nighttime scaries from getting too close. Out here, I was all alone with no place to hide. Then it got worse. It started to rain. Two days and one night the rain fell. Still I waited. I just knew they would come for me. Cold, miserable, scared, and lonely, I waited. Now...I'd waited long enough. It was time to move on.
Someone growled at me. It snapped me from my thoughts and made me jump. The growl came again, but this time I realized that it wasn't someone growling at me...it was my tummy.
With a heavy heart (not to mention my heavy wet fur) I knew it was time to go. I couldn't wait any longer.
As I walked I looked for anything familiar. When the rain finally stopped, I didn't. I kept walking. Never slowing down, I sniffed for those special scents of home. They weren't there.
What I did smell was kind of interesting, though. It was like the car and the trash and metal and...well, it reeked of everything all jumbled together. I followed the aroma to a big chain-link fence. It was like the one in my backyard, only taller. The top had wire wrapped around it. I had never seen anything quite like it. There was stuff piled everywhere. My nose wiggled as I whiffed along the edge of the fence. With all that junk and trash, there had to be something in there to eat.
"Get away from here, you mangy mutt!" a short black dog snarled at me. "This is my yard. Get on your way. I have work to do."
"Chill, mister, I'm just looking. Besides I don't know how to get in there anyway." I stared at the white teeth that shined back at me.
"I'm serious. You'd better get away from here. I mean it!" The dog's ears flattened against his head and his eyes narrowed. At the same time, though, his tail was wagging. He stuck his nose through one of the chain-link squares.
My tail started wagging, too. I leaned down and licked his nose with my pink tongue.
"Hey, stop that!" His light brown eyebrows crooked as he stepped back and growled again. The fur on his neck stood out to make him look bigger.
I dropped my head to stare him in the eye. "You need to calm down. You're going to wear out the fur on your neck."
"Get real! If I let you hang around, the junkyard guy will kick me. I've got work to do." The dog stepped back up to the fence and sniffed at me.
I licked his face again. "Hey, what's your name, anyway?" I asked.
"Which name do you want?"
"You have more than one name? How did that happen?"
"Well, these guys call me Spike. But my first name was April."
My nose twitched and my ears perked up. "April? That's a funny name for a boy dog."
"Yeah, maybe, but I kind of like it. This little kid gave me that name. She was pretty sweet to me. She was a bit rough, I guess, but nothing compared to Roy. He is just mean!" The dog sat down on his haunches and relaxed.
"What should I call you?" I twitched my ears at him.
"Better call me Spike. If Tiger hears anyone call me April, I'll be in more trouble than ever." He stretched out, crossed his front legs, then dropped his head to rest on his paws.
"Who's Tiger?" I asked.
"Tiger is the Junkyard Dog. He is really mean. Roy has been poking him with a stick and kicking him forever. So he got his attitude adjusted a long time ago. Roy is working on me, but I'm not mean yet. He says that I'll get there, though." Spike scooted on the ground until his nose touched the fence. "By the way, what's your name?"
"Freddie. Call me Freddie." I closed my eyes....
The boy had picked me special. I was the third one to leave the litter. He had looked me all over and declared, "You are Fred D. Fluff Dog! I will love you forever."
That was before the car ride. The ride that got me here...the junkyard....
"Just call me Freddie." I sighed. "That's what my friends call me. Just Freddie." My ears drooped. My stomach grumbled.
From the back of the yard a big yellow dog came running at us.
"Spike, what are you doing? Run that white pile of fluff away from here. You aren't doing your job. Get busy! Get rid of that mutt!" I could see the dog's huge muscles under his short golden hair. Black stripes stretched across his chest and back.
Spike sprang to his feet and spun to face him. "I...er, I...ah...thought that was only people that we had to keep away," he stammered. "This is just a dog!"
My new friend looked sort of small and helpless as he stood next to the other dog.
"What are you thinking? One more dog around here, and we won't get anything to eat. We barely get enough as it is. Get rid of him. Now!" Tiger snapped his strong jaws at Spike's ear.
"Get out of here, you big fluff ball," Spike growled at me. Then he winked. "Go around the corner and wait," he whispered softly so Tiger couldn't hear.
I looked into his narrowed eyes, flipped my tail, and ran out of sight. Hiding behind some wooden boxes, I waited for some kind of signal. It wasn't long before I heard a friendly yip.
Carefully peeking around the edge of the boxes, I kept my ears low in case Tiger was still there. Spike stood next to the fence.
"It's okay," he said with a wag of his tail. "Tiger has gone on patrol. I'm supposed to keep you away. Just make sure that you watch out for him. It takes quite a while for Tiger to get all the way around the whole yard. What are you doing here, anyway? You look like somebody has been taking care of you." Spike stretched out and touched his nose against the fence.
I shrugged my ears. "I got dumped. I think."
Spike arched an eyebrow. "What happened?"
"I don't know. I thought the daddy was taking me for a car ride. I got out for a run, and when I came back..." My head drooped when I thought about it.
"Yeah, you got dumped, all right! It happens to the best of us. Things are going along just dandy, and the next thing you know...dumped!" Spike jumped up and started biting at his rear end. "Pesky fleas!"
"I didn't do anything. My boy and I were happy together. He loved me. I am sure of it." My heart raced as I remembered the feeling I had when the car didn't come back for me.
"You didn't have to do anything! Stuff just happens. Something went wrong with them. Your boy probably still loves you. It's his parents with the problem. Who knows. You gotta live for the day." Spike reached up to scratch his belly with his hind leg.
"I don't know." I sighed. "Maybe if I had minded them better. I got along great with my boy. Maybe I dug too many holes in the yard. Maybe I barked too much." I sagged to the ground and rested my nose against the fence.
"Yeah, maybe, but quit worrying about it. People are just like that. Sometimes there's no reason at all. You can't trust people. At least you are free. Look at the mess I'm in. You are the first dog that I have had a chance to talk to. Tiger won't even play chase with me. Well, he does, but he bites me if he catches me -- really hard. If you think you have it bad, you need to be in my yard for a while."
"How could it be worse?" I sighed. "One day I have a warm house in a nice safe yard. A boy and toys to play with. Then...I get dumped."
Spike gave a snort. It was so loud it almost sounded like a growl. "You think you got it bad? Well, just let me tell you about bad...."
Text copyright © 2003 by Carol Wallace and Bill Wallace
Illustrations copyright © 2003 by John Steven Gurney