The rumbling rolled in the distance, but it was still enough to make me jump. My heart was busy banging away in my chest, but a quick glance to my right revealed Mylo sitting straight, his eyes cast a glassy gaze out across the lawn. Somehow, the loud peels of thunder didn’t seem to be affecting him one little bit.
The pet door groaned, complaining that it had to do its job. Both Mylo and I glanced towards it waiting to see who had managed to muster the courage to join us out on the enclosed back porch. To our surprise we were greeted by on orange cat bearing chubby cheeks and long white whiskers.
My voice was filled with enthusiasm at the sight of my oldest and dearest friend.
“Hi guys! You dog’s weathering the storm, okay?”
Mylo groaned and I rolled my eyes. The portly orange cat, on the other hand, made no attempt at an apology for such a poor pun, unless you wanted to count the sheepish grin on his face for one.
“No really, you guys doing okay?” You been out here quite some time.”
His thick latin accent and piercing yellow eyes still possess the innate ability to captivate me, even after all these years together.
“We are okay, just enjoying the sound of the rain on the roof,” the puppy answered, his face wearing a warm smile.
Sometimes I marvel at the off-white part labrador part shepherd mix that has become my adopted brother. Truth be told, he has such a welcoming personality, try as you might, you cannot help but be drawn to him. Mylo lulls you into a sense of safety and security, but deep down there is a layer of danger to him. We call it his inner puppy.
I scan Rapi out the corner of my eye and quickly notice the slightest hint of tension in his pudgy orange body. Rapi had learned his lesson when it comes to Mylo and has become ultra-sensitive to the notion that at any moment Mylo could jump up and begin a game of chase, which is an activity the orange cat is strictly opposed to. In fact, anything remotely resembling exercise is something that he finds to be distasteful and worthy of avoidance.
A large white light arced its way across the sky. Rapi’s eyes lit up and grew to twice their normal size.
The thunder caught Mylo and I by surprise and caused the porch to shake underneath us. The orange cat let out a yelp then scrambled for the pet door, while I, on the other hand, dove for shelter under the nearest patio chair I could find, where I covered my eyes with my paws and trembled violently until the echo from the blast faded away.
“Wow, that was a big boomie, right Cindee,” Mylo’s voice commented over the squeaky sound of the pet door swinging back and forth on its hinge
Slowly, I lifted my paws from my eyes to find the white puppy still sitting in the same spot, admiring the dark clouds that were swirling overhead.
“Pretty cool, right,” the puppy asked, turning to look at me.
I nodded in agreement, then went back to covering my face with my paws.
The sound of the little voice startled me back to wakefulness. My eyes popped open, then quickly slammed shut again to avoid the blinding light that now surrounded me.
“Wake up Cindee!”
I began to raise my eyelids, this time slow and deliberate, letting the sunlight leak in bit by bit until I was wide awake and able to make out my surroundings clearly.
The storm clouds had given way to a beautiful cerulean sky, populated with fluffly white clouds that seemed to tower up to the heavens. I struggled to my feet and began to stretch. My aging labrador body began to pop and crack as I went through my favorite poses. Downward facing dog first, then the cow. Finally, all the kinks seemed to be worked out.
No sooner had I plopped my butt back down on the porch then the kid had leapt to his feet and began to holler my name.
“Cindee! Cindee! What is that,” he asked, his body bounding up and down and his left arm extended out towards the garage.
He had spun around to look impatiently at me. Part of me wanted to ignore him. You see, Mylo had this seemingly unending stream of questions and answering all those questions tends to wear me out. I was about to turn and head for the house when a memory flashed through my mind of my older adopted sister Cosita, who taught me everything I needed to know before she went to the Rainbow Bridge. It was as if she was sending me a message from the beyond, that I needed to be patient with this kid. I couldn’t help but smile to myself, then resolved to answer more of his incessant queries.
I inhaled deeply taking in a noseful of moist rain scented summer air then summoned myself to my feet.
“What is it Mylo,” I asked, fighting back the frustration.
“That,” he squealed.
The excitement of the moment was rolling off him in waves. His paw was still stabbing the air in the direction of the tall storage shelter. I squatted down to look over his shoulder and let my eyes follow the imaginary line emanating from Mylo’s outstretched arm until they finally came to rest on a …
“What the heck is that!?!?”
“Don’t take another step,” the creature said, her face wearing a menacing scowl. Mylo lifted his paw and placed in front of himself, preparing to move forward.
“I am serious, not one more step!”
“I don’t think it’s kidding Mylo,” I said, shaking my head to warn him off. He looked me square in the eyes and growled at me with that cute puppy dog growl he has.
My voice was much sterner that I had intended, yet, it was probably the most effective thing I could have done in that moment.
“Humpf,” he grumbled, then dropped into a sitting position. His eyes averted mine, instead he leveled them at the brown furry creature standing less than five feet in front of us.
“What do you want from us,” the beast asked, still not in a happy mood.
“Just to say hello. My name is Cindee and this is Mylo,” I said, nodding towards the puppy.
“We know. We have been watching you,” she said with a knowing smile.
“Creepy,” Mylo whispered out the side of his mouth.
Mylo wasn’t wrong, but still, I need to force the comment out of my mind.
“Interesting,” I answered, not really knowing how to come back from a comment like that.
“If you don’t mind me asking,” I continued. “What are you?”
I know. Probably a little too direct, but in the heat of the moment that whole comment about watching us had me concerned that this could be an alien visiting us from another planet. Maybe it wanted to do some crazy experiments on us. Either way, I needed to know just how serious the situation was.
“Why … I am a groundhog silly dog,” came the unexpected answer.
“Ohhhhhhhh,” Mylo and I said in unison.
I had heard of groundhogs before, I mean, who hasn’t, you know, with the whole Groundhog Day and all. Meeting one in person? Well, I never would have dreamed that could happen, not even in my wildest dreams, and I am quite the dreamer of wild dreams.
I was still processing the whole groundhog thing when the bush next to the garage began to shake and tremble. I could tell by how tense Mylo’s body was that he wasn’t going to be able to control himself much longer. He was about to launch himself forward but was able to keep himself in check at the last second, when the tiniest little groundhog baby totted out from behind the shrub.
“Momma,” the little guy called out.
“Not now Junior,” Mrs. Groundhog called over her shoulder. Before she could say another word, she was interrupted by a large screech coming from above us.
We all looked up in time to see a majestic looking hawk swoop from the sky. His dive was direct and his target certain. With the skill of hundreds of generations, he plucked the baby groundhog from behind his mother and in one fluid motion began to ascend to the heavens.
“Junior,” Mrs. Groundhog shrieked in terror.
I stood frozen with my mouth hanging open, unable to believe what had just happened in front of me.
The groundhogs scream was one of inconsolable sorrow.
It was all I could say.
“Mylo, quick, run in the house and tell Rapi what happened and to alert the neighborhood, then I need you get Mommy’s attention and have her follow me!”
He looked on with a puzzled expression.
“Now Mylo, do it now,” I barked frantically.
Casting my eyes skyward, I could still see the hawk with Junior in his claws putting more distance between us with each passing moment.
“But,” he started to protest.
“We don’t have time. Just do it Mylo,” I growled, then turned and sprinted for the gate.
I threw my body against it. The chain links rattled, but otherwise nothing. I backed up and tried again, using all my energy. This time I crashed violently against it, jarring all my bones. All to no avail.
“Let me help,” Mrs. Groundhog offered.
She pulled herself up the fence startlingly fast and had it unlatched in a matter of seconds.
“Thank you,” I called to her over my shoulder as I sprinted down the driveway and made a sharp left.
“I will get you dirty bird,” I growled under my breath.
I was on a mission to save that little groundhog, and nothing was going to stop me. I locked my eyes on the bird cruising overhead. Thankfully, the weight of Junior was helping to slow the hawk down and I was able to keep him in my sights.
A sudden cacophony of noise began to rise around me. My hairs stood at attention at the howling of hundreds of dogs, all barking the same thing. I tuned my ears into their song and listened intently.
“This is the Emergency Barkcast System. This is not a test. Repeat this is not a test. Please be on the lookout for a hawk carrying a baby groundhog and a brown labrador mix in pursuit. Please, assist the lab in anyway requested.”
I couldn’t believe it. That beautiful orange cat did more than just reach out to the neighborhood friends, he activated the Emergency Barkcast System.
The message energized me, and I found myself running faster than I had ever run in my life. That bird was trying his darndest to get away, but I wasn’t going to have it.
“Go Cindee Go!” a poodle shouted from beyond a fence as I raced past her home.
“Dirty bird dead ahead,” another dog, this time a pit bull barked out as I approached his home. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him tear apart the screen on his door and climb out through the opening.
“Let’s get that hawk” the pitty shouted from behind me.
I turned to look over my shoulder and he smiled at me.
“What? I am coming with you!”
“Me too,” shouted a large golden lab who had pulled free from his human that had been taking him on a walk.
Soon, I had an army of dogs following me with hundreds of other dogs, cats and even bunny rabbits cheering us on.
My heart pounded in my chest at the mere thought of what was happening around me. All the pets and wildlife of the Village had banded together to support me. The Emergency Barkcast System had expanded and now the message along with updates was being broadcast among the cat and bird population too.
Ahead of me, the hawk slowed down and descended into his nest atop a large maple tree. My heart began to sink. We had come so far, but now that nasty bird had found a place of protection. There was no way us dogs could reach him way up there and that hawk knew it too. Junior was a goner.
My head dropped in defeat.
“Are you the dog chasing that kidnapping hawk?”
I looked to see where the voice came from. The pack of dogs that had joined me on the chase parted allowing a skinny white cat, covered in dirt and with mangled whiskers to pass through.
“I am, but he is holed up in this tree and we can’t get up there to rescue Junior,” I whimpered.
“Don’t be so downhearted friend. The Village strays are here to lend a hand!”
I looked at him, not sure what he was talking about. To my surprise, he let out a loud whistle.
“To the top of the tree,” he screeched.
Seemingly out of nowhere, dozens of homeless cats converged on the maple and began to scale it.
“No surrender,” their disheveled leader called out.
“No surrender,” they called back and charged up the tree.
Moments later a hideous screeching and hissing noise emerged from the top of the tree. Leaves and feathers began to fly everywhere. I looked up and prayed that the cats were not too late to save Junior.
One last horrifying shriek came from the nest. The once majestic hawk spread his wings wide and launched himself into the air. We all looked up with bated breath. A moment passed in silence. Then another. I felt a sickness rising in my throat and then, the leader of the cat’s poked his head out of the nest and gave us all a thumbs up.
A deafening cheer arose on the ground and all the cats and dogs of the neighborhood began to dance in joy. The strays surrounded the baby groundhog and descended slowly with him, protecting him so that he didn’t slip and fall. Once on the ground Junior was lifted in the air and passed around from dog to dog in a celebratory party like I have never seen before.
“There they are!”
I turned to see Mommy and Mylo pulling up in the grey SUV. Mommy looked green with worry, but Mylo, well, he looked like he was about to jump out of his skin, he was so overcome with joy.
“We did it,” Mylo whooped.
“We did it,” I answered back, exhausted and in need of a nap.
“I can never get tired of watching these,” Rapi said from his perch on the cat tree.
The three of us fell silent for a moment, just letting this one sunset penetrate us. The last rays of the sun where spilling over the horizon, which was turning the most beautiful purple and red. The ball of fire that brought us life had already passed out of sight.
Something about this moment was special. Sure, I had seen hundreds of these before, but watching the transition from day to night always seemed to make my nerves and muscles relax. I could literally feel the tension draining away.
“Mrs. Groundhog sure was thankful wasn’t she,” the orange cat asked.
“She sure was,” Mylo answered through a yawn.
“It was all because of you two,” I said, smiling at my two best friends.
“You did all the work Cindee,” Rapi answered, then leapt down and rubbed his cheek against mine.
“That was some smart thinking Rapi. Activating the Emergency Barkcast System saved little Junior’s life,” I reminded him.
He opened his mouth to say something, but before he could a flash of light soared across the dome of night.
“Look shooting star,” I cut him off.
Quiet, descended on the porch. The three of us sat there watching the firefly’s put on a show until late into the night until at last, Mommy and Daddy called us to bed.
Upstairs, snuggled in bed between Rapi and Mylo, my heavy eyelids fell shut, and the dreamer in me came out to dream once again.