I sat quietly in the backseat trying to focus on the trees that were zooming past us, but my faint reflection in the window was making it difficult. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t resist looking at the big brown dog that was staring back at me. I admired my beautiful floppy ears first, but always I was drawn to those grey hairs that were multiplying daily on my muzzle. I knew it was a sign that I was growing older, and I did not like it one bit!
Up ahead of us the tree’s parted, revealing a gravel road. No sooner had I spotted it than the grey SUV began to decelerate.
“Are we here? Are we here?!”
Just like that my peace and solitude toppled over like a row of dominos crashing on top of one another. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the tan beagador bouncing up and down and squealing excitedly. I was about to sock him in the nose, but then those old instincts kicked in.
“Yay! We are here? We are here Mylo,” I barked and howled in joy.
Okay, okay, so I can be a little moody in my old age, but I know a good time when I see it. Besides, it’s a girl’s prerogative to change her mind, isn’t it?
Daddy turned down the lane. The sound of the gravel crunching beneath the tires could barely be heard over the commotion that Mylo and I were making.
“Every time. They do this every time we go somewhere,” Daddy grumbled.
“Oh, you know you like it,” Mommy giggled.
“You are right, I do,” he answered with a full belly-shaking laugh.
Without warning, Mylo stopped howling and turned toward me. His face was scrunched up and his brows knit together.
“What’s wrong Mylo?”
“Why are we here again Cindee,” the beagador asked, clearly confused.
“We are having a family reunion at the park, remember?”
His mouth snapped shut and he glanced around the car as if he had lost the memory of the conversation and he could find it hiding somewhere inside the vehicle.
“A reunion? That’s like a party, right?”
“Right,” I assured him.
“I remember now.”
Daddy brought the car to a stop and turned off the engine. Mylo and I were about to start partying again when Mommy shushed us.
“I want you two to be good doggies today, okay? There are going to be other dogs here, so please, please, stay out of trouble. Can you do that?”
Mylo and I glanced at each other, not sure if we would be able to keep a promise like that. He cocked his head to the left, asking for my opinion in a nonverbal way.
I thought about it for a moment, then shrugged back. Having come to a decision, we turned to face Mommy again.
“We will,” we barked in unison.
Having struck a bargain, Daddy opened the door and set us free.
We had only gotten a few feet before an older black and brown dog came dashing toward us. Her tongue flailed from side to side and her eyes sparkled with excitement.
“Hey! It’s Daisy,” I shouted to my friend.
“Hey Cindee,” the german shepherd-hound mix howled back.
We began to charge towards her but came to an abrupt stop at the site of a ball of black and white fluff that had raced up beside Daisy.
“What is that thing,” Mylo whispered out the side of his mouth.
“I … I … don’t know,” I stammered.
Before we had a chance to think another thought they had arrived and were standing directly in front of us.
“Have you met Riley? She is with aunt Lizbeth,” Daisy asked, nodding towards the black and white dog.
“Nice to meet you, I am Cindee,” I said, extending a paw.
“What are you?”
We all turned to look at Mylo. If I could have found a big enough rock, I would have crawled underneath it.
“I am a Long Haired Jack Russell,” Riley answered, not seeming the least put out by Mylo’s uncouth behavior.
“I have never met a long hair before, she looks pretty cool right,” Daisy answered, trying to ease the tension.
“Very stylish,” I added, admiring the way her hair flowed in the breeze.
“Thanks,” the Jack Russell answered shyly.
Our conversation was cut short by a large black SUV that had come rolling down the road. Loud music poured out of it despite the windows being rolled up. We all stared open-mouthed at the vehicle. By now, it had ground to a halt and the door swung open. Much to our horror two well-muscled pit bulls, one brown, and one black, leaped from the vehicle and stared in our direction.
“Oh my gosh, thugs!”
We turned to look at Riley, who stared wide-eyed at the beasts. Neither Mylo nor I had met a pit bull before, but we knew about their reputation, and we were both scared.
“Um, there are lots of squirrels, let’s go play chase,” Daisy broke the silence, giving us a reason to escape before the new arrivals could approach us.
“Good idea. I see one now and I am going to get it!”
I saw Mylo take off out of the corner of my eye and turned to see him race off into the woods after the crafty rodent.
“Let’s follow him,” Daisy barked out.
“Right behind you,” Riley answered.
I turned to follow too.
“Wait for us, guys!”
The voice was familiar. I slowed to look over my shoulder. It was Uncle Robert! That must be Myla and Odie. I had heard the names and stories about them, but I didn’t know that they were … pit bulls.
Daisy’s voice jarred me back into the moment. The choice was easy and soon, Myla and Odie were nothing but an afterthought.
I followed the older dog’s brown tail as it zigzagged through the wooded area. I could hear twigs snapping and dogs panting. The chase was on, and I was enjoying it.
“I am going to get you squirelly squirelly!”
Mylo’s voice echoed from the distance. He was fast, agile, and had a lot of energy. I knew he would be able to catch his prey. When he did, he would do like any other red-blooded house dog would do and boop it on the nose and scream ‘I won!’.
“Do you see him, Daisy?”
“No. He is way ahead of us! We are just following his scent and the trail he is making in the leaves,” she called back over her shoulder.
I wasn’t worried in the least. Daisy is part hound and probably the best tracker that I know.
We had crested a small hill and were about to go down the other side when we made an abrupt ninety-degree turn and were about to come back down when we heard a large crash.
A moment later, the woods went silent.
“Help! Help me!”
We followed the sound of Mylo’s frantic screams down the hill and up a much smaller rise. The woods had begun to grow much thicker and the chatter of birds that we had heard throughout the day had stopped.
“Help I am trapped!”
The tan beagador’s voice was loud and clear. We were close, I could feel it. I could also sense that I was going to be in a lot of trouble, especially after the promise we made.
“We are coming Mylo,” I howled into the treescape.
“I hear you just be careful …”
I didn’t hear the rest of the warning. Daisy had stumbled in front of me and was about to fall into a cistern. Without thinking I lunged forward and grabbed her tail, pulling her back from the precipice.
“Thank you Cindee,” the old dog said, collapsing to the ground and gasping for air.
“Are you alright Daisy?”
The words felt like they had gotten stuck in my throat. I had already lost Mylo and now Daisy looked like she was about to have a heart attack.
“I’m okay, just need to catch my breath,” she answered weakly.
Mylo’s voice sounded like it was right next to me. I glanced around at my surroundings until I found the cistern. Gently, I crept towards the edge and peered down.
Standing at the bottom of the opening in a foot of water was our missing tan beagador, his face awash in worry and his beautiful coat covered in mud.
“Just relax Mylo, we will get you out.”
I needed to do something, but what? Lacking a plan, I scouted around until I found a branch that looked like it could support a forty-five-pound dog and tossed it over the edge.
“Grab hold Mylo! Riley and I will pull you up!”
The beagador did what he was told. I glanced at the small long haired Jack Russell and took a deep breath.
“You ready Riley?”
We both got a firm grip on the branch and began to pull. Slowly Mylo rose a foot off the ground. Then another. Then … splash!
Riley and I had run out of strength. The branch slid from our grip sending Mylo tumbling back into the water.
“Mylo,” I screamed.
“All good,” he called back.
“Hold on little buddy,” I barked down to him.
Sure, my voice sounded confident, but I was anything but.
“Riley, do you know how to get back?”
“I think so.”
She didn’t sound as confident as I had hoped, but it was all we had.
“Go get help,”
The small Jack Russell smiled weakly, then turned and headed back in the direction we had come from. With Riley on her way, I turned my attention back to Mylo. I needed to make conversation to keep him calm.
“Get away from me you thugs!”
“Now what,” I grumbled, unable to control my growing agitation at the situation.
When I turned around, I came face to face with the two pit bulls slowly advancing on Riley.
“We ain’t no thugs,” the brown one said.
“What’s a thug, Myla,” the black one asked.
“She thinks we are bad dogs!”
“We are not bad dogs. We are good dogs,” Odie growled emphatically.
“All pit bulls are thugs,” Riley spat back.
I had reached the end of my rope. This was supposed to be a fun day and it wasn’t fun. At all!
“Riley, everyone is an individual. Not all Jack Russell terriers are good dogs. Some are nasty!”
She scowled at me.
“What I am saying is, you can’t judge someone by how they look or where they live or anything else. You need to get to know them before you can judge them.”
“Myla, Odie, we need help,” I said cutting the Jack Russell off.
“How can we help?”
I explained the entire situation about the squirrel and the chase and the unfortunate ending with Mylo in the cistern. The two pit bulls nodded in understanding, then looked at each other and smiled before proceeding to head-butt each other.
“Time to power up Odie!”
“Power up, Myla!”
The two dogs clamped their teeth into the branch. They squatted and dug in then began to pull with their strong bodies. Their muscles tightened and rippled with the effort.
The beagador began to rise off the ground. He was halfway up when Odie and Myla started to run out of steam. I quickly jumped in and put all my effort into helping them pull. Soon we were working as a well-oiled team.
“I am almost there,” Mylo howled
Every fiber in my being was on fire. I could see the twin pit bulls struggling with each tug on the branch as well. We were not going to make it. I could see Riley watching out of the corner of my eye.
Desperate, I looked at her, pleading with my eyes. Begging her to help. She had been watching events unfold, but when she saw my plea, she simply shook her head no and dropped her eyes to the ground.
“Thugs,” she murmured.
Mylo began to slowly slide back down. My eyes began to burn. It was their way of forming tears, which by now had started to slide down my cheek. We had lost.
“You should be ashamed Riley.”
Daisy’s voice had caught me off guard, and before I knew it the load had gotten lighter. Daisy had grabbed hold of the branch next to me and was pulling. The old dog had managed to help us gain the ground we had lost, but no more.
“Oh, I can almost reach the top!”
With Mylo’s encouragement, we mustered one more yank on the tree limb, which culminated with Daisy yelping in pain.
“Stop Daisy! Stop! Just let me down,” Mylo pleaded.
Riley screamed at the top of her lungs, then darted over, grabbed the very end of the wood, and began to pull like a champion sled dog.
Inch by inch Mylo climbed the last foot until at last, he was able to reach up with his paws and scrabble out of his enclosure.
“I am free,” he squealed.
“We did it!”
Everyone began to jump up and down. High-fives went all around the group. It was one of the greatest celebrations I had ever been a part of.
“Thank you,” Mylo howled, his eyes tearing up in joy.
“Teamwork,” the two pit bulls barked then head-butted again.
“Teamwork, teamwork, teamwork,” Riley sang and danced around until she bumped into Odie.
Her sing-song chant died down and she looked up at him and studied his face for a moment, then wrapped her arms around him in a giant hug.
© Copyright H. Scott Moore 2022