Authors: Chris Kurtz
Let me tell you. Lobo does not like that at all!
Finally it is time to go to the ball. After being introduced to all the handsome princes, Alexandra picks up my front paws and we go dancing about. Mona giggles and keeps busy by following us and loosening the items around my neck that I can't help stepping on.
Finally the little monster's mother calls.
“Off you go, princess,” Mona says to Alexandra. “It's supper time. You can finish loving Lobo later.”
Oooh, so much to look forward to. Thanks, Mona.
Alexandra's little feet pad off to the table.
“Okay, twin sister,” Mona says to me. She looks at me and giggles. “You haven't had so much attention since you were a puppy. You must love this.”
Honestly, the ball, the dancing, the strings of pearls winding around my feet â¦ not really my thing. Thank goodness Mona stayed close by. She manages to get my beautiful scarves removed, and I get a tummy party and a back scratch for my trouble. Things are looking up, and for a moment I think I might even get a little bit of leash-free exploration time.
Sadly, Mona has not forgotten the ranger's rules. She clips a chain to my collar just as I am making up my mind which way to run. The chain is attached to the bottom step of the large motor home, and Mona disappears before I even remember to pout.
My chain is long enough for me to hop up inside the motor home to find Hector and Glory, who are side by side in their cages on the floor.
“He's still alive,” says Glory, giving me a slight wave with one wing, “and not much worse for the wear.”
“Oooh, he's so cute!” says Hector in a high girl voice.
“And thank you for your support,” I tell Hector. “With any luck it will be your turn after supper.”
I throw myself down between Hector and Glory. Even though they aren't anything like a wolf family, it feels good to be back with these two.
Luck turns out to be on my side. In between supper and s'mores, Alexandra asks Mona to unhook the door to Hector's cage. She hauls him out by his tail, with Mona trying to show her how
to be kind, and carries him away. In spite of myself, I feel just a tiny bit sorry for him.
“I'll be next,” says Glory with a heavy sigh.
There's nothing I can say.
At bedtime, Alexandra comes stomping up the stairs of the motor home with Hector in her hands, complaining that she isn't even tired. She might not be, but I can tell that Hector is going to get a good night's sleep.
“Oh, my aching ears,” he complains as he is dumped back into his cage. Mona latches the door behind him, and he hugs the wires with his little hands. “Home sweet home.”
“We need a plan,” I say.
“Exactly.” Hector throws himself down in a corner. “You two make a plan while I sleep off the agony. I'm counting on you.”
In another moment he is snoring. Glory and I look at each other. She doesn't look like she has any more ideas than meâand I have zero.
Then far out in the distance I hear something that makes the hairs on the back of my neck sit up and pay attention. It's the howl of a wolf. It is not the bad brakes on a garbage truck. It is not my
imagination. It is a wolf and I can tell that Glory hears it too.
I start to shiver so hard from excitement that I can hardly get my next words out. “I'm p-p-pretty sure we could learn a thing or two about getting out of a tight spot from w-w-wolves.”
“I'm afraid a wolf's set of skills will not help you right now,” says Glory.
“How do you know? Have we tried slashing with fangs and going for the jugular?”
“I tried a bite or two when I was a younger bird,” says Glory. “Trust me. Mona wants Alexandra to learn how to treat us well. But Alexandra is family for Mona. She does not want Alexandra harmed in the process.”
I listen for more wolf calls, but the night is quiet except for crickets.
“If I was with the wolves, I wouldn't have these problems,” I say.
“Wolves have problems,” says Glory. “Do you think wild creatures have it easy?”
I don't answer Glory. But I know she has me figured out all wrong. Maybe some dogs are happy with the soft life. But not this dog.
Not a dog in the land of his ancestors.
Not a dog who is determined to find his pack even if he is a little on the small side.
Not small, exactly. A little undersized, maybe.
Mona comes in. She rubs my tummy, scratches Glory under her neck feathers just where she likes it, and wakes up Hector to give him a peanut. Then she goes to the back of the motor home to sleep.
It's quiet except for the night sounds. I let my mind fly away to the windswept hill where the howl came from. The wolves are howling and dancing around another, smaller wolflike guy. They are waiting for the signal only he can give.
Then the leader raises his head. His howl floats over the trees, and all the animals of the forest turn to listen.
“Are you awake?” Two big, blue eyes in the middle of a small face and a tangle of uncombed hair are the first things I see in the early morning light. It scares me so much I almost pitch off the couch where I've made my bed. But I can't, because there are two hands around my middle.
“Stay right here with me and I'll rock you to sleep,” Alexandra says.
Do I have a choice? She wraps me in a doll's blanket and holds me up to her shoulder and leans her head down until her bird's-nest hair covers my nose.
“Hush, baby,” she says. “Mommy will wash all the nightmares out of your head.” She starts to rock and hum. “Shhhh. You're safe with me.”
Well, too bad we don't share the same opinion about that. I squirm to let her know I'd rather be free, but there is no letting up of her grip. Alexandra switches me over to the other shoulder and pats my back. “Do you need to burp?”
Umm. Thank you for asking, but no. This calls for action. I can always bark really loudly to get some attention from the adults. But I have a better idea. I whine.
I'm pretty sure none of the sleepyhead adults in the back rooms want to clean up Chihuahua piddle on their nice motor home rug because they waited too long to let the poor guy out.
I don't hear anything so I whine again. Sure enough, a puffy-eyed Mona appears at the door. “Alexandra?” She blinks a few times. “What are you doing?”
I bark so that Mona knows that the nothing under the doll's blanket is me.
“Alexandra, why are you holding Lobo? Remember, you're supposed to wait for me before
you hold him, so I can make sure you're being safe.”
“I think Lobo was having a nightmare,” says Alexandra.
Oh no he wasn't. Not until you decided to wake him up.
“Besides, I just love your family so much, Aunt Mona. It's hard for me not to hold them.”
I struggle out of the doll's blanket and out of Alexandra's hands and land right at Mona's feet.
“I know you do, honey,” says Mona, “but it's really early. Let's take Lobo outside for a potty break and then go back to bed for a while.”
“Okay.” Alexandra jumps up. “Aunt Mona, you're my favorite.”
After breakfast and after two hours of hide-and-seek, kick the can, and freeze tag, favorite Aunt Mona looks dusty and tired. She decides to take a shower and then go for a sightseeing ride around the park. Alexandra says she wants to come too, but Mona tells her that she needs to have a little family time. I think Mona just needs to get away from Alexandra for a while.
Mona hums a tune while she packs. Glory makes bird sounds and swings upside down when her cage gets loaded in the backseat. Hector scratches his back on the wire sides of his cage and says, “Mmm, mmm,” over and over. Everyone is in a good mood for a little family time â¦ or could it be that we're all just glad to be escaping a certain someone?
On the road, Mona cracks the window for me even though it's against the rules. My feet go up on the armrest. Ahh, the wind in the ears. Ahh, the wild smells. I sniff. I breathe deeply. Ulp. I almost choke.
Glory stops twittering. Mona plugs her nose. “Lobo, was that you?”
I drop down to the seat and lick the sides of my mouth to try and wipe the taste off my tongue. I know what Mona is thinking, and I am shocked that she suspects me.
“Smells exactly like â¦ air of dog,” says Hector, “and I don't want to say which end it came from.”
“It wasn't me,” I say. It really wasn't. The problem is, no one believes me because that's the same thing I say when it really
Mona keeps her nose plugged. “It's getting worse and it's coming from outside.” She rolls up the windows. For once I'm glad.
“Ha.” I turn to face Hector. “Told you it wasn't me.”
The sign says BUBBLING PAINT POTS. Apparently, it's some “natural wonder” people like to see, because Mona stops to take a look. There are bubbles. But not like bath bubbles. These are mud bubbles that expand like brown balloons out of the ground and then pop and splatter mud in all directions. Hot, bubbling mud from the middle of the earth, and crowds of people. Everyone with any sense, and two fingers, is holding their nose.
Not an animal in sight â¦ except for the poor critters on leashes like me who can't hold our noses. No animal would want to be anywhere near this place. Now, if you were a dirty sock, you would feel like you were in a heaven where all dirty socks end up. But this was no place for anyone with lungs. We hustle out of there.
“Let's go see a lake,” says Mona.
, I think.
Cool, fresh breezes. Children splashing on the shore.
Mona turns off the road and I get a bad feeling
when I see the sign. SOUR LAKE. Swimming, anyone? No thanks. The next sign is worse. DANGER! BOILING WATER. UNSTABLE GROUND. And if that sign isn't enough to make you drive away, just look at all the trees around the edge of Sour Lake. Dead. And if the boiling water didn't kill the trees, I think it might have been the smell. Mona drives away.
I'm a lot happier when we are speeding away from the stink and out to the meadows of long grass. The window comes down again. Out here it smells like â¦ I sniff again â¦ grass. Weird.
And there's another smell. A wild smell.
My wolf senses go on high alert. “Something is out there,” I say. I get so excited, my front feet start to prance on the armrest. I make them stop because I'm pretty sure wolves don't prance. “Something dangerous with sharp teeth.” Only an animal with a howl in his heart can possibly know this. “Could be wolves!”
“Horns,” says Hector.
Horns? How can he be so sure? I sniff again. “Claws,” I say. “Definitely something with sharp, dangerous claws.”
“Hooves,” says Hector.
He sounds very sure of himself and I have a bad feeling about this. I might have let my excitement get ahead of my nose in this one case only. But I don't want to lose. I look back at Hector. He is stretching up as tall as his little rat self can stretch and sniffing like crazy.
Then I notice that with his cage sitting on the backseat, the windows are too high for him to see out.
I look ahead. “I'll let you know what it is when I see it.”
Mona slows down. There
something in the meadow. Long thin legs. Horns. It is eating grass.
I'm pretty disappointed with myself, but I act confident. “Ooh, ouch,” I say. “Nice try back there, mousie. It's a bear.”
Hector starts sniffing like crazy. His nose is twitching, and he gets on his hind feet and goes from one end of his cage to the other trying to catch the scent. “Are you sure?” he asks.
“Big, brown, and bearish,” I lie. “Teeth as long as scissors.”
Hector gets back down on all fours and bangs his head against the wire of his cage. “I don't know what's wrong with me.”
“Hey, look.” Mona points. “There's a deer.”
“A deer!” Hector stops banging and looks at me. His eyes squint. “You said it was a bear.”