A young pup bounded joyously through the tall grasses. His long pelt danced in the wind, his tongue was lolling behind him and his ears were flying.
Despite this happy scene, the threat of danger edged it.
The pup had in fact run away from the watchful eyes of his cruel family for a short while so he could stretch his stiff limbs. He enjoyed the peace of the moment, relishing and savouring every second as it passed. The pup closed his eyes and scented the air with caution. Upon finding no scent of any of his family he carried on playing. A rustling in the swaying grasses ahead alerted the pup ad his triangular ears pricked in interest.
A huge looming shape crashed through the vegetation and landed heavily on the pup, knocking him onto the tightly packed soil beneath his feet. The air was knocked out of his small lungs and he instinctively wheezed in an attempt to gain air. Once his breath had returned and he had recovered from the knock, he hauled himself to his feet and the instinct for survival was overridden by the pup’s desire to face his attacker. The assassin looked a lot like the pup; its ears were triangular, its pelt was dark gold and black, its tail was bushy and its muzzle was pointed. But it was bigger, much bigger than the pup.
“You disappoint me again” it said in a gruff, hoarse voice.
“I just wanted to get some air” the terrified pup whimpered.
“Why can’t you act more like Slash, and follow my orders?”
“I am who I am, not my brothers” the pup explained.
“Well then my son, its time you proved yourself. SLASH!” he yelled. Obediently, another young pup, more bulky than his brother and with a glint of evil misting his eyes, came trampling through the grass.
“Teach your brother a lesson” the large dog ordered.
“Yes father” the bulky pup shifted his gaze towards his scrawny sibling “Time to learn bro”.
The bulky pup threw himself at the scrawny pup with amazing force. Both pups fell to the ground in a tangle of limbs and the smaller of the brothers was winded for the second time in five minutes.
Slash raked his claws into his brother’s back, making good use of the pup’s breathlessness, ripping out chunks of fur. All the scrawny pup could do was to attempt to shield himself from the blows.
His patched pelt was soon sticky with blood and his fur stuck together in blood soaked clumps.
“Enough, leave the runt for now!” came the distant voice of the father. The bulky pup left his inferior underdog brother and leapt back into the tall grasses.
“Perhaps now you will listen to my orders” the father spat. He too disappeared into the vegetation, leaving the pup bruised and bleeding.
The vision disappeared and Alsatians mind was filled with the memoirs of his pup hood not long after the attack..
He was stranded on a stretch of sand. The tide had come in and he had gone off on his own to explore the vast liquid that was known as the sea. He knew he couldn’t swim the length of water back to dry land; his front left leg was still aching terribly form his fight with his brother. The forepaw was held firmly against his chest, unusable and beginning to waste away from lack of use.
He yowled in his puppy voice to attract attention, but none of his siblings or either of his parents came.
He was just about ready to lie down and wait for the dark grips of death to snatch him and drag him to the depths of the horrible afterlife his father had told him weak pups went too when he saw a hazy figure in the distance. The figure was coming towards him, and as his vision became clearer, he managed to identify the dog as one of the local strays.
Its long shaggy fur was stuck together in spikes, its eyes were completely concealed by the forest of hair and it seemed to be calling to him.
The stray was Shep, the elderly Old English sheepdog, the same Shep that was always challenging the pup’s father.
“Come on lad, stretch your leg a bit” the old dog urged. Shep entered the water with a loud splash and his fur was immediately drenched.
“I can’t, it hurts” the young pup whined pitifully.
“Swim, it will help” the Sheepdog encouraged.
“The salt hurts my scratches”
“How did you get over there then, if the water hurts?” the long haired stray queried as he slowly started to advance towards the sandbank.
“The sea had spat out the sand; I could go on for miles. But then it got hungry again, so gobbled up the sand” the pup explained in his own puppy-like phrases.
“Wait there then pup” the old dog insisted. Shep waded into the shallows of the beach and started swimming carefully towards he pup. If Shep had learned anything from all of his years in the sea, it was that swimming quickly used precious energy and drowning was more likely. He conserved his energy and took his time. His paws touched sand and he galloped up to stand beside the pup.
“You need to use that leg, otherwise it will go stiff and shrivelled, as it is starting to do already” the stray advised. He leant towards the shivering and frightened pup and took his disabled paw in his mouth and gently pulled. The frightened pup pulled away.
“No, you need to exercise it” his old rescuer scolded. The stray took the pup’s paw in his mouth once again and pulled slowly.
“Swim every day and gradually put some weight on it”.
“How can I get back?” the pup asked worriedly.
“I’ll carry you. You can either ride on my back or I’ll pick you up by your scruff” Shep suggested.
“I’ll ride on your back” the youngster answered almost immediately. Shep took the pup’s scruff in his jaws and gently swung him onto his back. The pup snuggled deep into the thick fur on his rescuers back, trying to forget about the past week and it’s painful consequences.
Shep slowly entered the salty water, lifting the pup higher with his shoulder. Once his paws had left the sand below, Shep began paddling. The pups little paws, which were hanging down by the old dogs sides, dipped in the water.
Shep suddenly stopped and sunk slightly.
“What are you doing!?” the youngster protested loudly “We are nearly there!”
“Sssshhhhh” Shep hushed.
“What is it?” the pup demanded, more quietly this time.
“Fish. Maybe barracuda” Shep explained as he sniffed the air “Barracuda kill”.
Sure enough, a dozen pointed, grey fins streamed through the water, slicing through it easily.
“Can’t we swim!” the terrified pup requested as the fish soared ever nearer.
“Good plan” Shep agreed loudly as he started to paddle on through the shallows of the beach.
With a loud sigh of relief, Shep felt the reassuring feel of the pebbly ground beneath his feet. He scrambled hurriedly onto the shore, the youngster bouncing helplessly on his back. The fastest fish leapt out of its watery habitat and clamped its jaws tightly on Shep’s bushy tail. He yelped in pain and viciously swung his tail in all directions in an attempt to free it from the fanged fiend.
The fish finally lost its grip and went flying as Shep made one more final, forceful swing. The fish landed under a tree and the young pup slipped off of his rescuer and bounded clumsily over to where the fish had landed, using his weak leg as Shep had said. He pounced on it and sunk his baby teeth into its scaly neck.
Salty fish blood oozed into his mouth; to him it was quite delicious. Shep strode up to the triumphant looking pup and grinned in pride.
“Consider it your first freshly killed meal” the elderly stray said.
Alsatian’s mind strayed away from the scene of his first kill, and he found himself dreaming of a young adult version of himself. Shep was standing by him, looking old and tired. A young female beach dog was with Alsatian, resting her beautiful head on his neck. She was Sandy, his mate.
Alsatian could remember this vision perfectly well; it was the day Shep finally defied Alsatian’s tyrant of a father publically.
The trio of dogs had finished planning their escape if the show of confidence and defiance went badly wrong. Shep and Alsatian padded quietly away, leaving Sandy in the safety of their meeting place, ready to challenge the leader of the strays.
The two males strode towards the beach, passing many of Alsatian’s father’s followers on the way. Alsatian was met with snarls and barks and teases; he was all but an outcast to his father’s land now.
When Shep and Alsatian reached the tall jutting rock where the leader would make announcements, they were confused to find no one in sight, not even the deputy, Slash.
Upon further investigation, Alsatian and his elderly tutor found the leader and deputy snoozing under a shady rock, sheltered from the heat of the mid day sun.
“I wish to challenge you” Shep said confidentially.
Alsatian’s father looked outraged.
“You!?” he barked “an old fleabag”
“Yes me, now escort me to your rock and lets fight in front of your followers” Shep demanded.
The leader and the deputy happily agreed and led Alsatian and Shep to the meeting rock. The leader called his pack with a loud howl and soon dogs were flocking from all directions like a herd of sheep to see what was happening.
“Challenging me is rebellion” Alsatian’s father shouted as he leapt onto the rock “ and rebellion is punishable by death. You came for a one on one battle with me. But my top warriors shall take you down and punish you for your crimes”
“No, I came for a fair fight, not one where your monsters outnumber me” Shep declared. Alsatian was starting to get worried. Maybe Shep would have triumphed over the leader on his own, as he had more experience of fights. But with the top warriors he would be dead within minutes.
“NO!” Alsatian roared “you area coward not to fight him without the aid of others!”
“My son challenges me as well? I can’t kill you; that would be improper. Once Shep here is dead you will leave my lands forever” Alsatian’s father yelled, and ordered the attack of Shep with a single, sharp yap.
Ten bulky Rottweiler-type dogs closed in around Shep, their hackles rising and their tails flicking in anticipation of a kill. All at once they charged and efore Alsatian could act Shep had fallen under the feet of his attackers.
Shep went down with dignity, with no screams of agony. Thirty seconds later the ten canines parted to reveal the mangled body that as once Shep.
Alsatian pushed through the crowd to reach his friend. He lay his muzzle gently on top of Shep’s own, as a sign of respect and let the tears flow.
You saved my life and yet I failed to save yours.
Alsatian was forced away from the body of his friend and sent over the border of the land he had called home. He met Sandy where he had left her and told her of the horrible news. The pair left the beach in search of new land and Alsatian’s father never saw them again.
Shep, with his long matted hair, his proud smile and his all seeing eyes disappeared into nothing. Sandy and her beautiful face and wonderful smile vanished with it. Alsatian didn’t want to lose the only dog that was ever proud of him. But he wasn’t. Buck was proud of him also. The youngster was proud of his hunting, scavenging, guiding and teaching, his playful ways, his tolerant nature and his fun-loving attitude. Sandy was proud of him too, but he remembered that only a couple of years after the vision, Sandy and the three pups they had had were taken in the night.
He opened his weary eyes to see a half eaten fish carcass by his forepaws. He nuzzled it gently to see if it was rotten and was glad to come to the conclusion that it was a few days old at the most.
“Finally awake then, sleepy head? Those two legged giants were giving you some funny looks” Buck’s high pitched yap broke the silence.
“Sorry, must have dozed off” Alsatian groaned, his voice thick with exhaustion.
“Out of the blue! You sort of went stiff and collapsed. I thought you said you were young. You’re not meant to collapse until your very old” Buck blurted.
“Hey” Alsatian scolded well naturedly. He batted Buck’s white and brown coat with his paw.
Buck dodged with fluency and swung his tail around in circles, as if to tease Alsatian. Buck was proud of his appearance. He had a brilliant white coat which was flecked with copper spots and patches. His legs were quite stocky, his muzzle was long and his ears were brown and floppy. His tail was undocked and almost always wagging with delight.
Alsatian liked his appearance too. He had a light brown coat with a big black patch on his back. His legs were muscled and his muzzle was pointed. His ears were always alert.
“Eat up, or you’ll get sick from hunger” Buck instructed. Alsatian, suddenly feeling the pangs of hunger in the pit of his stomach, attacked the fish with ferocity. He ripped the flesh from the bone in a matter of seconds and, upon finishing his salty meal, lifted his blood drenched muzzle to reveal the fish skeleton.
“What did you dream about?” Buck asked, knowing perfectly well Alsatian probably wouldn’t share it with him.
“My puppy life” Alsatian answered, and left it at that.
Despite his well intentioned meal, hunger stilled gnawed at his stomach and he heard his stomach growl at its maltreatment.
“We need some more food” Alsatian decided after a particularly painful grumble from his belly. The stray hauled himself to his feet and twitched his nose to see if he could detect any good meat. Upon failing to find a decent meal with his nose, he set off and paced towards the tourist café.
“Alsatian, I was thinking; why do we talk with our mouths?” Buck asked as he caught up with his teacher’s faster pace.
“Would you rather speak with your butt?” Alsatian retorted with slight happiness.
“No. But what about our paws or our ears?” the pup continued.
“You have to walk everywhere, so you would step on your mouth if it was on our paws. We would look rather silly talking from our ears. Our ears are our pride and joy” the older dog explained, his mind mostly on food.
“You would have to talk to a paw, or talk to an ear. Hey that’s a good catch phrase. Talk to the Paw!” Buck shouted with glee at his new phrase. Silence followed Bucks decision on his new catchy phrase as Alsatian eyed up a few customers at the café.
“You see that woman there?” Alsatian gestured to a young woman holding a hot dog “She looks like the type of person who adores a puppy. Go and beg”.
“What? I am a puppy with pride, not some lowly and desperate slave” Buck protested. He received only a stern glare from his guardian.
“Fine” the youngster spat. He padded towards the woman slowly and added a slight limp for extra effect. He put on the sad puppy-dog eyes and dropped his angry smile into an uncomfortable frown. He shuffled forward until he was within touching distance of the woman.
She spotted him from the corner of her eye and bent over for further inspection of the hungry stray.
Buck lifted his forelegs into the begging position, let his tongue loll out from his drooling mouth and allowed his mouth to form a smile. He yapped with happiness at the thought of having a chance to take some of that meaty, delicious hotdog.
The woman ripped off half of the hotdog and threw it gently towards the begging, starving youngster.
“What a cute puppy” the woman cooed as she risked a tickle under the chin. Buck absently licked her finger, concentrating more o the discarded hotdog. She eventually let him be when she glimpsed the look of hunger in his small blue eyes.
Buck leaped happily on top of the hotdog and sunk his canines into the brown flesh of the morsel. He dragged it across the path and over to Alsatian.
“Dig in” Alsatian said. Buck accepted the offer and took two small nibbles out of the sausage. He knew that Alsatian needed the energy and food more than he did.
Although the food had sated Alsatian’s hunger, it had not stopped it completely; his stomach still growled with the horrible feeling of being more or less empty.
“Let’s go and get more food” Buck suggested as he heard Alsatians belly.
“And we also need to see Pasha” Alsatian requested. Pasha was a cocky young stray mongrel pup. She and Buck had met quite early on in their lives. He, she and Alsatian were a tight group. The only reason she wasn’t with them on their scavenging trip was that she trying to cull some rats that were suspected as thieves of the dogs’ food. She and Buck had had their fair amount of arguments, but the truth was that they both liked each other and basically relied upon each other for survival.
“Lets go” Alsatian said.