As far as fall days go, today was rather pleasant. The sun was bright and the sky was clear of ominous clouds. I was able to get the den cleaned out faster than usual, since we confined the boys to their beds. It amazes me how much mess three young pups can make.
While cleaning, I found an acorn in the front room. Scratched across the shiny brown surface was the name Filbert. Effie’s son played with Bobby on a regular basis, but they usually kept to the outdoors. I ran my paw over the letters and giggled; it looked like someone did not know what type of nut it was and wrote this to remind them, but they were wrong nonetheless.
Samuel strode in from the river and slumped down on his cushion, “Whew! The seasons may be changing, but it is still warm as summer.” He wriggled his toes as he stretched his legs.
“Dear, you are working too hard in the middle of the day. Why don’t you take a rest?”
“You’re right. I just thought I would finish up so I didn’t have to go back out a second time.” He looked around the den, “Where is everyone?”
“Bobby is at Effie’s playing with Filbert,” I tossed him the acorn so he could look at it. “And the other two…well, you know.”
Samuel pointed at the nut, “You think a squirrel would know what an acorn was.”
“He wrote his name on it to claim it,” I chided, and snatched the nut away.
“I know that. I was just being silly.” He smiled at me and I felt like we were young pups first falling in love.
I leaned in and rubbed his belly, “Why don’t I take this back to Filbert and collect our son in the process?”
“Sounds like a plan. I’ll keep an eye on the boys.”
“Sure.” I knew that the moment I left his eyelids would blanket his vision and all he would be watching were his dreams.
The warm air outside the den was heavy on my lungs, so I decided to keep to the tall grass as I journeyed to Effie and Simon’s home. It was on the other side of the woods, but I would be in the shade most of the way.
When I came upon a clearing, I kept alert for danger. This time of year, hunters were out looking for game, and this area had a tendency to have multiple traps. It was not long before I found one of those traps. Some hunter did a poor job at hiding it and I could easily avoid it by walking in the course grass around the narrow path.
Just on the other side, my foot found something cold. I jerked it away and saw the golden thingamabob that the boys were supposed to return. I clenched my jaw and then reminded myself to breathe. “This is how they return things? No wonder I can’t find half of my affects.”
A high pitched shrill came from out of view and I ducked down in the grass. Soon another joined it and then giggling ensued. A deeper voice called out, “Girls, don’t’ run off to far. I have something to show you.”
I chanced a glance above the wispy blades, and saw a human walking with his two young pups in the field. The pink covers they wore brushed the top of the grass, and their yellow curls bounced as the scampered all about.
I crawled to nearby tree and kept out of sight. I listened to them play until they were breathing heavy and had a difficult time laughing. The older man sat down on the ground and leaned back on his elbows. His broad smile barely showed beneath his bushy beard.
“Come,” he said. “I want to give you something.”
The pups ran to his side and flopped down next to him. One of them bounced on her knees, “What is it, Papa?” The other nodded in excitement.
“I have a gift for you. It is a special gift, but I cannot open it.” He pulled a wooden box, with gold corners, out of a bag. “You see this box has something special in it, but I have lost the key.” The pups ceased there bouncing and frowned. The man looked at them and then padded their hands with his own. “Now don’t cry. I lost the key in this very meadow. I tried to look for it but my eyesight is poor.” He pointed at his metal framed eyes when he said this. “But you two can see well, and are closer to the ground. You could find the key for me.”
“Yes Papa,” said one of the pups.
“Of course, Papa,” said the other.
“I’ll find it first,” said the first pup.
“No you won’t, I will!” The second pup jumped up and ran to the opposite edge of the field. The first pup stuck out her tongue and the second pup, and made her way right towards me.
It dawned on me that the thingamabob might be what they were looking for, and I was between it and her. Though the grass was tall, I knew I would never be able to conceal myself for long. I scurried away from the field and made my way into a muddy channel. I would have to walk all the way around the outside of the clearing so they would not see me.
“I can’t find it, Papa. We are never going to find it!” I heard one pup say with a hiccup of distress.
“Keep looking, my dears; don’t give up just yet.”
“We will never see what’s in the box!” cried the other pup.
I thought about how my boys would feel if they had to do a difficult task. Bradley and Benjamin might be okay, but Bobby struggled to keep up with them, and many times, they would leave him behind with tears pooling in his eyes.
I could not stand the thought of those poor pups scouring the clearing looking for the golden key. A worse thought of them roaming the woods closer to our home came to my mind. My family would be in danger if they found our den. I stopped where I was and willed myself to do the one thing I always told my sons not to do, the thing that all of the residents of the wood knew not to do; I ran to the humans.
The two girls were sitting in the grass, crying while the man tried to console them. “Now, now, it does no good to cry. You won’t be able to see with tears in your eyes.”
I reached the key unnoticed, by crawling low to the ground. I grabbed it and raised the side of my head just above the grass. They were only a couple of bounds away, so if I did it right, I could throw the key close enough to them, so they could find it.
I took a deep breath and realized I was not quite ready, so I took a couple more. Then, just when my fear tempted to pull me back, I shook my head clear, swung my arm overhead and let the key loose into the air. I could hear the metal hit the ground with a ping; it must have hit a rock.
“What was that?” said one of the pups, with her pouty lips.
“I don’t know,” said the man.
“Look! Is this what we were looking for, Papa?”
“Why, yes! Yes, you found it.” He took the key and placed it into a hole in the wooden box. Turning it once, there came a click and the man raised the lid. Following the lid, was a tiny figure standing on one foot. Tinkling chimes came from the box, like a miniature flock of warblers, and the figure spun to the sound.
The two little pups wiped their eyes and smiled. One got up and danced along with the tiny figure, soon joined by the other. I have never seen humans act so silly. I started to turn and walk back to the channel, when I stopped to take one last look at the prancing pups. My foot snapped a twig, and alerted the man to look in my direction. Frozen in fear, unable to run, I felt my heart pound in my ears. The man smiled, tipped his hat and returned to watching the girls.
Relieved that he was not going to stalk me, I scrambled back into the woods and returned to my original journey, grateful to witness the humans at peace.