As I lay there, listening to the other dogs chatter and Muffy snuffle and snort every now and then in the shadows, I tried to think of how I would find my way back to Nick. The facts I knew were that he was somewhere in Florida (however large that may be of a place, I don't know), and the last time I saw him he was going to get coffee at the airport. I didn't see our car in the parking lot, so that led me to believe that he must still be at the airport somewhere, and I just hadn't seen him in my wild dash. So I needed to get back to the airport somehow to find him. He had to be there. He wouldn't leave to continue on to Florida from the airport without me, right? Maybe he was walking around in circles at the airport, calling my name, and looking for me, and here I was -- wherever I was -- not at the airport because the Dog-Catcher-human had picked me up and driven me away.
I felt adrenaline building up in my system as I envisioned trying to find my way back to the airport to find Nick, and I started hatching a brilliant plan for an escape from the Pound, as they other dogs informed me that it was called.
It took a long time for the Dog-Catcher-human to come back into the kennels and the moment he opened the door all the other dogs started barking real loud and excitedly. I stood up and pressed my face to the door of the kennel and peered down the rows at the door the Dog-Catcher-human had come through. I needed to put my plan into effect. So I started barking, too, just like the other dogs in the kennel. Except I utilized my best hypnotic eyes to draw him to me.
Now in all the years I've been perfecting my hypnotic eyes for use against Nick in the obtaining of Beggin' Strips, I've never seen them work as effectively as they did in that moment. The Dog-Catcher-human sauntered right over to the stall I was in and without any hesitation whatsoever, he swung the door open.
"C'mon lil feller," he said, leaning down and reaching for me.
"The door! The door! He's gonna take you to the door!" the other dogs were shouting, panic in their barks.
But I wasn't about to let the Dog-Catcher-human pick me up. Oh no sirree. Last time he picked me up, he took me further away from Nick and now I had to undo the mistake of letting him get away with that. No way in hell was I letting him make this worse by bringing me through the door to whatever horrors lay on the other side.
So... like I had that night in the Other Room... I bolted. I managed to slip between his reaching hands, under his legs, and I shot down the length of the kennel, my little legs wobbling beneath me and my ears flapping behind me. I heard the other dogs in their stalls barking, cheering me on, howling with glee as the Dog-Catcher-human cursed and came after me, arms flailing wildly.
Luckily, he'd left the door at the end of he hallway between the stalls open and I ran for it, planning to head back out through the lobby where all those cats were caged up. But just before I took the turn to go out there, I felt a nip at my collar and I looked to my left and saw Muffy running alongside me, her lopsided tongue hanging out of her mouth and her one functional eye scrunched up against the brightness of the world outside the kennel. "C'mon, don't go that way, the front door will be shut and we can't open it."
"What's this way?" I asked, as we veered to the left.
It was a small office and there was a desk with paper all over it and a big net leaning against a wall and a big comfy chair and a radio was playing some songs I knew I'd heard before at home when Nick and Lauren listen to music. "A window," said Muffy, and she leaped onto the chair, then onto the desk.
"A window? What're we gonna do with a window?" I asked. I could hear the footsteps of the confused Dog-Catcher-human as he veered to the right in the hallway, clearly thinking we'd gone the other way.
"Jump out it, of course," Muffy answered, and without further hesitation, she leaped from the desk at the window, and the screen that was keeping the outside out gave way and she disappeared. I heard her yap as she hit the ground outside. My heart went in my throat, surely she was dead. She'd fallen and crushed herself or landed under a blood thirsty car or something. I climbed onto the chair and inched to the window from the desk and peered down. Muffy was standing a few feet away, the broken screen on the ground below. "Hurry up!" she shouted.
Then I heard the Dog-Catcher-human coming in the door. "There ya are!" he shouted, and he lumbered toward me.
Okay Nick, this one's for you, wherever you are...
I launched myself at the empty space where the screen had been, and I felt like I was flying for a moment, like I'd grown wings and was now a pegasus-dog. Then gravity took effect and I started to fall and I kinda regretted all the Beggin' Strips because the fat was probably what made me go from sailing gracefully to dropping like a two-ton brick. I hit the ground chest-first and felt the wind blow out of my chest.
"Git back here!" the Dog-Catcher-human was shouting.
But I leaped to my feet and rushed to run as Muffy turned and led the way down a long sloping yard of grass towards a river and some trees and we ducked among them into the woods until the bellowing shouts of the Dog-Catcher-human were behind us and we were standing, panting, in a clearing quite a ways away.
"That was... fucking...insane..." I panted, dropping onto some old leaves that were covering the ground. I couldn't believe what had just happened. The muscles in my lungs and legs ached from recovering from my leap from the window and I felt my knees shaking a little. "Oh my God that was insane."
Muffy was looking around the clearing, her feet crunching the leaves beneath her. "We can't stay here long, the Dog-Catcher-human will come after us."
I panted. I couldn't believe he'd catch up to us, we'd gone what seemed like miles and miles and miles from the Pound, but I knew Muffy probably had more experience than I did in things like this. "Can't we stay for just a few more moments?" I asked.
Muffy stood, staring out into the trees.
I took her lack of a response as a yes and I rolled onto the leaves and closed my eyes a moment, just breathing and feeling the earth under my side. Then I heard a rustling and I opened my eyes again and found myself face to face with a monster. I started barking like a crazy-dog, leaped up from the floor of the forrest, and onto a log.
"What the hell is your problem?!" Muffy shrieked. She leaped at me and pegged me to the ground solidly. I wriggled, trying to get away, but her weight was so much heavier than mine that there was no escaping her. She had me tackled quite effectively. She growled lowly in my ear, "The Dog-Catcher-human is going to find us and bring us back to the Pound."
"Sorry, there was a - a - a -a monster and it was gonna kill me and --"
"If you don't stop barking like a maniac I'm going to kill you." Muffy growled. She released her grip on me and I got up and shook the dirt off my fur. "What monster did you see?" she demanded, looking around, "Where is it?"
I pointed with my nose.
"Bug? You have a loose term for bug. That thing's a rhino." I'd seen rhinos on a show on the TV-box with Nick once on the Discovery channel. Nick got into watching animal shows for awhile. Then he realized that the animals all get eaten in the end by lions and he stopped watching them. That bug was most definitely not a bug, that was a rhino.
Muffy hit the bug with her foot and it tipped over and kicked its legs.
She stared at me. "The big scary rhino can't get itself back up off the ground once it tips over," she said. "Totally worth risking our lives over."
If dogs could blush, I would've.
I flattened my ears instead 'cos that's the closest thing dogs can do to blushing.
Muffy looked around, then her ear went up. "Do you hear that?"
"No," I said.
"I hear humans calling your name. We need to go before they catch us. If the Dog Catcher gets us he's gonna put us down."
"Put us down?"
These were all new words for me.
Muffy's eyes met mine. "Bring us through the door," she simplified it.
"Is the door really, really scary?" I asked.
Muffy took a deep breath, "Just trust me, Nacho," she said. "You don't wanna go through the door."
I trusted her.
Muffy started walking out of the clearing, and I followed her, glancing back at the rhino-bug that had indeed managed to flip itself back onto it's legs. I scrambled to keep up with her, just in case it decided to come after me. I wondered as we walked further and further into the woods which way the airport was and how I would find Nick among all the people and cars there and what I would do if in the end Muffy was right and Nick really wasn't looking for me after all.