Jason spotted me, and waived me over. "Dan! I want you to meet someone!" I sheepishly walked over. "Dan, this is April. April is the head of the computer firm that I do consultant work for." She offered a hand, which I shook. Very powerful handshake for a woman that looked as old as she was. "She's also one of the elders of the Chicago pack." And I felt like my knees gave out.
"Pleasure meeting you, Dan." she said, very casually. I was still feeling like I needed to be picked up off the floor at that moment. "I understand you're new?"
"Umm, yeah." I stammered. "Yeah, new in town, new to the pack."
She nodded. "I also understand that you work in television?"
I nodded, feeling the blood starting to reach my brain again. "Yeah, I work the cameras at..."
She interrupted me "I'd like to offer you something a little more flexable." Before I could say anything she held up a finger and kept going. "If you work within the pack, there are advantages. For example, if you need some personal leave to do rescue work, you can do it. We will understand and not ask questions on matters of pack buisness. We also have competitive pay, bennefits, a 401K, and retirement options."
"So what is it you want me to do?" I asked.
"Commercial work. Camera operations and filming for webcast news. I assume you can do edit work?" I nodded. "Some post production work as well. We will also have location shoots for travelogs with full pay and vacation while on location."
And I figured that this beat the hell out of working in TV. How could I say no? We worked out the arrangements there, and that left me with the unpleasant task of quitting a job I held for almost a year. Incredibly enough, they took it well. I gave them a month's notice, helped train in the new guy taking my position, and they even held a "good luck" party for me. I figured it was an excuse to get a cake into the control room. In a month's time, they'd probably forget me. But, that's life.
In that month's time, I had been spending weekends as Spike with Jason learning all things canine. Well, some things canine. We spent a night going over a lot of the obediance commands until they were automatic. It took a few more nights working on them to really learn them and make them instinct.
One Friday night Lucky and I had gone to our bipedal dogs, and while we were licking and playing with each other he casually reached under the couch and held out a neon pink disk. "You know what this is, don't you?"
"Frisbee." I said.
"Actually, it's a Whamm-O." he said, offering it to my teeth. I bit down on it playfully. "Tomorrow I'd like to start teaching you how to catch one of these. Up for it?" I nodded and wagged my tail.
The next morning Lucky changed back to Jason, and took me down onto all fours. He also took away my speech. "Sorry Spike." he said. "But at the park if you started talking to me that wouldn't sound right."
"Sokay." I barked out.
"Ready to go?" he said, grabbing my leash. We jumped into the car. I hadn't been in a car as a dog yet, and wanted to try a lot of things. Jason laughed while backing the car out. "I'll lower the window if you won't jump out." he said. And I barked out a yes. He did, and like every other dog I've ever known I stuck my head out the window. Want to know why dogs do that? It's like getting petted by hundreds of fingers at 30 miles an hour, and it feels REALLY good on the fur. Well, it did for me.
Our first stop at one of those "Pets Are Us" type of stores. Jason encouraged me back in the car and said "We need to get you a few supplies. And this store lets dogs inside, so we can try before we buy."
I felt like a kid in a toy store, literally. There was this woman who was helping us out smelled like a nice person. She kept petting me, and complementing me as a good looking dog. There's nothing that will feed your ego more than being told you're a good looking dog by someone who's petting you at the same time. It explains why show dogs are all so snotty, come to think of it.
We easily spent an hour in the store buying pet supplies. A pet blanket, dog hiking supplies, a collapsable bowl, a car harness, a travel kennel and a flexible frisbee that was guaranteed for a year to be chew proof. I resisted at first the muzzle and the dog harness, but the kinky possibilities of them made me reconsider. Jason also had me try out a few kinds of dry dog food. The stuff is bland as hell, but you can taste where tehy're trying to make it taste like chicken or something else. We got some of that too, as well as something the woman called "Training treats". I didn't know how much it cost, but I do remember Jason saying "Spike will pay for it all, right?" and I barked a yes, much to the amusement of the nice woman.
When we got back to the car, Jason hooked me into the seatbelt with the new harness. "Jason?" I whimpered quietly. "What'd that cost me?"
"Oh, about $500." Jason said. "Think of it as rent for this month." I whimpered a little, remembering how broke I've been lately. But, after a moment of thinking, it suddenly dawned on me that not only did I no longer pay a rent, but I'm also making more at the new position. And I didn't feel so bad.
"Will I have to do this if I'm another breed?" I asked while Jason drove.
"Only if you want to, Spike!" Jason said. "I figured that Dalmation would start as your base form, and we could work at it from there."
We drove to a smaller city park, and Jason started to prep me to learn how to catch a frisbee. All sorts of hints and tips, including that if I flet thirsty that I was carrying my own dog dish, and just needed to ask him for water. He lut me on the leash and we found a nice clearing in the park. Once there he unhooked me and went through a few basic obediance commands, just to remind me that I needed to know them all.
Jason started with a lot of basic things first, like rolling the rubber disk at me, then playing chew-pull with it, and more short distance games like that. He had me sit a few feet away while he tossed it at me. My first few tries were pathetic. But, I'd like to see anyone who's used to catchign a frisbee with their hands suddenly start using their mouth to do the same job. After six throws, I got it down to where I was catching it.
My first attempt at catching a long throw? Well, Jason had to stifle himself because, for all intents and purposes, it looked like his dog tried to catch a flying disk and took it in the nose so hard that it rocked that dog backwards. In reality I tried to catch it in my mouth, misjudged it, and ended up having the rim bip me in the nose. On the bright side, it's a hard bone. On the bad side, that REALLY hurt!
Jason came running over to me as I was trying to sneeze out some air. "You ok Spike?"
"Blood?" I yipped as I tried to make myself sneeze.
"No blood, yer ok, aren'tcha boy?" he said as he rough-housed with me a little bit. A little time later, the misfortume forgotten, I tried again. Jason is a dedicated guy, and he stuck with me while I learned the finer points of using your mouth to rip flying disk-like objects from the air.
At one point someone was talking to Jason while I was running after the disks. To be honest, the more I ran and moved around the better I felt. I felt loose, I felt good. But he called for me to heel once I had the disk in my mouth, and I did.
This woman, athletic gal who smelled of cheap shampoo and sweat, asked Jason about me, and about how not many dalmations chase stuff. "Spike does." Jason said. I pawed at the water bottle, and Jason poured me a cold drink while talking to this woman. They held a short conversation about basically nothing. flirting is such a wonderful thing, especially when you're the reason that someone is flirting.
She said to him "Seeya later" and went off jogging up the trail.
"She's not your type." I quietly vocalised.
"Yer right." he said. "Not enough fur." He bent over to get my dish. "One more throw?" I wagged my tail. And he threw a monster huck well into some trees.
"You bastard." I said, taking off after it. I heard him distinctly snicker as I ran off. I searched and searched for that disk, where it rolled I had no idea. I ended up at the treeline just looking there. It must have been a long time becasue Jason eventually walked up behind me.
"Problem Spike?" I looked up and was aboutto explain that I couldn't see the damned thing and how we probably lost it forever when I saw the look in his eyes. It was no longer owner/pet, it was teacher/student. "You're a dog, Spike. What would a dog do?"
I suddenly felt stupid. I closed my eyes, and took in a deep snif. Then a short burst of sniffs, and I caught a familiar smell of latex rubber, Jason's car, and the musky smell of that jogger lady. And I found myself homing in on that scent like a bullet. And, under some ivy and in a small earth depression, there was my disk.
Grinning to myself I picked it up in my maw and walked it back to Jason. "Good boy." he said. "Give?" I let go of the disk. "Good boy. You need to learn how to let go of your intelligence, Spike, and let the dog take over." I looked down at his feet. "Don't worry boy. It'll come in time. Meanwhile, want some ice cream?"
I almost laughed, but it was more like a cough. "Ice cream?" I barked. "How?"
"Just over at the 31 flavors over there. Come on! It'll be fun!" he said, putting my leash back on the collar. "Heel!" I did, shaking my head the whole time trying to figure out how he was going to get me ice cream. I sholdn't have wondered, i've seen dogs eating icecream all the time, what's one more?
Jason leashed me to a bike rack outside the store. "Sit!" I did. "Stay!" I did, but what choice did I really have? I did stare intently at Jason as he was ordering. On the way in a family walked past me, and the kid said something about a nice doggie. That made me feel all mushy inside for some reason. Jason returned with one cone of ice cream, and my dish with something in it. He unhooked my leash, and sat down next to the store with me.
"Hope you like vanilla, Spike!" he said, putting my collapable dish in front of me. "I get the chocolate." I wanted a cone too, but in retrospect it was probbably better I didn't. Flavors take on a whole new dimention when you're a dog. Just plain vanilla is actually pretty tasty. that batch was sweeter than I'm used to, but i racked that up to being Spike, and not me.
Someone told Jason that feeding ice cream to a dog was unhealthy. Jason explained that I was being a good dog, and after the workout I had I deserved it. And I hadn't thought of catching a frisbee as a workout, but I guess it was. For a moment I considered trying to knock over the person talking to Jason like that and stealing their ice cream too, but then I had to come to erms about eating ice cream off of the ground. And even though I'd seen dogs do that, I just couldn't bring myself to that yet.
When we finished our ice cream Jason and I went back to the car. I hadn't noticed how tired I was until I got to the car, and got very comfortable in the back seat. I woke up when Jason pulled into our driveway. "Feel better Spike?"
"Yeah." I said, in english. "I'm feel.... Jason? I'm not barking."
"Corect!" he said in a game-show-host voice. "I lifted that from you while you were snoring. You snore, Spike!"
"I do not!" I said defensively.
"You were, until I let you speak english. Then you stopped!" he said with a chuckle.
"See? It's that dog voice!" I said while he laughed. "I'm not used to those vocal chords!"
That night for dinner he gave me a first full taste of dog food. "You'll need to learn how to eat this." he said. "It's not the best, but when we're out and you're a dog, it's probably all you'll get to eat. It's cheaper than a Mac and Dons, and it fills your dog stomach better too. Easier to digest." He put a metal dog bowl on the table and I ate along side him.
I was very tired that night, and Jason changed into Lucky for me that night, but he kept me on all fours. He petted me, stroked me, and held me as I felt myself drifting off into sleep. "Lucky?"
"Hmm?" he asked, as groggy as I was.
"Thanks for teaching me."
"You're welcome pup. Sleep, tomorow is another day, Spike. We'll do some more then."
And, in his arms, I drifted into unconciousness.
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Being a work of fiction, none of the characters herin are based on a real person (Save the narrator and one other person...) And similarity to any person alive, dead, undead or unalive is coincidental, totally. However, if you see yourself or someone you know in a character be honored. You've been immortalised.