Chapter 3. Luke

       “Here is that tree and garbage heap so the dusty road must be nearby also.”
thought Ginger. Suddenly he heard Freddie’s plaintive whine, a kind of rustle and
someone’s loud barking. He dropped the piece of meat he carried in his teeth and
rushed forward.
       - Freddie, Freddie, where are you? What happened? – cried Ginger.
       - Your Freddie is all right, stay calm. And don’t whine as a cat, I don’t pull your tail. –
answered someone in a loud and confident voice.
       The spaniel ran closer and saw the pinscher. It seemed he became smaller still,
looking at Ginger with his small frightened eyes and hiding one of hinder legs.
       - Ginger, where have you been? I thought you would not come anymore, - he
       - No, Freddie, how can I abandon a friend in need. I brought you some food. Why
are you trembling, what happened to your leg? What happened here? – worried the
       - Your Freddie was attacked by two huge foxes. Good thing I was here on time,
otherwise the small Freddie would surely be fox chow by now, - the same loud voice
       Only now did Ginger notice a big black dog who looked like a wolf, sitting aside and
watching them.
       -Who are you? – asked Ginger.
       - I am a police dog, a shepherd. My name is Luke, - answered the black dog.
       - A shepherd. So you are much bigger and stronger than I, - decided the spaniel.
       - I’ve always protected those weaker than me; that used to be my job, - said Luke.
       - Why “used to be”? – wondered Ginger.
       - That’s a long story. I will tell it but first we have to calm this here Freddie down.
Also, his leg seems to hurt, - said the police dog and came closer.
       - Freddie, why didn’t you defend yourself? – asked Ginger. – You are a dog, you
know, a small one but still a dog. You have teeth and you can bark.
       - Everyone has teeth but a fox is much bigger than me. Also, there were two of
them. One snatched my leg from behind. You cannot imagine how scared I was. Luke’s
timing was good, although I took him for a wolf first and got even more scared, - the
pinscher was complaining as always.
       - But you are all right, Freddie, aren’t you? Does your leg hurt? – asked the spaniel.
– Oh, yes, almost forgot, I dropped a piece of meat nearby – better go find it...
       Ginger brought food and Freddie preyed on it instantly. Having swallowed a big
chunk he turned to the shepherd and asked:
       - Are you hungry? We can share this between two, no, better between three of us.
       - I have already eaten, - replied Ginger. – Some nice humans live nearby. They
proposed that I should stay and wanted to help me find my home. Let’s go there
together, they will help us all.
       - I ain’t going anywhere, - said Luke.
       - Neither am I, - squeaked Freddie after him. – It’s dark, it’s scary and my leg hurts.
       - Suit yourself, - agreed Ginger. – We may as well go in the morning. And now,
Luke, tell us, why aren’t you with the police?
       - I was chosen for police work when still a pup, took me from my mom. Learned a lot,
then began working. Performed very important duties, - began Luke his story.
       - What important duties? - asked the pinscher.
       - I can follow the traces, immobilize a criminal, and know many smells. I have been
taught a few things, - replied Luke modestly.
       - So, how come you ended up here? – asked Ginger.
       - Well, I worked for three years, fought against the bad guys, did the best I could.
Was wounded on the last mission. A bullet in a foreleg. Yeah, they tried to cure me all
right and did a good job too. But my days of being the best were gone. The leg hurt
like... well, hurt when running. Above all, I developed a limp. So they just wrote me off as
unfit for police work and sent me to a shelter, a special one for retired dogs. Not bad but
dull as a ditch-water. I am used to serving and protecting; lying all day long in the sun
and wagging my tail when the evening meal comes is not for me, no sir, - continued Luke.
       - You mean you ran away? – Freddie was astonished.
       - Right as rain I mean it. Better live alone but free, - declared the police dog proudly.
       - A dog’s life is hard without a human, - added Ginger.
       - Right again but I am used to serving. And that shelter makes you feel like a cat;
you do nothing but eat and sleep. Again, I can do much more and I know much more, so
my decision was to live free. I have chosen my way, - answered Luke.
       Ginger and Freddie told their stories too.
       - So, you want to find your home, eh? Well, I’ll try to help you but cannot promise it
will be quick. I have met many dogs who accidentally ended up in the streets, like you,
and too few of them ever get back. Some of them though found themselves a new home
with new masters. And some... – Luke suddenly stopped.
       - What happened to these some? – asked Ginger.
       - Nothing you want to hear, - answered Luke. – Let’s get some sleep now.
       - I don’t like it at all. It’s scary, - creaked Freddie.
       - You ain’t got nothing to be scared about when I am near, - confidently said Luke
the shepherd.
       The three of them raked some dry fallen leaves to make a kind of crude bedding
and slept on it.

       In the morning, weak and small Freddie pleaded for food again.
       - Listen, - said Luke. – We have to devise a plan. Ginger, do you know the name of
the street and the city you lived in?
       - No, I don’t, - answered the spaniel.
       - What about you? – Luke asked Freddie.
       - Me neither, - replied the pinscher.
       - But at least your masters’ names or some distinctive marks of your district you may
remember? One dog I knew found his home because he remembered a fire station on
the next street. Now, what do you remember? – asked Luke again.
       - Well, there was a shop downstairs. But no fire stations, - said Freddie.
       - And the place I lived was very green and there was a big mall nearby, where I
actually got lost, - answered Ginger.
       - Well, we are done with you both, - sighed Luke. – With such facts we won’t
advance too far and will find nothing. My, how can you be so inattentive? You are dogs
and a dog must memorize everything he sees or hears. And the most important thing is
to know more smells by heart.
       - I remembered! My masters’ name was Kaiser, - exclaimed the spaniel. – And also
the girl, Cathy. I would know her house from a thousand others.
       - My master lived all alone. Nobody visited him but I remember the smell of his
medicines well, - added Freddie.
       - I doubt we will ever need that. Although, who knows... When with the police, I often
heard that any piece of information that seems useless at the moment, may help you
greatly afterwards, - claimed Luke.
       - Luke, where do you live? – asked Ginger.
       - Here and there. Up ahead is a city and another one in this direction. I know some
diners and restaurants in the suburbs, also some food stores and warehouses. There
are some nice humans in some of these places. They often feed me. But you should give
a wide berth to other places around. Freddie is right, you cannot trust everyone. There
are some who shoo you away and even can throw a rock at you. And the worst ones call
for the Service at once, - said Luke and stopped short.
       - What Service? – Freddie’s voice trembled.
       - You’d better off not knowing that. One simply must be very careful at all times. Let’
s get to the point. How shall we continue our search? There are two cities in the vicinity
but we do not know who lived where, - reasoned the police dog.
       - Maybe we are from the same city, - supposed Ginger.
       - Maybe. All right, there is a big city dump nearby. Lots of homeless dogs. I guess
we begin the search by paying them a visit. I know many of them. Mostly they grew up in
the streets and never had a home. They don’t like to be bothered with questions too
much, but they respect me and can be of help to us. Afterwards I’ll show you one of “my”
restaurants, with some luck will have something to chew, - finished Luke.

       It was an early autumn morning. Cheerful red spaniel and small timid pinscher on
thin legs followed a big black shepherd toward a city dump.
       - Don’t lag behind, we are close, - shouted Luke looking back on his new friends.
       They were close indeed, because Ginger abruptly smelled something unknown, a
smell so strong he gasped.
       A big mountain loomed ahead. It was so huge it seemed to reach the sky...
       Suddenly an old bulldog blocked the road. His muzzle was all grey and he had some
difficulty in moving around.
       - Hello there, Luke. Been a long time since your last visit. What is it now, business
or just to say hello? And I see you’ve got company, - said the bulldog suspiciously eyeing
the pinscher and the spaniel.
       - Hello to you, Paul. Everything all right? Are all you guys safe and sound? Here,
meet Ginger and Freddie. They are lost and urgently need help, - said Luke.
       - How long are they on the streets? – asked Paul haughtily.
       - With Freddie it’s a week, but only the second day for Ginger, - answered Luke and
added. – What do you think, can one do anything for them?
       - Hard to tell, Luke. Most likely the masters are looking for them. Then you should
seek the “Lost dog” ads on poles and billboards. Reckon we cannot help you, though.
You know none of my fellows can read. As for me I cannot go far, also my sight has
dwindled lately, - confessed Paul with sorrow.
       - Excuse me, but who are these “guys” you are talking about? – asked Ginger.
       - Want to meet them, lad? Go straight on then turn right. They rest there now, - said
the bulldog.
       - Rest? But it’s only morning. How come they got tired? – asked the spaniel amazed.
       - They always sleep during the day, lad. Go foraging at night. We hide in the broad
daylight, nobody likes stray dogs, - said Paul sadly.
       - Why do you have to hide in the daylight? There are no humans in here, so
nobody can harm you, - asked Ginger.
       - Garbage collectors will start to come very soon. Lots of them. It’s best the drivers
don’t see us. They can call in the Service, - said the bulldog intently.
       - This scary Service again. Let’s move out of here, - squeaked frightened Freddie.
       - We’ll move on in a minute. Let’s look at the real stray dogs first. Then we will long
for our homes even more, - said Ginger.
       - I won’t go, I am scared, - peeped Freddie.
       - Neither will I. I have seen them and know their ways. After all, I belong here as well.
You’d better stay, Ginger, but if you want – go and see, - said Luke.
       Ginger went as Paul told him. Straight on and then to the right...

       A dozen of dogs were lying in the sun there. All were of different breeds, sizes and
colours. Or rather, none of them were purebred and it was difficult to determine the
colours of their hides because they were covered with a thick layer of dust. All the dogs
were dirty, all with sad eyes.
       - Hey, look at him! – shouted someone.
       Half of his right ear was torn away, the fur was tangled and in many places absent.
Other dogs turned to Ginger and fell silent.
       - I, er... I wanted to meet you, that’s all, - said Ginger shyly.
       - Why would you want to meet us? Look at yourself, dolly – clean, brushed, must be
eating every day. Get lost while you can, - the same dog threatened him.
       - No, you got me wrong, no offense meant. I’m simply... simply lost, - said Ginger
       - So what? I have never had a home but I keep living, right? And I don’t want
anyone of your kind to stare at me like I’m an alien.
       - Go now and look for your home. Find it fast so that you will never become one of
us. Now beat it, - said someone else.
       - Good bye, - answered Ginger softly. – Sorry if I hurt your feelings. I had no idea a
dog can have no home. That one can live his whole life in the open and in constant fear
for his life.
       - Now you know it. Promise to remember us when you return home. And try to never
get lost again, - said a dark grey dog of unclear breed.
       - Run for it! Good luck, - Ginger heard the voices of other dogs.
       He returned to Luke and Freddie. Old Paul asked him:
       - Didn’t like it too much, did you? There you are. Told you, you’d better stay. I’ll give
you a piece of advice – try to be seen as much as you can for the first few days.
Someone is sure to have read the “lost dog” announcement and will be able to recognize
you. And the most important thing is to search – search around the clock. You may well
find some familiar smells to help you. I’ll be glad if you manage it... – the old bulldog Paul
wished them good luck.

       - What have you seen there? – asked Freddie when they followed Luke toward the
suburbs of the nearest town.
       - Doesn’t matter. Good you didn’t come. Don’t worry, soon you will return to your old
master and your old life of domestic doggy, - replied the spaniel.
       - Luke, how did Paul find himself up there? How come such a strong smart dog
ended up as a stray dogs pack leader? – asked Ginger later.
       - Paul is a medalist and a winner of several dogs’ championships. His parents are
too. At one of the championships he was stolen, he escaped thinking he would find his
home but failed. In a month, he looked like a stray hound – tired and despaired. So, the
car took him, - said Luke sadly.
       - Here you go once again about this “scary car”? – worried Freddie and trembled.
       - I have already told you, there is a special Service. They come for stray dogs in a
special car and I am going to tell you no more, - said Luke confidently.
       - What happened to Paul? – squeaked Freddie again.
       - He is a brave one. Had been strong and courageous enough to jump out of that
car, wasn’t afraid that one. Ran for his dear life long enough to get out of town. Stopped
here only to catch his breath. Stayed here ever since. And then that pack Ginger saw
eventually gathered; Paul is their leader. He is the only purebred among them and only
he once had a home. But all of this was so long ago Paul himself already forgot he once
had been a medal winner. However, he is always ready to help, - Luke finished his grim
       - So that’s what can happen to us if we don’t find our home, - murmured frightened
       - We will find it, you’ll see we will, - Ginger encouraged him.
       - Certainly you’ll find it but now let’s have a bite, - interrupted Luke. – And, by the
way, we’re almost there.
       The three dogs slowed down because their wet noses had smelled food.
       - By my warm rug, this smells like a good meal, - cried the pinscher joyfully.
       - Smells like it, - agreed the spaniel.
       - Welcome, friends. This is one of “my” restaurants. Relax and enjoy, - smiled Luke.
– Stay put, I’ll be back in a second.
       With these words, he disappeared.
       Freddie and Ginger stood near a white painted wall with many cracks.
       - This seems to be a weird restaurant, - said Ginger.
       - Why weird? – asked Freddie.
       - I smell only meat. There is no fish smell. My masters did not eat meat at all, only
bought it for me. They always said fish is the most healthy food, - said the spaniel.
       - Don’t know about your masters. My old man, though, used to fry some fish that we
finished together watching TV. And so cozy it was at home, so warm and well especially
when it was raining outside, - remembered the pinscher.
       - Follow me, - loudly said Luke who suddenly appeared in front of them. – Do
everything quickly and don’t hesitate.
       They went around that small house Luke had called a “restaurant” and came to a
high counter. Behind it stood a tall man with black beard. He was quickly laying
something on plates while shouting orders to kitchen workers. It was lunchtime so there
were quite a few customers and all tables were occupied.
       - It’s not the best time to come. It’s lunchtime and today is a weekend. This
restaurant is on a big highway so there are many people around. Follow me now, -
whispered Luke and trotted forward.
       They made their way through a continuous “wall” of human feet and slipped behind
the counter into the kitchen.
       - Hey, hello, Luke. I see you’ve got company today, - smiled the bearded man. –
Well, move on, Alex will give you something tasty to chew.
       - Thank you, Ron, you’re a good friend, - Luke wagged his tail.
Alex, a small fat kitchen-boy, filled a big bag with a pile of bones and added a few stale
crusts. He gave Luke the bag and saying “Enjoy” opened a back door.
The dogs again found themselves by the cracked old wall.
       - Well, my friends, where would you prefer to have lunch? Should we move on a bit
or stay right here? – asked Luke when Alex closed the door.
       - I don’t care, I am too hungry, - said Ginger.
       - Better move on, too many unfamiliar smells here, - as always proposed
overcautious Freddie.
       They moved a hundred feet and Luke emptied the bag on the ground near a small
       - I won’t touch this, it’s stale! – yelled the pinscher.
       - What did you expect, some juicy roasted meat? - sternly asked Luke. – Don’t be
stupid, eat. It may well happen that you won’t even have such a meal tomorrow. Come
on, fill your small belly.
       Ginger did not like the food either but he obediently ate a few bones and a piece of
stale bread.
       Luke, however, felt completely at ease. He ate well, licked his lips and lay down
keeping his ears pricked.
       - I am thirsty, - squeaked Freddie.
       - That will wait. Now let’s move to downtown with lots of people around. We have to
be seen and noticed, that is you do. And, perhaps, we will be lucky today if someone is
looking for you of course, - assumed Luke.
       - Sure, they are looking for us, - exclaimed Ginger optimistically.
       - Then move it! – cried Luke and ran toward the car noises and new strange smells.
       Ginger and Freddie obediently followed him.

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