Chapter 4. The first stroke of luck

      The friends woke up with the first light of dawn. It was hard to tell from what they
suffered more – hunger or cold.
      - The tenants will wake up in a little while. I’d advise to check those two big trash
containers as soon as possible, - said Luke pointing with his muzzle to the yard corner.
      - I will never dig the garbage, I’d better die of hunger, - refused Bonnie flatly.
      - I’d better not go either, my leg hurts a lot, - joined her Freddie.
      - Well, stay put. Ginger will go with me, - said Luke and went to containers.
      Ginger followed him. From the distance one could well see them jumping to the
containers and peeking inside. But that was all they managed to do. Two boys who ran
out of the opposite door started picking up stones and throwing them at the dogs.
      Luke and Ginger tried to avoid the blows but several stones hit true. It was very
painful and Luke only cried:
      - Beat it now. Get the little ones.
He jumped down and ran to the bench. The spaniel rushed after him.
      - Get away you, dirty stray dogs. Don’t you dare come here again, - they heard
behind them.
      Again the four of them ran away. Bonnie and Freddie were running very slowly so
Luke and Ginger often had to stop, look behind and wait for the “little ones”.
      - I want to eat. I cannot bear it any longer, - said the lap-dog almost inaudibly.
      - All right, let’s rest for a while and then go to the shelter. I am not too happy to go
there, of course, but we have no choice, - said Luke and sat down.

      The Sun was high and it became quite hot when four tired, hungry and exhausted
dogs were at last standing near a big gate. The odour of dogs was quite strong here but
they were glad to smell the food also.
      - Luke, you know the ways around here. How do we get inside? – asked Ginger.
      - The door is locked from within. Therefore we have to bark so that they will hear us,
- answered Luke and barked loudly.
      His three friends joined him.
      A nice kind voice sounded from behind the gate in a few minutes:
      - Who’s there? Who came to visit us? Just a minute, opening.
      The gate opened and the friends saw a young girl. Her hair was flaming red and her
eyes were as green as grass.
      - My G-d, I cannot believe my eyes. Luke is that you? So nice of you to come!
      - Hello, Maria. Glad you haven’t forgotten me, - Luke wagged his tail and put his
head in girl’s hands.
      She stroked his head and flapped his ears.
      - Luke, I’m so glad you are back. I missed you. And who are those? – asked Maria
noticing the other three dogs.
      - They are my friends. We are dying for a meal and also would like to rest a bit, -
barked Luke wagging his tail.
      - I see, - answered the girl. – You are hungry and tired. Come in then.
      She swung the wooden door open and the friends slowly entered.
      - Remember that this place is hard to leave, I warned you, - whispered Luke when
the gate shut behind them.
      The friends saw a small two-storied house with tiled roof. There was enough space
around to run and jump a bit but not enough to feel free. The grass was green, the birds
were singing, Maria was nearby, but something was lacking.
      - Peter, Sally, come on, look at our guest. He brought friends too, - exclaimed Maria
      An elderly woman looked out of the window.
      - But this is Luke! Really, Luke. He came back! I told you, Maria he would be back.
      At this time a tall man wearing glasses and a white overall emerged from the house
      - What happened, Maria? What is all this noise? – He asked sternly.
      - Look here, doctor, don’t you recognize anyone? – smiled the girl.
      - This shepherd looks very much like the police one whose wounded leg I treated
two years ago. It seems his name was Luke. He was a nice dog.
      Luke barked and came closer wagging his tail and limping on his foreleg.
      - It remains my name now too, - he barked.
      - I see. Well, he is the same Luke, no doubt. I’d like to examine him and his three
friends as well.
      - A little bit later, doctor Blutt, I want to feed them first, - asked Maria.
      - Up to you. We shall decide what to do with them after the examination, - with these
words doctor Blutt returned to the house.
      - Wait for me here, friends, it will be a little while, - said the girl and left.
- This here Maria – she’s wonderful, - said Luke to his friends. We’re right on time for
lunch. All dogs are still inside but will come outdoors now. So we’ll eat all together. As
you see, they recognized me here. After the meal the vet will examine us which is for the
best, to be on the safe side. We’ll think what to do later. One thing I can tell you at once
– I am not going to stay here...

      The friends lay down on the grass. In few minutes about a dozen dogs came out of
the house. All of them were of different breeds, colours and sizes. Some were rather old,
some were lame...
      Luke recognized a big white poodle called Pierre at once. He told his friends Pierre
has been working at the circus for a long time.
      - What can he do? – asked Bonnie.
      - Could, rather, - cleared Luke. – He assisted jugglers, magicians and even
acrobats. Also he could jump the obstacles and through a ring. He even could count.
      - Did he lose his touch or what? – asked the lap-dog again.
      - Probably just grew old: his sight got worse and his barking lower. So he was placed
here, - supposed Ginger.
      - Right on the spot, buddy, - said Luke. All these dogs are not stray at all. They
served people for a long time. But they cannot be useful anymore for various reasons.
And this shelter was created to keep an eye on them so that they would never end up in
the streets – never be abandoned and lonely.
      - That’s great. Where else did these dogs work? – asked small Freddie who also got
engaged in the conversation despite his hunger and fear.
      - At the circus, in the police and military units, some were just watch-dogs –
guarding important areas. There are also guide-dogs. They help the blind people. All in
all, dogs help people everywhere but not many people are aware of it. When I lived here
I had a friend – a huge red and white St.Bernard. His name was Dick. He had been
working very far from here – in the mountains covered with snow almost around the year.
The work was dangerous and crucial but very interesting too. Dick had to find the lost
people. He even knew two mountain trails and could lead people there without a guide, -
told Luke.
      - Fascinating, - said Ginger admiringly.
      - So where is your hero friend now? I don’t see a St.Bernard among them, - asked
Bonnie spitefully pointing at the dogs settled on the grass and waiting for lunch.
      - Frankly, I don’t see him myself, - answered Luke thoughtfully. – Stay here, wait for
lunch, I’ll be back soon, - he added and went to the doors of the house.
      The friends lay down on the grass. Pale autumn sun has been rather hot. A faint
smell of food came from the house.
      - I don’t understand Luke – it’s quite nice in here, - announced Bonnie suddenly.
      - At least better than living in the streets and always being hungry, - added Freddie.
      - Luke simply does not want to give up and I understand him. This life is good but
very dull. Also, in dire need, Luke will return here in any case, I guess, - supposed
      - You think so? – asked the lap-dog. – It seems he is used to living alone.
      - I am also used to living alone. I mean alone with my master. Did not need anyone
else, - added the pinscher sadly.
      - What I think is that Luke is a strong, brave and very smart dog. I wish I would be
like him, - said the spaniel confidently.
      - When are they going to feed us anyway? – pitifully mumbled Freddie.
      - Stop whining, thin legs. Because of hunger I’m dizzy and my fur starts to come out,
- snapped Bonnie.
       - I hardly left and you are teasing everyone again? – Luke’s loud voice sounded
very close.
       - Where have you been? – asked the lap-dog.
       - Looking for my friend Dick, - answered Luke.
       - Found him?
       - You wouldn’t believe it but I did. He still lives here but doesn’t go outside when the
sun is shining.
       - And why is that so? Too hot for him? – asked Bonnie smiling.
       - You just love to make fun of everybody. Dick doesn’t go outside because his eyes
hurt in the bright sunlight. Don’t remember telling you that the sun is very bright out
there in the mountains. So, it’s natural that after so many years up there Dick’s sight
grew poor.
       - What will happen to him now? – asked Ginger.
       - Nothing special and most of all nothing bad. The same is true for all dogs that
ended up in here. All of them had served well and now enjoy the earned retirement, -
answered Luke.
       - Probably he would not like to stay but wants to keep being useful, just like you? –
asked the spaniel again.
       - You are right as always, Ginger. Dick would like to go with us but he is well aware
this is impossible. So he will stay, – finished Luke.
       - Have you ever... – began Freddie but at this moment Maria emerged with bowls of
dog food and all dogs went toward her.

       Everybody was wolfing the food down. Even Bonnie used to the most exquisite
meals ate heartily the plain dry dog food.
       - I hope you ate your fill, baby? – Luke asked her a little bit later.
       - I have never in my whole life eaten anything as tasteless, - she answered and
looked the other way.
       - I see you are just fine, - smiled Luke.
       - I will stay here for a week until my masters return: I will eat plenty, listen to
interesting stories and will become not only the most beautiful but also the smartest, -
Bonnie went on jabbering with her pretty muzzle raised up.
       - And don’t forget the most modest one as well! – joked Luke. He exchanged
glances with Ginger and Freddie and they burst out laughing.
       Bonnie put on a resentful air at first but laughed with them in a minute. The friends
did not notice Maria and the veterinary doctor in white overall to approach them.
       - Well, kids, let’s go see who you are, - the vet said.
       With Luke in the lead, Ginger, Bonnie and Freddie followed the girl and the doctor.
They entered the house and climbed up the stairs.
       “Familiar office, now they will examine me”, - thought Luke.
       “The smell of medicines is almost the same as in my master’s house”, - Freddie
thought sadly.
       “The curtains are like the ones in the maid’s room”, - decided Bonnie.
       Ginger could not think of anything because he was the first Maria asked to jump on
the table. The doctor began to listen to his heart and to examine his ears, paws and
even tail.
       - He does not look stray, Maria. He has just recently come to the streets. Now it’s
your turn, little one, come on here, - said the doctor to Freddie.
       The pinscher was of course very scared and backed to the door but Luke
whispered in his ear:
       - Go on; don’t be scared, they are good. Nothing bad will happen.
       But Freddie went on shaking and pressing himself to the door. Maria came to him,
stroked his head and lifted him in her hands.
       The doctor spent a long time listening to pinscher’s heart beating while the dog’s
small body kept trembling. At last he said:
       - He is quite in order. Judging from his fear of strangers, I’d say he led a very
solitary and calm life. Once again, strange how he ended up in the streets.
       Bonnie felt it was her turn and jumped first to the chair and then to the table where
Maria start combing her fur.
       - Should I wash her? – the girl asked the doctor. – She will become pretty as a toy.
       - Yeah, go on, wash me, - Bonnie wagged her tail, - although I am the prettiest right
       - You will wash her afterwards. I’d like to examine her first.
       In five minutes the doctor adjusted his spectacles and said:
       - In spite of dusty grey fur and dirty legs, this dog seems very well-groomed.
       The doctor let Bonnie go and Maria called her to the bathroom.

       Well, now it’s your turn, - the vet smiled addressing Luke. – Get on here and show
your heroical wounded leg.
       Luke obediently jumped to the table and sat down. The doctor took a long time
examining him.
       - Your leg must bother you a lot. Where do you get the stamina for so much
running, I wonder. And to bring your friends with you as well. You are a wonderful dog,
Luke – a real police shepherd! – said the vet and stroked Luke’s ears.
       Maria returned with Bonnie’s pretty muzzle peeking out of the towel she carried.
       - What shall we do now, doctor, - the girl asked.
       - Well, as far as I understand, Luke came to stay. But what about the other three? –
asked the vet.
       - Luke must have brought them with some purpose. Maybe they expect us to help?
Or, perhaps, they are simply lost! – exclaimed Maria as if guessing something important.
– Doctor, call your friends at the city council, at the newspapers, wherever! Someone
probably has been looking for them.
       - I think you’re right, Maria. They don’t look stray. We should try to find their
masters, - answered the doctor and took his diary out of the briefcase.
       After having made a few calls the vet said frowning:
       - Unfortunately, there is no information about any lost unmarked dogs of these
       He removed his glasses, folded his hands and looked through the window for a long
time. In an afterthought he said in a loud serious voice:
       - There is another way though. I will call my colleagues from the nearest town.
Chances are thin but nevertheless... Maybe some of their friends, patients or neighbours
have lost a dog.
       The first two calls have been fruitless. However, talking over the phone with the
third person, the vet suddenly stood up and approached Freddie while keeping up his
       Freddie, as usual, began trembling and pressed himself to the door.
       - A pinscher you say, scared of everything and very domestic... Could be, well
could be... The name is Freddie? I’ll try to call him now.
       The doctor went to the other side of the room, squatted and called tenderly:
       - Freddie, baby, come here, don’t be scared. I guess we’ve found your master.
       The pinscher could not believe it. Only when his friends almost forcibly pulled him
from the door he slowly went toward the human. The vet stroked Freddie and took him in
his hands.
       - I’m almost sure, undoubtedly this is the pinscher your neighbour is looking for. Of
course, come as soon as possible, - the doctor finished and switched off the receiver.
       - Doctor, did you find the pinscher’s masters? Are they coming here? – asked Maria
loudly and happily.
       - One master. He had been to a hospital and left the dog with his neighbour. The
dog was lost for unclear reasons two weeks ago. The master lives in the same house
with one of my colleagues. He has been looking for his pinscher all this time and worried
greatly. My friend is going to see him now and in a few hours they will be here, - finished
the doctor smiling.
       - Boy, isn’t it wonderful! – Maria clapped her hands.
       - All right, all right, don’t celebrate it yet. Better go and show Luke his place. The
rest stay here meanwhile, - and the doctor left the room.
       Maria told Luke to follow and he said he’d be back in no time.

       - Freddie, old buddy, you are almost found, - Ginger was happily wagging his tail.
       - I am afraid to believe it. What if he is not my master. What if it is a mistake. So
scary... – said Freddie quietly.
       - Enough of this shaking! Enjoy life and stop whimpering and being scared. I’m sick
of it, - intruded Bonnie.
       - What will you do when you are back home? – asked the spaniel.
       - Don’t know. My master will probably wash me up first and then... Then I will sit in
his lap and won’t budge, - said the pinscher thoughtfully.
       - Some occupation! How’s about some food. Real homemade food? Perhaps you’d
eat first? – asked the lap-dog yawning.
       - Well, I... me... if only I return home – with its smells and the sofa... – dreamed
       - Yeah, well, I see. Boring as always. Me, when I return home, I’d eat some liver and
then some ice-cream... And then I will doll myself up in front of the mirror for a day, no,
better for two whole days. My mistress will shed a few tears and then will tell all the
guests about my wondrous, almost magical rescue... – babbled the lap-dog stretching
lf on the floor.
       At this moment Luke returned. His wagging tail showed he was in a very good mood.
       - Well, my friend Freddie, the week spent with you was not in vain! We were right to
come here. Your master is arriving soon and you will be back home in no time!.. –
rejoiced he.
       - Luke, if it ever happens, it is due to you. Who knows what could be with me if it
were not for you all and mainly for you, Luke. You are very good. Thank you, thank you
for everything... – Freddie’s voice was shaking and it seemed he would cry.
       - It’s all right, buddy, brace yourself. All’s well that ends well. I still have two others to
send home, you know. Don’t have a clue how to do it though. We have already been to
so many places but there is still no trace of Ginger’s masters, - thought Luke aloud.

       The four of them talked about their adventures for a long time. Although Freddie
was small and shy, parting with him was sad.
       - You know what, you don’t get lost anymore, - said Ginger when the room’s door
suddenly opened. The vet stood in the doorway and behind him there were two more
       One of them was quite elderly. He carried something in his hands and looked very
excited. Seeing him, the small Freddie felt like he was glued to the floor. He could not
move only shifted from one foot to the other and whimpered sorrowfully.
       Tears glistened in the elderly man eyes. He also was not able to make a single step
and only repeated: “Freddie, my little one, my dear, my sweet... I knew I would find you...”
       - Well Freddie, what’s wrong with you, run! You dreamed of this moment, now run,
little one, run! – said Luke quietly to the pincsher’s ear.
       Freddie suddenly came to his senses and believed that everything around him was
not a dream. His beloved master is here, only a few steps away!
       The pinscher leaped and rushed to his master’s hands. He was whimpering with joy
now but so loudly that everyone wept including capricious Bonnie and brave Luke.
       - Here, I brought you a sweater, it’s already cold outside, autumn... – said the grey
man wiping his tears with an armsleeve.
       And, having calmed down a bit, he added:
       - Well, let’s go home, my sweet, eat a bit and have some rest. You have had a long,
long walk...
       Then he thanked the vet many times, Maria and his neighbour without the slightest
idea who really rescued his precious Freddie. The grey man went to the door. And
Freddie already wearing a warm sweater, could just look at his friends for the last time
from behind his master’s shoulder and bark:
       - Good bye, thank you, thank you for everything, farewell...
       - Farewell, Freddie, be happy. Maybe we’ll meet someday!.. – cried Luke.
       Everyone was silent and wept for a few minutes more.
Freddie returned home.

Linda Green - books for kids