“Love Bites” by Ken McKowen
This story appears in the anthology “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Dogs.”
It wasn’t long after we purchased our new home in a rural neighborhood that our family decided we needed a dog. After all, we reasoned, everyone who lived on an acre of land should have animals of one kind or another.
Locating a rescue organization, we went to see two puppies that were sisters, although they didn’t look anything alike. Both different colors, the pups were Vizsla/Lab/Rhodesian Ridgeback mixes, and we were assured they wouldn’t get bigger than 60 pounds. Rather than taking only one puppy and leaving the other an abandoned psychotic mess, we adopted both puppies and took them home. My wife, Dahlynn, reasoned that a single dog would become too lonely whenever we traveled, as back then we were full-time travel writers.
Dahlynn’s young daughter claimed the bigger, light-brown puppy and named her “Shilo.” Her younger son, Shawn, latched onto the smaller, dark-brown puppy and she became “Coco.” Shilo immediately set herself up as the dominant member of the two-dog pack, with Coco happily following behind. Both of our spayed girls greatly surpassed the promised 60 pounds of dog; fully grown, Coco weighed in at 75 pounds and Shilo tipped the scales at nearly 100 pounds.
When Shawn turned 12, he asked for another pet, and that’s when Fred came home from the pet store. Fred was a boy parakeet, or boy budgie is probably more accurate, although I have no idea what separates one species of bird from the other. They all looked the same, only different colors. Fred was green.
On the day Fred came home to live with us, we placed his cage on a small, low table in front of a long wall of windows that faced out over our parcel of land. The dogs were out back, but they sensed something exciting going on inside the house. When we let them in, they headed immediately to Fred’s cage. They were very excited, plastering their noses against the wire bird jail! They sniffed, licked and snorted around the cage—and slimed the hardwood floor with their constant flow of slobber. At first, Fred freaked with all the unexpected canine attention, but within a few days, he figured out he had nothing to fear, enjoying the safety of his cage.
Both dogs continued to spend hours with their noses pressed tightly against Fred’s cage, whining, crying, licking and jumping from side to side every time the bird changed positions. Shilo was the most demented. Coco would tire of the focused attention after an hour or two and go lie down, quietly awaiting some type of extraordinary noise from Shilo or Fred—a signal to rejoin the vigilant bird watching. It didn’t take long for Fred to become quite comfortable with the two dogs’ noses constantly pressed firmly against his cage. Fred often perched himself on the cage bars and pecked at the dogs’ nose whiskers, which simply excited them even more.
Shilo and Coco’s antics served as humorous entertainment for our family and for our many visitors and houseguests. It was the most bizarre dog behavior we had ever witnessed. Some suggested we video the threesome and submit it to the funniest video television program, but we never did, opting to keep their escapades out of the limelight. After a couple of years, the dogs settled down somewhat. At least the floor became less likely to be covered with dog slobber, although the perpetually scattered birdseed was another matter. Shilo still pressed her nose to the cage and Fred would “kiss” her; Coco became ambivalent, only rarely displaying her old, birdbrained craziness.
Dahlynn and I often discussed Shilo’s continued attentiveness toward Fred and smiled over this unique friendship. The two were inseparable as Shilo always had one eye on Fred. If we walked from the living room to the dining room, Shilo jumped up and kept herself between us and the bird. The little parakeet continued to groom Shilo from within his cage and squawked whenever her canine companion wandered off, even for a moment. This always brought Shilo running back, full speed, to check on her feathered friend. Fred had her trained!
Alas, we came home one day to find Fred dead, claws up, on the bottom of his cage. We put Fred on ice, so to speak, placing him in a small box in the freezer, awaiting a proper burial. Shilo was upset to see the empty birdcage and looked all over the house for Fred. Eventually, she dropped to the floor and slept. She was depressed, so we gave her extra pets and cried right along with our old Shilo girl.
On the day we gathered for the avian funeral, I carried Fred’s little coffin from the freezer to the backyard. Shilo must have sensed I had Fred, and she came over to me, whining. Dahlynn suggested I let Shilo sniff a proper dog goodbye to her dear friend, so I opened the box and lowered it to Shilo’s nose level. Shilo hesitated for perhaps a tenth of a second before lunging at the bird, taking the entire tiny frozen, feathery friend into her mouth. Dahlynn screamed as I pried the bird from Shilo’s locked jaws, before Dead Fred could become Fed Fred. I succeeded in retrieving the broken budgie, feathers slightly askew. Shilo sat with a look of total satisfaction on her face.
We buried Fred in our patio garden, comforted with the knowledge that Shilo really did miss little Fred—in more ways than we had ever thought possible.
Ken McKowen is the co-founder of the Not Your Mother’s Book series, as well as president and managing editor of Publishing Syndicate, LLC. Occasionally, both he and his wife and other NYMB series co-founder Dahlynn sometimes contribute their stories to the popular series. To learn more about Ken, visit www.PublishingSyndicate.com.
Again, this story appears in “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Dogs.” The book features 57 terrific dog-approved tales written by their humans! Purchase this book today from your favorite retailer, Amazon (http://amzn.to/1dCBc7w) or Barnes & Noble (http://bit.ly/12dsCKY).
To submit your stories for consideration in future NYMB titles, go to http://www.PublishingSyndicate.com and click on the “Not Your Mother’s Book” tab.