Mar 1, 2022
Hi guys! Max again! This is the LAST Chapter of Day of the Dogs. I promise!
You’re getting into this story a little bit late, but here’s an official series of links that will set you true.
Maximus Gary had an idea. He brushed Buddy aside and began piling snow on Waskin’s neck. He pat it down and pressed down on it.
“Stop panting. Breathe slowly,” he said. “Relax. Slow your heart rate so your blood will slow down and clot.” It wasn’t true, but it sounded good.
She looked at him with very tired eyes and nodded feebly. She exhaled tremendously, almost finally.
“Buddy, don’t lick her wound. Keep this snow packed on her neck. Press down on it. It will stop the bleeding. It will help her.”
“OK Max, I will keep the snow and my paws on her neck until you tell me to stop. Can we have the party now?”
Maximus Gary smiled. “Of course, Buddy. Let’s have a party.”
“So many heroes,” thought Maximus Gary.
He spoke reluctantly, “I’m sorry, I don’t know coyote names, yet.” He motioned to the circle. “Ginger and Zeus– stay with Waskin and Buddy. Let me know if anything changes. The rest of you, Dog and Coyote, come with me.”
The Coyotes left the circle around Waskin and streamed like a bedraggled army after the Dogs. Rincon and Oshunt thought it was a trap and hung onto the periphery. They were well aware of Biped treachery. Wouldn’t their dogs be of the same ilk?
All fear dissipated when they arrived at The Garden Shed and saw the heaps of Biped food neatly stacked in the corner behind the lawnmower. Auggie and Teddy began grabbing bins and handing them over to coyotes who, in turn, brought them to where Buddy, Ginger, and Zeus stood guard over Waskin. Ginger told them to lay them reverently around Waskin in a circle.
The coyotes were driven mad with hunger. They could smell the food and feel the warmth coming from the bins as they brought them to the circle. They would have chewed the bins open in a frenzy if the bins weren’t covered in a white powder stung their tongue, eyes and nose.
Stiwict brought the last bin to the circle, Maximus Gary took The Ham and lay it in the center by Waskin’s head.
“Attention! I have some things to say before we enjoy this feast. Please bear with me. All my points are critical.”
Maximus Gary raised his paw for silence. Dogs and Coyotes hushed. They looked towards Maximus Gary in the dim light for his Benediction.
He spoke loudly.
“Before we celebrate, I need to make some important points….
“Point Number One: This is a SACRED ham,” he said, pointing to it with his snout. “Buddy brought it for us ALL. And we shall ALL partake of it when Waskin can partake of it. If she cannot, we ALL shall not. Agreed?”
“Damn right!” yelled Jabode and all Canines present tittered and dutifully nodded their assent. Waskin managed a weak wag of her tail and the group rejoiced. Buddy- who had never growled in his life, growled at Waskin to stay still under his paws’ pressure. Auggie and Teddy looked at Buddy in shock. Waskin relaxed and let the ice and pressure do their work.
“Point Number Two: All the bins are now placed around Waskin and Buddy in a circle. All Canines shall sample the board of fare in an orderly counter-clockwise direction.” Maximus Gary saw the confusion from the coyotes who had never seen a clock and said, “This way–” He motioned with his paw.
“Point Number Three: To open the food bins, find the small tab on the lid and place your paw on the center of the lid. Then press down. Grab the tab with your teeth and pull up. GENTLY! If you don’t, the food will go everywhere and nodog… errr… nocanine can enjoy it.
There was a murmur as each inspected their bins for some kind of directions.
“Point Number Four: STOP!!!!! Nocanine should begin eating before the other. Everycanine gets the tops off the bins and waits for all the other bins to be opened.
“Point Number Five: SHARE!!! Don’t eat everything in a particular bin, even if it’s the most amazing thing you’ve ever tasted. Leave some for others. The most amazing thing you’ve ever tasted may be in the next bin. Have a taste of everything, and let others have a taste of everything. There’s more than enough to go around.
“Point Number Six: All Canines shall leave enough food in the bins for Waskin and Buddy to sample. Mind your intake!
“Point Number Seven: And this is the most important of all– after The Feast and the Rejoicing, there is a lot to do. Most of it is unpleasant, but he Bipeds cannot ever know what happened here tonight. Everyone will do their part. No exceptions… except for the obvious…” He motioned to Buddy, Waskin, Ginger, and Zeus.
He looked at them all apprehensively. Could this possibly work with no fighting?
Maximus Gary dropped his paw and announced, “Are we all in agreement, Canines?” He looked at every Dog and Coyote in their eyes.
“The Feast is Open!”
Dog and Coyote alike wrestled with the bin tops. Some were better at it than others. Most needed help. The good helped the struggling in what might be described as a trust-building exercise.
When all the bins in the circle were open, the party began in earnest.
The Dogs moved rapidly and aggressively over the exposed bins, whereas The Coyotes moved more apprehensively. They looked to right and left as they advanced to the new food like they were under a gun scope.
It looked like a grand game of Canine Musical Chairs with only winners.
There were minor kerfuffles as Dogs and Coyotes navigated the bin contents, but there were no fights. Teddy and Jabode were even laughing together over a giant bin of stuffing. Zeus and Ginger were re-enacting their battle in the Garden Shed humorously with a rapt audience. They all laughed when Zeus used an evil little smirk to re-enact his kicking of lime at Grimshull’s head stuck in the Garden Shed door.
Maximus Gary purposefully made his way through the Coyotes, taking pains to learn all their names and as much of their personalities as he could
Buddy did not eat a scrap of the food brought before him. He focused all his might on keeping snow packed on Waskin’s neck. He could eat food later.
She was his best friend.
The Feast was a success. Everycanine had eaten their fill and there was still a lot of food left. Dogs and Coyotes were mixing and talking to each other.
Maximus Gary stood over Waskin. She looked up at him with her exposed eye.
“I suppose you’ll kill me now,” she said and wagged her tail weakly. “Or feed me salad.”
“Salad will set you free,” he said facetiously. She wagged her weak tail a little harder. Zeus and Ginger dragged the bin of onions boiled in cream to her. Almost all the onions were gone, but a lot of the cream remained.
“Buddy, take your paws away from Waskin’s neck. Let’s see the wound.”
Buddy dutifully obeyed. Once freed, he scratched his butt determinedly. Then his yeasty ears for what seemed like hours. He was always itchy everywhere, and he would keep scratching himself for as long as Max allowed him.
In the weak light, Maximus Gary saw the snow under Waskin’s neck was bright crimson and partially melted. Her fur was matted and stained a dull brown. He was glad to see no fresh surge of bleeding when Buddy released his paws from her neck. Maybe they were past the worst. She was breathing slowly, yet she was straining to do it.
“Drink,” Maximus Gary said to her when the boiled onion bin came to her.
“I can’t move my head, Maximus,” she said.
Ginger hopped up and went to the bin of onion cream and filled her mouth. She came around to Waskin’s snout and dribbled it into the side of her mouth and into her jaws. Waskin opened and closed her mouth with her tongue lapping, trying to get all the luscious warmish cream into her mouth. She gnawed at the snow where the cream missed.
Ginger and Zeus kept bringing her cream in their little mouths. Maximus Gary piled fresh snow on Waskin’s neck.
“Buddy, I will take over Waskin now. Go have some food. When you’ve had enough, go back and press on Waskin’s neck like you did before. Can you do that?”
“OK,” said Buddy, “I have not had any food yet except a little ham. And I don’t like salad.”
They all looked at Buddy and began laughing like crazy. Even Waskin couldn’t help chuckling.
Buddy looked around confusedly. He shoved Maximus Gary out of the way and put his paws on Waskin’s neck. He then looked at all of them stoically.
“I will have some ham when Waskin has her ham.”
“What is to be done with Grelant?” Maximus Gary said to the gathering. “If Don sees a dead Coyote on the lawn in the morning and sees our injuries, he’ll take a new, vigorous attitude towards Coyotes and shoot them on sight. We can’t have that.”
“Grelant deserves a honorable burial!” shouted Teddy from the rear of the group. Jabode nodded vigorously, “Yes! He was a Wharglearg Warrior!”
“I agree, although it’s impossible to bury him in this frozen ground,” countered Maximus Gary. “At the very least, we need to get his body out of Don’s sight until we can properly honor him. Teddy, Auggie, Jabode… get him under that tarp with all the leaves and brush. Oshunt, Plenkt, Mardina… take the empty plastic bins and lids and clean them as best you can in the snow. Then throw them in The Garden Shed under a bottom shelf out of sight. Take stuff out from under the shelf and throw it in the center of The Garden Shed if you need more room. Grimshull and I will hide what’s left of the food in the woods at a common place that we can all access.
“Auggie, you’ll need to prepare The Garden Shed as best you can. Get a new bungee cord. The old one is chewed and frayed. The Bipeds will spot that immediately. Throw the chewed one far away in the woods. Get a new one from the Shed that looks as much like the old one as possible.”
The last thing to do was to hide all the blood in the snow. Dogs and Coyotes dug strongly with their back legs to scatter and mix fresh snow over all the bloody snow in the back yard.
There was only one thing left to do.
“Waskin, how long do I have to hold this snow on your neck?”
“I don’t know. I feel better. Maybe I can move….”
“Maximus Gary said not to move. Please don’t move.”
“I can’t stay out here forever. In the morning, the Bipeds will come out and kill me.”
“They won’t kill you. But they already have a lot of dogs. Maybe they can find you a nice Biped house where you can live close to here and we can be best friends.”
“I don’t think so Buddy.”
Buddy was confused. Why didn’t she want to be friends? Was it because she was dying?
“What does dying mean, Waskin? How far away do you have to go when you die?”
Inside herself, Waskin was a broken bundle of dry sticks. How could she explain this to simple Buddy in a way he would understand?
“Buddy,” she said softly, “You are the kindest, most gentle dog I have ever even heard of. I wish I met you when we were pups. I am very hurt now, Buddy. Have you ever been hurt?”
Buddy furrowed his brow in thought. “One time Don fell down on the ice and he hit me with his foot on my butt and I fell down on the ice. It was very painful. But it hurt Don a lot more than me.”
“Teddy hurt me in my neck when we were enemies. We are no longer enemies, but the red stuff coming from my neck is blood. If all my blood comes out, I will be dead like Grelant.”
“What is a Grelant?”
She thought for a second. “I can’t simply tell you that, and I can’t tell you what dead means, Buddy. You just need to figure it out for yourself. It’s not pleasant, but I won’t lie to you. You need to leave me for a bit. It’s OK. Ginger and Zeus can take care of me. Go to The Garden Shed. Look for the Coyote lying on the ground. That is Grelant.”
Buddy looked down upon her doubtfully. He looked at Ginger and Zeus. They stared at him with wide eyes. Ginger nodded. Buddy looked over his shoulder at where Maximus Gary and Jabode were swearing loudly.
“It’s OK, Buddy. Go. You need to understand.”
Buddy looked to where Maximus Gary and the others were struggling. He tentatively released the pressure on Waskin’s neck and looked again to Maximus Gary. Then he checked to make sure there wasn’t fresh blood coming out of Waskin’s neck….
He limped to where Dogs and Coyotes were dragging something heavy. Maximus Gary and Jabode were there. The mood was grim. Then he saw the Coyote on the ground. It looked stiff.
They were dragging the stiff Coyote out into the woods. It looked very painful, but the Coyote wasn’t angry or complaining. The coyote wasn’t even protecting his eyes from the twigs and branches slapping at them. That must really hurt, Buddy thought.
“BUDDY! WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?! GO BACK TO WASKIN AND KEEP THAT PRESSURE ON HER NECK!” screamed Maximus Gary.
Buddy leaped vertically up in the air which was very hard for him to do. He didn’t try to explain to Maximus Gary that Waskin told him to come over. He stared at Grelant for another second, then hurried back over to Waskin. He put fresh snow on her neck and squeezed.
“Is Grelant dead?”
“Where did he go? You said the dead go away. Will he come back in the springtime?”
It was like talking to a gigantic, guiltless pup she thought.
“I don’t know.”
“Are you going to die, Waskin?”
She didn’t know.
Karen was having a hard time sleeping. It was her hard luck that she was sleeping directly under the upstairs TV. She couldn’t get “Mississippi Queen” out of her head with a crowbar.
It was also unfortunate that Karen’s bedroom was over the deck door where all the dogs decided to come back into the house after the feast. Maximus Gary and Ginger howled and scraped gently so they could get noticed, but not too noticed.
Karen slipped out of her bed and crept downstairs in her pajamas. Even the big hitters like Don and Sarah were asleep now. Dawn was close. There was nothing moving and there was little light. Karen walked into The Living Room and saw her husband Scott dozing on the couch with “Roadhouse” blaring.
She went to the deck door. She saw a whole throng of dogs. They erupted and got very excited. Karen thought that some drunk (Possibly her husband Scott) must have let all the dogs out and had gone back to sleep.
Maximus Gary noticed she wasn’t like an angry like when Don got woken up by dogs in the middle of the night. She turned the knob and the swarm of dogs came in and seemed polite and orderly. That would have tripped a thousand red flags for Don. His dogs normally charged through the back door to their food bowls no matter the time of day. He would have been especially suspicious of the smallish, whitish, limping dog being supported by Maximus Gary.
Karen watched them stream through the door and fan out like a calm river delta. She took a quick look past the corner and out onto the greater lawn for any stragglers. She closed the door.
She paused on her way back up the stairs to make sure her husband Scott was still breathing. She grabbed the controller and brought it back to the beginning of “Roadhouse” for him and turned the sound down slightly. Scott snored and she made her way up the stairs to her open bed which, of course, was her ultimate goal.
“Follow me,” said Maximus Gary. Karen opened the door and they all ventured into the house. “And for Dog’s sake, don’t stop for anything and don’t cause a scene,” he added.
They followed Maximus Gary past Karen, who could have sworn there were dogs coming in that she didn’t recognize.
The dogs walked past a dead-looking Scott and split up. Ginger and Zeus quietly went upstairs to their crates and beds. Teddy went into the Bedroom where Don was snoring loudly and Liana was tolerating it.
Maximus Gary led the rest downstairs into the full basement. Luckily, there weren’t any lingering drunk Bipeds playing foosball, singing karaoke, or just passed out like empty sacks all over the basement. It was empty.
Auggie played with the outside basement door knob and freed it. The double doors blew open. Auggie blocked the door with a piece of firewood.
That completed, Auggie and Maximus Gary got Waskin situated in the furnace room with some blankets. Auggie ran outside to get her and Buddy some food bins and the rest of the Coyotes.
Despite the sun, bagels, coffee and Biped revelry, the fridge had yet to be opened since little Eva looking for her Pokemon “Glaceon” the night before.
Caroline made a pot of coffee and went to get some cream. She was very confused. The cream for her coffee was there, but naught much else. Had Liana moved the food somewhere? Why would she do that? Why would anyone do that?
She brought the cream over to the coffee pot and made herself a cup of Joe.
Liana awoke a couple minutes later and joined Caroline in the kitchen. Liana was bleary-eyed, hoarse and hungry. She saluted Caroline who was now on her iPad and got a mug after she grabbed two ibuprofen from the communal bowl she left out last night. She swallowed them dry and grimaced.
Once Liana got a coffee Caroline asked, ‘Where’s all the food? There’s not even the cream cheese or lox I brought from New York. All the bagels are here, though,” she said and waved her hand over the bags on the counter.
“What?” Liana held her head.
Caroline made the question simpler. “Where’s all the food?”
Liana just stared at her.
“There’s nothing in the fridge.”
Liana opened the fridge doors and her jaw fell comically.
“DON? WHERE’S ALL THE FOOD?” she shouted into the bedroom.
“THE SUPERMARKET!” he yelled back from his bed, pleased with the wittiness of his reply, but regretting the splitting headache it started. He heard Caroline chuckle at his awful Dad Joke and Liana spit, “WHAT????!”
No doubt she found out that he made the Naughty Sausage Dip before he was authorized. And judging by the anger in Liana’s voice, he would need to get up soon. Very soon.
“Wait. ALL the food? Where WAS all the food?” Don couldn’t be sure. Did he move the food somewhere? If so, he didn’t know why or where or have any details swimming around in his discombobulated mind. Normally, when he committed an atrocity such as this, there was at least a trace of memory that led him down a path to solve the mystery. On this atrocity however, there was nothing in his mind regarding THE FOOD except for the Naughty Sausage Dip.
What the hell was Liana talking about? Was she messing around with him?
He shook off his hangover like a mundane, weekday affair and covered his repulsive nakedness with the soiled clothes he left on the ground only hours before. He could smell coffee, and there were bagels afoot.
When he got to the kitchen, he saw a gaggle of guests surging around. They were exclaiming and laughing and eating bagels and drinking coffee. The fridge was wide open. Bipeds were pointing at it.
Before Don could even grab a civilized cup of coffee for himself, the Bipeds turned to look at him. They all had shocked expressions. All conversation stopped. Don’s right hand went for a mug, his left hand instinctively went to his crotch.
Everything was in order there. Why the hell were they staring at him? What had he done, dammit?!??!
“What the hell happened to your face?!” asked a wide-eyed Liana.
“No- what happened to YOUR face?” Don said and leered forward. He saw all the Bipeds back up in revulsion.
“Yeah… What DID happen to my face?” Don thought. His hand crept up to the side of his head. It was tender and swollen- probably bruised. His crotch was hurting. It was impossible he had an STD, and why would that affect his head? Had he gotten into a fight? Unlikely, although not impossible. Had he fallen down the stairs? No, the rest of his body wasn’t in agony. Had he gotten into a car accident….?
All the Bipeds were staring at him, demanding answers with their accusing eyes. They blamed him for he food. It was silent in the kitchen. Above, he could hear others getting out of bed. He had the empty coffee mug in his hand and nothing else.
Then he slowly remembered…
“The dogs….. ” he finally said in a cloudy, far-off croak tainted with de ja vu. “It had to do with the dogs… ”
“Where are the dogs?” he asked. He swallowed so dryly he thought his throat would snap into little pieces.
Where were the dogs?
Liana gave him a look that would have welded two battleships together.
Don never found the stolen Christmas food. Honestly, he didn’t look very hard. He spent a bunch of time on Christmas morning going through the deep freezer, the nether-reaches of the cabinets, and to convenience stores to bring edible things to Chez Salty. Things like:
Twelve jumbo pickled eggs, Eleven freezer-burned kielbasas, Ten pork flavor oodles of noodles, Nine horrible canned soups like “cream of brussel sprouts,” Eight bags of beef jerky, Seven cans of corned beef hash, Six jugs of chocolate milk,
Five cans of Spaghetti-O’s,
Four dried-out convenience store pizzas, 3 jumbo boxes of Cheez Its, Two bags of frozen burritos…
And wilted salads he got for free……
It was impossible for Don or Liana to ignore their dogs were all injured and bleeding. They tried to corral them and look at their wounds, but the Dogs would have none of it. They appeared to be helping each other. The Bipeds noticed that Maximus Gary had a pronounced limp. He seemed happy and it didn’t slow him down. In fact, he got better over the next few days
Waskin remained undiscovered in the furnace room for days despite Bipeds going downstairs to watch TV, play a game of pool, or just get away from everyone. And true to the pact, all Dogs and all Coyotes sampled the ham when Waskin had recovered enough. There wasn’t a lot of ham to go around. But symbolically it meant everything.
Dogs and Coyotes took turns digging Grelant’s grave. They dug it where he fell.
Waskin made a full recovery in the basement. The Dogs smuggled various Coyotes and food in to see her. She left the basement and went back to Wharglearg where she was hailed as its true leader.
It was a title she rejected for herself because she felt she had defaulted into it through sadness, madness and death, rather than leadership. It was a title she accepted for Wharglearg because it needed a leader. Nothing else.
In the spring, Don went to get the rider-mower and noticed a chewed bungee cord. There was a bunch of plastic planters on the floor. Plastic food bins were under the shelves were shoved under the first shelf. Everything was covered in a thick coating of lime and pawprints. Don started the mower, and the exhaust sent it everywhere. Don coughed violently for a month.
Don immediately concluded a hobo/hoboes had stolen and hidden all the Christmas food in The Shed the year before. When he told Liana, she thought to herself, “Yes, hobos stole a bin of squash but not the 7 gallons of bourbon we have in our easily-accessible liquor cabinet. Nor the 3 cases of beer we had on the deck. Great job, Detective Don.”
There were some Bipeds who swore they would never come to Don & Liana’s for Christmas again. Ha ha! That’s a joke. Nobody cared. Don upped the servings of Naughty Sausage Dip held in reserve. He also put a lock on the fridge that annoyed everyone but “thwarted the Hoboes.”
Waskin gave birth to a little of coyote pups. She named the Alpha “Maximus” despite her being a girl.
Teddy gave his respects at Grelant’s grave every full moon. Sometimes he was joined by Coyotes, other times not.
In their pact with Wharlglearg, The Dogs pilfered what they could from the Bipeds and left it on Grelant’s grave for The Coyotes. Wharglearg, in turn, brought down a 120lb deer in the front yard and invited all The Dogs to enjoy.
Auggie and Ginger married. Dogs and Coyotes attended a beautiful ceremony in the woods behind Chez Salty when the wiener dogs were there for a Spring Break weekend. Coyotes brought the rare delicacy of goose poop to the reception.
For future Christmases, Don securely locked the fridge and the liquor cabinet against hobo theft. It became a tradition, and many people laughed behind Don’s back.
Waskin was never able to explain the concept of death to Buddy before he passed away. He asked several times, but when Waskin tried to explain, Buddy’s eyes glazed over and he looked all around and he would chew on his leg. She eventually understood that it was better Buddy didn’t know.
Buddy was perfect the way he was.
The years got long. Maximus Gary achieved more than most dogs had in their lifetimes. His coup may not have gone the way he planned it, but he and the canines involved were far richer because it hadn’t gone to his plan.
And when the Coyote and Dog pups crowded around him, they begged him to tell the story of The Great Ham Raid. He smiled so much it hurt his old face and told them Auggie was the much better storyteller. They looked upset, but Auggie never failed to engage them with his wild and compelling (and embellished, if you asked Maximus Gary) story of The Ham Raid. The adults sat outside the circle of pups, adding humorous and terrifying bits to his story as they saw fit.
“It was a dark and stormy night….” Auggie always began.
It was far into the future. Maximus Gary was very old.
It was a dark and stormy night. Maximus Gary had his head down on the kitchen floor. He wasn’t staring at the fridge and plotting like in his youth.
They lost Old Buddy last June. Then the Bipeds gained a rambunctious chocolate lab pup, “Mars.”
Suddenly, on that stupid kitchen floor he had laid on a thousand times before, Maximus Gary understood a very important truth about the world.
The world went on without Buddy, and it went on with young Mars. It went on with the Coyote pups and would go on without his old, cranky self.
The truth told him the world was spinning. It spun around and around. It spun around on its axis. It spun around the sun. It made him crazy. You got on and off this weird carousel and you had no choice when either would happen.
Maximus Gary realized one thing with a blinding clarity that even most Bipeds didn’t: The only thing that made a damn bit of difference in your life was whether you made that crazy, spinning carousel a better place for everyone left on it.
It had nothing to do with family, species, breed, color, politics or wealth. And sometimes it meant giving up all those things to stand up against viciousness or tyranny. Sometimes it meant giving up your own beliefs for a greater good.
He thought about the Coyote pups and Mars having adventures long after he was gone. That comforted him and made him smile.
And then Maximus Gary remembered The Day of the Dogs. He started remembering at the beginning with Auggie’s Fridge Intelligence Reports and every savory second of the rest.
He saw a large black figure coming towards him. At first he thought it was Buddy, but that was impossible.
The black figure silently approached him. He put a paw on Maximus Gary’s shoulder. Maximus Gary didn’t rise to meet him. The carousel was spinning around and around. He closed his eyes and it spun faster. He knew who the black figure was.
“I’ve been expecting you.”
“It is time.”
The other dogs came over and formed a half-circle around Maximus Gary. They knew. Teddy stopped Mars from trying to fight the black figure.
“I’ve got to go now,” said Maximus Gary to The Dogs. “Tell the Coyote pups that I will miss them. And Mars, I will miss you most of all.”
“It is time to go.”
On that kitchen floor, the carousel was spinning faster and faster. He thought of how much he loved Liana and even Don. He thought of everything.
He held on for as long as he could, but the black figure was insistent.
And then he stepped off.
Tohono was never seen or heard from again.
This is dedicated to Big Dumb Buddy 2005 – 2021. He was the kindest, gentlest, most loving dog I’ve ever known, much less owned. I hope he’s waiting for me when I step off this crazy spinning carousel.