by Riss Ryker
Jayden's beloved dog, Dakota, is missing. Will he ever see his beloved pet again?
|Hearing the jingle of the leash, Dakota hopped up happily, knowing that he would be going somewhere with Aiden, his owner, friend, and companion. Yipping and jumping happily with joy, he ran into the foyer where Aiden was waiting to clip the leash onto his collar. "Ready boy?" Aiden asked. "How about a nice ride in the car today?" Not knowing or caring much what was being said, as long as it was said to him, Dakota wiggled and whined in barely contained happiness. As long as he was with Aiden, he could care less where they went.
Looking up with love, he pranced prettily out the door with his owner, and out to the car. "Up you go!" Aiden prompted, and Dakota, with one agile leap, was in the front seat ready for anything. Aden looked over at his his best friend, and laughed at Dakota's enthusiasm. He got this little ball of fluff quite by accident. His first choice of a dog was definitely not a dainty, little Pomeranian, and he took quite a ribbing from his buddies about his 'sissy' dog. Dakota was actually 'rescued' from a disgusting backyard breeder who bred his 10 yr. old female back to back. Litter after litter this poor thing endured, and the dirty play pen the pups were born in was a cesspool of puppy urine and feces, fleas and stench. Dakota was the only one left in the filthy pen. When Aiden looked at the bedraggled ball of matted, wet fur and into those watery, brown eyes, he was lost. The pup looked miserable, lethargic, and hopeless. Aiden picked up the trembling pup and gently rubbed around his ears, eliciting a whine of pleasure from the tiny dog. "How much Joe?" he asked the owner, a stocky, toothless, shoe repair guy, looking at him in barely disguised disgust.. "For you buddy?" (Aiden cringed at the thought of being this mans 'buddy') "six hunnert bucks".
"Are you kidding me, man?" he asked incredulously. "this pup doesn't have shots, papers, nothing!"
"Take it or leave it, pal, got someone comin' over later who'll gladly gimme it" Joe said around the cigarette dangling from his fat lips."Gotta pay my taxes on this dump somehow".
Having just cashed his check from his work, he reluctantly peeled off 4 fifties and 2 one hundred dollar bills. He looked at the puppy cradled happily in his arms. "You better be worth it, my friend.." The pup whined as if in total agreement.
And that's how he came to be in the company of this beautiful, long haired Pom. He looked at Dakota, admiring the dog's stunning coat. White and tan, Dakota looked the picture of canine health and vitality. Bright, shining eyes, full of mayhem and mischief, and a coat of the softest, thickest fur you ever saw. He only weighed 8 lbs soaking wet. His fur, so thick, made him look twice the size he really was. He was a loyal, happy little dog, always ready to play. Aiden had a permanent shadow now, and Dakota was horribly spoiled.
Aiden pulled out of the driveway, and drove to the Main st. convenience store for gas and his numbers. "Stay and guard the fort, fuzz butt", he told the dog. Dakota whined anxiously, hating to be left alone. While Aiden was in the store, Dakota looked nervously out of the partly rolled down window, and noticed that a strange man was quickly making his way towards the car. He barked a warning, and when the man kept coming, Dakota scratched frantically at the window, growling and yipping. The man, opened the car door, and yanked Dakota out by the scruff of his neck, eliciting a sharp yelp from the terrified little dog. A foul smelling rag was placed over his sensitive nose, and suddenly, it was lights out. The man and limp dog disappeared around the corner...
Aiden strolled out of the store and the first thing he noticed was silence. Dakota usually barked excitedly from the moment he came out of a store door, to the moment he entered the car. Something was wrong. He picked up his pace and in a panic, looked inside. No Dakota. Not on the floor, not in the back seat, or under his coat.. His dog was gone. A woman getting gas noticed Aidens panicked state and came over. "Is everything alright, sir?" she asked. He spun around to face her, his face white as a ghost. "My dog. My dog is gone". He looked under the car, and ran around the outside of the store calling Dakota's name. Pulling out his cell phone, he dialed 911..
He then called his girlfriend, Ellie, a Vet Tech at Dr. Bloomfields, and she came right away. Her face blanched as she listened and calmly tried to console her grieving boyfriend. "Oh my God, Aiden", she said softly. 'it's all right, hon, it's okay, we'll get fuzz butt home, don't you worry." The two of them waited for the police to come, each deep in their own thoughts. They just had to get Dakota back, Aiden would never rest until he did.
Dakota opened his eyes, immediately sick to to his stomach from the chloroform. His head spin sickeningly as he struggled to stand, only to find himself stuffed into a small, wire cage. He whined despondently. He shaking his head to clear the fog, he licked his nose with his dry tongue trying to wet it and get a better sniff around. He heard, before he smelled, other dogs, lots of them. Dogs barking with fear, pain and confusion. He smelled fear in their urine over the stench of feces and blood. If there was a dog hell, this was it. Now that Dakota's eyes had adjusted to the light, he could see more of his surroundings. Rows and rows of cages with dogs inside of them . All different breeds of Toy dogs. Shih Tzu's and Chihuahua's, Pomeranians and Pugs. Papillions and Yorkies. Closest to his cage was a shivering Havenese and on the other side, another Pomeranian like him. He sniffed the interiors of his wire prison, biting the wire with his teeth. Nothing gave. He looked up, nothing there to work with. He couldn't dig, because even the floor beneath him had wire. He sat, and listened, and thought of cookies and balls but most of all, he thought of Aiden. Just when the crescendo of barking dogs reached it's highest pitch, a door slammed open against the wall. "Shut up, you mangy mutts!!" a gruff angry voice yelled out. "Shut yer traps before I get the hose!" At that, all barking whining and growling stopped. Dakota could feel a spike in the fear level as all the dogs fell quiet. His tail, usually held in a proud plume over his back, tucked tight between his legs. He crouched in the corner of the cage, making himself as small as possible.The man was big, with huge hands and sausage like fingers. As big around as he was tall, he filled the doorway with his presence and the dogs shivered with fright and mistrust. They obviously had dealings with this man before.
The door opened again to let in another man, this one smaller and weasly looking. "Yo, Manny,is the new batch of mutts in?" he asked the larger man. "The boss wants to know if you were able to get the Pomeranian she wanted".
"Yeah," the other man anwered. "It's down there on the right, and leave him alone, she don't want him damaged, so keep your filthy hands off the dog.
Jake, walked down to Dakota's cage and peered in. "Hey mutt, the boss is gonna love you". Dakota bared his sharp, little teeth in reply, getting his tail yanked hard for it. He yelped in pain and fear. "Hey!" yelled the other man, "what did I freakin' tell you?"
"Aww, shut up, Manny, I wern't done nuttin'. This little shit thinks he's a tough guy is all."
Manny, a cigar hanging out of mouth, walked over to where Jake was teasing Dakota and looked inside of the cage. The dog was a beauty, alright, and the Boss was going to happy for a change. She wanted the dog for her granddaughter, 13 yr. old Sabrina, a spoiled, little brat who got everything she wanted. The rest of the mutts would be sold to laboratories and underground furriers. He nudged Jake with his foot, "Come on, lets go get some grub, dog napping makes me hungry."
"Anything makes you hungry, Manny, what are you talking about." Jake teased. The men left, and all of the dogs, still wary, seemed to relax a little.
Sabrina waited until she heard the men's truck leave before she crept inside. She had heard her granny talking last night and knew that there was a Pomeranian just for her. Her friend, Megan, had gotten one for her birthday, and envious, Sabrina asked her grammy for the same dog, but prettier.. She peeked in, making sure that none of the other workers were present, and satisfied, she made her way down the rows of cages, checking for that light orange and cream color she asked for..."ahh, there you are." she said as she spotted Dakota. Sabrina held out her hand to the little dog, but Dakota wanted nothing to do with it. He shrunk back against the far side of the cage, lifting his lips in warning. "Now don't be scared, little one, I won't hurt you." she cooed. "come here pretty doggy, come on...". She unlatched the cage door, and reached inside....Dakota, seeing that door open, was instantly alert. As Sabrina's hand got closer, he was ready.
Lunging, he gave her outstretched hand a good nip, and as she fell back in painful surprise, screaming, Dakota made his move. Lunging out of the cage, he leaped over her legs, and ran towards the smell of fresh air. "Come back here!!" Sabrina shouted in frustration."Come back here right this minute!". She got up and ran after him, knowing if she didn't get him back, she'd catch it from her grandmother but good. Her grandmother did not tolerate insubordination, and the perpetrator was usually severely punished. Her heart sunk when she saw a cream colored tail disappear out of the door she'd left open..
Aiden was exhausted. Mentally and emotionally. After giving the cops his info over and over, making statements, and signing papers, he just wanted to sit down and make his next move. He knew that the Police Dept. wouldn't use much effort to find Dakota. They were overloaded now as it was, with the recent string of robberies in town and the election coming up. A lost Pomeranian was definitely not at the top of the to-do list. Ellie shook the last policeman's hand and turned her attention to Aiden.
"Aw, hon, don't worry, We'll get the little guy back. He'll come back home to us." In her heart, though, she really wasn't sure. She knew that somehow she had to help Aiden find his dog. It was odd seeing him without the smiling Pomeranian by his side. She thought back to the day she'd met Aiden. He had come in to the animal clinic with this pathetic little, ball of fuzz, a nervous wreck. The poor thing looked far too young to be away from it's mom, and not in the best of shape. Fur matted, smelling like urine, he set the pup on the table and said," I don't care how much it costs, do what you have to do to get this pup well again.
He looked and acted as if he were it's mother, and she had to smile at his obvious love and concern for the little baby. Gently, with loving care, Ellie gave the pup a good exam. Checking it's vitals, looking for a nice pink mouth, and clear, bright eyes. Not only was it dehydrated, it was severely malnourished. Worms were taking any nourishment the pup was ingesting. Fleas found their home all over the pup, and it scratched and whined in irritation . Her hands were loving and gentle as she turned the pup around to give him some shots. So adept was she at her profession, the dog didn't even whimper as the needle went in the scruff at the back of it's neck. She gently massaged the medicine in and gave the pup a quick kiss on its smelly muzzle.
"There you go, little fella. All better. One you have a bath and a brush, you'll be good as new!"
She turned to Aiden and gave him some after care instructions. She also gave him a bottle of vitamin supplements to add to his food. "What he really needs, is a lot of TLC and this little guy will be as good as new!"
Aiden paid and thanked her gratefully and couldn't help but notice how pretty she was. Her eyes, especially, a deep golden color, very unusual. Framed with long, dark lashes, her eyes were mesmerizing. Her hair was beautiful. It was the color of sable in shadows and fell down her back in a silken sheen of dark satin. He wanted to plunge his hands its deep, rich color. She had a light spray of freckles across her nose and upper cheeks, and it somehow made her look childlike and fragile. Her body, tanned and athletic from years of working with farm animals, looked like it would be lovely in a little black dress...She looked up, catching his study of her, and he had the grace to blush. Flustered at the awkwardness of the situation, she looked back at the pup, grateful for the distraction. "Umm, would like to have dinner with us tonight?" he stammered.
Ellie got a good look at Aiden and liked what she saw. Just the fact that he was so attached to the little ragamuffin pup was attractive enough, but he was handsome in a rugged sense. He wasn't movie star handsome, like Brad Pitt, or Johnny Dep, but more cowboy handsome, with a rugged, tanned face, and wide, strong shoulders. His eyes were to die for, deep green with an unusual black outline around the iris. When he smiled, a dimple flashed in his right cheek, giving him a boyish quality that made her feel like mothering him. I could definitely get into this guy, she thought to herself..
"Tonight? Well, I get off at 6, is that too late?" she answered. She was done with the pup, and handed him gently back to Aiden's waiting arms. "All fixed up and ready to go home!" she told him. He took the pup gratefully, "Thank you so much, first thing this little guys getting is a nice warm bath! I'll be by at 6, is that ok?" he asked her. "I'll be waiting". she answered with a smile..
And that's how their relationship started. He didn't know how he would get through this if Ellie wasn't there to talk to and comfort him...He had to get Dakota back, he just had too! Ellie also had a lot of connections with the community and law enforcement concerning certain individuals who were notorious for abusing, selling and torturing animals. Outside of the city, there was one place in particular that they had been trying to shut down for months now. On the outside, it was a normal animal shelter, but there had been rumors that they did a dirty business. Selling to labs that tested on animals, puppy mills and even to the Asians for coats and food. It was just a matter of catching them. It was a family run business, and the family, the Campbell clan, weren't exactly pillars of the community. The two brothers, Jake and Manny, were in and out of jail from the time they were teenagers, and Manny, the oldest, was also the town drunk.
Their mother, the brains of the family, was known for her unscrupulous schemes and scams. Public humiliation of her two children as they were growing up had turned them into a cowering, mistrustful lot, and more often then not were seen sporting black eyes or swollen, bloody lips. It was even rumored that her missing husband was buried somewhere on their property, dead by a well placed bullet in the head. No proof had ever been found, and careful questioning had turned up nothing from the closed mouthed clan.To this very day her missing husband remained a cold case. But for sure, a visit to the Campbells was in order.
Dakota ran as fast as his little Pomeranian legs could carry him through that open door and away from the mean tempered girl. But when he ran through, he ran smack into the waiting arms of Manny Campbell and a strange man. "Whoa! Where do you think YOUR going! Gotcha!" Manny snatched Dakota up by the scruff of his neck making him yelp with shock and pain.
"Careful! That's my dog now, pal, and for $850.00 there better not be a bruise on him", the strange man said to Manny. Manny, giving Dakota an extra pinch for his trouble, handed the little dog over to the man. "Here! And good riddance! Remember, NO REFUNDS!" He made this sale against the orders of his mother, and dreaded her reaction. Screw Sabrina, he just made some good money for the that little mutt.
The man, with Dakota in his arms, gave Manny a dirty look and put the frightened dog in his car. He drove a long way to get this dog, and he wanted to head back to Buffalo, NY as soon as possible. Looking at Dakota's coloring and structure, he knew this little guy was going to make him some pretty, little pups to sell for big bucks. He had made counterfeit AKC papers with names of the parents and everything. Poms with papers meant a big, fat dollar sign. Before putting the car in drive, he reached over to pet the shaking animal, and Dakota's sharp little teeth clamped on to his hand. "You little son of a, you damn, why, I'm gonna KILL you!!" he yelled, and threw the poor dog in the back seat where he huddled down on the floor panting in fear. Dakota thought of another man with gentle touch and soothing voice, and he whined with longing..
Ellie and Aiden, after discussing where to start to their search, decided to check out the Campbell place. Located on the outskirts of town, down a bumpy, dirt road, the Campbell residence was nothing short of a junk yard. A locked gate blocked their way with a large sign reading "NO TRESPASSING- violators will be SHOT!". Ellie looked at Aiden, suddenly unsure if they should continue. "Maybe we should let the police search the place, Aiden, I'm not too sure about this."
"Ellie, you told me the police are going to say that there's not enough evidence to search the place. This is up to us. If I find out that they have little Dakota, I swear to God, their going to need more then a gun to stop me from hurting someone.." Parking the car, the two of them went up to the gate. "Let's go around and see if there's a place where we can go over this fence", Aiden said. He didn't tell Ellie he had his pistol. He knew how she felt about guns. But, better safe then sorry, especially with this motley crew's reputation.
Quietly, the two of them walked around the perimeter of the fence, trying to find the easiest way in. Then they both saw it at the same time. Up against the fence, was an old dilapidated shed. Perfect for climbing up and over. Aiden tested it first, and decided it would hold their weight as they went over the fence. Thank God there was no razor wire, or they would never get in. He grabbed Ellie's hand, and pulled her up after him, and the two of them made it safely to the other side. As they crept forward, stepping over old bald tires, twisted hunks of metal and old car parts, a sound to the right of them made them stop dead in their tracks. Ellie squeezed Aidens hand in fear.
A low rumbling growl came from what sounded like a very big dog. "Turn around very slowly, Aiden," Ellie said. They both turned expecting to see a Pitbull, or a Rottweiler, but to Ellie's surprise, there behind them was a bedraggled looking Golden Retriever. Ellie, knowing her breeds, knew that Goldens were normally one of the most people orientated breeds out there. Loyal and gentle, the Golden Retriever was definitely not made to be a guard dog, and it saddened Ellie to see that this one was so neglected as to not know how to react among people. Talking softly and soothingly, she reached into her pocket for the snack she had in there meant for Dakota, his favorite, Beggin Strips. A bacon flavored rawhide chewy. "Hey there, fella, it's ok, your a good boy, good dog," she said to the growling Golden. Look what Ellie has for you, that's right, boy, take a good whiff." The Golden, it's attention now focused on that wonderful smelling object in the woman's hand, stopped growling.
Ears pricked up, tail starting to wag, the Golden Retriever inched forward, eyes on the treat. "Go ahead, boy, it's alright, we won't hurt you. Come on, come and get it", Ellie coaxed. The Golden, reached out and took the offered treat gently in his teeth, and practically inhaled it. She looked at Aiden in triumph, and got another treat out of her pocket. The Golden, forgetting his guard duty, gave her a bonafided Golden smile, and huffed at her, impatiently waiting for the next chewy. "I think you made a friend, Ell". Aiden told her. Unafraid now, Ellie gave the dog a loving scratch around it's dirty ears, and the dog, only used to kicks and objects thrown at it, leaned into Ellies legs and closed his eyes. "Not a mean bone in your body, huh boy," she said to him.
The two of them, and now the dog, moved forward towards the old barn. Aiden, stopped and motioned for Ellie to listen. Sure enough, she heard the sounds of barking and whining. Dogs, and from the sound of it, lots of them. "I think we came to the right place, don't you?' she asked Aiden. The barn itself was weathered and aging, with a peculiar leaning to the left that had one questioning its ability to remain stable. The windows, dirty and dusty from years of neglect, refused to reveal whatever secrets lay inside. They had to go to the door. Creeping forward, with the Golden now a part of the operation, they listened for any sounds besides the dogs barking. Voices, in particular. But nothing could be heard. Aiden tried the door, and found it unlocked. "Yes! So far, so good, now quietly..."
"Are ya lookin' fer something Mister?" a young girls voice made then jump in surprise. Turning around, Ellie and Aiden came face to face with Sabrina. She stood with her arms folded smartly across her chest, a smirk on her face. "Well, well, and who do we have here? Duke!" she made a move to grab the Retriever, whom, out of habit, dodged out of the way. "You bad dog! Your supposed to BITE intruders, idiot, not make friends with them, you worthless mutt!" The retriever growled at Sabrina, and again pressed into Ellie's legs for comfort.
"We're looking for a dog, a Pomeranian." Aiden explained. "We were told that you had dogs here, and we thought that maybe my dog was here."
Sabrina laughed, "Oh, are you now? Gee, that's too bad, Mister, 'cause we just sold a beauty not too long ago. Some man from outta town. Guess your outta luck!"
Aiden wanted to wipe that smirk right off of her nasty looking face with his fist, but kept his cool. He needed to get as much info as he could out of this tee. "How long ago? Where did he take Dakota?"
"Dakota? That was his name? He was supposed to be MY dog, but my stupid uncle sold him.."
Aiden, at this point, was ready to throttle the smart mouthed teen, but Ellie squeezed his hand as a warning to calm down. She knew that the minute this girl suspected any hostility aimed at her, the situation could ugly. "What's your name, hon?" she asked her. "We don't want to cause any trouble or have to call the police to come out here. All we want is the little Pomeranian."
Sabrina looked at Ellie and saw everything that she wanted to be. Pretty, smart, a hot looking guy like Aiden for a boyfriend. A surge of jealousy welled up within her. This woman had some nerve breaking in here making demands. Just who did she think she was, anyway?
"Listen, lady, I don't have your stupid dog. He's gone. Sold. Unless you want to deal with my uncle Manny, and trust me, you DON"T want to deal with him, I suggest you leave NOW."
Aiden, patience at an end, started forward ready to do some damage, and causing the teen to take a step back. She didn't know these people and none of her kin were here to back her up.
"Aiden! No! Not here! " Ellie stopped him. "We have a lead so let's just leave and follow it." Turning to Sabrina, she asked, "Can you at least tell us where this man was heading with Dakota?" Sabrina, after seeing murder in the eyes of Dakota's owner, decided to tell them the truth. " I thought I heard him say he lived in Buffalo, NY."
At that, Aiden groaned. "Buffalo? Omg, Ellie, how are we ever going to find him?"
Ellie thought the same thing..Like looking for a needle in a haystack. "Come on Aiden, let's go home."
Dakota lay panting in the back seat, bruised and thirsty. They had been driving for about 4 hours, no stops, and he was needing some attention. When at last the car finally stopped, Dakota sat up and yipped for the man to take him outside.
"What's a matter, gotta go to the bathroom little guy?" the man asked. "Alright, but no funny business. Do what you gotta do and back in the car, got it?"
He hooked the leash he brought with him to Dakota's collar, and walked him over to a small patch of grass at the back of the gas station he had pulled into. After peeing for what seemed like ages, Dakota did his little back kicks on the grass that all little dogs seem to do, and tried to do a little sniffing around. He pointed his nose up in air to get a sense of where he was. Nothing here smelled familiar. His little tummy rumbled and grumbled in protest at the lack of food, something he was definitely not used to. He watched the man for a bit, who seemed preoccupied and nervous. "Come on, now, we're almost home. I can't wait for Ginny to see you! You bite her, and your dead, mutt!" the man said menacingly to Dakota. "You don't mess with Ginny, she's one tough cookie. Ah, but ya gotta love her, yes sirree. He let the little dog sniff around a little more, and then unceremoniously tossed him in the front seat. Maybe he would behave, this time.
Looking out the front window, Dakota felt an urgency coming from the man, and he whined in anticipation. He knew that this journey would be coming to an end shortly, and he also knew that he was VERY far from home. The man took out his cell phone and spoke. "Yes, I have him. Yes, he's everything we wanted, but he's very nervous and nippy. I'm about 5 minutes from home, so get the kennel prepared". The man looked at Dakota and put the car in drive. "Almost home, buddy, so you better be nice. The missus doesn't like nippy dogs, so better mind your manners or you'll be sorry!", he told the nervous dog.
After about fifteen minutes,the man made a right hand turn down a pot-holed driveway that led to a small cottage type home. Run down and neglected, the house was just a memory of what it used to be. Shutters missing upstairs and down, weeds over taking the garden, and peeling paint, all spoke of the couples neglect since taking the place over last year. A woman, 40ish, large, and as ill kept as the house, stood waiting in the doorway impatiently.
"Finally!" she announced loudly. I thought you'd never get here, Jon!! Now where is my puppy!" She came down the steps and peered into the car, squealing loudly when she saw Dakota. "Oh MY God! Oh, look at him! Come to mama, baby!" Dakota, mortified at this huge, loud, domineering woman, bared his teeth at her and snarled. "OH! Jon! He's growling me! Why is he growling me?" Jon, who learned early in the beginning of their marriage, bit his tongue. "Maybe he's not used to someone soooo, ummm." At a quick glance from her, he added," beautiful..". pacified, she turned her attention back to Dakota. "Come here, you little precious, come to mama, you little angel!"
But Dakota, sensing something insincere in the woman's tone, tried to make himself as small as possibleon the floor of the front seat. "John, DO something, will you? Don't just stand there like a blithering idiot, GET HIM!".
John, obedient as ever to his domineering wife, reached in and roughly grabbed the trembling dog by the scruff of his neck. Dakota wasn't used to such rude handling and in his fright, sunk his little teeth into the meaty part of Johns palm. Howling with pain and anger, John swiftly cuffed the little dog in the head. Dakota had enough. He howled his misery to the world. Acting quickly, he leaped into action, and scrambled out the door and running right through Jon's leg's. "Get back here you little mutt!" John yelled at the retreating dog.
"You stupid idiot! You moron!" his wife screamed at him, "Can't you do anything right? GO GET HIM!"
Holding his bitten hand, John looked at his wife. 20 years of verbal abuse, he thought. She wasn't only ugly on the outside, she was ugly on the inside, too. To be honest, he kind of felt like the poor dog would be better off. Run, little dog, he silently cheered, feeling strangely envious.
"You know what, Ginny? If you want that dog so bad then YOU go after it! I'm through!" Ginny, not used to being talked back to by the spineless idiot, stared in open mouthed shock at his retreating back. She stood there a moment, watching the dog's quick retreat down her driveway, and hurried into the house to deal with her idiotic husband. Oh, there would be hell to pay for this one..
Dakota ran as fast as his little Pomeranian legs could carry him. Instinct led him down the Sycamore lined driveway, and out onto the main road in the direction he felt would lead him back to Aiden. Head down and determined, he trotted purposefully and loyally back to the one person that trusted. The man with the gentle touch and soothing voice. And the girl, his mate, with her tinkling laughter and belly rubs that sent him into oblivion. Back to the house with his teddy and his bed. Back to the place that was safe and full of love. Back home....
Ellie and Aiden packed up the SUV and after Googling directions to Buffalo, NY., they hit the road. 427 miles. It would take them 7 hours and 29 minutes to reach their destination, and when they got there, then what? How do you find a tiny Pomeranian in a city with a population of 19,465,197, how would they ever find the little guy? She knew that the chances of finding him were about 1 in 19 million, but for Aidens peace of mind, they just had to try. Turning onto I_90, Ellie thought about Aiden's relationship with his dog. It would tear that man apart if he couldn't find the little ragamuffin. Never had she seen such a bond between a man and his dog. God. She prayed...If ever there was a time to perform a miracle, this was it! She loved this man beside her and hated seeing him so distraught. She looked at the road ahead, wondering if he would ever see Dakota again.
Dakota's tired feet led down the city streets, thirsty, hot and sore from being handled so roughly. Right now his thirst was overpowering. He had to find some water. Lifting his nose in the air, he detected some nearby. His nose led him to a private residence in the backyard. He looked about cautiously, not wanted anyone to see, and found the source of water. There, a water dish for a dog. His need for water overcame his fear of discovery and he hurried over. The dish was full and as he drank, the cold, sweet water soothed his burning throat as it went down to fill his belly with a cold feeling he found delicious. The owner of the bowl barked furiously, hearing the intruder outside. Dakota, knowing the other dog was not able to get him, continued to drink until his thirst was finally sated. It was getting darker out. The setting sun cast long shadows on the pavement making the city look like a world of giants. He gave the bowl one last slurp, and trotted off, rejuvenated, back through the gate, and on his way towards home.
He was getting tired. He'd been walking for a for a few hours now and he was finally out of the huge city, walking east, on a highway surrounded with woods. His paws were sore, and he wanted nothing better then curl up in a tight, little ball and fall asleep. Whining, he looked around him for a spot a to sleep. A short distance away, he spotted a small barn and with his little feet burning from the hot pavement, he crossed the small field and headed for it. Little did Dakota know, he was being watched. A coyote picked up his scent, and out of sheer curiosity, it had to investigate. Coyotes were a common sight now, with it's territory dwindling and food sources getting more scarce, it became bolder. Moving into a city and raiding trash cans, or grabbing an unfortunate family pet when it could, they had become quite commonplace. Opportunist hunters, a lone Pomeranian would make a tasty meal for the coyote. This particular hunter was especially determined to have Dakota for it's next meal. She had a litter of pups to feed. Moving silently and stealthy, she moved in closer, watching the little dog make it's way across the field. Licking her lips in anticipation of food, she started trotting closer, not wanting her meal to get away.
Dakota heard something.. A twig snapped behind him, making him spin around in fright. He smelled her before he saw her, a rich, gamey smell, full of danger. His fur stood on end as caught movement to his right. There, coming around the little barn, a dog, but not a dog. Something much worse then a dog, he knew. Baring his little teeth in a snarl, he stood his ground, knowing instinctively that if he ran, he was dead. the coyote, moved forward slowly, not expecting to be stood up to, she sized up her prey. Her lips pulled back exposing long, sharp canines ready to tear the little to pieces. Dakota dug his back claws in the ground, kicking back clumps of dirt in a show of defiance, and his growling changed to a high pitch barking. Undeterred, the coyote continued to advance, looking for an opportunity to make her move.
If she got a hold of the little dog, he wouldn't stand a chance against the larger animal. Suddenly, just when the hungry coyote was ready to bolt forward and grab Dakota by his neck, a shot rang out. Whirling in midair, the female just missed being hit by a bullet. She yipped in fear and bolted for woods to the right of the little barn, her tail between her legs. The source of the shot was a hunter out looking for this very animal after getting reports from people in the surrounding area complaining of dead chickens and missing pets. He had been watching the stand off between the two animals, amazed at the fearlessness of the little Pomeranian. But he knew that it was no match for a hungry coyote. His Yellow Labrador, Jack, walked along side of him. Jack, trained to obey the old hunter, hadn't made a sound to warn the coyote of their presence, got a jerky treat for his good behavior.
"Good boy, Jack, now lets go see where this little dog belongs." he told the happy Lab.
Dakota, seeing the man and dog approach, growled mistrustfully. He trotted a little ways off, looking back over his shoulder.
"Come on, little fellow, " the man said in a soothing voice, "We're not going to hurt you." He pulled more jerky out of his knapsack, holding it out to the scared little Pom in as peace offering.
Dakota, hearing the sincerity in the mans voice and smelling the food, whined uncertainly, not knowing what he should do. Hunger overcame his suspicion. Trembling with fear, tail low, he crept forward, eyes constantly looking at both man and dog. "That's a good boy, come on, I won't hurt you and neither will ole Jack, here." the man said soft and low. Dakota's tail rose a little higher, wagging softly at the mans soft words. He wanted that food in the worst way. Still a little frightened, he looked up at he man offering this delicious smelling treat and finally made up his mind. He belly crawled up the hand and the food, and gently took it out of his hand. He ate it quickly, and seeing that nothing bad happened when he did, he whined beeseechingly for more. The Lab, curious at the how small this dog was, came in for a sniff. Martin, the mans name, saw the shape the dog was in. He'd been traveling, he could see, and wondered how far he'd come.
"Where ya from, little guy?" he asked the dog. He let Dakota sniff his hand, then ever so gently, he scratched his soft little head. Dakota closed his eyes in pleasure. The mans hand reminded of another gentle hand, one that he was desperate to get to. He whined then, and licked the man's hand as if to say thank you for not hurting me.
"Poor thing, we got to find out where you belong." he reached out to pick Dakota up, but when he tried to get his hands under the dogs belly, he got a warning growl for his efforts. Dakota wasn't having any more of anyone handling him. When Martin stopped, he gave the mans hand a quick lick as if apologizing, and ran off to a safe distance.
"Well, I guess he knows where he's going, old boy," he said to the old Lab. "Let's just hope he gets there safely. He must love someone very much. God speed, little fellow." he prayed the little guy found what he was looking for.
Aiden and Ellie had been on the road now for about two hours. They stopped at various gas stations along way, asking the proprietors if they had seen a little Pomeranian traveling with a man. The fact that they could not describe the man made it hard, though, and so far, all they had received were negative responses. Ellie thought that this trip, more for Aidens benefit, then anything else, would prove to be pointless. Night was falling, and both tired, they decided to pull into a small, off road motel. They decided on the Highway Inn, a clean looking, mom and pop motel with a gas station.
"I'm going to gas up before we head to our room, El," Aiden told her. "That way, tomorrow morning, we can just get up and go." Ellie agreed, and as Aiden pumped gas, she went in to pay for a room. The man behind the desk was reading the paper, and he looked like a pleasant old gentleman. He looked up at her above the rims of his glasses as she came in, immediately standing up to greet her.
"Well, Good evening, Ma'm! he smiled at her. "What can I be getting for you tonight?"
"Hi, evening," she answered. "My fiance and I, he's out there pumping some gas, need a room for the night."
"Oh we got lots of those, how about room 11 down at the end?" he offered.
"Perfect, oh, and by the way, we're on the lookout for a stolen Pomeranian, taken yesterday around 10 am, and I was wondering by chance have you seen anyone traveling this way, a man, with this dog?" Ellie pulled out the picture of Aiden and Dakota and showed him.
He studied the picture, and slid it back over the counter to her. "As a matter of fact, a man came through here yesterday with a dog like this." he told her. "The reason I remembered, is because when he let the dog out to do his duty, the dog didn't look like very happy. What I mean is, he didn't act like a dog should when being out and about with it's owner. Sad kind of. But what I really remember is the way the man smacked him when he wouldn't get into the car. Being a dog lover myself, well, I was about to go out there and say something."
Ellies heart dropped at this news. But at the same time, she felt enlightened at the fact that they were on the right track after all. She thanked the man profusely, adding, "Listen, the man out there pumping gas? This little dog is his pride and joy, his best friend. I'd really appreciate it if you didn't mention the hitting part to him, it would break his heart."
"Oh, of course! Sure! I totally understand." he sympathized. "I wish the both of you the best of luck. It's a big world out there."
Ellie paid for the gas, the room, got the key and left. Now to tell Aiden the good news, minus the bad news.
In their room, Ellie relayed to Aiden what the owner had told her. "At least we're on the right track, Aiden, " she said. She felt a twinge of guilt for not relaying the whole message, but at this point, why pour salt in an open wound? They showered and dressed quickly, wanting to hit the road before the morning work rush. Grabbing a complimentary coffee and donut when they dropped off the key, they got in the SUV and checked the map. They decided to take I-88, a more scenic route to Buffalo with the rolling hills and clear lakes of the Leatherstocking region. Rt. I-88 was also a haven for antique hunters with little shops along the route. They figured that maybe the man who had him would also travel that route so that he could stay off the main highways. They would have to cut back up to I-90 at some point, once they hit Binghamton, but it would be worth it. Ellie had relatives in Canadaigua, which was about 28 miles from Rochestor, and another 73 miles to Buffalo from Rochestor. A long, long drive.
As they drove, Ellie and Aiden shared a quiet comraderie that is present among two people who enjoy each other company without having to fill the silence with mindless chatter. They took comfort in the fact that the other was there and shared a common bond, their love for animals, which cemented the relationship. Each knew in their hearts that old age would find them still sharing the love which brought them together.
The scenery was gorgeous along this route. Beautiful rolling hills rose up on either side of the highway, catching the morning rays of the sun as it shone through darkening storm clouds. They saw Blue Heron in the many small swamps that dotted the bottom of the hills and hawks soaring above the trees searching for the smallest movement of prey down below. Herds of deer could be seen from the road as they came out to munch on small, green shoots of grass in the early morning hours. Aiden, lost in his own thoughts, drove silently, wondering if his little companion had eaten, or if he was being treated with kindness. Dakota had never known anything but love and kindness from a puppy and the thought of anyone hurting the little dog, made Aiden cringe inside.
Dakota was starving. He hadn't eaten in almost two days, and had drunk very little water. He found a small rock cave just big enough to squeeze his little body in to sleep for the night. After situating himself into a comfortable position, he promptly passed out. His dreams were a crazy mixture of coyotes and men chasing him, and then on to the peaceful, loving atmosphere of home. He was startled awake by the sound of voices. Kids. He didn't care for children, they poked and prodded and tried to pick him up, and more often then not, he ended up getting hurt. He wasn't a nippy Pomeranian, but his tolerance level for children sometimes made him give a good nip to a naughty child as a warning. Peeking out of his makeshift cave, he spotted three of them coming down the wooded hill, laughing and joking with other. He froze. If they saw him, what would they do? Dakota's flight or fight instincts were at war right now and flight was starting to win.
He scrambled for footing, and just as the three boys were about to pass by his sleeping spot, he shot out of the little cave and took off down the hill at breakneck speed towards the road.
The boys, startled at this new development, yelled in fright, thinking Dakota was a predator. The three boys were friends, and very close in age. Zach, the oldest at 14, Mikey, 13, and Shiloh, 13. Zach just turned 14 and got a new BB gun, so the three of them were excited to try it out. Now they found the perfect opportunity...
"Hey! What the hell WAS that!" Zach yelled with excitement.
"I think it was a fox! Let's go after it!" anwered Shiloh, as he took off running in the direction of the hastily retreating dog.
Whooping and yelling with all the muster of excited teenaged boys, the three of them took off down the hill ready to try out Zachs new toy.
Dakota heard them coming and picked up his pace, his little legs going as fast as they could carry him. He darted into the road, just missed being run down by a pickup, and scampered up the the other side of a small embankment. The three boys were close behind.
Whooping and hollering, the boys stayed on Dakota's trail as they ran through the woods. Catching up, they saw that he was a small dog and not a fox.
"Whoa, Zack, it's a dog!" Mikey loved dogs, and when he saw that their 'prey' wasn't a fox at all, he became instantly sympathetic. "We can't shoot a dog, it might be lost!'
"Aw, shut the hell up, Mikey, who cares if it's a dumb dog! He shouldn't have run away, then, right?" Zack, holding his BB gun, aimed the barrel at Mikey. "You got a problem with it?"
Mikey took a step back, not sure if Zach would really use new gun on him or not. "N-no,", he stammered, suddenly not liking Zach very much. "I was just sayin' is all. It's just a little dog."
Dakota, unable to run anymore, sat in the distance, eyeing the three boys nervously. He trembled with exhaustion, panting wildly. His little heart was beating a mile a minute.
"Get 'im, Zach! He's right there! Shoot 'im, now!" yelled Shiloh, excited over the prospect of hurting an animal. Zach, holding the BB gun at shoulder level, took aim, and pulled the trigger. The first shot kicked up a bunch of leaves right next to the little dog, making him leap aside. Mikey, trying not to cry in front of the boys, cringed at the sound of the shot. He closed his eyes and prayed that Zach would miss the next time too.
Taking aim again, Zach brought the sights level with Dakota's head, and pulled the trigger...
Dakota felt the pellet as it went through the tender tip of his ear. The pain was instantaneous and severe. He yelped and cried, running this way and that, not knowing what to do or where to go. Bleeding profusely, he tried to shake the pain away, spraying little droplets of blood everywhere. He'd had enough. He took off running away from the boys, yelping at the pain in his tender ear.
'Come on! Let's get him!" Zach yelled to the other boys. Only Shiloh followed. Zach turned to him, sneering at the younger boy. "You freakin' baby! Your nothing but a little crybaby girl! Stay here, then! But If I see you in town, I'm gonna whoop your ass, you little fairy!" Shiloh, who was also afraid of Zach, gave Mikey a sympathetic look, as if to say, I'm sorry, but I gotta go...
Mikey, wiping falling tears, silently cheered the Pomeranian on, hoping he got away from the brutal boy. The sound of the dogs yelps echoed in his ears, and he knew that if Zach caught up with the dog, it was as good as dead.
The boys, seeing the blood on the ground, yelled in triumph. They crossed the road in the direction where they saw a flash of a cream and orange tail disappear into the woods on the other side of the road, spreading out in a fan so he didn't get away. Yelling and screaming with excitement, they saw Dakota just as ran down to a small stream. Dakota was terrified and in pain as he ran for his life. His once beautiful coat was a tangled mess of burrs, sticks and blood, and his injured ear burned like fire. His heart beat as fast as the rat a tatt tatt of a machine gun in his heaving chest. The stream widened as he followed it east, quickly turning to rapids with white crested peaks. He heard the yelling boys as they followed his progress on the other side, and picked up the pace.
"Hurry up, Zach! He's getting away! Shoot, man, take a shot!" urged Shiloh.
Zach, irritated that the younger would tell HIM what to do, he was torn between taking the shot at the retreating dog, or kicking Shiloh's ass. He decided on the shot. Kneeling down and bracing the BB gun on a rock, he got Dakota in his sights, took a deep breath, and pulled the trigger.
Mikey walked dejectedly back to the small town of Otsego, his hometown. He prayed the little orange dog got away. His grandmother had a dog like that once, a Pomeranian, he thought it was. Cute, but it never shut up. Barked at every little thing. Mikey had no idea why he agreed to go with Shiloh, and of all people, Zach Brodski. He was mean, a bully, and just an all around trouble maker. Mikey was bored out of his mind, and thought that a nice hike in the woods behind the school would be awesome. He didn't know Zach would bring his gun. He loved animals, and even though he was a country boy, killing animals had never appealed to him in the least. He crossed under the I-88 underpass, walked up a small hill, and came out of a grove of birch trees behind the school. He decided to head over to the gas station to see if they had any new comics. Maybe if he bought himself a comic, he could get the little dog out of his mind.
Needing gas again, Aiden pulled off onto exit 12, Otsego Ny. He and Ellie were hungry, as well, and the sign on the highway said there was food around here somewhere....He glanced over at Ellie who was sleeping with her head on her jacket which she had rolled into a makeshift pillow and and jammed onto the door near the window. She was so beautiful it made his heart hurt.. His life was divided into two halves. Before Ellie and after Ellie. Aiden came from a middle class family. An only child, he got everything he wanted, except for what he needed the most. Workaholics, his parents barely had time for their only son, and made up for the fact with gifts. Not one to make friends easily, he was a lonely child who spent more time with the family dog then anyone. His parents were never at any school functions. Not when he made the football team and achieved player of the year. Not when he graduated, and not even he graduated college with a bachlors in computer science at the top of his class. He literally had to make an appointment to speak with them. Until he met Ellie, his people skills were not at the top of his list.
He pulled into the first station he saw. A place called Big Eds Service Station. The sign that said 'Pizza, fresh everyday!' made his stomach growl. Pulling up in front of the pumps, he got out and went to gas up...Ellie, awake now, came and stood sleepily beside him. "Hey babe," she said, snuggling up close and kissing his stubbly cheek. "I need food".
"Your in luck, fresh pizza inside", he told her.
"As opposed to stale pizza?" she quipped, laughing.
"Ha, ha, very funny. Your a funny, sleepy girl. If your getting some, don't forget mine".
She walked away from the pumps with an exaggerated sashay of her hips eliciting a long wolf whistle from Aiden. Smiling, she entered the store, her nose telling her exactly where to find the pizza. As she prepared 4 slices, she noticed a younger teen standing near a rack of comics, browsing the latest issue of X-Men. He was around 13, and one thing she noticed was that he had a tear-streaked face. She pondered a million reasons why this boy might have been crying. A little discomforted, she finished up, grabbing a handful of napkins and two cans of soda. Careful as not to drop everything, she put it all on the counter and rang the little bell. A voice bellowed from inside the coolers, "Be there in a sec!!".
A small, but stocky man with jeans held up by suspenders came out from coolers.
"Afternoon, Miss, what can I do ya for?" he asked her.
"Just this pizza and soda, thanks, and oh, my fiance is getting gas." she told him. "Are you 'Big Ed'?" she inquired.
"yeah, one and only", he smiled. He rang her, up asking if she needed anything else.
"As a matter of fact, yes," she answered him. "We have traveled a long way, Connecticut to be exact, to search for our missing dog. We had a lead that he might have traveled this way." She put a picture of Dakota on the counter. "Have you seen this dog?"
He took the picture and studied it. "Cute litte guy, but hasn't been through here, sorry."
Mikey, with his new comic in hand, stood behind Ellie listening. He had a bad feeling. He tried to see the picture, but Ellie put it into her purse already. He stood behind her trying to get the nerve to ask to see the picture. It was now or never.
"'S'cuse me, ma'am?" he said shyly. "May I take a look at that picture?"
Ellie turned at the boys voice, reaching into her purse for the worn photo to hand to him. She watched the boy closely, noticing his face blanch.
"What's wrong!" she asked him. "you've seen this dog? Where is he?"
Her heart sank as tears filled his eyes. Grabbing his shoulders, she gently shook him. "Please, this dog means the world to us, tell me where you last saw him!"
"I told him not to!" he cried, tears streaming down his cheeks now."the other boys, Zach and Shiloh, they chased him and shot him with a BB gun! I ran away, I didn't do it!"
Ellie, frantic now, knelt down in front of him and grabbed both his hands. "Listen to me, I believe you didn't do anything, honey, I believe you. Just please, tell me or show me where you last saw him."
"In the woods behind the school.." he sobbed. "The last I saw him he was running alongside the creek. They were chasing him. I can show you."
At this, her heart lightened a little. Hope, even the slightest bit gives a person a lift. Paying Big Ed, she grabbed the boys hand and ran out of the store yelling for Aiden.
Aiden, hearing the commotion, ran over to Ellie who was holding the hand of a boy he'd never seen before. Perplexed, he gave her a questioning look, glancing sidelong at the boy.
"Aiden, this boy, what's your name, honey?" she inquired of him.
"Mikey," he answered, looking miserable.
"Mikey, saw Dakota, at least I think it's Dakota, but we have to hurry, he's in trouble!" Aidens heart skipped a beat at that, and without hesitating, got into the car.
"Now tell me everything, Mikey" Aiden looked at the boy in the rear view mirrow. The boy nodded at his name, and taking a deep breath, told Aiden all the happened in woods today. Aiden, hearing how his beloved dog was shot through the ear, pounded the steering wheel with his fist, making Mikey jump.
"Sorry, I'm not mad at you, son, but dammit, that's my dog." Mikey nodded sympathetically, and continued. He told how the last time he saw the dog, they were following him on opposite sides of the creek. As the neared the place where Mikey had come out of the woods, he urged Aiden to slow down. "There, that's where I came out. They're not much further in, maybe a quarter mile." Aiden pulled over, parking well off to the side of the road. Getting out quickly, Mikey followed the pair into the woods. They walked at a brisk pace, slowing down at the place where Dakota was shot. "Here, this is where they went down. They crossed the road that Dakota came to and up the other embankment. A little way into the woods, they came the creek that he had crossed. "Down this way, hurry!" Mikey said, "They were following him going east."
Racing down to the edge of the creek, the three of them picked their way through the brush, stopping at the sound of excited voices in the distance. Then they heard something that made their blood freeze. The sharp crack of a high powered BB gun....
Zach had Dakota in his sights and gently pulled the trigger like his Uncle Ben had taught him. The tell tale yelp told him that the shot hit the mark. Dakota, hit in the left back paw, tumbled down into the creek, yelping with shock and pain. The water, ice cold, revived him in his shocked state and he got up quickly, limping, unable to use his useless back leg.
As Zack watched the struggling dog, he failed to see the big man coming quickly up behind him. Aiden, in rage, pushed Zach into the creek with the strength of an angry man. Head snapping back, Zach fell into the creek and a sickening snap sounded as his ankle gave way on the slippery, moss-covered rocks. Howling in agony, he watched as the the man kicked the feet out from under slack-mouthed Shiloh, tumbling him backwards to join him in the creek. Aiden looked at the pathetic pair, and told them, "If you guys were men, I'd beat you to a bloody pulp right now." He looked at them with disgust, and turned Ellie. "Let's go get our boy." He gave Mikey's hand a quick shake, thanking him. "You did the right thing, son, thank you."
Ellie and Aiden made haste through the brush and bramble along the creek, listening for sounds of a dog in distress. After Zach shot him, Dakota, shocked back into action by the ice cold water of the creek, painfully made it up the bank as he scurried for cover. He hurt, and finally could go no further. His ears pricked up because suddenly he heard a voice that he longed to hear. "Dakota! Come on, boy!" he heard faintly. Moaning deep in his throat, he tried, and failed, to stand. Letting out his frustration in one long howl of misery, he collapsed, too tired to even whimper.
"Ellie! Did you hear that? The little howl over that way?" he pointed about 10 yards away from where they stood.
"Yes, it's him, let's go!" she urged him.
Running in the direction of the howl, they saw spotted a flash of orange and cream, and ran over to an old hollowed out log. Throwing himself down on his knees, Aiden looked behind it, and his heart skipped a beat.
"Dakota! Oh, honey, look at you!!" he moaned. "Ellie, he's hurt, help me pick him up so I don't do anymore damage."
A surge of rage welled up in him at the callousness of the boys. Why? He tried to rationalize how anyone could get joy out of hurting and torturing a defenseless, living creature. Were they born without souls? No sense of right and wrong? What went through their heads as they did it? Did they feel ANY remorse afterwards? Were they even human beings? Or were they some dark entity disguised as a human being? Together they gently picked up the bleeding dog, making him yelp in pain. Aiden, gathered the little dog to his chest and lowered his head to Dakota's, while Ellie, with her trained eye, objectively took in his injuries. Ear, swollen and blood encrusted, already had infection setting in. Dakota's tender pads, cracked and bleeding from miles of walking, felt hot to the touch. When she saw his back paw, she moaned in distress at the sight. Taking it gently in her hands, she saw that the boys BB pellet had entered right in the center of his biggest pad on his back foot. The swelling, already, was huge and hot and very painful. Dakota whined at the manipulation as Aiden comforted him.
"Not now, lets get him safely to the car first." he told her. She nodded and they made their way back through the woods the the highway, then through the other side of the woods to the road they were parked on. Ellie made a 911 call for the boy's in the creek, not really caring what happened to them. Let the law worry about it.
"I'll drive," she said, knowing he didn't want to put the injured dog down for even a minute. He looked at her with gratitude, and together they talked to him and reassured him over and over. He whined with happiness, and his tongue must haved kissed Aidens face already a million times. He knew he was safe now..
"Dakota!" Aiden called, "Come on, boy, let's go get our girls!" It had been three months now, since the kidnapping episode, and Dakota was totally healed. He didn't even have a limp. He came tearing around the corner, and into the kitchen, tail wagging furiously, a Pom smile on his little, fox like face. He jumped up and down like a jack in the box, always ready to go for a ride. Aiden snapped on his leash, and out the door they went. When they arrived at the clinic, Ellie was already outside waiting for him. Parking, Aiden waited for her to get in, and Dakota waited for little Fia Maria, Ellie's new little fuzz butt. A Pomeranian, just like him. He whined and carried on until Fia entered the car, and he was all over her, kissing her feverishly, tail moving like a pinwheel.
"Man, Ellie, he sure loves her, " he said, kissing his best girl. "I'm really glad you got her. They sort of balance each other out."
"I know. Look at them!" she laughed. She kissed his handsome face, so glad to be going home with her family. They were married last month, and she had never been so happy in all her life. Dakota healed miraculously after his ordeal, thank God. Life was so good, and she loved her family so much. How could she ask for anything more?
"Come on, babe," she told Aiden. "Let's go home"......Dakota barked and barked as if in agreement.