by Dana Susan Beasley
(Colorado Springs, CO USA)
Pepper dressed for trick or treating!
Click the arrow to listen.
Pepper was a big black and white dog with white paws dotted with many black spots. He loved to play and whirl and dance and spin. He loved to sniff the trees and flowers and animal scents while walking or running or riding in the car.
He loved to eat and eat and eat. He loved hot dogs and tuna and peanut butter and ice cream and peas and chicken and hamburger but dog food was just okay. He loved to play in his big yard. He loved to wrestle with his blanket and he loved to watch people and cars go by his house. He loved to listen to the birds in springtime, chase the squirrels off the porch, and smell the fresh cut grass that he would lie down on like a luxurious carpet. He loved to bark at trucks and their deliverymen and mailmen, who brought mail and packages from far away to the little tiny town of Sheriville, nestled in the grand mountains of the West.
He loved to ride in the car to Papa’s house in the country, where he could run after the tractor or tease the horses. Or play with his sable collie pal, Cody, who would come visit him from up the road.
But most of all, Pepper loved his family. He loved his Daddy, who took him on long walks on the bike and bike trailer in a mini-parade Daddy called a procession. He loved his Mommy, who loved him and cared for him and petted him and talked to him since he was a puppy. And he loved his Little Boy, who chased him and hugged him and fed him and was always, always leaving his food behind so Pepper could quickly snatch it up and eat it! Yummy!
Pepper especially loved his job. He took care of his family by guarding them from any danger, and he was very good at it. His family felt very safe under his keen eyes, nose, and ears! His deep voice always warned his Mommy or Daddy of people approaching their painted lady Victorian house surrounded by a white picket fence.
But ever since that little boy came to live with Mommy and Daddy, Mommy was busy. Summer was too hot to walk and they stayed inside. No walks for Pepper. Winter was too cold to walk and they stayed inside. Even on sunny days Mommy and Little Boy were too busy to take him out for a walk.
Then Mommy would remember him and she would take Pepper and Little Boy around the neighborhood, the Little Boy now dragging a big red wagon behind him or riding in it. Mommy would joke that Pepper should pull it, but Pepper would never do that! Then came the day when Little Boy walked Pepper. Who walked whom, Mommy wondered as they trotted down the sidewalk.
One beautiful sunny day, after Mommy and Little Boy once again came right into the house after a playdate and plopped down in front of that strange noisy box, Pepper was particularly disappointed. Pepper pouted, his back to the front gate.
Then Mommy’s friend came over and forgot to clasp the gate. Maybe if he just nudged it a little with his nose… He wouldn’t wander far, just wander to the neighbor’s house to smell what he could smell. Pepper walked to the gate, his big black ears pointed backwards to hear any sounds from the house. He nudged the gate and pushed the gate and behold! It opened. The gate swung on its hinges and he stared at the opening. He knew he was not allowed out of the yard without Mommy and Daddy. But he wouldn’t go far, he decided. Besides, he never went far from Mommy.
So he trotted out the gate and sniffed at the grass along the neighbor’s fence, knowing every smell from every dog and cat that passed that way. He sniffed and smelled and ran and sniffed and smelled until he smelled an awful smell! It hung in the air like a thick cloud, ghastly and horrendous. He knew what that smell was! Sure enough, scrambling around in the neighbor’s front yard was a little black and white creature. Pepper would go no further. He remembered how a skunk sprayed him once and his Mommy had to wash him in a lake with tomato juice. Yuck! He quickly turned around and ran the other way. Pepper paused at his open gate. Mommy or Little Boy didn’t know he was out! Sad and excited all at the same time, he ran down to the other neighbor’s driveway, sniffing his white car. Where had it been, he wondered. He raised his head to look at his house. Mommy and Little Boy were still inside.
Then he had an idea. A really, really naughty idea. He would go to the park across the street. Maybe he would find some hamburger wrappings he could munch on. He knew he shouldn’t. He knew Mommy didn’t like him to cross the road by himself, but just this once it surely couldn’t hurt. He’d just be gone for a minute and would dash back as soon as he found some delicious bite to munch on!
So, with a last glance at the house, he ran down the sidewalk, past one house and another house and another house and another house until he was at the big road. He looked back toward where he knew his house was, a little nervous knot tightening in his belly. He didn’t like to be this far from Mommy. But Mommy was busy. He wanted to have fun. So as carefully as he could he looked right and left and saw no cars so he dashed across the street and came safely to the park!
He sniffed and smelled and sniffed and smelled the ground until he found what he was looking for. A hamburger wrapping! He licked and licked and tore the paper ’til he had eaten every bite and tasted every delicious morsel. What a treat! Then he looked back toward where he knew was his home. This time as he looked a little knot of loneliness tightened in his belly. Finding the hamburger wrapper wasn’t as fun as he thought it would be! It was more fun when Mommy and Little Boy were with him!
Pepper wanted to go home and see Mommy and Little Boy but he still wanted to have fun. Just then, he smelled a very interesting animal coming from a hill on the other side of the park. Almost like a horse! He ran to the other side of the park, squeezed through the metal gate, and ambled up the hill.
There, grazing calmly, were two large brownish-gray animals with big ears and one with a rack of horns. The elk grazed there, Pepper remembered. He had smelled them before when Mommy took him for walks in the park. Slowly he walked up to the big elk with horns, hoping it would play. But it didn’t! The two big elk chased him down the hill and Pepper ran as fast as his legs could go.
He ran down the hill and out the gate right into a dogcatcher! Oh no! Not the pound! He remembered how once a dog catcher caught him and took him to that awful place where dogs and cats were locked up in kennels. Not again! Pepper whimpered and cried as the dogcatcher led him to the truck. What an awful truck! How frightened all the animals were, which only made Pepper more frightened.
But before the dogcatcher could put him in the truck, he thought he heard something. At first far off but getting louder and louder. “Pepper” being called by his Mommy and Little Boy! Then he saw them, running toward him, calling loudly.
Nothing could keep him from his Mommy and Little Boy! He jolted and jumped and dashed and finally was free! He bounded into his Mommy’s arms and she and Little Boy hugged and kissed him. Quickly Mommy put on Pepper’s leash.
“Sorry, sir,” Pepper’s Mommy said to the dogcatcher. “He’s never run this far. The gate wasn’t clasped shut and he opened it. I’ve been looking and looking for him.”
The dogcatcher drove his big horrible truck away and Mommy and Little Boy hugged and kissed him. He gave puppy kisses back.
“Oh Pepper,” Mommy said. “I was so scared. I couldn’t find you anywhere! You usually don’t wander! I’m so sorry we hadn’t gone for a walk yet. I know you were bored; I was just waiting to take you and Sammy to the park when his friend came over to play! Because we have a surprise for you!”
Pepper was sorry, too, and he kissed and kissed (licked and licked) his Mommy to tell her. He would never run away again. His Mommy hadn’t forgotten him, he knew. Even when she was busy for a few days she would remember to take him for a walk soon.
And just then, Little Boy’s friend came running up with his Mommy and they were walking a brand new puppy! A beautiful brown and white collie! “This is Sassy,” Mommy said. “They just got her and we wanted to take you both to the park.”
Oh how wonderful! Now he had most of his favorite things—playing with his new friend Sassy, running and dancing and whirling in the park, and best of all, being with his Little Boy—his little brother, really. And Pepper had his Mommy, who loved him and took care of him, even when he is really, really naughty. Pepper knew he and his Mommy would be the best of friends for always and always, just as they had been for all their years together, through so many adventures and so many changes of life. Always he would have a family who adored him and took care of him and he would love them and take care of them always.
Because Pepper loved them best.
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