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Toby & Butt Scratch
American Dog #17
© 2023 James LaFond
The snow fell heavy and thick, blanketing the base of Cedar Mountain in soft, crystaline grace. The stray human was outside, scraping snow from the parking pad, sweeping it from the porch, its pointless toil echoing up to Toby’s warm bed where he mused, ‘If only I could cast thoughts like a cat, I might be able to make this retarded human stop that scraping.’
‘Dark One,’ hissed Annie from too near, her wicked fangs parting close to Toby’s swiveling ear, ‘Open the door.’
Toby rose and yawned and pulled the sliding glass door aside as Annie slunk out through his legs. She bounded down to the bent snow-covered human and hopped onto the upper spine of the snow pushing shovel.
“I didn’t know y’all played too—thought it was all killin’ and brain-eatin’ en such?”
Mystified, Toby stood on the porch watching as the human pushed snow off the pad and Annie, like the black queen of some snowy mountain, laced her tail about the base of the handle and pretended as if this human was her very own…
Toby barked with a bit of anger, “Hey, Annie, that is James Chosen’s human, and when James is not here, since I am his favorite four-leg, that human belongs to me.”
Annie looked over one tuxedo shoulder and blinked those emerald eyes, ‘Observe, Dark Wing Dog,’ and she ran up the handle, up the arms of the shoveling human and perched upon its shoulders, like a terrible little owl upon the topmost cedar bough.
Toby barked, “Get off that human—that’s my human!”
Annie ignored Toby as she seemed to direct the bent human with her feline will.
“Toby,” scolded Mama Bear Chosen, “close the door behind you, or this will keep happening!”
With that Jen slammed the door shut and locked it up high were no dew claw could reach.
Toby turned and whined, “Really, this is bullshit—its cold out here—what am I even going to do?”
And she was gone, singing her church songs within the cozy house where Toby should still have been.
The mesmerizing mind voice of Bisquick advised from the roof top, ‘Dog, this stray human of yours, it holds you close in its mind, feels a kinship. Might I suggest that you parade about ever near him and mark territory, make a big show. Let the coyotes on the mountain, the coons down by the creek, that ever watchful owl upon the distant eve and every four leg great and small—and let the crows caw of it—that Toby has a human familiar.’
“Will that get me bacon and melted cheese?”
‘Indeed it will, Dark One, from the hands of this very human. It has access to all food and food improvement technology, yet lacks the hunger of a healthy human. You will benefit!’
Of a sudden surging with inspiration Toby barked, “The Vet, here comes the four-legged vet—gun barrel black with steeldust in his soul!”
Toby charged out to the bent and shoveling human. That man turned above the ravine where the coons did dwell and smiled at Toby, even as something in Toby’s prancing gallop of a dog trot struck a primal chord in Annie’s dark soul and caused her to leap from the man’s shoulders and scramble under Benny Bear’s camper like a black dart across the white snow.
“Tobias!” I knew you would not leave me under the claws of that cruel cat. Thank you,” and the man bent and scratched Toby behind the ears with his nearly hairless and half frozen paw.
Toby then spun around under the human and presented his dry rear haunches, “While you’re at it human, the Creator saw fit to equip you with the means of scratching my butt...yeah, oh yeah, that’s it—a good human you are!”
Benny’s voice was then heard from the camper door, “Tobbes, leave LaFond alone—can’t you see that cracker is workin?”
Toby pranced and barked, and danced two-legged around in a circle and extended his front paws to his personal human slave and they held paws and danced a brief jig in the snow as Benny shook his blonde head and closed himself back into the camper.
The snow shoveling of the human continued, with Toby marking every pile of snow with arrogant pee stains and tearing up sod and dirt and gravel with his hind paws in a show of canine ferocity, his hackle hairs a bristle, his eyes on that daunting mountain.
They marked to the ravine edge, where the human had repaired the washed out section of road where Toby and his pack-mates had chased the brown invader. Down there, three huge elk looked up at Toby and his human, who met their gaze. Toby then barked, “Tell them all, that this weird human is mine—the Dog of Record above the Creek I am!”
And, the three elk, looking at the long metallic thing in LaFond’s hands, and perhaps seeing there the gleam of the death-bringing Vet, crashed off through the thickets below.
The man then walked with Toby over to the house and set down the snow shovel. Toby looked at the snow gathering where this human had already shoveled and whined, “Bro, this makes no sense! It’s white again already.”
The man sighed and walked around front to the woodpile porch where they could both go inside.
“That’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout cracker! Warmth, bacon and cheese!” whined Toby.
Then, noting that there was room for more wood to be piled by the door, the man put on a pair of paw covers, grabbed the wheel barrow that sat there empty, and headed back down to the woodshed.
“Really,” whined Toby, “there is three days of wood here—you must be retarded!”
Toby followed the human down to the woodshed and kept watch, marking off territory while the ape split and piled wood and then escorted the retarded primate back up to the house.
Then, it did it again, and again!
Toby was aghast and sat dumbfounded watching this retarded human, almost hoping that a giant cougar would carry it away. On the porch he waited, out of the snow, as he heard the human pushing another wheelbarrow of wood uphill through the snow.
The sinuous thoughts of Bisquick, sitting sphinx-like upon the railing under the humming bird bait feeder, waxed wise, “Dark One, determine if it plays, that is plays of fight.”
“Good idea,” barked Toby as he pranced out into the path and challenged the human, “You shall not pass. I am TOBIAS, the Dog of Record and I will lay the enamel on your old bent behind!”
The man set down the load, stepped around in front of the wheelbarrow and put up his paws with a grin.
“It’s on, cracker!” barked Toby as he dove for the man’s silver bearded snout.
“Slap!” came an ape paw, cuffing Toby out of the air and onto his side.
Toby recovered with a snarl, “So its like that, aye—arrrrg!” charged Toby aiming to grab one of those ape paws and tear it clean off that spindly arm, and “Smack!” Toby went flying the other way, a ringing in his ears.
Bisquick advised him, “The way of the Four-Legs, use The Way!”
A chill went up Toby’s spine as he dove for the man’s throat, leaving himself open to be smacked from either or both sides and Bisquick hissed, “Now!”
Toby dropped like a stone as those two cuffing ape paws passed over his ears. Once Toby hit the snow on his side, he put his gleaming set of serrated teeth gently around that bare ankle so cold between boot and pants cuff and ran side ways, digging all four paws into the snowy turf and making a full 360 degree ring around that apish ankle as the man whooped, “Oh? Good move, Tobes!” and put up his hands in the open sign of truce.
Looking up through those hands Toby snarled, “I could have hamstrung you, left you for the coyotes and could rip your throat clean out now...but, how about you scratch my butt instead?”
Toby stood proudly in the snow, tail curled, panting with the exertion of victory and barked, “Butt Scratch the Wanderer! My very own human!”
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