A Rainbow for a Friend

                Mikhail Samarsky 


                The best thing that a man has is his dog.
                Nicolas Toussaint Charlet




 Chapter 1

"More dogs than you can shake a stick at . . . ." That's very funny. Very clever, people! Thats the way to go. Atta boy! Okay, here's an interesting idea: What would you say if we were to introduce similar phraseology into our dog talk, but something turned inside out? Just picture the situation: I come home from a dog show and the neighbors dog asks me, "How did it go, dear? Were there lots of people at the show?" I reply, "There were more people than you could shake a stick at."

How would you react to such an expression? I don't think anyone would get a positive feeling from it. Well, we wouldnt like it either, my two-legged friends. How could one possibly deny that a dog is testament to human ingratitude?

Oh, well, thats not actually what I thought I'd talk about. Look at what goes on: They play with my ears, grab my neck, rub my muzzle all over . . . or should I say "face"? For that matter, they shove all kinds of stuff into my face. Well, Id rather not skirt the truth. It isn't always junk, of course. Many times they give me such tasty treats that a guy could drown in his own drool. Once I nearly went crazy with excitement.

We were standing with my first fosterling, Ivan Savelyevich (may he rest in peace), at a crosswalk waiting for the green light. My job was to make sure the cars stopped. Our job wasn't just to stop, either, but to stop at the right place. Hey, do you people think those stripes at traffic lights are there for no reason at all!? So, on this occasion I must beg you: Dear drivers, please don't cross the line. It's easy for a seeing person, who can just walk around your car as he crosses the street. However, from the perspective of a seeing-eye dog, my guidance can't immediately convey what I want from him:

It appears as if we reach the crossing and then I pull the person aside. You get it, right? Obviously I can't say anything, so I whimper a bit and give the leash a tug. Sometimes, though, I even have to bark. My guidance gets lost, he stops to make things out . . . . "What am I doing here all of a sudden?" he wonders. He goes knock-knock-knock with his cane. Drivers lower their windows--heck, they nearly jump through them--and yell at us. "Hey, moron! What are you trying to do, scratch my car!?"Now, why would anyone think he's a moron? He's only trying to figure out what's in front of him. You cant just  stick out your hand, unless you want to take the risk of losing it.

While he sorts things out, and the traffic light starts to blink. The cars start to rev. I know they're getting ready to take off. When an impatient driver steps on the gas, it's no biggie, but there are these idiots who start to honk. "Hey! Come on, you blind turkey! Move it!" Even if they don't get angry, they might whistle to me and smack their lips to cheer me up or something. People, if you could only know how much I dislike it when that happens! Sometimes I look at you and think, "Why aren't you ashamed? A problem like this can happen to anyone. Would it really be such a thrill for you to gain a couple of seconds at this damned traffic light? I beg you, people: When you see a blind person with a seeing-eye dog--like me, for instance--please be as calm as you can. Don't distract me, since it only invites trouble. Is that a deal?

Well, there we are, standing before the "zebra," and with my right nostril I pick up a certain aroma. Boy, what a fabulous smell! The aroma triggers a pang in my stomach. In fact, I felt it earlier as we passed the grilled-chicken stand. I try to concentrate on the road instead, but by squinting I can see that totally appetizing piece of chicken, roasted, with a golden crust, fragrant . . . . It's some kind of miracle that I can keep myself from jumping up and snatching it. This, people, is one of the many benefits of dog school training.

Thank you very much for your kindness and petting, but please . . . hey, folks, I'm working! Do you get that!? I'm not some pampered lap dog or poodle, who can stroll carefree alongside his master. I can't just sprinkle every post I come to, out of sheer boredom. I work, and I'm serious about that. So, please understand: I dont just walk with a blind person, I toil. Believe me, this kind of work isn't as easy as it looks. My task is to bring the blind person where he planned to go and to make sure he doesn't take a tumble and break his neck. To do that, I have to see that he doesn't so much as get his shoes wet in a rain puddle. I have to warn him about all obstacles. I have to stop before each one and give my person a chance to use his cane and determine what's in front of him. If something blocks part of the road, I bear to the right or to the left and lead my person around, making sure that he doesn't walk into a fallen tree branch or something else. It's also my job to make sure he doesn't bump into other people. If we take a bus or a tram, I show him the entrance and then the exit. There's a lot for me to do, and it's all business.

Do you have the slightest idea what it's like to work as a seeing-eye dog? If you say "yes," please dont be offended, but I will bite you. Don't be so quick and self-assured. Don't say "yes" right away. In order to imagine and understand my work, you'd have to walk with one of these helpless "masters" for a couple of years. You'd have to be strapped into a collar. By the way, did you notice the quotation marks around the word "masters"?

  Yes, some of them consider themselves our masters, even though they couldn't take two steps without us. Well, lets assume that I wanted my so-called master to bang his head against a wall or, let's say, run into a post. That would be as easy as . . . looking at that bush over there. But hey, I'm a professional; a pedigreed Labrador retriever. (It has even been said that I descended from the dog of a famous politician). I went to a special school for two years, which is at least ten dog years. During this time you manage to graduate from two colleges. Of course, I'd never be so hideous as to set up my person like that. My job is to save him from all those dangers. It really hurts me when someone says "your master." People, the one I accompany isn't a master to me. That person is my friend. Believe me, you could never have a more faithful, devoted friend than me. Sure, you can screw your face up, giggle, roll your eyes or even kick me with your shoe, but that won't change anything. It's you--people--who invented the saying, "It's good when a dog is man's friend, but it's bad when your friend is a dog." You invented it, but you fail to remember that the Lord endowed you with a mind and the ability to reason. Why would it be bad if your friend was a dog? Oh, well. I understand what you mean by it, so I'm not particularly offended.

So, if you're interested in this story, I'll continue. To begin with, I'm five years old. By human measure I'm twice the age of my fosterling (Sasha is thirteen human years old). I used to work with a retiree, and he was blind too, of course. Ivan was a remarkable person and a friend of mine. Sometimes he'd even let me sink down in his bed! We would come home, Ivan would remove all my seeing-eye gear. Then he'd feed me, comb me and say:
  "Come on, Trisong, relax."

  Do you think it's easy to walk with this collar? At night, when I get rid of it, I like to roll on my back, stretch out my legs, stretch my body all the way and then jump up and chase a ball. Ivan would sometimes scold me, like on that ill-fated evening when I broke a vase. The old man realized that it was unintentional, but I felt ashamed. I snuggled to his leg and whimpered a little. Ivan petted me and said:
"Dont you cry, Trisong, for Heaven's sake, about the vase. When glassware breaks, it's good

I never could figure out what kind of good luck could come from a broken vase. I've never heard anything about it on TV. Eventually, Ivan passed away and they sent me back to school. I missed him so much. I couldnt eat a bit of food. I just kept thinking, "Who will they give me to?"

I don't know how or by what chance but one day Sasha, my new master . . . I mean my new fosterling . . . came to our school.

If you're a seeing person who has never encountered a blind person's difficulties, I'll explain it especially for you. Before we (seeing-eye dogs) are given to a new master--damn it, thats what they drilled into us with their training--I mean fosterling, we have to spend some time together. We get used to one another, sniff around and take a closer look. Well, who would take a closer look at me if he was blind!?I'm the one who should take a closer look! The blind person can only listen, smell, and, of course, touch. That's all just to make sure there is no allergy or some other kind of abomination. People have many different hang-ups, but we dogs are unpretentious.

One can always throw a tantrum, though. Yes, that's right. For example, the German shepherd Lada, from the seventh cage, couldn't find common ground with her new fosterling. It wasn't too long before the woman brought Lada back to school. By the way, ours is a great school for seeing-eye dogs. So, should you have such a need, please give it a visit. I'm no longer there, of course, but my friends that are won't let you down. Do you know how thoroughly they test us? Oh, my God! It's like a university, and there's a quiz or exam for just about everything! In other words, they dont take just any Tom, Dick or Harry. We--the students of this university--have balanced mentalities. We don't pay (at least do our best not to) attention to outside noises, nor do we take notice of those disgusting cats. Well, of course we do notice them--who wouldn't--but we don't give them the time of day. Wait, I think I have that wrong. We do pay attention to them but we don't have the right to react to them. Those cats, with those bizarre green eyes, always take advantage of that. I'm serious, people. Cats are attention freaks, and they're nothing but trouble!

I'll describe something that occurred recently. I was about to bring my Sasha into the entrance hall of his house (there are a lot of steps, so one must be very careful) when, all of a sudden, this bird of Persian blood (or Persian fur, if youd like) sauntered through the door. Boy, what a snob. She had this idiotic pink ribbon around her neck, the claws were evenly cut, the tail was perfumed, and the ears were upright like small locators moving back and forth in all directions. Well, I swear on a stack of dog treats, I had no thought of even growling at her, much less barking at her. Still, that flaxen-haired thing snorted, puffed out her tail, arched her back and . . . wham! She swatted my muzzle . . . I mean, my face . . . just for the heck of it. If you only knew how bitter that was. If it were not for Sasha and my professionalism and responsibility I would've cut the tail off that drama queen, right at the butt. One bite, and she'd be a Manx today. I swear to you, the insult was enough to make me cry. All I did was give a little whimper, and Her Highness, despite her freshly cut claws, tried to etch her name in my nose .I licked away a salty drop of blood up and completed my task of bringing Sasha into the house .What else could I do, though? I can't get distracted by these stupid animals. It amazes me that anyone would try to keep a cat as a friend.

Sasha was living with his mother and grandmother when I came to stay with him. His dad had been killed in a car accident. It turned out that on that ill-fated day Sasha was riding with his dad. He was eleven. The doctors made a verdict: The iris and crystalline lens were irrevocably lost. I don't understand much of the details, but after the tragedy the boy stopped seeing. In the family they say there's some famous doctor who can bring back Sasha's vision, but no one knows when will that happen. So, for the meantime I'm his doctor, his eyes and his friend.

Chapter 2

          Sasha and I found common ground pretty soon. I was perturbed by him initially, but only just a bit. Anyway, judge for yourself. As you might have understood, my name is Trisong. When Sasha and I were training together at school, that's what he called me. Everything was great, and he passed the exam with flying colors. It was no surprise, of course. With me, any first-timer will pass the exam. I dont just execute the commands given by my fosterling, though. Sometimes I have to take the initiative in my paws. I do that when it's appropriate, within reasonable bounds.

        Well, everything went pretty smoothly. We came home (Sashas mother was with us that day) and met his grandmother, Yelizaveta . She gave us a very warm welcome. Her name, by the way, I found out completely by chance: A neighbor came by, and thats what he called her. Even so, at home everyone called her "Granny." I've noticed this odd trait in people. I could understand it when Sasha calls her Granny, but Svetlana does it, too. So, why would she be a granny if she's your mother? People can be hard to understand. I guess it isn't so important, after all.

        Well, then. I'm Trisong. Do you know what kind of name that is? You don't!? I'll tell you, then. You see, it isn't some name for a hyper little pooch, like "Sparky"; it isn't something you'd call a bandy-legged mutt, like "Bingo." Ivan described the name to me once, so I know all about it. Besides the fact that I have a pedigree, it should be noted that my name is far from ordinary. It's the name of a Tibetan king. Many, many years ago, it was Trisong Detsen who concluded that "enlightenment could only be reached through the attainment of moral and spiritual perfection under the guidance of a master." That's what Ivan told me. Now, without bragging or arrogance, I can state that the master at my school was beyond reproach, and he accepted nothing but the very best from me. So, either my master reached enlightenment or . . . we both did.

          It wasn't long until Sasha, for reasons only he could guess, started to call me "Trisha." First, I didn't know who he was talking to. He woke up in the morning and fumbled with his hand, trying to look for me. Hey, I'm not a fool, so I don't sleep under someones feet.  I had placed myself at the end of his bed, so that he wouldn't accidentally step on me if he got up at night. Well, that night he sat up, so I gave a very quiet bark to let him know that I was there. I can still hear the sound of it: 
          Tri . . . . Trisha, where are you? Come here, boy.

I sat and thought for a moment or two. Maybe he was looking for a particular toy. I looked around, but I didn't see anything that would fit the name Trisha. The teddy bear in the corner was called Bruin, and I'd already heard Sasha say so. Where could that darned Trisha be? I just couldn't understand it. Sasha sat at the edge of his bed for awhile and then said:

        Hey, that was about me. I ran up to him and bumped my nose into his knees. He petted me and said again:
          Trisha, sweet one, did you have a good night's sleep in your new home?

         A-ha! So, that was the deal! Well, I was surprised to find he had decided to call me Trisha. Of all things! "Sasha, why the hell call me Trisha!? Are you out of your mind!?" It was an affront to my dignity as a purebred and inheritor of a royal name . . . but there was nothing I could do about that. So, ever since he started calling me by that silly name, I've done the rounds as Trisha. Besides, Svetlana and Yelizaveta now call me only Trisha, as if they have no need to set a better example. At first it all gave me the heebie-jeebies. The thought of losing my high-born name just raised my hackles. I was once a king among canines, but now I'm some kind of a teddy dog. To make matters worse, I can only be Trisha here in my home country. If Sasha ever travels with me, those foreigners will think I'm a girl!

         You should see me, though. I'm not some straw-colored cur, nor am I an obnoxious yellow. Instead, you could say that I'm the color of gold. You dont believe me? Take a closer look on a bright sunny day, especially when I'm fresh from the bath. You won't find such beauty in any other dog.  In fact, you'd burst with pride if you had a pedigree like mine. My ancestors were the dogs of Vikings and Basques, who sailed across the Atlantic to Newfoundland. Until the eighteenth century, Europeans didn't even have a chance to see Labrador retrievers. Incidentally, seafarers consider the Labrador to be lucky. A Labrador aboard will ensure a safe, happy passage. You'd be very much in error if you considered that a superstition, though. My ancestors were always helping people. If a ship got wrecked, the Labradors would bring a rope to the shore, which was then used by people to gain a mooring and get on land. My ancestors were even known to haul careless sailors ashore on their backs.

The Newfoundlanders would always bring a couple of dogs along when they set sail. They'd be Labradors, of course. They had great names, too, like Wave or Surf. Think of it: a proud Labrador named Wave; a brave, agile Labrador called Surf. Now, bringing up the rear, is the ever-bedraggled, beleaguered . . . Trisha. It really hurts, but I've decided to grin and bear it. It doesn't matter, so the heck with you. Call me whatever name you want.

        An old man, who was a friend of Ivan Savelyevich, once called him by the wrong patronymic name, either Savich or Stepanovich. I would've prompted the old man, but for obvious reasons I couldn't. Even so, Ivan didn't budge as his friend continued to get his name wrong. Suddenly, Ivan's friend came back to his senses. He sniveled:
          Oh, Ivan, please excuse me, my friend." The guy gave his forehead an unforgiving smack. "I completely lost it there for a minute.

         Well, it's okay, Ivanovich," Ivan said. What difference does it make now? Call me a pot, but heat me not."

I remembered the kindness of my old friend and stopped being angry with Sasha. "Little Trisha," I told myself. "Let it be, little Trisha. Call me a pot, but heat me not."

           If it's of any interest to you, I'll briefly explain the origin of my breed name. Ivan  once told me there were three versions of the story. The first one is that the name came from the island of Labrador, which isn't very far from our ancestral home. The second one--which I like best--is that the name comes from the Portuguese word Labrador, which means laborer." The third version is somewhat harebrained, but since I've decided to tell the whole story I'll just have to give it to you. There's a mineral of black color with a bluish tint, which is called Labradorite.  Why dont I like this version? It's because my ancestors had black coats, but now some of us are the color of gold or even chocolate. There are no minerals or islands. So, of course my breed name came from the Portuguese word. Even in Africa a laborer is a labrador, as my Sasha has often said.

          We didn't appear in Russia till the late 1960s. Ivan once told a friend of his that President Jimmy Carter, of the USA, gave a Labrador to General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev as a present, and the Canadian writer Mowat gave one to Alexei Kosygin. There used to be such state figures in the USSR. At first, we Labradors could be found only in Moscow and Riga, but now we live throughout the country. As for me, I was born in Russia. Although we're one of the most popular breeds in the USA and Great Britain, I want to live in my motherland. I want to work here and help people here. So, I hope you realize that we've been working and helping people, basically, since the world was flat. That's because we know how to get along with people. Believe me, we're very smart but we always have a peaceful disposition. Our most important qualities are benevolence and the desire to help people. Although, if you read this story to the end, you'll understand that sometimes even a great dog needs to step away from those qualities. Well, as they say, there's no rule without an exception. However, had there been no people--I'll have more about that later--we wouldn't need such exceptions. That's a dogs word of honor . . . a Labradors word of honor!

Chapter 3

        I overheard how our mother spoke with Granny. 
        "Our Sasha has become more joyful," Mother said. "He has lightened up. I think it'll be easier for him with the dog."

        "Yes, but the most important is that he doesn't hurt our Sasha," replied granny. "After all, the dog is an animal." When I heard those words, my ears picked up.

          Why would she say something like that? She said "doesn't hurt . . . animal." Oh well, some animal she was forced to live with, as if I were a wolf or a wounded boar. It wouldnt have hurt to think before she said something. Ivan was always saying that old people are wise. I wish he could have heard your words, Granny! Oh well, if I werent a seeing-eye dog I'd play some dirty trick on you, Yelizaveta. It wasn't in vain that my former fosterling used to say the one problem with dogs is that they trust people. Well, we trust you, but you don't trust us. That isn't true of everyone, of course, but there are grandmothers like this one out there. Fortunately, Svetlana stuck up for me:
        "What are you saying, mother," she smiled. "These dogs are very peaceful and kind. This isn't some kind of mutt. Trisha has been very well trained."

         I thought, "Thank you, Svetlana, for understanding who I am." Sasha has a good mother.

        "All right," the Granny says. "Well, that remains to be seen."

          "You certainly will see," I thought. "You'll even become jealous. Sasha will love me the most. If you could only see how Ivan cried when I was nearly run over by a suburban train. Even now, when I look back on the event, I get shivers all over, as if I'm infested with fleas.

         Can you imagine it? One day I went with my old man to see his friend in Saltykovka. A suburban train is generally the most convenient way to get there. By the way, if you take this train a couple of stops farther you'll reach the area where my school is. Anyway, we went to see his friend, spent some time with the old guy--who can see--and then went back home. I don't even know how a dog should treat people after such an incident, but I won't hold a grudge about it. To do that would be an insult to my profession. So, there we were, on the platform. The people are packed together like a stadium crowd, all eager for the start of a hundred-meter race. The train arrived, and the people rushed toward the doors. I thought they'd crush us! Ivan was all adrift. He couldn't understand anything in this crowd, and I lost my train of thought. Now, please don't think I got scared and tried to escape that human herd. That wasn't the case. Instead, I was just shoveled off like snow, and suddenly I found myself between a railway car and the platform. I was suspended by my leash, thinking, "Oh, my poor Ivan. It's the end for me. How will you get home, my dear friend? How will you make it from the train station to your apartment?"

         Incidentally, I always bring my fosterling to the first car so that we can be closer to the locomotive driver. Now, though, what a mess we had! I could only hope that the train wouldn't rush hurry-scurry (which is what Ivan used to say when I started to rush somewhere). I could hear my old friend cry out to the locomotive driver, urging him to hold the train. Then he pulled me upward. Do you have any idea how much I weigh? Believe me, it wasn't as if he was just yanking a carp out of the river. (Hey, that reminds me: Later I'll tell you how Ivan and I used to fish.) The old man pulled me, groaning all the way, since there wasn't a lot of strength left in his arms. Thankfully, a passerby gave him a hand, but it felt as if I was being strangled. I was in agony till they finally had me back on the platform. Everything darkened before my eyes, and I passed out.

           I regained consciousness, and I could feel something drip onto my nose. I opened my eyes and saw Ivan stooping over me and crying. A little girl stood there, too. She was tiny, and she was muttering some words. I didn't hear, but I could see how she moved her lips. She also picked her nose a little bit. Soon after that, my hearing returned and I heard the little girl ask, "Grandfather, why are you crying? Is it because your dog died?" Well, Ivan started to sob out loud, as if he was about to bury me. He bent even lower, kissed me and petted me. I couldn't convince him that I was alive. For those first few moments after my resurrection I couldn't even move a paw. For all he knew, I really had been suffocated in the attempt.

           Finally he started to recover his dignity. As he prepared to stand again I managed to lick my savior's face. Boy, was he startled! Actually, the whole thing turned out to be quite funny. Imagine a person who has crouched down like that, and suddenly he jumps. He'd resemble a big old turkey, if nothing else! So, when Ivan  finally realized that I was alive, he jumped up and tried to lift me with his arms. He was so overjoyed that he nearly dropped me. (Ivan, why would you try to lift a heavy dog like me!?) Nevertheless, he took me in his hands, pushed his face into my stomach and asked, "Are you alive, little Trisong? Are you really alive?" How could I answer? I had to bark once. When he heard my first word, he nearly started to dance with me in his hands. "Just put me back on the ground," I thought. "The last thing I want to happen is for you to fall from this crazy platform. How would I pull you back up, then!?" In order to cheer up the merry fellow--who had obviously flown off the handle--I started to sing: "Ooo-woo-o-woo-a-woo!" Ivan  heard my song and realized it was time to put me back on the ground. We sat together on the platform for about ten minutes, but once I felt fully recovered I pulled on the leash: "Lets move it, Ivan. That's enough sitting." We got home safely, if not for that story in a drug store. 

          You should realize that, after such a mishap, even the healthiest person would run to a drugstore. Ivan  gave the command for me to take him to one. I was thoroughly familiar with the route, too. Please don't think I'm bragging, but I know over thirty routes in our neighborhood. If you need a drug store, that's where I'll take you. It makes no difference to me where I take a person. We reached the store, but a second later some busty woman started to yell:
         "Where are you going with that dog!? This is a medical establishment!"

         We had been into the place a million times before, but there was never a misunderstanding. I looked at this squab of a person and realized it was our first encounter.

          "We are allowed to," Ivan replied calmly. Then he turned and headed toward the pharmacy window.

           The restless lady (who was pretty quick for a person of her size) blocked our way. I barely had time to squeeze myself between her and Ivan. After all, protection is my first duty. Ivan stopped for a moment, bewildered. He knew there should be no obstacle there. Then he used his cane to determine what kind of obstacle it was. When he did, the woman really started to complain:
           "Hey, where are you poking with that cane!? I told you, dogs aren't allowed here. Bring the dog out to the street immediately."

She stood firm as a monument. Her eyebrows were arched, and her hands were on her hips. Her muzzle was . . . I mean, her cheeks were . . . all red, and her eyes bulged like those of a frog. It was as if we hadn't come to buy medicine but to rob her. Where do people get so much anger!? As I stood between them, through my back I felt some kind of energy wave emanate from her. It's the kind of energy wave that dogs are afraid of. In fact, there's a special device that will cause stray dogs to scatter. A person presses a button on such device, and it makes the dog feel as if he's just taken a blow to the head. Some instructors use things like that when training their pets, but I think they must be jerks. If any so-called instructor did that with me, I'd take his hand off at the wrist. Why am I saying all this? It's because this mountain of a drugstore employee had turned into such a device. Can you imagine how I felt? I stood there as that imaginary log pummeled me on the head: Bang, bang, bang! Oh, but you say, "Look! There's a blind person walking around with a dog!" Most likely it's you in your office who walks around, but not me and my fosterling. Every day Ivan and I left the apartment as if we were going to war.

           "Dear lady," said Ivan . "You must be new here."

           "What difference does that make?" huffed the creature, this woman with the dog-killing energy. "Whether I'm newly hired or not, I told you clearly that dogs aren't allowed in the store. We have rules here."

           "Well, I suggest you read the rules," said Ivan. He spoke quietly, but I sensed a subtle change in his tone of voice. "Listen, you idiot. Step aside, or my old man will read you all the rules. It'll take you forever to sort them out. Now, get out of the way!"

            If that pushy drugstore person could have guessed the kinds of words my fosterling knew, she wouldnt have risked such an exchange. I'm serious! Ivan  was a very peaceful person, but when cornered he could make an awful lot of noise. Ouch! I had never heard that kind of talk in school, although the instructors would go on and on in our presence without restraining themselves very much.

           Luckily there was a little miracle. A second woman showed up, and she was our old acquaintance.

          "Hey, Trisong!" she said joyfully. "Come right in!" Then she turned to her associate and half-whispered, "Tamara, let them go."

          "Well, thats not what you said earlier, Paulina ."

          "Tamara, a seeing-eye dog is allowed to enter any establishment, including a drugstore."

           The day ended well. I could even say it was great. That evening, Ivan opened a can with chicken meat (my treat for holidays). Then, for some reason he wished me happy birthday, and we had dinner. A couple of times the old man dropped his fork on the floor, but I immediately handed it back to him.
           Generally, the old man was a terrible daydreamer. He'd let his cane fall. He'd drop his dark glasses or the keys. It was much easier with certain kinds of objects, which are pretty hard for a dog to miss. The gloves were really a pain, though. Often, as I watched the cars or a pedestrian my daydreamer would drop his gloves. It's such a pity that I can't speak. He should have sewn something to his gloves--a bell, for instance--so that I hear it when they fall to the ground. During our last year together, another falling thing appeared: a cell phone. Some kind folks helped and put a special cover on the phone. You dont even have to take it off, since you can dial a number through a transparent cover. It was very funny to watch Ivan would dial a number, though. He'd stop in the middle of the sidewalk, tilt his head upward as if he was looking at the sky, open his mouth (when I saw that for the first time I thought he was going to sing) and poke the keys with his fingers. Sometimes it happened that he would bring the phone to his ear, then sharply take it away and again poke the keys. I wondered if was he just having fun or something, but then I figured it all out: He had dialed a wrong number the first time, so then he had to redial.

       Once he told me: "Hey, Trisong, why can't you dial a phone number?" If I could speak, I would have replied: "If they'd let you, Ivan, you'd even put me behind the wheel of a car." I might also have said something funny, like this: "Ivan, you should write a complaint to my school for sending you such a stupid dog." But you do understand that we used to joke a lot, the old man and I. We never got very angry with each other. We loved each other and would forgive everything.

          I seem to have taken a long trip down memory lane, but it's all Grannys fault. You see, I even had dinner together with Ivan , but she has doubts. "So that he doesn't hurt . . . animal." Oh, wait a second . . . . What am I thinking!? She's an old woman, so that says it all. She doesn't know me well yet. So, a lot remains to be seen. I'll watch you, Yelizaveta, and I know you'll keep an eye on me. Of course I have no particular reason to watch you. After all, I need to look after Sasha. You and his mother can think what you want.

Chapter 4

    I am particularly happy that there's balance in our family. By that I mean there are two women and two men. I got here just in time, though. Certainly these women are good, kind and caring, but without me around, they would have worn Sasha down. So, yes, I pity the boy. Blind people always evoke more pity than others. They're helpless, especially blind children. Some adults can't even look at someone's blind children without starting to weep. Of course, most people are happy to help a handicapped person, and that's a quality to be admired. However, as Ivan used to say, the trick is in other things. One should remember that a blind person always wants to feel independent from outside help. I'm serious about that. It isn't because the handicap is so random in its choice of who gets it. That's not the reason. Instead, the constant need for care causes fatigue and can make the blind person feel really down. It makes him want to yell, "Look, friends, I can do without your help! I don't need to make your life more difficult! So, just take the weight off your shoulders and go take care of other things!"

    I understand them. Whoever said this had it right: Their eyes are dead, but their hearts are alive.

    I don't understand the problem, though. Today in Russia there are three hundred thousand visually handicapped people, but there are only one thousand seeing-eye dogs. Ivan used to say that in our country there is one dog per three hundred blind persons. That isn't right. In fact, it's terrible. Other countries have one seeing-eye dog to ten or twelve blind people. Do you understand what a huge difference that is!? How many people suffer without our help? It's mindboggling.

     Do you know what the Japanese figured out? It's enough to make a cat laugh. Seriously, they decided to train seeing-eye dogs in prison.  So, the prisoners are the puppy trainers. They've gone crazy, I guess. How did they come up with an idea like that? Imagine taking a two-month-old puppy and throwing him in jail for no reason. It's nothing short of mockery. Oh, my poor Japanese compatriots. For the entire year the puppy lives with prisoners. The truth is that they feed him and care for him. Generally, they wouldn't cause him harm. Then, when the dog is a year old, an experienced trainer starts working with him. I don't know, but maybe I shouldn't be so indignant. After all, what's the difference whether we spend our first year in a kennel or in prison. The most important thing is that the conditions have to be right. It's more fun when you're around people, and of course the inmates are people. Well, I shouldn't feel insulted about it. The Japanese know what to do. They aren't stupid.

     Recently we took Sasha to the park for a bit of relaxation. The women quickly learned to trust me, so now we can go places together. Before, though, we used to go as if under guard, but now I lead Sasha and his mother or Granny would follow behind. Sure, they're helpers, but the route is very easy. I memorized it pretty quickly. I shouldn't say it's a route, though. It's more like a light walk. Sasha has grown used to the cane, but at first they couldn't convince him to walk with it. He put up a lot of resistance. He broke two of them on purpose. Kids are always like that.

"Why would I need a cane," he asked, "if I have Trisha?"

Kids tend to say these kinds of things. Of course, there's no way I'd let him down. I'd always stop him in time and then bring him alongside me. How could he go without a cane, though? A blind person needs a cane. The handle on the harness is my way of getting warning signals. Sometimes you have to investigate an obstacle yourself.
"Sasha," his mother said in a strict tone, "you've studied at Trisha's school.

What did they tell you? They said you must have a cane. So, take some advice from your teachers. They're experienced." Mother was absolutely right: Sasha needs to use a cane. As far as school goes, though, she made up that last bit. Well, eventually we straightened out the matter of the cane.

It turns out that a French king, Louis IX, having returned to Paris after a defeat in the Crusades, founded a hospice for the blind called "Quinze-Vingts." It's a strange name, but I guess that doesn't really matter. The first inhabitants of the hospice were three hundred knights who had gone blind during the Crusades. This is how people realized that the blind needed to be helped and normal conditions for their lives had to be created. Then, in 1771 a young man named Valentin Ha;y visited a famous Parisian fair, where each year from August 14 through September 15 street vendors, puppeteers and circus performers demonstrated their mastery. Valentin gave alms to a blind boy and was very surprised when he immediately named the denomination of the coin. This is how a young man guessed that a blind person could learn to read using the sense of touch. Ha;y opened a school for the blind, and the first pupil at that school was a beggar boy named Fran;ois Lesueur. Valentin taught him to read with the use of raised wooden letters, which would make words. Fran;ois turned out to be a very talented pupil, and within six months he had learned to read printed pages. Valentin Ha;y presented his pupil to the Royal Academy. The scientists was amazed to see such skill, and thereafter an embossed font appeared. People would follow the embossed letters with their fingers and make out the words. This invention propagated around the world. In 1806 Ha;y came to Russia at the invitation of Alexander I. The Frenchman founded the St. Petersburg Institute for Blind Children, where special books started to be printed. That's how the first library for the blind appeared in this country.

Ha;y's followers did a lot of useful things for the blind. But they were wrong when they said, "What is convenient for seeing people is convenient for the blind." Other fonts then appeared. The Englishman James Gall invented a triangular embossed alphabet. John Alston, of the Asylum for the Blind in Glasgow, proposed a font based on the Latin alphabet. By the way, Alston's font closely resembles one of today's computer fonts, namely Arial. However, the inventor's concept didn't remain as it was. Many scientists and other investigators tried to perfect the font.

Louis Braille, who ultimately invented the modern font, went blind as the result of a childhood accident. When he was ten years old, Louis was enrolled in a Parisian school for the blind, where he was trained according to the Ha;y system. The books were large and expensive, so the school had only fourteen of them. Louis studied them all. However, the Ha;y system seemed imperfect to Louis, since it took several seconds to get the sense of each letter. Reading was difficult and tedious. Louis realized he had to find a way that would allow to read more easily and, most importantly, faster.

Louis Braille's invention had an awesome pre-history. So, if you don't mind, I'll continue Sasha's story in just a few moments. Well, the French army used an ingenious letter code, which was invented by the artillery officer Charles Barbier as a way to deliver messages at night. The messages couldn't be read on regular paper, so how could one read them at night? A candle had to be lit for that, so it could give away the troop position. This is why the letters in this night message were made as holes punched into cardboard. Louis Braille had mastered this method, but since he was convinced that it was far from perfect he invented a system of small rectangular blocks called cells, which allowed one to rapidly and efficiently recognize each letter.

Incredibly, the Council of the Institute, where Braille proposed his system, rejected it in 1829. Do you know why? It was only because the developed characters weren't easy to read by seeing persons. Oh, my God! They didn't think about the convenience for the blind but only thought of themselves! However, Braille was a very persistent man, so he implemented the writing system on his own. His system become more and more popular among the blind, and eight years later the Council reconsidered it. This time Braille had the upper hand, and he received support from the pundits. Even today, around the world, the Braille writing system is considered the best one for the blind. In Russia, the first Braille book was published in 1885. (In case you don't already know, this great blind scientist's two-hundredth birthday was commemorated in January 2009.) Anyway, now try to guess what Sasha has. It's a special display where Braille cells are set in a row and the text is transformed into signals. There are some rods that protrude from the cells, and my fosterling crinkles with his fingers. He reads, reads, reads . . . and then he tells me what he has read. Then, I tell you. I can't believe this thing. It's just so fascinating! They say that soon the Braille letters will "run" on the computer screen, so it'll be even easier for the blind to read. It's great that modern scientists don't worry too much about their own convenience.

So, that was Sasha's story. I listened and listened, but in the process I nearly lost my vigilance. Then, a blind woman sat down on our bench. She had her own lady dog. Well, I thought she could be some sort of seeing-eye dog. Her name was Margo. Some queen she was, too. Bah! She was pleasant enough, but she wasn't of my breed. We don't have any shaggy types at my school. She was beautiful, though. Her colors were white and red, and she had a sharp nose and bright, sparkling eyes. Oh yeah, she was proud as hell of herself. She could see that we were colleagues, but she turned her nose away and pretended not to notice me. The heck with that! Big deal! Anyway, I could see that she was professional. She must have graduated from a fairly good school. Now, you might wonder how I noticed that she was professional, but it was easy. A bunch of guys walked past us. One whistled, the other chuckled, and some girl even stopped in front of us and started to mumble: "How sweet those dogs are." She didn't dare to pet, but I got really tired of her. She just stood there and chirped. Well, Margo didn't even move an ear. She sat still as a stone. Margo paid no attention to the guys' chuckling or the girl's chirping. That's who I knew this lady dog was in control.

The guys and the girl moved on, but then came a couple. They seemed married, to me. There was a lady, holding the gentleman under the arm and wearing a hat that was somewhat frivolous for her years. The man had a cane, but we wasn't blind. He seemed to have the cane just to show off, since he didn't even limp. A French bulldog--kind of a lazy-looking, roly-poly thing--tagged along behind the couple. Honestly, I don't care for that breed very much. I mean, don't tell me that Mother Nature came up with that one! A real ding-dong, this one was. If I had a muzzle like that, I would've drowned myself in the first river that gave me a reflection. Bacon-faced, with glossy fur and ducky legs. I could tell right away that he liked to eat well and sleep a lot. I don't understand why would people get such so-called dogs. The guy was of no use! Have you ever seen a French bulldog? Nothing but worries and expenses. The collar on this one must have cost more than my Sasha's Braille monitor. The bulldog pulled on the leash once he got close to us. "What a goon," I thought. "He probably doesn't even know what it means to tug on the leash like that." Then, to my surprise, the couple stopped. We also sometimes stop our fosterlings, you know, when nature calls. Here, though, he had a completely different reason to stop. The ridiculous-looking mutt opened his already bulging eyes and looked at us suspiciously, glancing at Margo and me. We pretended not to see him, by which we indicated that we had no business together. At that point the lady in the hat said:
"Chubby, why did you stop? Do you want to make friends?"

Hey, did you hear that? This guy had a very appropriate name: Chubby. Holy mackerel! How is he not ashamed to walk the streets with a name, or even a nickname, like that? Chubby is as Chubby does. Well, did he want to "make friends"? I had better things to do than make friends with the likes of this little fool. "Just keep going," I thought. "Don't bother to stick around. Can't you see that people are resting here? Our people are resting, and we're working. Come on, Chubby, move it. You won't find any new buddies here." I said all this to him in my mind, but he, as if he had heard my thoughts, barked something inarticulate and tottered off. I could see hit fat booty wiggle as he waddled up the path.

I must say that Margo behaved with dignity. She was just a great gal; a real seeing-eye dog. I'm sorry that I considered her just a lady dog at first, but honestly I'm not very fond of female dogs. That's because of those ugly rumors, about us guys. They say a girl makes a better seeing-eye dog than a boy does. What a lie that is! Don't believe it! Who came up with such a lame idea!? They say that bitches are gentler and more obedient. They say male dogs are too easily distracted by mating calls. That's utter garbage. I can't even dignify it with an argument. Have you ever seen me act distracted? I am not gentle and obedient? Why say such idiotic things!? They invent all kinds of crap like that, and I've heard it with my own ears. Once, a couple came to our school to choose a dog for someone. They walked around the kennel, and the lady said:
"Oh, please don't offer us a male dog. We want a girl."

    Our instructor, Misha, was curious. "Why?"
"I was told that girls are gentler and more obedient."

I listened to all this rubbish and wondered, "Who told you so?" What a silly woman. She thought of herself as some kind of canine expert. Friends, listen to me. It's like this: If you ever need a seeing-eye dog--I hope you don't--choose a male. We're not only obedient and tender, but we're agile and strong too. Those qualities are tremendously important in our work. However, if you don't have a choice, there's nothing else to do. Take a girl dog home with you.
Sasha became bored just sitting on the bench, so he stood up. I immediately got up next to him so that the handle of the harness was near his hand.

"Trisha, let's go home," he said.

I glanced at my neighbor one last time, and I gave her a nod to say goodbye (but I shouldn't have). It seemed to me that she replied. She, it seems, had realized that I too was a professional.

We arrived home twenty minutes later. A really tasty dinner awaited us. I felt lucky to have been chosen by such a nice family. I like it here, but sometimes I miss my old Ivan.

Chapter 5

        We came to the agreement with Sasha: If he asks me a question and I answer yes then I say: Arf! if my reply is negative I answer: Ouuuu! Sasha is great! Despite the fact that he is only thirteen years old, he is a very clever fellow. No mistake here. You say he is a boy? You should have seen him. Granny only reaches his shoulder. It is even not appropriate to call him a boy. He is a real lad. And, what I like, he is very clever. A little pacey to be exact. Hence I have more work to do.

         In this regard it was easier to deal with the old Ivan. He was a slow mover. He would work and hum a song. He had a favorite song about tankmen. I swear, he could sing the same song all night long. He would sing three tankmen, three merry friends, a team of a combat machine ," Sometimes he would bore me to death with the song, so I had to stop him. I keep listening then I say quietly: A-arf! The old Ivan, same as me, immediately reacts to any exclamation. There is nothing interesting in this. We are one whole. What do people say? Go together like salt and pepper. Thats about us. Should the old Ivan say something, I would go: I am all attention my frined!  Should I arf something, the old Ivan would ask me: What happened, Trisong?

          Nothing happened. I just got tired of your song. Would you change the tune, eh? Why not sing about a birch-tree (he sings sometimes) or Katyusha or, as last resort could sing about white bears, who rub against earths axis . The old man said it was a song from a picture It is interesting, he would always call a movie a picture. Never a film or a movie, but a picture. Well, sometimes he would sometimes sing a song from the picture Caucasian prisoner. Somewhere in the world, where it is always frosty the bears rub against the earths a-x-i-i-es. And so on. It is a great song. He would not sing it often though. In general he would warble his tankmen. I thought earlier, why would he has taken to sing about tankmen. It is very difficult for us, dogs, when you cannot ask a question. I wish I could ask this question straight. But he, as if feeling my curiosity told me the story  when we went for a stroll. You know what it was? He used to be a tankman in the army. Not just a tankman, but a tank commander. What a news! After his story about the army I started to be more patient about his favorite song. I think, let him recall his young ears, his friends, this way it would be easier for the old man.

         I am curious: If they would teach us to how speak, would I be able to learn how to say at least ten words? I dont need any more than that. Ten words would be plenty. Why would I need more? I thought about this and came to the conclusion. It would be great if in the school we are taught to say the following words:

1. Walk
2. Stop
3. Go
4. Enough
5. Help
6. Food
7. Cold
8. Warm
9. Sleep
10. Sorry

       I think even any man can get by with these words. Well, I wouldnt vouch for a man, but that would be plenty for me. I do not know, why the instructors never thought of teaching us at least these words.  I do not ask for much. Nobody teaches us. They dont even try. You should try, maybe you'll make it. I have tried myself, but failed. I round my lips, nearly tying my tong into a knot, bang my teeth, but nothing comes out. I want to say a word, but all I get is Arf or Ouuu." Thats it. Hellish stuff. Believe me, it is very bitter.

       The old Ivan used to keep a parrot.  He bought it before me. When I moved in with the old man I was shocked that this wretched micro-eagle knew at least a hundred human words. He would blab nonstop for half an hour. I am serious. It knew such words that I have never even heard in the kennel. I remember how the first day this gangrel (he had a disgusting name Kerya) knocked me dead. We came home with the old Ivan from a walk and this dwarf says: Kerya is hungry! Well, I think, this is something. What a cool beggar! Unless you throw some grain into the case he would gabble until he falls down from his perch. Kerya is hungry! Kerya is hungry! Kerya is hungry! A parrot, damn it.

         One night we were watching TV, to be more precise I was watching and the old Ivan was listening. The old Ivan would always say: Lets go, Trisong, lets watch TV. We sit quietly, watch-listen and this weak-brained bird started to gabble, started to warble that we with the old man nearly went insane. Here the most interesting thing started on TV and this nightingale-the-robber keeps gabbling and gabbling. The old Ivan gave up, covered the case with a towel. This worked. I think that little Kerya chickened out.  He thought, maybe, that we were about to give him a blanket party, maybe worse. The rascal stopped gabbling.

          I did not like him at all though. Because, even when a parrot keeps silent, he still is a problem. It is not a bird, but some pig. Everything around is in shells, in feathers. He would shake his wings and the apartment would immediately turn into a hen ranch. Marya, an old woman would pay a visit two-three times a week, cook, do laundry, clean the house. He would scold him also. She would say: Keya, you should be ashamed.  What did you do this time? And for him it is like water from a ducks back. He persists: Pretty Polly. Pretty Polly I understand he meant himself.  By the way, Marya would never charge money for her work. The old Ivan even got upset. He told her once:

         Marya, dear, for Christs sake dont make me uncomfortable, take some money. Buy yourself a present or something. You keep working and working for free.
           And the old woman replies:

         We will settle in the next world, Ivan.
         I feel a little upset, Marya, the old man says. You should get me right.
         Dont be, Marya goes on. I am not doing it for you, I am doing it for myself.

            It is hard for me to confess, but after her words I unwittingly started to take a closer look at her. What does she mean by for myself? Maybe she wants to steel something? She walks, casing something. Even at school they explained to us that blind people frequently get their things stolen. Meaning they pretend that they help and would steel medals or money or a picture of the wall or a rare book. Probably, they think, why would a blind person need pictures or books? This is why we also have to track suspicious people.

         However later I realized that Marya is not of those people who would harm the poor man. There was a show on TV and I found out that there are people who help handicaps selflessly. They dont do it for money, not for the sick person, they, it turns out, help the Lord. Yes-yes, this is what they say: If you want to help the Lord, help a poor, sick, deprived person. There are people like this! If I had been taught at school, I would say Marya word No. 10 Sorry. I am sorry, my dear old woman that such stupid thought visited my canine head.

       This is how Marya came to help us until the old Ivan's death. And on holidays or birthdays they would have a shot or two of liquor. Then they would sit together, hold each other in hands and sing all night. The old Marya sanf such heart-touching songs, it was a pleasure to listen, not those tankmen. What I especially liked was Still around, old dear?
How are you keeping? 

I too am around.  Hello to you!
May that magic twilight ever be streaming
Over your cottage as it used to do .

 They would sing together and then cry together. Probably the old Ivan felt that he would die soon. This is what he told me: Soon, Trison, you will have rest from me, my hour is coming. Strange man he was. I was never tired of him. If you only knew, old Ivan, that I missed you so much, you would never say such stupidity. 


Chapter 6

           Old Ivan was fond of a particular proverb, even though it was difficult for my dog brain to absorb. That's what he used to say, anyway. He would often use my name in the proverb, like this:
          "Don't count on a prison cell, Trisong. You might get a begging bowl, too."

          The part about the prison is basically clear, but how did my kennel differ from a prison cell? At first, I was frustrated by the part about the begging bowl, but eventually I got it.

          Trouble did come, though, and I was stolen. Let's start at the beginning. One Friday we decided to go to a supermarket. The three of us went: Sasha, Yelizaveta and I. It was all because Sasha was bitten by the idea of visiting this goddamned store. He had been insistent about it all morning, so he begged and begged: "Granny, dear, please take Trisha and me to the supermarket. I'll just walk around the store and recall how I used to walk there with my friends. I'll touch the toys, cans and things. Granny, please take me . . . ."

           It was some kind of place to take a walk. Old Ivan would stay clear from these supermarkets. What good is there in this supermarket? Just shelves, counters, show-cases, and there are as many people as sardines in a tin. Sure, there is one corner I like (we went there a couple of times) where all kinds of dog treats are exposed. In big bags and small, the food in tins and in plastic bags. All kinds of vitamins. The collars, chains, but all this for lazy dogs, like that lubber bulldog, who wanted to make friends with me and Margo. We don't need these chains even if they were giving them away. We have our gear, special, strong, rugged.

          Generally, as I understood it, Sasha wanted to recollect his life as a seeing person. People say "any bauble of folly will keep a baby jolly," but in this case we're talking about a blind baby. How could anyone say no? A red-faced security guard appeared before us at the store's entrance. Curiously, he resembled the woman at the drugstore who, as you'll recall, tried to push some nonexistent instruction at us. The security guard turned out to be just as bullet-headed.

         "Excuse me," he said. "You can't come into the store with a dog."
         "It's a seeing-eye dog," Yelizaveta explained. "It's legal to do so."
         "I don't know anything about that," the security guard said with a scowl. "Whether it's a seeing-eye dog or not, you can't bring it into the store."
         "What is going on!" Granny shot back, and I could see that she was boiling over. "So, they have some new law out there, do they!?"
         "I need no laws," answered the security guard. "I have instructions from the management. That's it."
          I don't understand that kind of thinking. Can't people live without instructions!?
         "Dear," said Yelizaveta sweetly, as if she was trying to draw forth some pity in the iron-pumper. "Please listen: The boy can't see anything, so the dog is his eyes. Can you understand how important the dog is to the boy?"

           Yelizaveta should have taken a closer look at the guy. He would've had trouble understanding his own name.

         "Please, lady," the security guard said. "Do you want me to get fired?"
         "Of course not, honey, but . . . ."
         "Enough talking," the security guard said, holding up his hand. "Don't try to talk me into this. There's a post. Tie the boy's 'eyes' to it, and I'll watch over things for you."

          Did he get what he had just said!? "Tie the boy's eyes to it"! How did he come up with such an idiotic remark!?  "Tie up your eyes." Very clever!
          "You should be ashamed!" Yelizaveta said, scolding the man. She was . . . enraged.
          "Are you a relative of the boy?" the security guard asked, turning deaf to the plea of desolation.
          "This is my grandson," said Granny with obvious pride.
          "Then, take the boy in yourself. Just don't try to make me feel ashamed."   
           Granny knew there was no point in badgering the guy. She led us to that pitiful post and started to tie me up.
           "Please excuse us for this, Trisha dear. You can see what's going on, can't you?"

            I understood, so I had no hard feelings about it. I thought, "Just go into the store, but come back soon. Otherwise, I'll barbeque out here in the sun. Anyway, the security guard will look after me. Yeah, right. As if I believe that!"

            The moment Yelizaveta and Sasha entered the supermarket, the security guard disappeared somewhere. I sat and squinted my eyes under the sun. It was getting hot. Suddenly a BMW 5-series sedan stopped near me, squeaking its brakes. Two muscleheads got out of the car and walked up to me. One looked around and said to the other guy:
          "Bro', do you know how much a dog like this costs?"

           "What a stupid thing to say," I thought. "Seeing-eye dogs are not for sale."
          The second guy said, "Look, dude. What's that red cross on her harness?" He pointed toward my emblem.

          "This is a seeing-eye dog for the blind. This is a specially trained dog," the first one replied. "Hey, just imagine how much green we can coin! Go open the trunk!"

           The second guy rushed to the car, while the first one cut my leash and grabbed me. In the blink of an eye, the trunk lid closed over my head. "Bastards! What are you doing!? I can't leave my Sasha! Are you people or garbage rats!?" The engine roared, and I could sense that we were moving away quickly. I didn't know where they were taking me, but soon we were moving over a bumpy road. "Man!" I thought. "Why didn't my school teach me to be aggressive? I would have grabbed you by the neck and shaken you for all it was worth." It's forbidden to bite people, though. We can bark, but we can't bite. So, I lay there in the trunk of that car, and I howled out of sheer frustration. I barked a couple of times, but none of it was any use. A had a speaker right next to my ear, and it went "boom-boom-boom!" Even the music they played was idiotic.

           We stopped after half an hour. I strained my ears. I hear parts of sentences:  Highway police, sergeant, ID . . . "They have caught you, alright!" I started to bark as loudly as I could. I could hear the sergeant say, "Do you have a dog in the trunk? Open it up." Finally, I was about to be rescued!

        "Chief, I took him to the vet because he got sick a little," the liar said. "The dog might have jumped out and led us on a chase for who knows how long."
        "Open it up. I'll take a look," the policeman instructed.

         The thief opened the trunk lid just a crack, and he peeked in at me. I whimpered, barked, jumped, tried to get up, and pressed my head against the lid. "Look, Mr. Policeman! My leash is cut! Take a better look: I have a harness, with an emblem. Come on, look! These guys are thieves! They're robbers! I wanted to cry out word number five: "Help!" Then my coffin was closed again.

         "Why did you put him in the trunk?" the policeman asked.

         "Where else could I put him?" answered the thief with a laugh. "He might crap if put him inside, and then the car would stink."

          You dumb musclehead, I can go without a potty break for up to twelve hours. We're trained to do that.

          "Ehh," the officer said, and he shrugged his shoulders. "Okay, have a safe trip."

          It's a dog's life. If it were a man in the trunk, the policeman would have called the entire department into action. However, it was only me . . . a dog. My goodness, people!  I wasn't allowed inside the store, so some thieves stole me, and then the policeman let them go. The next ones may strike me down or something. These guys were talking money, though, so they wouldn't kill me. I was lucky in that respect, but where were they taking me?

            The car stopped about twenty minutes later. I heard how the door creaked. The trunk was opened, and I saw a kind of shed. These bastards pulled the car up in such a way that I had no other choice but to jump into the shed. Once I found myself on the floor, the car pulled away and the shed door was slammed shut. I saw a bit sunlight that crept in, just beneath the roof. A ray lit up the opposite corner. There were some barrels, buckets, cans of paint, and rugs of all sorts. It wasn't most comfortable kennel I'd ever seen; a Japanese prison would've been better. The kidnappers stood just outside the door and talked. They didn't realize that I could hear everything.
         "What shall we do with him?" the first one asked.

         "We'll have to take out an ad," the second one replied. "A newspaper ad: 'Labrador retriever for sale, male, trained, not expensive.'  Someone will take him right away."

         "How do you know he's trained?" 
         "Are you a moron or something?" said the other, laughing out loud. "It's a seeing-eye dog. They understand all sorts of commands."
         "He has to live here, by the cottage, to get used to things. How are you going to sell him now?"

         "The ad will take some time to appear, and in the meantime he'll get used to it."

         "Hey," I thought, "you don't know me. Even if it comes to the edge of doom, I won't forget my fosterling. So, don't fool yourselves. Your trick won't work. Even if you sell me, I'll run away. Then the buyer will come back and beat the living hell out of you, as old Ivan used to say. You'll learn a lesson the hard way, and then you'll think twice about stealing for money."

         "Hey," said one guy, "we don't have any papers for him. We won't be able to say what his breeding is."

         "That's why the ad should mention a cheap price," the other one answered. "We'll say the owner died, which is where there are no papers."

         "This is dangerous stuff!" warned the first one. "We have to sell him in another town, even in another region."

         "Give me a break," said the other.  "If we take him to another region, the gas will cost us more than we'll get for the dog. Listen, don't worry about it. Everything will be cool."

         The fools left, and I was alone in the shed.

          Well, I had to inspect this bug-ridden little place. At least those jerks could have left me some water. They threw me into a dungeon and didn't even remember that I need water. Never mind the water, they didn't even remove my harness. Bastards! I'm a peaceful dog--I'm friendly and gentle--but man, I really hate some people. Please excuse me, but were these guys actually people? I'm sure you wouldn't think of them that way. What kind of people were they? They were just mutts. They were heartless mutts.

Chapter 7

     So, hope appeared. It was just the right moment to remember my kind old man. "Hope springs eternal in the human breast," Ivan used to say. Well, if there was any hope at all, it would be enough for me, the descendant of Vikings and Basques! I'd give it my best. The problem was that the floor in this "supermarket" (I hope you can understand why I call my prison by that disgusting word) is earthen. If you don't know, I'll tell you: A Labrador can dig a hole one meter deep in the course of a night. He'll do it just for fun, if he has nothing else to do. But I'm far from playing it lazy. I had to get out of this place at any cost. If I wasn't out by morning, when the crooks came back I would have to fight like a leopard.

     First, though, I had to take some safety measures. "Ah, what do we have here? It's a bunch of rags. That's great. If I sense the enemies approaching, I'll use the rags to cover the digging. Lets bring the rags to the corner. Okay. Hey, what's that smell? Gosh, these things smell nasty!" I remembered that old Ivan would sometimes say, "One misfortune comes on the back of another." However, the leak in the roof of my cell had half-filled a bowl with rainwater. What a stroke of luck that was! If I were a man, I'd be rubbing my palms together at the sight of it. "Aw, how can I drink this gnarly stuff!? Yecch!" There was no other choice, though. A dog cant do without water, and water is life and strength. I can endure a lack of food, but without water my tongue would feel as if it was going to fall out.

     Suddenly I remembered that Sasha had recently read a poem to me:

                I'm sitting next to the bars in a damp, blackened cell,
The juvenile eagle, who's bred by the jail . . . .

The poem talked about some bird, but Sasha had really hit the bull's eye with the part about a damp, blackened cell. "So, what's next?" I thought. "Shall we get started?" 
       I started digging, and within an hour there was a hole whose depth was up to my collar. I knew it was necessary to dig straight through these "shifts." Then I could rest for ten minutes, get ten mouthfuls of the rainwater cocktail, and then get back to work. My ignoble "cell experts" had disappeared somewhere, because they didn't show up that evening. It was all for the better, because I imagined the lesson I would teach them if they set foot in my cell. As I dug, dug, dug, I remembered that phony "security guard" at the supermarket: If it weren't for his stubbornness and stupidity, I could've been lying next to my little boy on the soft carpet. "I'll look after your dog," the man said. Yeah, right. I guess a guilty conscience can't eat at a stone heart. Some security guard. What kind of security guard was that? Thanks to him, I was in a rotten old jail.

     "How is my family doing?" I wondered. "I think they're all in tears, especially Sasha. I feel sorry for him. We've already grown used to each other and started to understand each other, but now we have trouble. Dont cry, Sasha. Don't grieve. I'll make it out of this dungeon."

    It was time to rest a little. I stepped aside, looked at my archeology, and it was true: It really did look like a dungeon. I still had a lot of digging to do, though. I urged myself on. "Dont let up, Labrador. You have to be out of this prison cell by the morning. Have some water, and then dig, dig, dig!"

     Eventually, as I worked, I noticed that a star could be seen through the space just below the roof, followed by a second star. The sky was clear, and it was warm outside. I've always loved the night. At night all the dogs, even seeing-eye dogs, rest away on sofas and enjoy fun dreams. Does that surprise you? Well, I'm totally serious: We have dreams . . . incredible ones! After watching a bunch of pictures (you'll probably still call them movies) with old Ivan, I would fall asleep and dream that I was on a combat field. Paying no attention to the haze of cannon smoke and bullets, I'd run up to an injured soldier and drag him back to safety. Once I dreamed that I rescued a skier from under the snow. Everyone petted me and gave me little bits of chicken. I was swarmed by reporters and photographers, and someone even shoved a microphone up to my muzzle. I didn't care for that part, because it was cold and scratchy. I felt irritated, so I barked and . . . woke up. Old Ivan nearly fell out of his bed.

     "Trisong, what happened?" he asked. I was silent. He called me up to him and said, "Did you have a dream?" The old man was quick-witted.

     I whimpered a couple of times, and Ivan comforted me. "Come to me, my dear. Lie down, next to me. Dont be afraid, my friend, because there are all kinds of dreams. I too have trashy dreams sometimes, and they're enough to make me fall to the floor. Sometimes, I even cry in my dreams."

       He didn't have to tell me that. I was well aware of it. "Sometimes" wasn't the word, though. Nearly every night, I'd hear him at the end of those dreams. One time he cried, "Fire!" I jump up, nosed around, thought maybe a fire had started, sniffed some more, but there was nothing. Everything was okay. It turned out that old Ivan had been dreaming about the army. He told me the next day, during our walk. He said, "Imagine, Trisong. Last night I took part in combat training in my tank. I saw my fellow soldiers . . . even the squadron commander . . . as if they were alive. Everyone was young and fit." Military people, according to the old mans stories, are very much like us: They go through training, tests and exams.

    It was time for a bit of rest. If I could keep up the pace, in two or three hours I'd be out of there. Man, was I tired! The harness made it harder to do that kind of work, and I couldn't take it off by myself. There's nothing I could do but sweat out the job. I'm a purebred, and of course I'm highly trained, but I hadn't dug a hole in a long time. At school, they would scold us if we did that. Sometimes I wanted so much to dig a hole that my paws would itch. When I used to go fishing with old Ivan (yes, I have promised to tell that story) I had did have my time in the forest. I dug a huge hole, and it was a pleasure to look at. The old man patted me and said:

     "You are sill, Trisong. Dont you have better things to do than to dig a hole? Youd be better off running around in the woods."

     It was as if I didn't run. I was on the move all day, every day. If I didn't run, I walked. In our neighborhood, though, I couldn't dig holes. The people would jump at me and wave their arms: "Hey, you're messing up the lawn!" they'd say. I guess they were right. You cant dig holes there. What if a kid were to fall in? They were right to say so.

     So, now for the fishing story: We went to our favorite spot. Old Ivan opened his little chair, and then he put the worm on the hook. He did it with such agility that I wouldn't have guessed he was blind if I didn't already know. He cast the line and said, "Look, Trisong, if the floater moves, you bark."

       I sat for five minutes, ten minutes . . . fifteen minutes. Then it started to flicker before my eyes. I saw the floater jump, so I signaled Ivan. "Arf!" Old Ivan checked, but the hook was empty. He mumbled at me with discontent:
       "Why would you bark so loudly? You'll scare all the fish away, doing that."
    "Hadn't you told me to bark? If you need it to be quiet, then say 'whimper.' Say it right. Some fisherman you are!" I was a bit offended.

       We made up after half an hour, and then I had a kings feast. The old man treated me to such a perch, I'll . . . I'll never forget it. That fish just melted in my mouth. What a tasty treat it was!   

       Well, I'd started to think about food too much, so then I had to wet my throat with water. I drank a little bit, and that felt better. I inspected the hole. It would be done in about an hour, if I could muster the strength. As long as I didn't fall down from fatigue or fall asleep, I'd be okay. Otherwise, the occupants would arrive in the morning and I'd have to fight.

       I returned to my digging, but then I saw that a white bird had gently flown in through the window. It was nothing short of beautiful. "What kind of miracle is this?" I wondered. The bird didn't hop down to the ground but remained up near the ceiling. Maybe he was afraid that I might have him for dinner. Then he suddenly started to speak in a human tongue.
       "O, Tibetan king Trisong, I've come to rescue you."
       "Who are you?" I said, suddenly realizing that I was speaking human too. "Oh, my God!" I thought. "What has happened, and why am I suddenly using human talk!?" I figured it must be some kind of magic.

       The bird continued:
       "I have flown to you from beyond three seas, three mountains, three forests . . . ."
       "Wait a second," I interrupted. "Dont you pull my leg, because I saw a cartoon like that once. Yeah, that's right. I've forgotten the name, but I'm sure you're from that cartoon. Tell me, what do you want? Have you been sent by the thieves, by any chance?"

        I should have said so. The bird took offense at the accusation and glided back to the window.
        "Stop," I said. "Where are you going? Tell me why you came here!"
        "I don't talk to those who are rude," the scout bird answered.
        "Word number ten," I said.
        The bird stopped and froze in midair.
        "What kind of word is that?" asked the bird, obviously intrigued.
        "I mean, 'sorry,'" I replied. "I'm just tired, which is why I was rude."
        "All right," said the bird, "I'll help you, then."

       "How? I wonder.

       "This is how," replied the bird. He fell onto me like a stone, and then he pecked me on the nose. I jumped up . . . and opened my eyes. There was no one around, but I could see the glow of dawn.

        "Holy cow!" I thought. "I had fallen asleep! Thank you, birdie! Now I have just twenty more minutes to go!"

        You can understand now, I'm sure. You probably didn't think dogs can see things in their dreams, though. If not for the dream, I would've stayed asleep and those rascals would have caught me unsuspecting.

        I dug, dug and dug some more. Hurray, I could see light! Just a tiny bit more . . . . Come on, Trisong! Just pull it a little. If not for the harnesss handle I would have been free already. Just a little bit more, and my head will pass through. "Just don't rush, you earth-digging fool. Otherwise, you'll get stuck like Winnie-the-Pooh in Rabbit's hole. Come on, Trisong, just a touch more. Hey! Everything seems to be okay, so I can get out of here. Wait, let me take a sip for the road. I don't know how far I'll have to run!"

       I finished off the remaining rainwater and jumped into the hole. "Here it is, my freedom! Fresh air! A fence is ahead of me. But for me it isn't a fence, only a small railing. I'll jump over that railing and . . . watch out! I see a little forest ahead. Thats where I'll hide first. I'll get some rest and gather strength, and then I'll will think about what to do next . . . ."

            Chapter 8

     "What a great day it is! What a wonderful day!" Then I heard a distant song. I jumped up and looked around, and I heard it again. There were children playing nearby, and they were laughing, yelling and squealing. I shook my head in order to wake up completely. I gave a quick snort, and then it hit me: the sweet aroma of grilled meat. My cheek muscled tightened up from it, but my throat was completely dry. I recalled my old man, Ivan. When he suddenly ran out of cigarettes and the refrigerator was empty he would say, "Hey, Trisong, how did we get so low, with nothing to smoke and nothing to eat?" Well, I wouldn't have wanted to smoke, but I certainly did want to eat.

    I avidly swallowed what little saliva I had and started to make my way through the underbrush. The kids voices sounded closer and closer. I had noticed long before that there is generally less to fear where kids play, though it isn't always true. So, with caution I sneaked up to the glade. I carefully moved a branch with my paw and saw two cars. The door of a car was open, and this is where the wonderful tune was coming from. The kids ran around the cars, and a full-bodied man in a baseball cap and shorts deftly worked the skewers with large pieces of meat on them. Suddenly, three more people got out of the cars: two women--one older and other younger--and a thin, stoop-shouldered man.

    "George," the thin man cried. "You should go for a swim. The water is fantastic!"
    "Well," I thought, "this is pretty nice. There must be a river or a lake down there, although I can't see it from here. Anyway, something good is going on."
    "Ill go later," the fat man said, "after the shish-kebob. I don't like to swim on an empty stomach!"
    "You're wrong, though," the thin man said. "I feel as if I'm reborn. This feels tremendous!"

    I figured that if I could pass around this little group, perhaps through the woods, I could then have a nice, long drink of water. Id work out a way to get some food later. I enacted my plan, and within about five minutes I was at the water's edge, lapping it up like crazy. I didn't taste any ooze, so I drank till my stomach felt like a rock. That was intentional, of course. After all, I wasn't sure where I'd be next. Moreover, the picnic group probably hadn't expected any visitors. By the look of it, they barely had enough meat for themselves. I stole back to my observation point, where I could see all the people. I would wait for them to leave, and then I'd scour the area for scraps. Maybe I'd find a nice bone to chew.

    I was always indignant if people didn't clean up after themselves. How could people be so sloppy and careless? I thought, "Look. You find a nice, clean spot for a picnic, and you have a good time. When you leave, the least you can do is to take your trash and leftovers with you. Then, if you come back the next day, you'll be glad that everything is all ready for you." On that particular day, though, I had a totally different motivation. I hoped those people would turn out to be absolute pigs. I hoped they'd leave lots of food behind; all of it, in fact. Then I thought, "Well, I guess you won't find me gnawing on bones. I don't think they'd sit and gnaw on them, though. I mean, who'd bring bones to a picnic!? Maybe there will be ribs, though." I looked at the charcoal grill, which was made out of bricks. I couldn't see any ribs. Instead, there were nice chunks of meat. Maybe it was pork. Grilled pork would probably be even better than grilled chicken. I swallowed my saliva, and I could feel it plop into the pond water in my stomach.

    The sun passed its highpoint. The picnickers lingered on the grass, and I kept swallowing my saliva. I started to doze, but soon the engine noise woke me up. Were they leaving? I my dreams! It turned out that the stout fellow had become intolerably hot, so he climbed into the car and turned on the air-conditioning. I figured that he wasn't much fun for the others. The kids were running around, but he let the engine run anyway. Wouldnt it be smart to drive off a little further? Nah. He stayed right there, with that nasty blue haze exiting the tailpipe.

    "What if I were to simply approach them?" I wondered. "I would whimper, sit up and beg, and show that I'm a kind, well-trained dog. They would understand, once they saw all my gear. Still, it would be dangerous to attempt anything. They might shove me into the truck, and I could sit in there and bake under the afternoon sun." They were probably done with the meat by then, anyway. Yes, they were. The fire had gone out. There was no more smoke from the grill. That meant the barbeque was over. Then I remembered my Red Cross emblem. "What would they do? Would they come up with some scheme? What if they turn out to friends of those stupid thieves? Even if they aren't, they might want to profit from me.

    "To go or not to go: That is the question!" I remembered that some man on TV had warned, "It's better to be content with what you have than to aspire to the unknown." Well, at the moment I had nothing, so that left only the second choice. To heck with humility!

    Was it wise to venture out? "Hunger breaks stone walls," old Ivan used to say. "So, let me see how they will behave, and then I'll decide to hit the road or let them come closer to me. Well, anyway, it'll be what it will be. I've made up my mind." I stepped out of the woods, and then I stood and watched. The little girl was the first to notice me. In order not to scare her, I started to wag my tail enthusiastically. She shrieked and ran to the grownups. Immediately the fat fellow jumped out from his "refrigerator" and grabbed a stick. "What is it, I thought. "Why would you grab a stick? Dont you see, everything is fine. I won't attack. I won't even yap. Well, they dont know what kind of wonder dog has come out of the woods. Then I looked back at my filthy body. Oh, man. I must have looked like a slobbering monster to them! "Well, this is how it is right now. If you had spent the night in a shed, you might look just as bad!"

    Suddenly, to my good fortune, the younger woman noticed the harness on my back.
     "Look," she said, "It's a seeing-eye dog. Dont be afraid, she wont bite."

    Enough of tolerance. Whether I'd bite or not, I'd still have to see how these people behaved. If everything was normal--if they treated me humanely--of course I wouldn't bite. However, if they started to act like jerks, there would be no holding me. I would bite the living hell out of them. The woman came to me. She squatted, stretched out her arm and said, "Did you get lost, you sweet little girl? Come here, close to me."
       Why was I "lost," and why was I a "little girl?" Couldn't she see my maleness?
One look, and "cute little girl" would immediately be the wrong assessment.

Nevertheless, I stepped closer to the woman. In fact, I got very close and lowered my head. I thought she might think it was okay to remove my harness. Well, the lady turned out to be smart, and she adroitly took off all my gear. I couldnt resist: I rolled onto my back and raised my paws in the air. The kids started to squeal, and they rushed up to me. I had nothing to fear. They surrounded me (they were three: one smaller than the other) and started to tousle, pet and hug me. The others came in close, too: an older woman and the two men, stout and thin. The stout man frowned and said:

    "He's a male."
    "Aren't you the quick-witted fellow," I thought. "I guess it took a full display to prove that! Of course I'm a male!" Whatever they'd thought of my being a little girl, that notion was forgotten.
    "Hey," the stout man said, addressing the kids. "Step away from the dog. What if he's sick or something?"

    Well, that was a nice how-do-you-do! I had just complimented the guy, too!
    "Well, George," the young woman said as she came to my rescue. "If he still has his harness, it means he's only recently become lost. These dogs are always vaccinated and safe."
    "Oh, Holy Mother of God, thank you!" I had managed to meet such an intelligent lady on this dangerous, uncertain path.
     "Why's he so dirty, then?" George said with a frown.
     "Well, let's just have a little bath, and we'll fix that," said the young woman, flinging her arms upward. "Come on," she said, motioning to me. "Lets go to the river. Cmon, cmon . . . ."
     The woman started down to the shore, and I slowly followed her. Suddenly she turned he back to me and ran to the river. I whimpered from delight. I flew toward that river like a gull to the seashore. It was such a blissful feeling!
    "Okay, little brother," said the woman as she waved her hand. "Lets get you back into shape."
     Nobody had ever spoken to me like that before. "Thank you, little sister," I thought. "I'm happy again, and the happiness goes all the way to the tip of my tail."

       The woman washed me, scratching off pieces of chalk or mortar. I obediently stood with my eyes closed, letting her do her work. I was in seventh heaven. Nothing else in this life could compare to that feeling.

       We walked back up to the shore, and the people saw my golden color. Remember, I told you that I come out of the shower transformed. So, I walked out from the river as a stunningly handsome guy, everyone just gasped. The sunlight had an iridescent effect as it beamed upon my coat, but my golden gloss prevailed.

    "Look at this beauty," the little sister said, blotting my ears with a cotton ball.

       The kids again flocked about me, watching the skilled action of my caring little sister. Where had she acquired such skill? She even knew that a dog's ears have to be blotted. This was a very smart person!

    Finally, the stout man spoke. "And what shall we do with this cutie?"
     "What do you mean?" The old woman wondered. "We'll bring him home and take out an advertisement. I think his master will show up in no time. There aren't many dogs like this in Moscow. In fact, I think they're few and far between."
     "And what if he doesnt?" The stout man asked.
     "Well, let him stay with us and then we will decide," the old lady replied.
    "Are you sure he won't hurt our Misty?" The stout man asked. I could see the creases in his forehead as he spoke.

     Why is it? Judging by the name he is probably a cat. And my presumption was immediately confirmed.

     "As far as I know, Labradors, especially seeing-eye dogs, do not touch cats," the young woman said.
    "Who the hell knows, though," the stout man replied. "He could jump on him and bite him in two."

     The man was truly idiotic. He was grasping at straws, first wondering whether I was sick and then presuming me to be a cat eater. My reaction was quick, but it was entirely reasonable. I thought, "Buddy, are you out of your mind!? Get a grip! If you dont know anything about me, why do you think it's okay to come up with all this crap!?"

     It took me a few moments to set aside the feeling that I'd just been seriously insulted. Eventually, though, I remembered what I had just been through. "Hey, people, I appreciate the bath, but how about a snack? Listen to my stomach growl. It sounds like Stravinsky's 'Firebird.' Can't you heard that rumbling!?" I even moved my tongue from side to side.

     My little sister noticed it and scored another point. She was so smart!

     "Oh, my God! Why are we standing here!? He must be starving!"
     "Arf!" I said joyfully, so that the folks wouldnt think I was some kind of nuisance barker.
     "Are you hungry?" asked my kind savior.
     "Arf! Arf!" I gave my response twice, so that there would be no doubt about it.
     "Lets go, little brother. Lets go, and I'll treat you to something."
     "Right away!" I thought. "You lead the way and I'll follow. Otherwise, I might die here on the spot!" 
     Think, for a moment, about that amazing stroke of luck you experienced. Do you remember how you felt and behaved in that moment? Imagine that you've just hit the jackpot or won a car. Maybe your uncle in Canada sent you a couple of million dollars for your birthday, or you got into an Ivy League college without taking an exam. How would you feel? Can you imagine it? Just picture it and then think about what I'm telling you.

     These kind, sweet holiday-makers didn't even eat half of their shish kebob. Unfortunately, the stout man hadn't cooked it well enough, so the thrifty women decided to roast the meat in an oven back at the house. My little sister told me that, while I wolfed down my "present from Canada." Then, after the feast, I fell into the grass and rested. In my mind, I addressed the stout man: "Word number ten to you, kind man. Excuse me, George . . . ."

Chapter 9

         The group took an open vote and determined that I would go with George and his spouse, as they were somewhat elderly. The girl, who had first spotted me at the edge of the glade, turned out to be the couple's granddaughter. Before we jumped into the car, however, I made a quick run into the woods. George complimented me for that, but he did so in a peculiar way:
        "I'll tell you one thing, this dog isn't dumb," he said, opening the door and gesturing for little Lyuba and me to get in. What a gallant man this George was! I wouldn't have called him very eloquent, but we'd only just met and he had some things to learn about me. 
         We settled into the back seat. Georges car was nice and roomy. Lyuba hugged me like an old friend, and as she looked into my eyes she whispered: 
        "What's your name, doggie?"
        "Ouuu," I replied, although it means "no." By that I implied, "Excuse me, but I can't say my name." If you'll recall, my ability to speak human was only something I had dreamed in the desperation of my imprisonment.
         Little Lyuba wasnt confused by my reply. Addressing her grandfather and grandmother, she joyfully declared, "Grandma, grandma!  I asked the doggie for his name and he teels me.."
         "Little Lyuba," Grandma corrected her. "How many times I shall remind you: It is not "teels" but "tells."
         "Well, t-tells," the little girl said with a frown, obviously from grandmas indelicacy.
         "And what did he tell you?" the grandmother smiled.
         "He teels me," the little girl continued ignoring grandmas remark, "That his name is Smarty, like Peter's cat. Shall we call him Smarty?"
         "Okay, let him be Smarty then," the grandmother agreed.
         That did it. The shame was complete. How could I have stooped so low as to get a cats name!? Its all right, though. It wasn't their fault. As we drove along I thought, "Now, why did neither Ivan nor Sasha think to attach a tag with a name and cell-phone number to the harness? Dear friends, if you have an acquaintance who's accompanied by a seeing-eye dog, tell him not to make a mistake like that. Tell him to put the tag on, just in case. You can see what happened to me. Who would have thought that I'd wind up in a car trunk and then have to wander through forests and glades, or that I'd beg for underdone meat!? It was only by luck that I met these kind people. If there was precise information on my harness they would have called right from the picnic area. So, in that case I probably wouldn't have had to ride in George's "refrigerator." Instead, I could've gone for a ride on a suburban train with Yelizaveta or Svetlana.   
           I have something to add here: Attention, dear manufacturers of cellular phones! I have an awesome idea, and I've even come up with a name for it. It's the "Zoophone." You manufacture such a device, something like a miniature cell phone, that would be attached to dogs collar . . . or to a cat's collar, if necessary. You could even slap it onto a collar for a giraffe. Whatever the animal, it makes no difference. The Zoophone is for anyone who can't talk human. When a pet gets lost, you dial a phone number, which activates a tiny loudspeaker mounted on the collar. You ask: "Gentlemen, if you see my dog (cat, pony, giraffe, suckling pig), please reply and give me the address." Now, there's also a tiny microphone on the collar, right in the center of the speaker. So, the person answers: "Here it is! Your pet is with me, just outside the main downtown subway station." You ask the person to hold the errant pet, and you say its name. Believe me, the world is small and there are people with hearts of gold everywhere. They will help. As a last resort, they'll give you their address and take the hapless traveler home. If you promise a reward (hey, it's for the rescue of your beloved friend) and it's reasonably generous, your little pal will get a nice meal and a place to sleep.

        Well, how do you like the idea? If you decide to manufacture this device, please don't forget to send me a couple of bags of quality food, care of Sasha. Please be advised that I like chicken nuggets best of all. I guess you've already figured that out. Dont pay any attention to the fact that I've also made a pitch for pork. When you're hungry, even pork becomes a delicacy.

        You might wonder why I'm not talking much about Sasha at this point. The answer is simple: I had to find him first. It would take time for the grandma and grandpa to place an ad, and it would take time for Sashas parents to see the ad. I didn't think Svetlana and Yelizaveta were sitting on their hindquarters, though. I believed they were doing everything they could to rescue the hostage Trisong. They'd probably call the police. However, I don't think the police will search for a dog. What do you think? Cats get lost, but no one looks for them. Well, of course, they pretend to start looking, but in fact they wont. So, they couldnt care less about a dog. I wasn't going to count on a police rescue.
          Georges apartment was fairly good, and it had a lot of space. There was room to lie around or even romp a little. However, I behaved modestly and quietly. I sat in the corner and watched. The grandma, at Lyubas request, fashioned a bed of sorts and put a bowl with water next to it. What a great lady she was. She was really nice. George stood in the doors and said to grandma:
         "Well, let him out. I'll stay here."
          I must add that there was another dweller. As soon as I placed myself on my bed, a jowly cat emerged from the next room. My first thought was, "What do they feed him? How did he manage to get so porky? The cat, whom I soon learned was Misty, stopped in the doorway and checked me out. I lay still, letting the master know that I wasn't interested in cats and wouldn't do something crazy. The second though was, "Man, does this cat ever look like George!" Both were red. Both were stout. Both had shifty eyes and small ears. The only difference was, Misty's ears were attached to different parts of his head. Misty started to move up, coming closer . . . .

       The thing I don't get about cats is their incredible stupidity. Maybe it's just impertinence. After all, I was where I was. I pretended not to notice this chow-head. What did the cat do, though? He came up closer and started to fluff up his tail. Then he arched his back and started in with the racket. He didn't meow the way a cat normally would, but instead he made the most obnoxious noise: "Y-y-y-y-a-a-a-u!" Man, was that annoying! I thought, "Misty, what do you want from me? I'm here temporarily, like a . . . a houseguest. Just calm down and go about your business. I won't touch you, and you won't touch me. Misty howled a bit, but then he saw that I had no interest in him. He circled around to the other side and again started his ultra-annoying jabber. I wondered what I should do. Then, I just wagged my tail a little bit. You should have seen what that weirdo cat did. He leaped onto his master's lap, glared at me and went, "Pfssss! Pfssss! Hissss!" His stupid tail looked like a pine branch! George could see that I behaved with dignity, so he said, "Misty, dont be afraid. He's a trained dog. He wont harm you. Look!" Then George set Misty on the chair and gently stroked my head. "You see? There's nothing to be afraid of, you silly cat." 
            The grandma came up and petted me too. "Everything is all right, Misty." she said. "Youll become friends soon."
           "Listen, I really don't need a friend like this one," I thought. "You be his friends instead. Fuss over your Misty like a small child dotes over a new toy. You'd better teach him some manners, though."
           It never fails to amaze me that people will try to train us with things like, "Sit," "Lie down," "Stand," "Fetch" etcetera. Meanwhile, these lazy good-for-nothings get away scot-free. They're not trainable, so no one even tries. What are they good for? I figure that the cats in rural areas at least chase mice, rats and moles. That might be fine for them. In the world of apartments, though, they breed more Chubbies and Misties: dogs and cats that can eat but will do little else. Honestly, I don't understand it.
          So, this useless creature called Misty hissed and hissed at me. Then he went back to his room. What was the point in putting up such a show? Was it just to prove his importance? "Aw, poor putty-tat! Did you think I would take your place on the sofa? Listen, hairball, I'm a well-trained dog . . . unlike you. Instead of saying hello to me, you threw a fit. I guess this says it all: You're a cat."
          After the "introduction" the grandma announced:
         "Smarty, go have some water. I'll go to the supermarket and buy you some dog food."
          The second I heard that odious word, "supermarket," I wanted to bark. I had to restrain myself so as not to scare the poor woman to death. If you only knew, sweet lady, how much I hate supermarkets, you wouldn't have mentioned the word. Nevertheless, I needed to eat. Whether it comes from a supermarket or from a farmers market, it makes no difference. Let me tell you, though: Some farmers' markets can sell some crud occasionally. Old Ivan got stuck once with a bag of a known brand dog food. The bag looked right, but when they poured some food from it into my bowl I nearly fainted. It was disgusting! The bag was from a good dog food, but someone had put some crap into it. By the time I finished off that ten-kilo bag, I had lost at least five kilos of weight. For the life of me, I couldnt finish off my bowl. Ivan thought I was sick. He even called a vet and told him that I wasn't eating well. The doctor who examined me even listened with a stethoscope. He said, "Everything is fine," and then he left. I had to drain . . . well, I should say "eat" . . . that smelly stuff to the very end.
          Dear veterinarians, when you examine an animal who has lost his appetite, first check his food carefully. Smell it. Have a spoonful of it. If you suspect something, tell the master that the food isn't any good. When you watch a commercial on TV, you wonder if it's true: "It's the tastiest dog food ever!" Then all the caring masters rush slap-bang to the store and buy this novelty. They're just plain gullible. Who told you that stuff tastes any good at all? Would you give that food to your dog without even trying it?
              Let me tell you how they shoot those commercials. I have a friend named Jessie, from the third kennel, and she told me all about it. She was in a dog food commercial once. First, they brought them (there were two other dogs with her) to the studio, put them in some idiotic cages and gave them nothing but water. Can you imagine that!? The next day, about a hundred feet from the cages, they put down heaping bowls of food. They turned on a bunch of lights, the director yelled, "Action!" and the operators rushed around with video cameras. There were tons of people around, and everyone watched how Jessie and her mates ran to those bowls of food. They didn't run in exactly the right way, so the bowls were taken away and they started over. She ran for half a day, like some kind of fool. She went to the bowls, back to the cage and back to the bowls again, over and over. By the way, I saw her on TV a couple of times. On the screen it was a different cup of tea. Jessie was happy, joyful and quick; just a shade below brilliant. The chunks of food looked crunchy and appetizing, too. That was really a beautiful shot. It was shot so well that I could even imagine some delicious aroma coming from the TV. So, I know those con artists can really make good commercials. I've just seen too many of them, though, and I've tasted the crud they tell everyone is the "tastiest." How can I believe any of it anymore!? 
          George took me for a walk that evening. I just couldn't understand why he put a collar on me and attached a chain to it. Why would I run? I didn't know the neighborhood. To run would have put me at the risk of being stolen again. No, Id rather live here. Anyway, I didn't resist. I resigned myself to fate. If he wanted to walk me on a leash, I'd let him do it. George turned out to be a respectful man. All the neighbors addressed him by his first and last names. An old man, when he saw me with him, gasped.
         "George," the man said. His accent was odd. "You finally got yourself a Labrador, huh? Well, that's a good dog . . . a wonderful dog, in fact. Believe me, my friend: I know all about the dog breeds. But what about Misty?"
         "This one is a guest of ours," George replied. "We went out for a picnic, and we found him there."
         "What are you saying, dear George!?" The old man stood there with his mouth agape. "You brought a stray dog into the house? What if . . . ?"
         George interrupted his friend. "He isn't a stray dog. He had a harness of the type a seeing-eye dog wears. It looks like his master lost him or he ran away.  Nadezhda and I are going to place an ad in the paper tomorrow."
         "Okay," I thought, "so Grandmas name is Nadezhda. I like it."
         "Nevertheless I'd be wary about bringing him home, George."
         "Hey, why are you trying to spook George? What a schmuck! 'Id be wary.'"
         "I pity the dog," George said. "You can tell that he's intelligent. He's been well taken care of. Anyway, we'll figure it all out." He waved goodbye to his friend, and off we went.

Chapter 10

        I must pay tribute here to the arrogant Misty: The next day he would walk past me, paying no attention. Well, it turns out that cats aren't so stupid after all. However, I got the impression that he had deliberately passed me a dozen times. He was probably testing my nerves. "Calm down, you little scoundrel," I thought. "My nerves are completely in order. You can hang out next to me all day long, but I wont even move my ear. Just understand, Misty, if I were to start barking about some crazy cat, I'd be worthless as a trained seeing-eye dog. My instructors and mentors would die from shame if they were to learn I had yielded to your provocations. So, just keep walking, little fool. You have nothing better to do, which is why you're goofing around like this."

          Eventually, Misty-the-Monster became more brazen. Can you imagine what he did? You wouldnt believe it. A dog of any other profession would have bitten the cat's tail off for this sort of thing. In nearly any other circumstance, there would be hell to pay. Misty, however, found that I wouldn't take the low road. I refused to acknowledge his transgression upon my honor. He sauntered up to my bowl and started crunching away on the nuggets. I had no idea why he'd want to eat my food, particularly since he had just finished off a big bowl of his own. How could a housecat be such a jerk!? "Hey! What are you doing with your cat face in the dog line!?"

         Well, I understood that Misty wanted to show that he was the old-timer. He wanted me to see that he was the master of the house, at least where I was concerned. Grandma wasn't about to let it go that far, though. When she saw all this high-handedness she smiled and said, "Oh my little sweeties! Have you become friends so soon? Good for you!"

        How could anyone say something so stupid!? Friends? Who, us? What kind of friendship would that be, when this rascal pulls rank and sticks that snub-nosed mug of his into my bowl!? For instance, how would you like it if the cat jumped onto  the table and started in on your nice, hot soup? You might give him a swift whack on the back of his head. Friendship? Yeah, right! Some kind of friend this guy was. Well, I knew I should grin and bear it. As long as they could find my Sasha, I'd take whatever Misty wanted to dish out to me.

        I was sad, despite the good fortune of my rescue. I wondered, "Where is my boy? Where is my Sasha? I know that you miss me, and I can almost hear your crying. I can feel it in my heart. Dont be sad, Sasha. Everything will be okay. We'll find each other, youll see. The most important thing is that I ran away from those thieves, so they couldn't make a barbeque out of me. The rest will work itself out. Just hold on for a while. You see, Sasha, I don't exactly live the life of Riley here. I have to endure a lot and pretend that nothing annoys me. We'll be reunited soon. You'll hug and kiss me, I'll quietly whimper with joy, and your mother and grandmother will stand beside us and wipe the tears from their eyes. Everything will be fine, Sasha . . . ."

          Old Nadezhda called to me. "Smarty! Come here, boy!"
          What was up, I wondered. I trotted into the kitchen.
          "Just sit by me, little boy," she said.

          How could she call me a "little boy"? I was pushing forty in human years, but to her I was just a little boy. "What, are you bored or something?" I thought. "Couldnt you call Misty, or doesn't he know his own name?"

          "Lie down, Smarty, here on the carpet," she said. "You shouldn't spent all your time in the corner."

          I lay there, just as she told me. After all, who'd want to run around in the apartment, like the cat did? I'd have ended up behind the door for trying. Would you want me to jump up and down like a kangaroo that had suddenly gone insane? You'd immediately ask me to leave. That's why I lay there quietly. "By the way," I thought, 'have you placed the ad in the newspaper yet? Please, don't take your time with that. My business trip has turned out to be longer than I had expected. Three days have passed, but I'm still not home."

           It was as if the woman had overheard my thoughts. Suddenly she said, "George called to say that he placed the ad. Itll appear in three days. So, your masters will find you soon."

           Three whole days!? Oh, my God! For three more days I'd have to collect dust in the corner while Misty the Monster throws those fits of useless, pent-up energy. It wasn't good news. I lay there, while the TV droned on and on. Grandma muttered something and rattled her pots. The frying pan sizzled, and one cartoon ran into another. Then they were about the show the stupidest cartoon ever: "CatDog." I had no idea why anyone would conceive of such a thing. Who would invent such a mockery of dogs!? I stared at in and shock and disbelief. Surely it was a joke. Someone had to be pulling my leg. Then came a series of commercials, after which a beautiful announcer started reading advertisements:
"Metal doors, with free installation. The phone number is . . . . A vintage Chevy Caprice for sale . . . . Guitar lessons for your children . . . ."

         The phone rang in the hallway.  I heard Grandma call someone "sonny." "Yes, sonny," she said. "Everything is fine. Lyuba is at kindergarten . . . ." 

           Suddenly, it was as if lightning had struck me. I saw myself on the screen. I jumped up and keenly eyed the image. The announcer read in a dull monotone: "Lost: a seeing-eye dog . . . straw-colored, responds to the name Trisong or the nickname Trisha. If you have seen this animal, please . . . ." I ran into the hallway and barked so loud that Grandma nearly dropped the receiver. "I'll call you right back, sonny." Then she turned to me and said, "What? What has happened, Smarty?"

          "Ouuuuuuu! Ouuuuuuu!" I wailed, and ran back to the kitchen.

           The old woman followed me. I started barking at the TV as if I had gone mad, but . . . my face was gone from the screen. Instead, it was that stupid "CatDog" cartoon. Grandma laughed and said:
          "Well, Smarty, you don't like that one, I guess." She patted me on the head. "I don't like this cartoon either, but Lyuba really gets a kick out of it. She laughs and laughs."

          "Grandma, the cartoon has nothing to do with it. They showed me on TV! The announcer even gave the phone number. Oh, woe is me! These people are nothing but trouble! My family is looking for me--they've even put my picture on TV--but all you can do is talk about CatDog!" I just wanted to cry . . . or howl, even.  What was going on!? How could she miss the announcement!? "Granny, you're my only hope. Please keep watching TV, and listen carefully. Maybe they'll run the ad again. I've heard that when they start some ad, they'll repeat it all day long."

          That damned phone! I wanted to find the wires--probably along the baseboard--and bite right through them. The stupid phone was the reason Grandma missed the ad. At home, it was the same story:  Once Yelizaveta started talking on the phone, she could keep with it forever. It would be fine if they could discuss different subjects, but no. Instead, it would be the same thing for three hours straight. More than anything else, people love to talk. Talk, talk, talk!

          I lost all hope. The woman did her kitchen work, turned the TV off and went to her bedroom. I lay in my corner, closed my eyes and immersed myself in heavy thoughts. Before long, I fell asleep.

         George came back in the evening. He stepped through the door, removed his coat and called to his mate: "Nadezhda, did you hear? There was an announcement on cable TV today."

          I braced myself.
          "What kind of announcement?" Grandma asked.
          "It was about a lost dog. The people next door told me about it, just a minute ago."
          "What about the breed?"
          "They aren't keen on breeds, but they say yellow with long ears, like a hunting dog. Maybe they're looking for this dog!"
          "Did they write down the number?" Grandma asked.
          "They have better things to do," answered George with a smirk.
          "Well, we'll have to watch when there are announcements on TV."
          "They're done for today, though," said George. "Dont miss it tomorrow."
          Well, I definitely would have to bite through the phone wire, or the same thing would happen again the next day.
           "Listen, George, maybe we should call the TV station and get the phone number."
           My ears arched. "Yes, of course! Please, call right now. Why wait!?"
           "Really," agreed George. Today it's too late, but tomorrow morning I'll call and ask. Even if there's no further announcement, someone must have the phone number."   
            He had figured it out, at last! Soon I'd be back home with my family!
           "So, Smarty," George said, "shall we go for a walk?"

            I jumped up and walked to the door. 

          Chapter 11

          What a na;ve dog I am. I'm not a dog, I guess. I'm just a stupid puppy. Wishful thinking! All morning I lay on my back and look at the ceiling. I imagined that one of Sasha's family members would come through the door, I'd jump up, throw my paws onto the shoulders of Mother or Grandma and, snuggling against her cheek with my head, I'd bark quietly in utter joy. Somewhere in a secret corner the hope glimmered that Sasha would come along with one of the adults. Then I'd run to him and would lick him right on the nose. Sasha wouldn't be upset, since I don't know how to kiss. People can be so funny about that. They don't understand that if a dog has licked you it means he has kissed you.  Please don't be upset about gestures like that. Sometimes I want to kiss a person, but I don't have any other way than to lick.

        I was expecting my relatives to come by lunchtime. When else should I expect them? In the morning George would call the TV station, and they'd give him Sasha's phone number. Then it would simply be a matter of time and distance. At least I didn't end up in Argentina! Somewhere, not too far away, is my young friend, my favorite boy. Well, he's really a lad now. I've already said he isn't a boy anymore. He's a real lad. He even has a deep, gruff voice.  The same thing happens with dogs, too. A puppy runs around and goes, "Arf! Arf, arf!" His voice is squeaky and happy, but then one day he roars. The trainer hears that sound and says, "The little pup is now a real dog."

           I waited and waited . . . and waited . . . .
           Grandma walked around, but she didn't call her husband. What could have happened? Why didn't George show up? Had he forgotten? If so, why would he forget? Why would he want to niggle with me like that? He'd feed me, walk me and wipe my paws. Why would he need all the fuss? Besides, they had someone to take care of, namely that joke of an animal propped up against me, obsessively washing his under-length muzzle. Why would he rub it like that all day long? He didn't even go outside, but he kept on washing. "Listen, fool. Soon you'll grind your whiskers down to nothing.  Hey, but what am I saying!? It's okay. They say that when a cat washes himself it's a sign that guests are coming. All right, Misty the Monster, rub it well, so that my Sasha will be here soon.
         The doorbell rang. I thought my heart would jump out from my chest and that Grandma would spend half an hour jumping around and trying to catch it. I raised myself halfway, and I closed my eyes so as to open them the instant the door opened. Well, guess who appeared in the doorway . . . .
         It was a policeman.
          He greeted Grandma, glanced at me and said, addressing her:
          "Good afternoon, I'm Detective Officer Oleg Litvinenko. Is this the dog?" He pointed at me.
          "What do you mean?" Grandma wondered.
          "Is this the dog who got lost?"
          "Yes, we found him out in the woods. We were having a picnic, and . . . he . . . ."
          "Does he have a chain and a basket muzzle?" The officer interrupted her and added, without waiting for her reply, "Put those on. I'm taking him with me."
          "What do you mean you're 'taking him'?" Grandma lifted her hands in dismay.
          "I'm taking him to the identity lineup," the officer explained. "We have three people waiting at the police department, and according to the description, it looks like him."
          "How . . . did you know that we have him?" Grandma wondered.
          "You took him for a walk," the police officer said with a chuckle. "The neighbors called in and said there was an announcement on TV. All right, put all his gear on . . . ."
          "But," the grandma said with an expression of guilt, "we don't have a basket muzzle."
          "What if he bites?" the policeman asked, looking at me suspiciously.
          I thought, "It would more likely be you who'd bite, I think. Some cop you are."
           "N-n-no," the grandma replied. "He's a seeing-eye dog." "Here are his things. Take them." She handed my gear to the officer, and then she placed a collar around my neck. She fastened the chain and gave the end to the policeman. "There you go. If his masters are found, please say hello for us. You can give them our address."
           "All right," the officer said with a nod, and then he addressed me: "Let's go, fugitive. Why would you run away?"
            Well, what could one reply? What would you reply to this . . . man? "Sure, I ran away. It's your colleagues who were asleep at the switch.  Had they been more attentive, I would have been home a long time ago. Well, anyway, let's get going." Something in my heart told me that my family wouldn't be at the police department. That's exactly what happened.
           All three claimants stated that I wasn't their dog. It was good that there was no crook among them to lie and say I was his dog. I would, of course, struggle the best I could to prove that the man was a liar. As you can understand, they might have ignored my opinion and handed me over to the liar. Who's to stand up for right and wrong anymore? Go figure. Fortunately, the people turned out to be honest and respectable. An old man even rubbed me behind my ear and said, "Don't you worry, friend, your master will show up soon." 
        "I would love to believe that, Grandpa, but it hasn't happened yet. Thank you, though. I hope you'll find your friend soon."

         "Oleg," the officer on duty cried out, "where shall we put him?" He was asking about me. "Maybe you should bring him into the back."
         "The last thing I'd do," said the officer with obvious irritation, "is walk around with some dog all day long. Lock him up in the jail cell and let him sit there. Someone called on behalf of a blind person, so they should be here soon. Just don't lose his gear."
         "All right," the officer on duty agreed, "But I don't have any free cells."
         "What difference does it make!? Put him with the hobo, if you want. He won't bite."
         Who was the policeman talking about when he said, "He won't bite"? Did he mean me or the hobo? Well, in any case I'd lost my freedom again. Without a trial or investigation whatsoever, I was about to be placed in a dungeon. When would it all end!? What did I get punished for? What had I done to all these people? Everything I do in life is to help people. In return, I'm shoved into a car trunk and thrown into a shed. Now, I was about to be placed in a jail cell with a hobo who "wouldn't bite." Would there ever be an end to it!?
        It turned out that the hobo didn't bite me. In fact, he was a good-natured fellow. When they brought me into the cell, he was just about to doze off. When the metal door-grid slammed behind me, though, the hobo lifted his head and stared at me for a long time. Then he rubbed his eyes with his hands, shook his head--like I do after a bath--and said, "Who are you, a dog or something?"
        Tell me, what should I have given in reply? What would you have said? Right. This is what I said:
          "I'll be damned," the hobo closed his mouth with his palm and whispered: "A dog, all right. I figure the cops must have gone completely nuts, if they started to put dogs behind bars."
           "A-arf!" I say.
           "What for did they put you in jail, sweetie?" the hobo said as he petted me.
           "Ouuuu!" I reply.
           I was amazed: The hobo understood what I was saying! I had heard a lot about hobos, but for some reason I thought they were mean and stupid. It turned out that I was seriously wrong. My cellmate was distinguished by his kindness and intelligence.
            "It's the same with me," he said. "They put me behind bars for no reason, and now I sit around here. Did you get lost or something?"
            "Ouuuu!" I answered, meaning "no."
            "Why, then? Did you bite someone?"
            "All right," the hobo said, waving his hand. "If you don't want to tell me why, don't. With those guys," he nodded at the door, "it's better this way. Just cop out."
            I signaled my agreement. "Arf!"
            "There you go," the hobo said. "I can tell that you're a smart dog. Attaboy! Do you have papers?"
             "Ouuuu!" I said.
             "Then you'll have to wait," said my fellow jailbird with a heavy sigh. "Until they find the documents, they won't let you out. Can you imagine, Rex? I always used to carry my passport with me, but yesterday I forgot . . . ."
             I had been renamed again. Despite my king's name I managed to be just about everybody. I was Trisha, then I was Smarty, and now I was Rex. I wasn't offended, though. After all, he had to call me something. "All right, I'll be Rex. It's no sweat. At least it isn't Chubby or Misty. Thank you very much for making a reasonable choice."
             "My buddy and I had a little too much to drink yesterday, and today I barely managed to take the hair of the dog that bit me as the cops showed up: "Can we see your ID, please." This is the result, you see? I gave them everything: my name, registration and address. What else could they want? "No," they said, "there isn't anyone registered by that name at that address." How could that be, if I live there? Do you get it?"
             "Well, those guys didn't. For two hours I tried to prove it. I told them, "Let's go back to my house. Here are the keys. They kept pushing, though. "You aren't in the database." Why would I need to be in their database? I don't live in the database, I live in a house. Here I am, a living person, with arms, legs and a head. What kind of database are you talking about!?  Tell me, Rex, is this any kind of justice!?"
             "Ouuuu!" I said.
             "You're absolutely right: It's unjust. Still, I can't prove it to them. It's like talking to a brick wall. I'm just curious, though: Do you have a home?"
             "Arf! Arf!"
             "Hey, that's great," the hobo nodded, although I wondered what kind of hobo he could be if he had a house. "You don't look like a stray dog, anyway," he said. "You're handsome, and obviously you're well cared for.  Listen, if your master isn't found, come live with me. I live by myself . . . ."
              "Ouuuu!" I replied.
              "Why?" my cellmate asked. "Don't worry, I won't hurt you. I like animals. How can one not love you, since you aren't people. Think for a moment: You need a master. You can't live without one. Otherwise, you'll end up in a slaughterhouse or your rivals will bite you to death. Do you know how many stray dogs are out there? I'll tell you, it's a lot of them. Some are worse than wolves. So, if your master doesn't show up, come live with me."
           I was stunned. "What do you mean, 'doesn't show up'!? They made an announcement on TV. How could he not show up!? This just cannot happen! It just can't!"
           The cell door opened, and the officer on duty appeared in the doorway.
          "You, kid. Are you the seeing-eye dog?" He was smiling. "Get ready, because we've found your master. You can go and see him now . . . ."
           You have probably imagined my state of mind. I gave my paw to my neighbor to say goodbye, after which I raised my tail all the way and left the cell. Sasha awaited me. "Oh, dear Sasha. I'm coming to you."

        Chapter 12

          My security guard turned out to be gloomy and silent. With a look of negligence he tossed my gear onto the passenger seat, sat behind the wheel and asked, to no one in particular, "Shall we go?" Then, off we went. It was a miserable drive, since the officer nearly poisoned me with that awful smoke from his cigarettes. I sprawled across the back seat, and again I pictured the long-awaited reunion with my family. 

         We hit a traffic light, whereupon the driver slammed on the brakes so abruptly that I almost tumbled onto the floor.
          "Cute chick,"  the sergeant said. "What a babe! Her dog is pretty, too. Look," he said to me.

         I raised my head and peered out at the pedestrians through the foggy window. A tall, slender blonde was crossing the road in super-high heels and a bright-red dress. At the end of the leash she held was a collie, no less attractive.
           "Look," said the driver-policemen," What a babe!"

           I figured it probably wasn't the collie that the sergeant had in mind. Certainly she was a beautiful dog, I thought. By the way, I've heard that some collies work as seeing-eye dogs, but it wasn't the case here. This dog was "ornamental," which is how we describe a compatriot that serves no useful purpose. It must be noted, though, that such dogs--unlike most cats--are useful to people. Who, for example, would risk an approach this long-legged blonde when she's accompanied by such a bodyguard? Many think that a collie is a kind and playful pooch. That isn't exactly true, since the collie will protect its female or male friend. Generally, any dog that's capable of working as a seeing-eye dog can do things that would be incredible to others of our kind. I was lost in the contemplation of the girlie (the one on the leash), though, so I didn't immediately notice the next couple.

            "Arf-arf-arf! Arf! Arf-arf-arf!" I cried for all I was worth. I darted around the cabin. I wanted to wrap my claws around the policeman's neck. How can I get out of this goddamned aquarium? How!?
            "Arf!" I barked. "Arf-arf!"
           "Hush!" said the startled policeman. "What's going on!? Have you gone mad!? Quiet!" He finally remembered the appropriate word and shouted it, adding: "Sit! Sit, bitch."
            Well, first, I'm not a bitch, but secondly I don't have the right to disobey. I simply don't disobey. So, of course I yielded. I fell onto the back seat and whimpered plaintively. If you don't believe that dogs can cry, just know that my eyes and paws were wet from tears. I cried and shoved my nose into the hated seat, which I wanted to tear into pieces, and whimpered. "W-uu-uu." Next to the cute collie on the pedestrian crossing was my Sasha walking, accompanied by Yelizaveta.

         The light turned green, and the driver accelerated through the crossing. Where was he taking me? Where were we going, and why were we leaving Sasha behind on the street? My dear, dear Sasha. Why was it turning out this way!?

         "Wow, you really got a kick," the sergeant said, flashing his ivories. "You liked the doggie, right?  Well, calm down. Calm down. We'll be there soon, and then you'll have time go on a real bender."   
           What an idiot the guy was! All he thought about was partying. I thought, "Go on, Jeremiah. 'Just bend my ear,' as old Ivan used to say. You sit there and talk nonsense. I'm in trouble, officer. This is real trouble. You've just taken me right past my friend. Do you understand that, or don't you? Do you know how I feel right now!?"

            I've heard that a dog can loose his coat due to stress. So, I had to keep a strict paw over myself, or my hair might fall out and I'd look like a dolphin with legs. "Hold on, Trisong, it wasn't for nothing that you were taught to have stamina and self-control. Sooner or later, justice with prevail."
             Half an hour later, an elderly blind gentleman declared to my guard that I wasn't his Trezor. The man petted me, flapped my ears and belly, obviously looking for some special marks, and said:
           "Thank you, sir. The dog is really worthy, but he isn't my dog. Did he get lost?"
           "I don't know," replied the gloomy sergeant. "I was instructed to bring him to you, but he . . . . Anyway, can he help you?"
            Oh, boy. Then, who would help my Sasha? Would the officer work as his seeing-eye dog?
            "It isn't as easy as that," the old man replied.
            "Yeah, they told me that back at the station," the policeman said, giving a nod in my direction. "He is a seeing-eye dog, though. Maybe you can put him to good use."
            "Listen," I thought, with ever-mounting frustration. "The old man already told you everything, so don't try to talk him into taking me. Just put me back in jail!"
              "N-no, young man," said the old man with a shake of his head. "That isn't impossible, especially if he's a seeing-eye dog. You see, that means he's been assigned to someone. Please try to help me and the dog as well. Someone is looking for him."
            What a great old guy he was! "Thank you, kind sir," I thought. "Don't worry, you'll find Trezor."
             As we drove back, the sergeant realized he had run out of cigarettes.  He parked the car near a store, locked the door and disappeared inside a little shop. The plan appeared immediately in my head. I pulled the button out with my teeth and, with a great deal of effort, opened the door with my paw. "See you later, officer! By the way, you should quit smoking! It's hazardous to your health!"

           Enough! Who knows where your little adoption effort would've put me. You heard the offer: "Maybe you could put him to good use." People can make everything look so easy, can't they? It's great that the old man was able to pound some sense into the officer's head. Now, though, the most important thing was to get to the pedestrian crossing where I had seen Sasha and Granny. "I think I know the place. If I find that intersection, I'll find my way. With Yelizaveta in the lead, they never go far, so that means home is nearby."

           I wanted to prevent the sergeant from catching me, so I turned the first corner and ran through alleys to reach the next street. There, behind the parking garages, I caught my breath and returned to the store so as not to lose my way. The car with the policeman was gone. Great. That meant there would be no chase. Off I went!

           I moved down the sidewalk toward what I thought was the intersection where I had seen Sasha. I went for a couple of kilometers, but I found no such place. Night was coming, and again my stomach started to churn out that familiar tune. I solved the problem with water from a puddle near a car wash.  Honestly it wasn't at all pleasant, but without water you'll croak. I've tasted good, brand-name bottled water . . . but this wasn't it. There was no choice but to bottom-feed. I had to survive.

          I was tired as hell, and the urge to sleep came again each time a paw hit the pavement. I found a cozy place between a kiosk and a fence, and there I lay myself down to sleep. As I began to doze off, I remembered Bulgakov's "Sharik." In the evenings, old Ivan used to read to me from his Braille version of the book. I would listen in amazement. Sharik had a very difficult path. He even had a chance to become human, but he failed the test and overweened. However, if I were to meet that dog-transforming surgeon, Filip Filippovich Preobrazhensky, I'd say, "Doctor, please make me into a man. Please, sir. I won't let you down. I'll be an exemplary citizen. Do you know what your mistake was? You shouldn't have tried to transform a homeless mutt into an intelligent being. Sharik would be Sharik anywhere, even in Africa, as my Sasha used to say. If you would instead transform me into a man, you'd be proud of me. Do you understand, doctor? It's my breed, and the breed matters. It matters a lot. You should have thought a mutt of a dog would turn into a mutt of a man. Why didn't you take that into account?"

            You bought into it, didn't you, with Sharik getting up on his rear paws and pretending to pray. Admit it: You bought into it, right? Vagrant dogs are always willing to beg, though.

            A dog that has dignity will behave with dignity. It's a pity I've never met Dr. Preobrazhensky. Old Ivan said it was science fiction; that the writer had only invented Sharik. Honestly, I'm generally not satisfied with the whole story. You traded away our reputation, doctor. You lied about it. If your head was the heart of a dog, a man could never be made out of you. I got the hint. However, it isn't true. It doesn't matter whether you're a dog or not. What matters is your heart. You know, there are those who were born as men but have the heart of a dog. It's also true the other way around. At first glance it's a dog, but on second glance you see that he has the heart of a human.

          Do you think the guys that cut my leash and shoved me into the trunk of that BMW had human hearts?  "Oh, Dr. Preobrazhensky, how I'd love to have your skills! I wouldn't transform dogs into people, but I'd certainly transform some people into dogs. I'd let them run around on the streets. If they behave well, they could have a piece of sausage or a saucer of milk.  If they're bad, they get a smack on the head. Why should they live a human life if they have a heart of a dog? Oh my, oh my . . . ."

             I woke up to the rumble of metal shutters opening. It was morning, and a business owner was starting his day. I opened my eyes and noticed that a very plump man with a mustache was closely examining me:
             "Who are you? I haven't seen you before."
             I looked up at the man. "Well, I'm seeing you for the first time, too. So what? Now, would you please give me something to eat, or shall we sit and stare at each other?" 
           "Where do you come from, doggie? Eh?"
            "Well, I guess I've just fallen out of the sky," I thought. Immediately I tried to figure out which direction I'd run if the fellow decided to capture me. Then the man disappeared. Was he looking for a stick? I didn't know, but soon he returned with an impressive meatloaf. He placed a piece of it in front of my paws and said, "Here you go. Have a taste of that!"
              "Thank you, sir! Thank you, thank you!" I would really have to do a lot of running that day, so I appreciated the bit of meatloaf. However, the piece was too small. I could barely sense any flavor. Instead of something I could really bite into, it was as if I'd swallowed a pill. "Can I have seconds?" The man disappeared for a second and came back. This time I got half a baguette of stale bread. I was so thankful! I started to feel better. "Thank you, mister businessman. Well, now I have to go. I slipped through the opening in the fence and ran away. I heard the man exclaim with amazement:
           "Where are you going, sweetie? Don't be afraid, I won't harm you! Live here, and you can guard my kiosk! Agh!"
          "No, thank you! I appreciate the snack, but the last thing I want is to become a watchdog. I already have someone to protect and care about. Goodbye, kind sir!"   
         Well, tell me, would I get lucky that day or not? Poor Sasha must be worn out, waiting for me.

           Chapter 13
           "Stop! I know this tree! Well, well, well! Let me have a sniff. Sure, I've been here before. Think, Trisong. Think! What's that thing over there? It's . . . a newspaper kiosk. I don't remember it. Oh, my God, what is that!? Oh, my God! Who came up with such an idea? Professor, I was right. Take a look at this! That does it!"

          A glossy, boring-yellow magazine was displayed in the window of the newspaper kiosk. What do you think it was called? If I knew how to laugh, I would have crumpled onto the lawn and died of laughter. The magazine was called "The Dog." I'm serious. The magazine was called "The Dog"! Well, of course it wasn't the word that was funny. Instead, the whole thing was just ridiculous. The subtitle read, "A magazine about people in Moscow."

          Do you get it? "The Dog" is a "magazine about people." Have you ever seen a magazine called "The Man" that's "a magazine about dogs"? That would've been even funnier. Just look at what people undertake to muscle in on our genteelness. Hey, it would've been cool to go through that magazine and see what canine-human stuff was in it. If that magazine was about people, the only "canine" thing was its name. If that were the case, I'd feel offended.

           A stentorian voice sounded behind my back. "Get lost, you animal!"

           I jumped aside, as I has afraid to get a kick on the rump following that "friendly" advice.  I turned around and saw a man who could barely stand on his feet. His lip was broken, his shirt collar was torn, and his pants were barely on. If the gentleman was sober I would've thought he was either a house painter or a baker. Of the two of us, who was more deserving of the word "animal"?

            "What are you staring at with those peepers?" he said accusingly. "So, you want to gobble something up? You're at the wrong place. Get out of here, or I'll whack you with a stone on your think-tank."

            "Should I bark?" I wondered. "No, I won't. He might hit me with a rock. This is no time for chatter. Right now, I have to figure out where I'll go from this tree." The man turned his attention to the kiosk lady.

            "Hon, can you lend me a few bucks?"
            "You have to pay the old debt before you can ask for more money."
            "Honey! Come on, hon', please . . . ?"
            "I told you, I won't. Don't even ask. When did you promise to pay back the five hundred rubles? That was three days ago, and where's my money!?" 

            "It didn't work out, hon'. Just wait a couple of days. Come on, now. Give me a few bucks. I haven't eaten in two days . . . word of honor."

            "You might as well swear on the Bible. Telling me you haven't eaten . . . ." The kiosk lady gestured theatrically. "You'll pitch a tale to pitch a fork. If I give you any money at all, you'll run to the first store and buy booze with it."
            "N-n-no! I won't! Just a couple of bucks? Please . . . ?"

            I got tired of listening to him whine. I stepped away from the kiosk, just in case. If "Honey" didn't give him money, he'd get even meaner, and then he'd unleash his anger on me. No, I was better off staying clear of an idiot like that.

            This is what I'd found out so far: I had been near that tree before. However, for the life of me, I couldn't remember why I was ever there. For some reason I wasn't familiar with that route. Then it hit me: I remembered. I had been there with Sasha and Mother. Exactly. We took the tramway to that neighborhood. We visited Mother's friend, and then, before we went back to the tram stop they took me for a walk. What next? I had to think!

            Really, there was nothing to think about. I had to find that stop and then follow the tram tracks so I could walk to the place where we left the tram. That was all. "Let's go!"

           I found the stop pretty quickly. I remembered that we hadn't crossed the road. Then I had to turn right, and the rails would bring me to a familiar route. I wondered why I never bothered to count stops. It's pretty stupid for a dog of my training to neglect something like that. Had I counted stops, it would have been easier to find my path. Anyway, I'd figure it all out.

         I ran, scouting at each stop. I kept going. "Just a little bit, just a notch . . . ." I remembered a song that old Ivan used to sing. The song, though, was about war. Well, where was I at that moment? I had been in captivity twice: first with the bandits and then with the cops.  They threatened to whack me on the head. Now, before each stop, I had to engage in some intelligence activity.  So, it would be appropriate to go on with the song: "The last battle is the hardest one . . . ." I inspected every detail along the way, looking for clues. "What is this? What the hell is this?"

          It was certain that my hair would fall like autumn leaves. I was stressed again. It was hard to believe, but those goddamned rails went off in different directions. I stood there, like a warrior at the crossroads.  I reminded myself of the cold truth: "No matter how long you think, you won't become human and be able to ask someone." Suddenly I heard a rattling sound behind me, and I barely managed to jump off. The tram went to the left. I waited for the second one. A lady walked out and dug at something with a crowbar, and the tram turned right. Where should I go? Right-left . . . right-left. I had to take a leap of faith. If the rails didn't bring me home, I'd come back to this spot and then follow the other path. The most important thing was that I shouldn't overlook my stop. How could I miss it, if every tree was so familiar!? There was no way that I'd be asleep at the switch.

       Hobos surrounded me two stops down. They weren't human hobos but those of my own species. I won't mess with your head about what happened, though. You simply wouldn't understand. Instead, I'll translate the conversation into human words.
         The first one to speak was a huge, fluffy reddish-gray dog who was missing part of an ear. Immediately I assumed he was their leader.
         "Who are you?" he asked.
         "Trisong," I replied.
         "Wow," squeaked one of the others; a kind of lap dog, wiener dog mix. "He even has a nickname."
         "Are you a Lab?" the chief asked.
         "Can't you see that for yourself?" I roared through my teeth. 
         "What are you doing here?" asked a short male dog. He looked like the jackal from the "Jungle Book" movie. He sounded like a jackal, too.
         "Get lost!" the chief ordered.
         "All right, all right," the little jackal yapped. "Can't I just ask . . . ?"
         "I'll ask the questions around here," snorted the reddish-gray one, who then addressed me: "This is our territory. If you decide to beg for food or go dumpster diving, we'll tear you to pieces. Got it?"
         "I'm not going to dive into your dumpsters, because my home is nearby. I've lost my fosterling."
          "Your master?" the chief asked.
          "My fosterling," I repeated. "I work as a seeing-eye dog for a blind kid."
          "A-arf!?" he said, and I could tell that he was intrigued. "You've been trained?"
          "You bet," I arfed in reply. "Who would take me as a seeing-eye dog unless I'd had formal training?"
          "How did you get lost?" The chief's tone of voice had suddenly become kinder.
          "I was stolen," I replied.
           "Stolen!?" said the reddish-gray dog in surprise. "Just look at yourself. How could anyone steal an elephant like you!?"
           "It just happened," I said, lowering my gaze. "They cut my leash and shoved me into a car."
           "Whacked you on the head, did they?"
           "Were you in a basket muzzle?"
           "Hell, no!" I was really tired of his questions. 
           "Then I don't understand. How did they manage to shove you into a car? Why didn't you bite them?"
           "I'm not supposed to bite people," I sighed.
           "Even if they're stealing you?" Obviously that was difficult for the dog to understand.
           "Arf!" I replied.
           "Nah," the chief roared. "This is really stupid. Excuse me, brother. If people pass all the limits, you have to bite. Whether you're supposed to or not, you can think about that later. What if they try to assault your fosterling?"
           "That's a different bowl of soup," I said. "In that case it'd be my job to defend him."
           "You sure take the cake, Trisong!" said the chief with a shake of his head. "All right, we aren't going to hold you. Go and find your fella."
           "Thank you," I said with a polite nod.

             The pack stepped aside, and went on my way. The hobo was right, though. By that, I mean the one with whom I'd shared a cell. He said the streets were full of hobo dogs. That may be true, but there are hardly any fewer human ones.

            I reached the last tram stop after about an hour and a half, but unfortunately it was the wrong place. I had to go back to the intersection. That took me another hour and a half. On the way back I met the pack again. I briefly explained to the reddish-gray one that I had made a wrong turn. He called to me:

          "Wait, Trisong! Come here!"
          I wondered what they wanted.
          "Would you like some water?" the chief asked.
          "With pleasure," I replied.
          "Come over here, then. The water main is broken, so you can have a drink before the repair team gets here."

         I had a drink. Then, as I hurried on, I thought about what great stray dogs they were. I noticed that among people and dogs the poor and the hungry are kinder, for some reason. Why would that be so? Why would the chief of the pack stop me and lead me to the puddle so I could have some water? What was I to him: a relative, friend or acquaintance? He had shown true generosity. Well, I was right when I tried to prove my theory to Dr. Preobrazhensky. Maybe that dog's parents were pedigreed. Anyway, that's how life turns out sometimes. He was born to purebred parents, but then he became a hobo. Who was at, then, at that moment? I was a hobo too, but maybe a little cleaner. So, it was only a matter of time before I became a dirty, shabby mutt. I would run around for another two or three days like a tramway, and all my snobbery would disappear. The stray dogs would start calling me Sparky. Am I wrong? After all, I'd already been called Rex. At least Smarty was a bit complimentary. It sounded like family.  My new life as Sparky was only a few tram stops in the wrong direction.

           "Stand, Rex!" I thought, almost impulsively. Damn! I'd already started to lose it! "Wait . . . . Trisong, of course. Stand, Trisong." Then I saw something. "What do we have over here? That building looks familiar. All right. This is what it means to be vagrant for a couple of days. Hell, you forget all the routes. What kind of building is that? Try to remember . . . . I just have to get closer. Okay, it's a clinic. Oooohh! A-arf!!!! We've been here! Search, Trisong, search! Find!

            "All right, I knew this tree, and this one too. Right . . . . Here . . . and here . . . . Don't run in circles. Sit! C'mon, sit! Don't you jump like a stupid pug dog. Sit, I tell you! Here we go. Now, look carefully: the clinic . . . a bench . . . a post. You walked here with Granny and Sasha, remember? Okay . . . . This trail leads to the supermarket, and let that be damned. If I walk there in the evening, I'll be sure to crap at the entrance. Let the security guard clean it up!

          "This is it: the last trail. From the supermarkets through the backyards, the second house on the right.  Here is my "native" entrance. I'll bark under the balcony, and maybe whimper a bit.  My dear ones will hear me . . . .

          "Come on, Trisong. Why are your paws shaking? You can't walk? Sit. Relax. Have some rest, little Trisong; a bit of rest. It's all over now. You're practically home. Calm down. Have you forgotten that your hair can fall out from too much worrying? Calm down, boy. It's all over now. Nothing can stop you now. Think of it: You're already home. If I could, I'd knock on wood. 

          "Let's go."

        Chapter 14

        I thought my adventure was about to end. After all, I was already sitting under the balcony. I just didn't understand, though. Were they sleeping there or what? Nobody showed up on the balcony. Maybe there was no one home. Well, that was okay. I had managed to get through a lot, so I should have been willing to wait a few more minutes.

         A woman passed by, and I recognized her. I had seen her somewhere . . . . Yes, I remembered: She lives in the house nearby.  She stopped across from me and asks in amazement:
        "Are you Sasha's Trisong?"
        "Ouuuu," I replied.
        "Don't give me that 'ouuu!'"

         Dear lady, if you don't understand the dog lingo, please keep on going. I have no time for you.

         "Where on God's green earth have you been!?" The woman continued. "Those poor people have been high and low looking for you! They've even called the police. Sasha has cried his eyes out over you!"
        "Did you hear that? Don't you sermonize here! I tell you, go about your business. What kind of people are you talking about? Where I was keeping myself? The police came. Police came to me too, but it was no use."
          "Hey you, shameless dog!" The neighbor said, shaking her head. "Most likely ran after a bitch, right? Eh!?"
           "Holy mackerel! Why would I need such shame? You're the one who should be ashamed! Some neighbor you are! They're probably already told you that I was stolen. What bitch are you talking about? I was at work. For your information, we seeing-eye dogs, because we restrain our instincts, suffer psychological stress and even die younger than others.  You, though, just keep it up: "bitch," "ran away." If you don't know, just keep your mouth shut."

           "Let's go. I'll walk you to the apartment," the woman said, and she showed me to the entrance.
           "Oh, I thought. "This is different . Okay, let's go."

           We entered the entrance hall. Well, I couldn't say it smelled good there (thanks to someone's stupid cats). It was so . . . so native, so . . . .  I definitely lack the words to describe it. Well, my heart was about to leap out of my throat, but I held it in check. The moralistic woman and I took the elevator. She then rang the doorbell, but the door didn't open.

             "Sit here," the neighbor said in the tone of a command. "Don't go anywhere. They'll be back soon. I'll go back home and find their phone number and make a call. Got it!?"
             "So, now you're my new trainer. Lucky me. Where would I go, since I'd already walked halfway around the world to get there? Go ahead, give the command: 'Sit!' What a silly woman. All right, go make your call. Don't you see my sides are sticking to one another from hunger? And you'll keep lecturing me for half an hour about what to do and whose fault it is. How do you manage to rain upon me like this?"

            She left. It would've been great if she could've found Mother's phone. That would've been faster.

           I sat under this impenetrable door for an hour and a half. Then, suddenly, I heard it: The elevator stopped. I felt as my heart had frozen onto the tip of my left rear leg. Well? The elevator door shook, gave a nasty squeak and opened . . . .

           If you think that someone from my family appeared, please be prepared for disappointment. It was the monitor of morals again.

           "So, what is it? Have they come, or something?"
          I'm always amazed by such sagacious questions. Well, just use your brain, honey. Had they already come, why the hell would I be sitting here on this stupid floor?
           "They're about to arrive now. I called the mother and told her that I had found you."

          What an outrageous thing to say! Who found me? This one? I could've barked so loud that she would've reached the first floor faster than the elevator. How could she have said that!? Tell me, why are people constantly lying? Here we have another example. Did you hear that? She found me. Where? Near the house's entrance? Why look for me if I found it myself and was sitting quietly, waiting for Sasha and his family? What a bunch of lies

        Hurray! "Arf-arf-arf! A-a-a-rf!" The elevator door opened again. Here they are, my dear folks, my kind and sweet Sasha, Mother and Granny. I rushed to them, kissed (I mean licked, of course). Sasha hugged me so tightly that my ribs nearly cracked.

         "Trisha! Oh, Trisha! I've been waiting for you! I've waited for so long!"
         Sasha just couldn't contain his emotions, so he sat down on the floor and burst out crying. Everybody rushed to calm him down, I snuggled up to him and whimpered a little.

         "Come on, let's go," said Mother to Granny and the neighbor. "Let's leave them alone."
         "Let them come in," mumbled the slow-witted neighbor. "Why would they sit here, on this concrete floor?"
         "Let's go, I said," Mother hissed. "Let them sit for a minute and calm down."

          We were left alone. Sasha sobered a little bit, and he petted and kissed me. In return, I licked him a couple of times.

          "How have you been, little Trisong?" Sasha suddenly asked.

          "Well, well! I thought you had forgotten my royal name. Well, thank you, Sash . . . . No, I'll say it solemnly: Thank you, Alexander! If you only knew, how pleasant it is that you haven't forgotten my real name. After that, you could even call me a scarecrow and it wouldn't hurt. Word of honor. The most important thing is that you remember my name, Sasha. Don't forget that a dog's name is his destiny, his life. The same is true for people. You know, Sasha, I recently saw a funny magazine. It was called 'The Dog,' but it was about people. Thanks to that magazine, while I was sitting here at the door I composed a verse. It's a pity I can't recite it to you, but for our reader friends I will voice it, as the book has been translated into human language. Here it is:

                Sometimes I think a dog
                Will never become a man.
                To me it seems, however,
                That dogs are people nevertheless.

             Do you understand, Sasha, what my journey made me do? I started to compose poetry. Please, brother, next time don't tie me to a post. Don't ever leave me alone. Strictly instruct all your relatives not to succumb to any provocations. If they don't let me in, to hell with them, let's then leave all together. Bring me home. I'll have some rest, and you'll go with someone. Got it? Just don't leave me anymore. Is that a deal?"

          Sasha is a great guy. He even learned how to read my thoughts.
          "My dearest Trisha," he said. "My full-blooded one . . . ."
          I guess I didn't stay in royalty for long. All right, I promised not to get offended.

          "I'll never leave you along again, ever."
          That's what I was saying.  All right, Sasha. No harm, no foul. Let's go inside. I'm as hungry as a man.

           This is what I told you: Sasha can read my thoughts.
          "Why are we sitting here, Trisha? You're probably hungry. Let's go eat, and I'll pour you some milk. C'mon, my dear one. Let's go."
           I had a great lunch. In fact, I think it was the tastiest dog food I'd had in my entire life. It was probably the usual brand, but man, was it good! Maybe they've finally learned how to make decent dog food! Yelizaveta treated me to some of my favorite, too: chicken!

          "Eat! Eat, dear," she said. "Get better, or you'll be nothing but skin and bones!"

         You won't believe it, but Granny even wished me bon app;tit. I was eating and all of them (except for Sasha, of course) stood there and stared at me. I even started to feel self-conscious. However, after the royal treat I got upset. That was all because of people. I felt so ashamed: If not for my coat, you would have noticed that I had turned as red as a boiled lobster. I swear to you, I was red from the tip of my ears to the tips of my paws. 

               Just listen to what that rattling neighbor said:
             "I walked up, and I saw a dog sitting. I figured out immediately that it was your Trisha. I came to him, and he barked . . . ."
              I would love to have barked right then to say she was lying, but I didn't want to startle my family.
            "I though that I might have to catch him and drag into the building, lest ill fate should have him run away again . . . ."
             "My God, I thought, "why your tongue doesn't fall out as you lie though your teeth!" You are the witnesses, my dear readers! Why would a person lie so much!?
             "I was dragging him, but he resisted. I was afraid that he might bite my hand . . . ."

             If only I could have bitten her right then. Please thank God that my self-control is iron-clad. For odious lies like those, one should be bitten. Well, a seeing-eye dog can't. We can't bite for lying.

           "Oh, no," Mother said. She must have sensed that the neighbor was lying. "Dogs like this don't bite."
             "Well, anyway, I managed to drag him inside the building and then up to this door."

            Why didn't she just go ahead and brag that she had carried me up to the fifth floor in her arms? Shame. I'm ashamed for neighbors like this one. Well, what difference does it make? Let her flap all she wants. I was back home with Sasha, and that was all that mattered.

              If you're interested, I can tell you what happened. Old Ivan, when we were running low on money, used to say:
             "Trisong, don't you get upset. It just seems to be a losing streak in life. Later it may seem like something else . . . maybe even winning."

         So, nothing horrible had happened yet. Was it a losing streak or a winning streak? I'll talk about that in the second part of the story.

                PART TWO
                A RAINBOW

         Chapter 15

         If you think all people pity blind persons, you're sadly mistaken. Remember how I told you about the medals, pictures, books and other human pleasures that have been stolen from blind people? Well, that pales in comparison with some rascals trying to pick a blind mans pocket. What . . . you dont believe me!? Well, it certainly makes no sense to lie to you. In any case, it isn't customary for dogs to lie, fake or be hypocritical. We leave all that to people, because we dont need it. If we're rejoicing, we're rejoicing truly. If we get angry, we can even bite. If we're protecting you, we dont think about consequences. We protect you because we must do so. Everything is for real. We're dogs, so you can believe us and trust us. Okay?"

         Two days went by without a walk with Sasha. The women brushed me, washed me five times a day with conditioning shampoos, and they sprayed some strong-smelling perfume all over my head. I endured all this courageously, since I was sure that Mother and Granny wanted to take care of me. In fact, I shuddered when I thought of the kinds of stuff I could have gotten in that shed . . . or the jail cell.

        People are for some reason absolutely convinced that special-care aids give dogs a pleasant smell. Let me ask you a question: To whom is it supposed to be that way? Is it pleasant to you? Personally, I wouldnt call most of those things pleasant, except for maybe a few. I cant resist, though, and my training doesn't have a rule about it. So, in this case I sat and nodded obediently.

        Just allow me to give you a piece of advice: Never use all that cheap garbage to care for us. It's full of alcohol, soap, chemicals and drugs. What an abomination! A dog is a faithful friend, so don't spare the expense. By the way, my friend Lada, a German shepherd from the seventh kennel (she told me herself), had exactly this problem with her fosterling. Remember, I told you that they had returned Lada to the kennel. Man, what a concoction her fosterling put together! In order not to mess with all kinds of cleansing solutions, which she thought were based on vegetable oils and extracts of medicinal plants, the woman shoved Lada into the bathtub and washed her with laundry soap, believing that Lada had a doggy smell. Just imagine what the poor dog had to endure. It was nothing short of insanity. That kind of thing is unjust, too. The woman would wash her head with a decent shampoo and add lavender oil to the tub, but she'd bathe the poor dog with laundry soap. Who would endure that!? Well, Lada threw a fit. There are many things a dog can endure--including rudeness and even hunger--but laundry soap isn't among them. Excuse me, dear humans. So that at least you understand our feelings, picture the following: Someone has decided to scrub you down with kerosene. Laundry soap or detergent would be very much the same to a dog.

         I think I lied a bit. It was unintentional, but now I'll offer word number ten ("sorry"). Personally, I've been lucky as far people are concerned. Svetlana, as if guessing my thoughts, brought some shampoo called "Tenderness" from the store, and it had extracts of lemon and rose. It didnt smell bad at all. By the way, I eat lemons from time to time. My body demands it. It is yucky of course, but sometimes I feel like something acidic. I'm sure this happens to you, too.

         Generally, if not for the spray I wouldnt have felt any discomfort. As they say, it isn't Sunday every day for a dog. Please don't correct me, though. I know how you pronounce this proverb. Just don't forget that we have similar proverbs, but they sound a bit different. In other words, I'd had enough rest, sleep and bathing, so I thought: "If such wonders have been bestowed upon me, how did real kings live? A king must have had a great life! I'd like to know that my Tibetan king, Trisong Detsen, really had the best of it."

         We went out for a walk on the third day. During this time, Mother bought new gear for me and even a luminescent leash. By the way, they say a young girl invented luminescent canes and leashes. One night, while out on a bicycle, she ran into an old blind man. She felt so ashamed that, after the mishap, she invented luminescent things for the blind. Now, one can see a blind person even when it's pitch black outside. If it weren't for bad luck, one might have no luck at all.

         Sasha and I followed a familiar route. We took the stairs down to the park, walked past a small pond and then sat down on a bench. Sasha was silent for a few minutes, but then he suddenly spoke:

        "Trisha, have you ever seen a rainbow?"
        "Arf!" I replied. I had seen lots of things in my life.
        "Did you like it?"
        "Arf!" I answered. It was a bit of a lie, because I didn't want to hurt Sasha's feelings. What is there to like? A rainbow is a rainbow. It's a completely useless thing. I just dont get it about a rainbow. What's it for!? What good does it do!?
        "Once I saw a really huge rainbow," Sasha said, "and it was like a giant bridge. It was so beautiful, I couldn't take my eyes off of it. When it disappeared, I even felt sad. I like . . . like . . . well, I liked watching that rainbow . . . ."
          Oh, my God. Sasha burst into tears. I saw how his tears dripped down past his sunglasses. "Come on, Sasha. What is it this time!? To hell with this rainbow. It's no reason to start crying." I moved closer to Sasha and licked a tear off his cheek. He smiled immediately and said, "Sorry, Trisha. Thats enough. I don't know, I remember everything without emotion, but when I think of a rainbow I feel like crying. Do you understand that?"
         "Arf!" I said. I think that I had really started to understand him. He seemed to have warm memories from his life as a sighted person, and they related to the rainbow.
         "Trisha," Sasha said, "lets make a deal: If you see a rainbow in the sky, bark three times. Is that a deal?"
         I gave Sasha my assurance. "Arf!"
         "Just dont forget to bark three times, okay?"
         "Arf!" I replied. "Have I ever forgotten something?"
         I sat with Sasha and tried to calm him down. Soon, though, a group of teenagers came by. There were five guys and a girl, and they were about seventeen years old. They were dressed in a funky way (you cant understand what they are wearing): Some strange t-shirts with monsters on the front, a guy had a tattoo right on his neck, and another one wore a dog collar. I didn't like this group at all. I studied their faces, but they weren't friendly. The first one to speak was the girl. (If only her tongue had fallen out instead!)   
         "Hey guys, check this out, " she said, giving a fake laugh. "This moron chit-chats with a dog."

         I arfed quietly, in warning. I didn't want them to get any closer. The group stopped. The girl made a step toward me and said, "Hey, you, mutt. What are you barking about?"

          "Poor child," I thought. "Why would you say something like that? I've caused you no harm. I didn't even bark for real. Instead, I quietly warned you to stay clear of us. You, however, call me a mutt. Is an insult generally the first thing that comes to your mind?"
          "Vetta," one of the teenagers said, addressing her, "dont you see, this guy is blind."
          "How would I know, " the girl giggled again, "maybe he's just faking it."
          Damn it, you little fool! What are you saying!? Go about your business, I beg you. Even Chubbies and Smarties behave in a more polite way than you, and they're about as unsophisticated as dogs get.
            The diva came a step closer, as if to show the guys how bold she was.
            She peered down at Sasha and said, "Hey, dude. Are you really blind, or are you a faker?"
            Sasha was silent. What could he have said to a fool like this?
           "Hey, dude," said the second teenager. "Maybe you're deaf-mute." 
           "No," Sasha replied. "I hear you well."
           "Then answer when I ask you something," snapped the girl. She spat on the pavement, took out a cigarette and lit it.
           The third kid chimed in: "Are you blind or not!?"
           "Yes, I'm blind," Sasha replied.
           "Completely blind?" the girl asked, blowing smoke right into Sashas face. He even winced.
           "Yes," my fosterling replied.
           You have to understand me. I couldn't restrain myself, so I absolutely roared. The girl stepped back.
           "Lets go," said one of the boys, trying to talk some sense into the girl's head. "To heck with this blind dude."
           "Wait," Vetta replied in a capricious voice, "I want to make sure he's not trying to fool me."
           "Why would you need to do that?" asked one of the boys.
           "These handicapped people are everywhere. They try to fool people so they can get free money . . . ."
              I barked as I should: the Labrador way, with authority. When I do that, it's to say, "If you don't step back, I'll bite your knee." I was really tired of this girl and her smelly cigarettes.
           "Sit!" she cried, thinking I must have been trained to execute any command given by a common idiot. "Out!"
               "Hey," I thought. "I could show you out, but I don't want to make noise." I repeated my warning:

            I could see that she was afraid but was trying hard not to let it show.
           "Hey you, fake blindo," she said to Sasha. "Why would your dog be without a muzzle basket? Don't you know you can't walk a dog without a muzzle basket?"
            "Oh, girl," I thought. "How much I would love to put a muzzle basket over your face. That way I wouldn't have to listen to your claptrap and I could avoid having to see that nasty-looking makeup of yours."
            "Why would you think I'm pretending to be blind?" Sasha replied. He had dignity to spare.   
            "Take your sunglasses off and show me," the girl demanded.
             Sasha removed his sunglasses. One of the teenagers, seeing the scars on his face, grabbed the diva by the hand and said anxiously, "Vetta, let's go. That's enough."
             The pushy girl merely brushed him aside. Then she continued with Sasha:
             "Could you see before?"
             "Yes," he nodded.
             "What happened to you?" Vetta asked.
              I decided not to get involved for now.
              "I was in a car accident," Sasha said, and he gave a deep sigh. "My dad died and I . . . was blinded."
              "Is your dog trained?" the girl asked.
              "Yes, he's a seeing-eye dog," confirmed Sasha. "They're trained through a special course at a school just for them." 
              "What's all that for? Does he help you?"
              "Yes, of course he helps," Sasha replied. I could see that he had become exasperated by her constant questioning.
              "What kind of breed is it?" the relentless Vetta continued.
              "Labrador," Sasha replied.
              "Whats his name?"

              I thought, "This is some hell of a way to get acquainted, young lady. First you find out what his name is, and then you ask away about the dog. Please, Sasha. I beg you not to  her that my name is Trisha." I shouldn't have worried about that, though. Sasha is wise for his age.
               "Trisong," said Sasha. I snuggled even closer to him and whimpered once to show my gratitude. Sasha petted me and continued: "He's a very good dog. Do you have one?"

                "He-heh! A dog would be the last thing I'd have," she said with that fake laugh."He'd crap all over the house." 
               You can probably imagine the kind of nerve I needed in order to bear the slander from this fidgety girl . . . this Vetta. "When will you leave us alone?" I wondered. "Sasha, why would you bother to chat with her and ask questions like, 'Do you have a dog'? I hope my compatriots will forgive me, but Vetta was pretty much a dog anyway. She was no Labrador, though. She would've been suitable as some kind of barky lap-dog. By this time, the guys had stepped aside. "Go, Vetta. Go. Your suitors are tired of waiting." 

              "Well, all right then," said Vetta, waving to Sasha as she departed. "Maybe we'll meet again."
              "Oh, that's a good sign," I thought. "She waves to a blind boy and says, 'Maybe we'll meet again.' No, she's really insane, this Vetta. Thank God, she's leaving. Had she only known what was happening inside me when she gave us that dog-and-pony show.
            "Well, Trisha," Sasha said, "You see, they dont believe us."
            "Anyway, dont get upset. They aren't all like this . . . ."
            "What an eccentric boy," I thought. "Why would I get upset? I worry about you, and you worry about me. That's how it goes. Boy, Sasha, you really take the cake!"
             "Do you remember about the rainbow?" Sasha asked.
             "Arf!" I said, but then I thought, "It seems he'll never forget about his rainbow."
             "Well . . . great, then. Shall we go home?"
             "Ouuu," I answered. I had been sitting home for two days, except for short walks.
             "I guess you haven't had enough," said Sasha with a laugh.
             "Well, all right then," he said. "Lets go for a walk around the pond."
               It is always easy to come to an agreement with Sasha. He's very kind.

         Chapter 16

          It is probably true that I'm an unlucky dog. The moment I figured that I was past all the difficulties, I got sick. Strangely, and significantly, it was pneumonia. I just didn't understand it. Where could I have gotten cold? I pondered that question, and then the answer came to me. It got cold in Moscow, and after a bath I plopped down in the middle of the living room. The window was open in the kitchen, and the balcony in Mother's bedroom was open too. At a certain moment I felt that I had the shivers, but I stayed where I was, wet as a noodle.  Pneumonia was the result. It was pretty stupid of me to do that.

        I had fever, and I quivered like a leaf in the wind. My eyes were watery. I wanted to go for a walk with Sasha, so I acted high and mighty. At the doorstep, though, I felt down and couldn't get back up. I had stars in my eyes, and there was noise in my ears. I couldn't understand all that. I thought, "Maybe this is old age. Maybe it's my time to die." I wasn't even six, though, so there was supposed to be a long life ahead of me. Mother and Granny became really frightened and called a "dog ambulance" for me. The doctor listened to me, smelled my tongue (a funny fellow, but very kind) and pronounced his diagnosis: pneumonia. He prescribed bed rest, and then he shoved some really gnarly stuff down my throat. I nearly choked on it. I'd rather be bathed in laundry soap than swallow that disgusting stuff again. However, the worst of it was that Mother and Granny would have to force-feed that medication into for a whole week. Well, there's some food for thought: Which is better: to receive treatment or to die right at the doorstep?

           Sasha absolutely refused to walk with Granny (I don't think he could forgive her for the supermarket ordeal). Instead, he sat and petted me. "Sasha," I thought, "it's very pleasant to be petted, but soon you'll wear a bald spot into my head. I don't think anyone wants to walk a bald seeing-eye dog!"

          "How are you doing, my little one? You got sick, huh?" This is how he shows his sympathy for me.
          Sasha, why would I be a "little one"? I'm already a mature, accomplished dog. He continued to coddle me, quite intentionally.
           "My sweet little boy. You don't feel good? Get better, my dear one."
          The situation was completely out of hand at that point, and a moment later tears fell on my nose. "Sasha," I thought, "stop trying to make it rain. It isn't a big deal, anyway. I'm just a bit under the weather, that's all. I'll recover with that disgusting medicine, and then you and I will be back in action. Don't cry, Sasha, I beg you." At times like those, I could howl like a wolf. "Calm down, Sasha. Everything will be all right."
             "You know, Trisha," Sasha said, "you're like my native brother. A real brother, like a human. I swear, I don't even take you for a dog."
          Sasha had clearly made up that last bit. Of course, it was nice to hear that, but what kind of brother would I be!? Look at me: I have a tail and paws. I'm all furry like a bear, and my face . . . . Well, it isn't even a face, unless you can call your own face a muzzle. I understood Sasha, but I could never be his relative. As Ivan said, a dog is a dog even in Africa. Nevertheless, I was thankful for the kind words. "Just bend down, and I'll kiss you. Lick-lick!" Sasha giggled. 
         "You understand everything, little Trisha? You are smart. It's so good that we've met. I can't imagine how I would live without you now. Let me ask you, though: Do you think I'll ever see a rainbow again?"

         "Arf!" I replied. It seemed that Sasha couldn't part with his dream of seeing a rainbow. "What do you find in it? What do you need it for? I understand, you like to recall it, but you shouldn't regret what has happened. Instead, you should think about what's ahead. Your arms and legs are sound, and you have Mother and Granny. What else do you need? Everything is all right, Sasha. Rejoice in life. A rainbow isn't so important. Whether you see it or not, it doesn't care. I appears when it wants to.  Just don't think I'll go back on my promise. If the rainbow shows up, I'll bark three times. Have no doubt about that."

               I recently watched a show on TV that talked about rainbows. Be careful. If your brain is weak, you should skip the next paragraph. I nearly banged my head against the table leg as I struggled to digest the information. Don't say I never warned you!
           It turned out (if you believe the narrator), Sasha's rainbow is a caustic curve. It appears when a parallel-plane beam of light is deflected and reflected within a drop of water, which is round. The reflected light has its maximum intensity for a certain angle between the source of light, the drop and the observer. This maximum is pretty "sharp," which means that the bulk of deflected light, as reflected in a drop, leaves the drop at practically the same angle . . . .

            Excuse me. I won't bend your ear any further. Otherwise, a kick in the butt might not be too far away. Well, anyway, a rainbow brings nothing but problems. All that talk about drops, deflections, reflections: I don't give a damn. The most important thing was that Sasha wanted to see one of the things, so I couldn't afford to miss it. What was I trained to do? I could negotiate city streets, bypass obstacles, fetch slippers, lift dropped eyeglasses and all sorts of other things . . . but Sasha went on and on about his rainbow. It seemed I'd have to keep my eyes fixed on the sky at all times.  Who, then, would watch for border stones, steps and fences? These blind folks are nothing but trouble, because they constantly crank out these wild ideas. I love them, though. They're like kids. If it weren't for seeing-eye dogs like me, who would help them? Would you agree to care for them day and night?

I will reveal a secret: Even at night I follow Sasha. Well, I won't go into detail, because if he regains his sight he'll read this and get upset at me. There's nothing to get upset about, because I'm being honest: People who can see have to know the truth about blind people. If they did, things would be much easier for blind people. Maybe you people who can see will start thinking about it. Do you want to know what I concluded while I was sick with pneumonia? I think you might find it interesting. Yes, sometimes it's good to be sick, because it gives you time to think. After I was kidnapped, I ran back home. There was no time for high-minded thinking. Neither is there time for it while I'm doing my work.  On one hand, you can even get a kick out of being sick: You lie around and moan (don't forget to do that) and think, think, think. You can come up with all kinds of thoughts that way.

           I always compare people to dogs or dogs to people. It's a tendency I can't get rid of. If we have all descended from amoeba (according to the Discovery channel), why is there such iniquity?  I've asked God to give me just ten words . . . . Oh, wait . . . . Did you read part one of my story? If not, don't go searching for it. I'll refresh your memory. These are the ten words I'd like to learn to
01. Walk
02. Stop
03. Go
04. Bored
05. Help
06. Food
07. Cold
08. Hot
09. Sleep
10. Sorry

      If I could say those ten words, we'd be on equal footing. Try to say something to me so that I could neither object to it nor agree with you. If you don't believe me, try it yourself. You'll soon be convinced that you don't need any more words than those. 

          It isn't in the cards, though. I try all day long, but I remain a beast without the gift of speech. They say all kinds of crazy things, but I can't reply. When I reply with my usual "arf," the first question is this: "What's the matter? Are you going crazy!?" However, I think the crazy one is more likely to be you. I just can't say anything else, so I bark when people get on my nerves. All right, I'll shut up and eat my humble pie. There's no way out. That's the life of a dog. Human life is often no better, so I don't envy you. Sometimes I think, "Well, at least I have an excuse: I'm a dependent animal. You have even tougher luck: You can't sit up on your haunches and beg. To whom would you do that? To whom would you plead? Old Ivan was right when he said that the grass is always greener on the other side. He also used to say, "Even a nickel seems like a dollar, when it's in another man's hand." That's right. Everyone has his own life, problems, joy and pleasures.

             Eventually I was on my way toward a full recovery, and the friendly doctor paid one last visit. He listened to my heart and my breathing. He touched me, tapped my paws with a little hammer (I wondered what kind of fun that was) and checked my nervous system. Why was that necessary? Did he think I acted nervous? I was quiet as a mouse; I didn't bark or growl at anyone. He didn't like my nervous system, though. I only thought he was trying to make an extra buck or two. I even saw him shove something into his pocket before he left. We're talking about the "nervous system" here, but I don't think my nervous system was the problem. It was money.

Look at the way people act: They're ready to cut each other's throat for those little pieces of paper. That's all I hear: "Money, money, money . . . ." However, as I understand it, people can't buy dog food without money. They even use it to buy their own food. Granny always says money is like water, but I think she's just talking. What kind of water is that? You couldn't lap it up from a bowl. No, it's worse than wrapping paper. It doesn't smell like chicken, so how could it be better than chicken!?

I heard in a movie that money has no smell. However, that isn't true. I can find any banknote by the smell. It's easy, too. What . . . ? Don't you believe me!? Well, once on a tramway some scoundrel stole a wallet out of old Ivans pocket. I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't notice how he did it. I simply didn't expect any so audacious to occur. Instead, I napped at the feet of my fosterling. How would I know that people go though other people's pockets!? Suddenly, old Ivan shouted to the driver:
            "Don't open the doors! Don't open the doors!"

I didn't understand it at first. Why would he shout something like that? Did he want to go for a ride through town? I was surprised, but how about other passengers? Wouldn't they mind it? My old man explained it:
            "Someone has picked my wallet. Don't open the doors! We'll find him! Trisong! Trisong! Search!"

            Well, I went into action right away. I got everything. For me, it was a piece of cake. "Here he is, Ivan." His face turned pale, he hid the wallet in his breast pocket, looked out of the window and pretended to have nothing to do with the theft. I barked so hard that he nearly fell to the floor. The shameless idiot would steal money from a blind man. I don't know what happened next, but Ivan and I got out at the next stop and went home. He then explained to me that in a tramway or a bus I should be alert and track what other people are doing. It never happened to us again, though. That's why you shouldn't believe it when people say money has no smell. It isn't true. Money certainly does have a smell. It's a bit different, but it's a smell anyway.

          I had at last recovered from the pneumonia. I had no fever. There were no more pills to swallow, and we could go for walks again. No one would come and hit my paws with a hammer. I was free to be myself again. Tomorrow, in fact, we're taking Sasha on a trip. To get where we're going, we'll take at least ten routes. I'll walk Sasha until he begs me to bring him home, although he has pretty good stamina. It's better to be healthy than sick, though. So, I wish you great health. See you tomorrow.

           Chapter 17

           How could one not agree with the saying that the world is small, as if it were a dog kennel? Well, I guess there's a time for everything.

          I was too hasty when I mentioned ten routes. In the morning, Mother and Granny announced to Sasha and me that we were going to a birthday party for one of Granny's nephews. He was turning fifty that day. People are lucky to live so long.

           If you'd like, while the women are getting dressed and putting on their makeup I'll tell you about some dogs that have live a very long time. (I guess the TV is good for something, after all.) You probably know that on average we dogs live from eight to fifteen years. However, there are cases when our compatriots live until twenty. The most famous dog was an Australian cattle dog named Bluey. I don't know what it means in Australian, but in Russia he wouldnt have lived that long with such a weird name. Am I wrong? Who came up with such a name for a poor dog? If they could go with a name like Bluey, they might as well have called him Pukey or Vomit. Well, don't let me get started on that kind of thing. Lets leave our base instincts outside, or you'll think I've become pretty brazen. Anyway, Bluey lived for twenty-nine years and five months. He was a herder of cows and sheep, but eventually he retired. I keep thinking what the owner--a man named Les Hall--might have fed him. He probably treated him to milk, cottage cheese and feta all the time. Besides, a cattle dog is out in the fresh air all day. He must have nibbled on some medicinal herbs. In Australia they say medicinal herbs are nearly everywhere. That would be nothing like here: When you go on a lawn it isn't grass but some kind of haulm, like one would use for thatching. The forest is great, though, because you can dig up all kinds of roots and even chew leaves.  That wouldn't be just any leaf, but the kind that my heart prompts me to eat. Yes, the cattle dog got lucky. He had a great life. Here's the interesting thing. Bluey didn't just keel over and die. He got really sick toward the end. He was blind and deaf. He stopped walking. So, the people put him to sleep for humane reasons.

             I don't know whether it's humane or not, but I guess the owners knew better. Although, I would reserve the right not only for people but also dogs to die a natural death. Why put us to sleep? Who knows what will happen tomorrow? Today a dog could go deaf and blind, but tomorrow he might recover. No, this isn't right. People argue about euthanasia, but only for themselves. They dont think about us, although there are some dog lovers' societies that stand behind us. Here's the difference: A man can ask to be put to sleep, but can a dog? How would you know whether he wants to be put to sleep? If you dont know, dont do it. Give the dog a chance to die, especially if he has been your faithful friend all his life. I can't even imagine how a person could put his dog to sleep . . . . Well, that's enough talk about sad things.

          The second-oldest dog was a collie named Taffy (at least the name is right), who lived nearly twenty-eight years.  He was born on April 2, 1952 and died (a natural death) on February 9, 1980.

          You, of course, will want to know about the records set by seeing-eye dogs. We weren't born yesterday, you know. We have our own records. Besides--this is worth bragging about--the record is held by a Labrador . . . a female Labrador, to be more specific. There's nothing amazing in that, though. I've heard that humans are in the same boat: Women live longer than men. Was someone lying when he said that?

          The record in the duration of seeing-eye service belongs to a Labrador girl named Cindy-Clio. Honestly, she worked for fourteen years and eight months! The second-longest in service was also a female Labrador. She helped her blind fosterling for thirteen years and two months. Those are amazing achievement, especially when we take the incredible complexity of the work into account.

            I can tell you a lot of interesting things about dogs . . . even about the most well-to-do, like the dogs of movie stars and famous writers. There was even a dog that nearly became a saint. I'm serious! His name was Guinefort, and he was a French greyhound. He died as the result of saving a boy from a snake. People then would go to Guinefort's grave, and in some miraculous way would heal their ailments. For this, he was considered a saint. However, human injustice got in the way: The church refused to canonize the animal. You see, a man can become a saint but a dog cant. To be frank, if we do sin, we do it only out of irrationality.

          Well, enough talking. We have to get to Grannys nephew on time, since we were asked not to be late.

         Along the way some drunk nearly crushed my paw in the tramway, and I nearly yawped from pain. He barely stood on his feet as he elbowed his way in, cursed, hiccupped and sneezed, probably thinking himself a pretty fair example of a human.  Tell me, what kind of human is that? Even I felt ashamed for him. As we left the tram he tried to pet me, but I agilely escaped his dirty paws . . . I mean, his "hands." Well, what kind of hands are we talking about, here? My paws are a hundred times cleaner. He didn't like my agility, so he cried into my tail:

           "Dont you worry, puppy! A soldier would never hurt a kid!"

    How did he manage to drink that much!? He called an adult dog a puppy and a kid! What did he mean by "soldier"? Well, you cant understand a drunken person. Everyone seems small to him. Now I understand why old Ivan said about our neighbor next door, when he bragged that he had liquid courage. Yes, thats right. To a drunken person, an ocean seems like a rain puddle. Our neighbor was pretty boisterous. He would start a fight with anyone, and the police even took him down to the station a couple of times. Nothing helped. They would take him, release him a while later, and in the evening it would all begin again. Sometimes he would spend a couple of days in custody. Then the whole building could have some rest, just like I did after my forced journey.

          What a surprise it was when I saw Mistys house! Can you imagine? I looked, but I didn't believe my eyes. "Holy moly!" I thought. "George lives in this building! Of all things! I told you that the world is small. Attention please! Grannys nephew lives in the same block, on the same floor, where George lives, in the apartment opposite Georges place." I don't know whether to tell you or not, because it's a delicate issue. Not every dog will confess this, but since I'm honest I'll tell you everything.

         I just felt like seeing Misty, for some reason. After all, he wasnt too bad of a guy.  In any case, he didnt do anything bad to me. It isn't a big deal that he ate my nuggets . . . the stuff that old Nadezhda bought. She might have bought the food for both of us, for all I know. I could spare a few nuggets. "Where are you, Misty? Come out. I've come to pay you a visit!"

             We reached to the familiar staircase landing, so I ran up to the Georges door, banged it with my paw and barked loudly. Granny reacted immediately:
         "Out, Trisong! Dont you pull any stunts. Youll frighten people. We're going to another apartment. Sit!"

         I thought, "Clearly I know where we're going, but my little friend lives here." Suddenly the door opened and old Nadezhda appeared in the doorway. Man, did I rejoice! I wagged my tail, whimpered and even let out an "arf" or two. The woman saw my Sasha in dark sunglasses and probably guessed that it was me. Granny scuttled, apologized and started saying all kinds of nonsense about me. There was some excuse that I had mixed up the doors.

          "Oh, no," said old Nadezhda, "He didn't confuse the doors. It seems we know your dog. Was he lost?"
          "Yes," answered my relatives, obviously stunned. "How did you know?"
          "Smarty," the old lady said to me, "You managed to find your master, right?"
          "A-arf!" I replied.
          "But his name is Trisong," Mother said, correcting her.
          So, Mother hadn't forgotten my real name! However, she immediately put me down in the eyes of old Nadezhda by adding:
           "Actually, we call him Trisha."   
           "We didn't know," my savior replied. "My granddaughter called him Smarty."
           "How did you get him?" Granny frowned.
           "Well," Nadezhda exclaimed, "why are we standing here? Come in, and I'll tell you all about it!"
           "We're invited to the Larionovs," said Mother, shying away from the invitation. "It's his birthday . . . ."
           "I know, I know," said old Nadezhda, "we already congratulated him this morning. I won't keep you for long, though. I just want to tell you how we met your Smart . . . I mean, Trisha."

             That did it. Now I'd have to be Trisha here, too. We entered the doorway, and I could see that my bed was gone. Well, who would sleep there? George certainly wouldn't. I helped Sasha in and then heard Granny say in fright:
        "You have a cat! Be careful!"
          "Hey, Granny, you've started reacting to cats as if you're a dog."
        "Dont worry, he's a peaceful kitty. He even managed to become friends with your Smart . . . Trisha."

           I turned around and Misty stood there, staring at me with his tail upright.  I stepped up close to him and licked him his brazen and arrogant muzzle. "Hi, Mist," I said. He bent his ears down, washed himself with a paw but didn't run away, and then started to sniff me. "Hey, Misty. Okay, so you can consider me to be your friend. I wont shy away from you. If someone on the street tries to hurt you, I'll even stand up for you. Let all the neighborhood dogs know that."

          "Where did you disappear to?" Misty asked. "The police came. They said you had run away from them. How come? Didn't they treat you right?"
          "They put me in a jail cell," I replied.
          "And this guy in sunglasses is your master?"
          "A friend," I said, correcting the cat.
          "So, everythings all right now?" Misty asks.
          "Yes," I nodded. 
The people stared at the two of us in amazement, and then Granny came back to her senses:
         "You know, they asked us not to be late, so if you could please explain what happened and then well get going."

           Old Nadezhda went on and on about the picnic--pork not so well done, bathing and so forth--so I  chatted with Misty. Well, I shouldnt have thought poorly of him then. Misty immediately offered to play some kind of game with me. He started jumping all over me, grabbed my tail and teased my ears. I had to excuse myself, though. I explained to Misty that my vacation was over and that I was back at work. However, to offer Misty such an explanation was like showing a photograph to a blind person. He ran this way and that, and generally he bounced around like a rubber ball. While I looked at him, with the tip of my ear I pulled in what they were saying about me. From their conversation, I realized that Grannys nephew didn't even know I work with Sasha. So it goes. People may live in the same city, but they will rarely communicate.

         "Thank you very much," jabbered Mother and Granny as they prepared to leave Nadezhdas  apartment.
         "You're welcome," Nadezhda replied. "If we had only known, we would have called you right away . . . ."
          Thats what I meant when I said to write your phone number on the harness. I couldn't explain it to them, though.
         "If you're in the neighborhood, please stop by. We'll be happy to see you."
         "You do the same."

         The farewell ceremony ended, Granny pressed the doorbell button, and a seven-foot nephew with a beard appeared in the doorway.

         Chapter 18

If you aren't interested in the history of domesticated dogs, please feel free to skip this chapter.   
  The nephew spoke with his aunt (meaning Granny) on a first-name basis, and there was laughter all evening long. As it turned out, he worked as a geologist and had frequent business trips, which is why there were no pets in his home. (Who would watch after them?) That was okay with me. Sometimes you pay a visit and there are all kinds of Smarties, Chubbies and Misties around. Then you have to entertain them. You might even have to suffer humiliation, since they're the "masters." Well, in this case I was by myself, away from all the hustle and bustle. It was beautiful.

Valentine, as Sasha used to call him, approved the family's choice and gave me a great deal of praise. Well, he didn't refer directly to me but to my breed. What did I tell you? Anyone who understands this business knows: You cant find a better seeing-eye dog than a Lab.

I stared at the TV while Valentines relatives and friends indulged in the assorted delicacies. Let me tell you, the show was so interesting that I even forgot about dinner. It turns out that people have argued for a long time about the history of the modern dog. There are two versions: One asserts that we descended from the wolf, while another states that we came from the jackal. Well, which version did this one favor? It must be that of the jackal. So, if it's at all fair to say that humans descended from apes, does that make it right to put us down too? That isn't the way to go. I have a certain view of it: Those who say that dogs descended from wolves must have been created by God, but those who state that we descended from jackals must have descended from the ape. It's only logical! Just dont make any wrongful accusations about us dogs. "The dog descended from the jackal . . . ." How could anyone make such a hideous remark!? At any rate, no one takes it seriously. There are more reasonable people around, and their ideas are more worthy of trust.

We had a great time at the bearded geologist's birthday party. I found so many new things that evening that I've decided to share them with you.

My ancestors (wolves, of course) were domesticated ten thousand years ago. That's mind-boggling, even for a dog. The very first evidence of collaboration between man and dog dates to the twenty-second millennium BC. The scientists found an imprint of a dog paw. Geneticists have figured out that the dog and wolf separated about 125,000 years ago, but it was much later that the dog became man's companion. 

           The first domesticated dogs were guards and helpers in the hunt. Then, as man became smarter, he started to subdivide us into different groups as watchdogs and hunting dogs. Decorative dogs appeared, and they served as ornamentation. Nothing was required from them other than to please their masters with their appearance. I don't know . . . maybe dogs like that are necessary in some way. You have to agree, among humans there are also decorative people. Am I missing something there? Maybe I'm mistaken, but among people that are those who work around the clock and there are those who spend the day on the sofa. Thats a different topic, though. This particular TV show didn't say much about people or their particular uses.

I was, however, surprised to learn that the uses of several dog breeds have changed. It's particularly true of hunting dogs. Can you imagine that? Hunting breeds are now at the brink of obsolescence, and it's all because they've been shifted to the "house pet" category. Despite that fact, many dogs of the hunting type work now in secret services. Nevertheless, many of my breed, instead of serving people using their unique capabilities, twiddle their paws all day long. People spoil their Labradors, and soon my breed will be considered "decorative." It's a sad thought.

            Some dogs undergo constant training, so they're very strong for their size. Some can haul heavy cargo on their backs, and others can pull sleds. In this meaning, not all the laurels go to the horse. We do just as much work. Have you heard of sled dogs? They can pull a sledge (which is a sled of the northern type), which weighs up to a ton, for several hours in a row. Foxhounds are capable of running a scent for forty-eight hours without a break! People may faint due to fatigue, but the dog keeps going.
I won't bore you with drab information, but other points are very interesting. Consider a dog's coat, for example. There's a Mexican dog breed that has almost no coat--it's practically naked--but several breeds can grow fur up to two feet in length! A dog like that needs a personal hairdresser, because it can't live without constant grooming. Imagine what could happen if such a dog were to run away from its master and become a stray. It would be like something in a horror movie! If you were to meet him in a dark corner, you might die of fright. You couldn't even tell what kind of animal it is!
Different breeds have different kinds of hair. Some have rough, bristly coats, but others have coats that are soft and silky. Most dogs are smooth-coated, of course, but with some dogs the hair extends from the follicle vertically, which is why the coat feels rough. Northern breeds need a dense undercoat. Without it, they could die from the cold as the frost overtakes the body.

The thing we have in common is that we all shed annually. This depends on the duration of the daylight hours. Temperature impacts the growth of the coat, too. If a dog is kept outside, its coat thickens when it becomes cold. If a dog of the same breed lives inside, its coat won't be as thick. We really can adapt to the circumstances.

Let me add something about coat color: Most patterns are characterized by a combination of black and tan stripes, and that's typical of the ancestral wolf. However, mutations and other factors have resulted in much greater variety, what is typical not only for dogs but for all house pets. The color of a dog's coat is, like other mammals, determined by the pigment cells it contains. When there are a lot of them, the coat is black. When there are fewer black cells and they're more spread out, the coat becomes dark-chestnut. When the black cells are spread out and there are no yellow ones, the coat is gray (sometimes called blue). When there's no black pigment, the coat is yellow. If there is no pigment at all, the dog is an albino. That's a rare condition, but you'll know it if you see it: Such a dog will have white fur and red eyes. I've never seen such a dog in person but only on TV. I think they're beautiful.

What else are we proud of? Well, we have beautiful teeth. We have two sets of those. Small milk teeth are developed with puppies by the end of the nursing period, at approximately seven to eight weeks of age. After three months, the two middle incisor teeth fall out, followed by the rest of the milk teeth. We dont walk around toothless for long, though. If you peek inside a dog's muzzle after five months, you'll count forty-two adult teeth. Just be careful. A puppy can give one hell of a bite. Consider this your warning!

A dog uses its front incisor teeth (six upper and six lower) to bite off food, and he uses the four long sharp fangs on the side to tear food or defend himself. The rest of the teeth (pre-molar and molar) are needed to gnaw bones and cut through meat. However, despite our predator teeth we aren't completely carnivorous. We like to eat vegetables and fruits. You should try serving a salad to your dog sometime!

We can't sing very well, but we do produce sounds of different heights and intensities. When masters lose us, we howl. When someone hurts us, we whimper. If someone tries to take away our favorite treat, we growl. I'll never growl at a fosterling, though. I'm trained not to do that, but an untrained dog could even bite if you attempt to take away his favorite treat.

We still try to sing sometimes, anyway. Many dogs respond to the sound of certain musical notes, in which case they'll howl along with them. Some, especially northern dogs, like to "sing" in chorus. They raise their heads up and howl in unison. Now, try to tell me that we didn't descend from wolves! I don't know, maybe jackals also howl, but I can imagine how irritating that would be.
Special attention is given to voice among hunting dogs. Some British breeds produce a distinctive baying sound. I don't know about you, but I think it's very pleasant.
I get upset when people say dogs don't distinguish colors. We certainly do distinguish colors! What kind of a seeing-eye dog would I be if I couldn't tell which traffic light was lit? I agree, our vision isn't as well developed as a mans, but a fosterling can't see anything at all. There's no need for a dog to have the eyesight of an eagle. On the other hand, we're capable of distinguishing up to forty shades of gray.
I think you might be interested in some of my famous compatriots. I've told you a bit already, but there's much more to say. I cant help but mention a famous Russian Doberman called Tref, who helped solve more than fifteen hundred crimes. Isnt he a hero?
The monument with the inscription "The Most Faithful Dog in the World" has been erected in Edinburgh. Bobbys master, an old shepherd, died in 1858. Bobby lived at the gravesite for fourteen years, waiting for his master to return. Everybody knew and loved Bobby for his faithfulness. When he died, he was buried next to the shepherd.

How could we forget our famous Laika, the first dog to orbit the earth? That dog has a monument, too. When you're in Moscow, go see it in the Petrovsko-Razumovskaya alley. I should also mention the famous cosmonauts Belka and Strelka, who went into orbit on the Sputnik-5, a prototype of the Vostok spacecraft. These heroic dogs were up there from August 19 through 20, 1960. Some might smirk at the idea that they were courageous, but for the same feat people are decorated as heroes.

It is hurtful that dogs aren't given the awards they deserve. Think about it: During World War II, a collie named Dick found eleven thousand German mines and a huge bomb, which was hidden in the foundation of the Pavlov Palace. Dick's talent and forbearance saved the lives of thousands of soldiers. Isnt that heroic? I guess we cant be saints or heroes, though. We're simply not allowed.

I do think it's good that some people have erected monuments to my compatriots. On February 17, 2007 in the ground-level hall of Mendeleyevskaya Subway Station, a solemn ceremony took place. It was for the opening of the world's first monument dedicated to those who work for the welfare of homeless animals. The monument is called "Compassion." The prototype for the sculpture was a dog named Boy, a favorite of the subway line's many passengers and employees. You might want to know what happened with Boy. It's horrible to say it, but he was killed in public by some unthinking person, in the underground crossing of a station.

So it goes. Some dogs might live a canine life but others will live a human life. Luck has a lot to do with it.

Hey, what was that sound? Oh, the guests were ready to leave. That meant I'd have to be ready too, because Sasha would be waiting. It was time to go home. I'll see you in the next chapter.

Chapter 19

The tram back home was half-empty. I like it when the public transportation isn't overcrowded. There is a lot of room and no one is likely to step on your paw. You probably like half-empty trams, but for us they're important. It's hard to work in a crowd.
Everything was all right. When we left the tram, we immediately headed toward home. The women chirped about their things, and Sasha and I walked ahead of them. I was first, and he followed me. It seemed as if nothing could spoil the wonderful, warm summer night. Nevertheless, they managed to ruin our mood. To be exact, it was a rude guy who spoiled everything. It all happened when Granny stumbled against the street curb and fell onto the road. I was stupefied when I heard a screeching squeak of the brakes and then Mothers scream. My fur stood on end. I turned around and saw the following picture (don't worry, everyone was safe and sound): Granny was leaning on the fender of the car and a young man of about twenty to twenty-two years old jumped out and yelled at the woman:
"Where are you headed, you cow!? Are you blind or something!?"
I even barked from vexation. How could it be? She's an old woman, but he called her a cow. Shame on him!
"Excuse me, young man," said Granny apologetically, "I stumbled, so please excuse me, for Gods sake."
"She stumbled," the rude driver said. "You jump under the wheels, and I wind up in prison for it."
"Calm down, young man," continued Granny. "I didnt do it on purpose. It just happened."
"Get away from my car," the driver complained. "What are you doing, leaning on the fender like that!?" 
  Mother took Granny under her arm and escorted her onto the sidewalk, but then she found it impossible to restrain herself:
          "Young man, please be courteous. You're talking to a woman who could be your grandmother."
          "I don't think I asked you about it," the guy said. Looking at the fender and then at Mother and Granny, he added, "You'd better watch where you're going on those old feet of yours. Well, get going! Don't just stand there and gawk at me!"
          "You had better stop it," Mother said in a harsher tone of voice. "Nothing happened to your car, anyway. A woman simply stumbled."

          I could see that Granny was crying. Mother started to calm her down, but the infuriated driver wouldn't leave. He circled his car, mumbling as he did so. Why would he go on like that when nothing horrible had happened? I figured it out, though. He just got so scared that he couldn't drive off right away. Apparently, he needed time to recover from the shock.
        The rest of the way Granny sobbed quietly and Mother tried to calm her down. I wondered why people could be so rude to each other, even in the case of a misunderstanding. In theory, the driver had to get out of the car, help the old lady and say he was sorry, even if it wasn't his fault. He's a human, so he'd have a mother and a grandmother . . . maybe even a wife. Why would he carry on at the poor woman, who had already been scared to death? I didn't understand it then, and even now I can't understand why he would show such a lack of courtesy.
        I have noticed that people behind the wheel are ruder than those who walk. Sometimes they will drive through a puddle just to splash the nearby pedestrians. They don't yield at crosswalks or will stop the car in such a way that it's hard for anyone to get around it. Sometimes the driver will park the car under a window and keep the engine going, especially in the winter. Such a person won't care about the health of others, he just wants to be warm and let other people suffocate on the exhaust fumes. Old Ivan was right: The driver has to respect the pedestrian, because it's the pedestrian who invented the car. Unfortunately, that wisdom isn't shared by all.
          Everything is cool with Sasha, thank God. Ivan had frequent misunderstandings with drivers, though. If not for me, he would have been flattened out there. I can't tell you how many times it happened: We'd be strolling down the sidewalk, and Ivan would give the command: "Trisong, walk me over to the bench on the other side." Then, a split second after my paw touched the asphalt, someone would fly by in a speeding car. With a madman like that on the road, you have to react with lightning speed.  I completely refuse to understand such people. Why would you drive on a back road at such a speed? How many cats and dogs die because of crazed drivers like that!? If you dont pity us animals, think of the child that might run out from behind a parked car. Think of the elderly or handicapped person, or even someone who is temporarily absent-minded. You wont be able to brake in time, even if you want to. What are people thinking when they drive like that!?
          Finally, we reached the apartment. Granny lay down on the sofa, Mother brought out some medicine, and we all sat down next to our beloved Granny.
           "Granny, what's the matter?" Sasha asked.
           "Everything is all right, child," Granny replied. "My heart gave me a bit of trouble, that's all. I'll be fine very soon."
            Sasha took Grannys hand and caressed it.
            "Granny, I think you should walk beside us next time," Sasha said. "Trisha sees everything, and he'll give a warning."
             "Oh, Sasha," I thought, closing my eyes from pride. It was such a pleasure to hear that. Kind words like that are better than any dog food . . . even one that's "better than ever." I thought, "Thank you, my young friend. I need nothing more than to hear that. If you think so highly of my abilities, I'm very happy to know you're pleased. From now on, I'll be an even better guide for you."
            Dear humans! We are ready to sacrifice our lives even without any praise. However, when you choose to offer praise, it's very rewarding. If we do everything right, please don't be shy. Give us some praise. If you only knew how nice is to hear kind words. After all, don't you like to hear praise? If you think we don't understand, then just give us a piece of chicken instead of dog food. Let it replace the words of praise. Just dont think we're chowhounds that serve you in the hope of winning a piece of steak. Ill be honest: Personally, I won't take an entire chicken from a person I don't know. For me, it isn't that important what they give me. It's more important who the giver is. Just remember that we can't be bribed.
             "What are you doing, Sasha," said Granny with a smile. "The last thing I want is for Trisha to help me. He think he has enough to do with you alone."
            "Well, Granny," I thought, "don't worry. I'll take care of you, too. You can count on me."
             "Are you going to sleep now, Granny?" Sasha asked.
             "Yes, my boy, I have to take a nap. It will help calm my nerves."
             "Then, goodnight," Sasha said. He bent down, kissed his grandmother and added, addressing me: "Lets go, Trisha. Leave her alone. Lets go eat."
"Right," I thought. "That isn't a bad idea at all." Our mother is great. She doesn't hold back when she chooses dog food. She always gets a decent brand. I was a stroke of luck to be placed in such a generous family. I was so happy to know that Sasha, Mother and Granny cared for me.
Lada, the German shepherd, wasn't as lucky. It isn't just that they tried to wash her with laundry soap. They called her names, kicked her around, and accused her of laziness and stupidity. Well, she's the smartest dog I know, and she's very kind. I wonder who she's helping now. I'd like to meet her again. Why not? Maybe we'll see each other. After all, I've even run into Misty the Monster again.
Generally, random encounters with the ones I know are the most pleasant. As I lay in my bed in the evening, before going to sleep I recall how old Ivan once met up with a former co-worker. More precisely, it was the co-worker who met up with him. We were walking along, and suddenly a man started to stare at us. How could I know who he was and what he wanted? I just kept walking. Then I saw that he was following us. I got on my guard, then. I thought, "Maybe he wants to steal from us or something. All right, just try it. I'll show you hell, if you do. Youll remember it for the rest of your days. The man walked past us, but then he stopped about ten meters away. I even slowed old Ivan down. He wasn't aware of anything, but I was watching the stranger. Suddenly the man opened his arms (as if Ivan  could see) and said, "Ivan, is that you?"

"My goodness!" I thought. "What kind of treatment is that!?" No one had ever addressed my fosterling that way.
"Trisong, stop," Ivan said.
"Ivan," the stranger said, "are you blind or something? It's me, Fyodor . . . Fyodor Karpukhin. Do you remember me!?"
Ivan quietly gave a gasp and said, "Fyodor, is that you? This simply cannot be! How did you wind up here? You used to live in Krasnodar, so how did you end up in Moscow!?"
The friends hugged and kissed.
           "Hey, Fyodor, Fyodor," Ivan said. "What a pity it is that I can't see you, but at least I can give you a big hug."
            The old man carefully traced his friend's face with his hand and said, "You're elderly now, too!"
           "Well!" Fyodor laughed. "What do you expect? You think it's only you who gets old while everyone else gets younger? What happened to you, Ivan? Whats wrong with your eyes?"
           "Well, Fyodor, there's no need to pursue the subject, but I'll tell you later. Why are we standing here, though? Come with me to my place. I live nearby."
           I won't describe the specifics of that meeting. Ivan and Fyodor had a great time together. The finish line was that Fyodor slept in Ivan's bed and Ivan slept with me.
            The next day, as Fyodor was saying goodbye, he patted my head and said, "You have a great helper. Is he your eyes?"
          Do you know what the old man told him? I'll remember the words for the rest of my days.
            "No, Fyodor," said old Ivan, "Trisong isn't just my eyes but my life. God forbid if something should happen to him. I would absolutely die!"
            Thank you, my dear people. Thank you, old Ivan, and you, Sasha. It's quiet in the apartment, and it's time for me to get some sleep. Ive had a lot of dreams or something . . . .


 Chapter 20

"If I had known where I would fall, I wouldn't have gone to that place at all," old Ivan used to say. What kind of devilry is that? Barely had I recovered when Sasha got sick. When I was sick I stayed home, but they took poor Sasha to the hospital. They called an ambulance. (They have those for people, too.) The doctor said it was appendicitis. I didn't know anything about that kind of problem, but they took Sasha away and he wouldn't be around for a couple of days. How could I survive this trouble? I missed my boy very much. You can't imagine how frightened I got what the doctor said Sasha required surgery. My God, the slaughter! However, Mother and Granny agreed. That meant it had to be done. Anyway, believe me, I couldn't keep still. They all left, but I sat and howled. I howled until the neighbors started knocking on the door. I could hear them say, "My goodness, could you calm that dog down!? What has happened in there!? We can't take it anymore!"

What happened? I had trouble, that's what happened. They took Sasha to the hospital, and I was all by myself. So, I grieved.  How would it be possible not to grieve and howl? It wasn't a big deal . . . just a bit of howling. They wouldn't shed because of it. After all, a person doesn't exactly sit silently when there's trouble. Nevertheless, I quieted down. I whimpered instead. I whimpered very quietly as if were singing a sad song. Why cause trouble for my family? Neighbors are neighbors. They'll complain about a dog that's annoying them. "All right," I thought, "I'll keep quiet. Calm down!"

The women came back from the hospital, and they were very agitated. Mother was in tears, so it was Granny's turn to calm her down. From the conversation I realized that nothing serious had happened. Sasha would stay a while in the hospital, and then they'd let him go. When would that be? They would let Mother and Granny know soon.
"All right, Trisha," said Granny. "They took your friend away, didn't they? You will miss him, won't you?"
Why "will"? I already missed him. I started to miss him the moment he walked out the door. Anyway, I answered, "Arf!" 
"Arf, yes, arf," sighed Granny. "Let's go for a walk."
I was game for a walk. One shouldn't forego walks. We went out to the street. I walked, but my mood was low. A constant conversation ran through my mind: "How are you doing without me, Sasha? Are the doctors making you hurt? Just don't walk around the hospital, or you'll get into trouble and break your head. Just be patient. When you recover, we'll have all the walks in the world. Don't take risks. Have they given you a cane? I didn't even look . . . . Is your cane in the cupboard or not? Just be careful, kid. I worry about you. Get better soon, my dearest Sasha."

The first man we met spoke to us with a look of amazement:
"Dear Yelizaveta, where is your Sasha?"
Granny explained. We had taken barely ten more steps when a second person asked, "Hello, dear Yelizaveta. Where is Sasha?"
Well, our walk turned into an interview. I learned by heart the name of the hospital, diagnosis and even the doctor's name. The most important thing, though, was that nothing really horrible had happened. Granny wouldn't lie to neighbors. Sasha would be home soon, and I was glad to know that.
We did manage to have an adventure, nevertheless. A Staffordshire attacked me. Do you know this dog? All they want to do is fight. My Granny was scared to death. The attacker's name was Dandy. As you know, I don't touch anyone. I was walking with Granny, looking at passersby, and suddenly this fighter showed up from nowhere. He assaulted me for no reason, growled and tried to grab me by the throat. I'm not a fighter, but I can defend myself. I said to him, "Hey, what do you want? Why did you attack me?"
"Let's fight, Labrador!"
"What for?" I asked. "I'm not a fighter, I'm a seeing-eye dog. Do you get that?"
"I don't care," replied Dandy. "I want to fight. Or are you a coward?"
"I'm not a coward. It isn't customary for us to fight. What for?"
"Just for the hell of it," he replied. Then he growled and tried to bite my nose.
"Maybe we shouldn't," I said, trying to calm him down.
"A-a-a-r-r-r!" he growled. "What, are you scared?"
What a stupid dog. Why would I be scared? I just don't like to fight. Do you believe me? Why would I need these dog fights? They have no meaning. And you know what the thing about the situation was? This Dandy wasn't at fault. Maybe he wouldn't ordinarily want to fight. It was people who teased him into it. I'm serious. For centuries, they've been raising this breed to fight. Maybe he doesn't want any conflicts, but his blood boils, prompting him to get into a fight. It seems pretty stupid, but it's too late to correct it. I just don't understand how people can be allowed to keep them in apartments. There are breeds that peacefully coexist with cats and other dogs. Breed those, and let them bring you joy. Why would you need this creature? I give you my word of honor: I didn't touch this dog, nor did I even look at him sideways, but he attacked me anyway.

The fight didn't last long, because Dandy's master turned out to be much smarter than his fighter. He dragged him off, scolding him all the way. I went nearly crazy when I heard his excuses. Imagine this: The Staffordshire said, "He was the one who started the fight, when he insulted me. And I . . . . Yes, and then I . . . ."

"What I liar," I thought. I started it!? Just open any book about dogs, and inevitably you'll read that a Labrador would never attack any dog first. Don't you get this insane Staffordshire as a pet. They're nothing but trouble. If you let them, they'll fight even lap dogs. A Staffordshire doesn't care whether the other dog is small and gentle, he'll just tear it to pieces if he can. What is going on in the world? Is this right? And people are really so na;ve? They think that these dogs are aggressive only toward other animals. Stuff it! Even at school I heard our instructors say that a Staffordshire is a dog that can suddenly attack even his master. It's clear to me that a dog like that has to fight someone all the time. He holds it, holds it and then attacks . . . even a person. Especially if this person behaves like an animal by beating the dog, abusing him, insulting him and kicking him around. One day, the Staffordshire thinks, "This isn't a man but an animal." He bites his arm or leg, and then he can't stop. It's tragic when that happens.

Well, you'd better not get such a dog as a pet. Just take my opinion into consideration. I know what I'm talking about. We don't like abuse either, but we don't attack because it. A Labrador will endure it in silence. Sometimes a Lab might growl or show his teeth, but he'll never attack a person.

Granny and Mother poured antiseptic all over my muzz . . . face, and they placed a bandage on my nose. I didn't put up with the bandage for long, though: I licked that patch off and spat it onto the floor.  Granny was insistent at first. She wanted to stick it back on, but when she saw there was no blood she changed her mind.

What kind of life is that? It looked as if everything had settled down. The kidnapping was over, I recovered, and my paws and head are safe and sound. Then, I ran into a hooligan. This is how it happens: You don't know from where a stone will fly. Who would think that I would have a fight that day? Holy moly! Sasha is at the hospital, and I get pulled into ultimate fighting.  I felt ashamed. What would I say to Sasha once he returned from the hospital? How did all this happen?

My first thought was not to tell you this, but then I decided you could handle it. They gave me some pills, and I fell asleep. I had a dream. The dream was strange; kind of peculiar. However, I'm not sure whether it was funny or sad. I'll let you decide.

Generally, some kind of a revolution or a coup had taken place in the world. Suddenly, the dogs seized power on earth. They did so at the same time in every country. A Labrador became president in Russia, in America it was a Portuguese water dog. In Peru it was some horribly bold dog, and in Brazil it was a boxer. Everywhere, the dogs ruled. They put all violent people on chains, while those who were peaceful and kind were allowed living in their homes under the supervision of their masters the dogs. People were infuriated, at first. They cursed and refused to execute the commands of the masters, but soon they became resigned to their situation because the rebellious ones were not given any food. What can you do? Hunger breaks down stone walls. The dream, of course, was very funny. What I especially liked is when the Labrador-president issued orders to dogs-general, ministers and officials:
"It appears you've gained some weight, comrade bull terrier."
"I will lose weight, comrade president," the fat dog replied.
"You don't follow any physical training?" the Labrador asked sarcastically.
"Yes, comrade president, but I've become a bit lazy."
"That isn't the way to go," the president said. "I'll check again, a week from today. So, get back into shape."
"Yes, sir!" the bull terrier replied.
"And you, comrade minister," the president said to an imposing great Dane. "Why are you wearing such an expensive collar?"
"It's a present, comrade president!" the great Dane replied. "My master gave it to me . . . ."
"What kind of master?" the Labrador wondered.
"My former one, comrade president!"
The president replied, "If it is your former master, why are you still wearing it? Take it off immediately. Don't bring shame to your breed."
"Yes, sir!" The great Dane tore off the collar and threw it aside, but he still glanced at it once or twice.
"Introduce yourself," said the Labrador to a huge wolfhound.
"DSS Director!"
"What the hell is that?" said the president, his eyebrows arched.
"Dog Security Service," answered the wolfhound loudly.
"Why would we need such a service? Can't we, as dogs, provide our own security?
"Negative, comrade Labrador," the wolfhound replied.
"I have to think about this," the president said. "I'll have to sort it all out."
A slender little poodle stood in the corner.
"Who are you?" the president asks. "What are you responsible for?"
The poodle answered humbly, "Me? Excuse me, sir, but I'm the minister of culture."
"Why are you so small?" the president wondered. He turned to the prime minister, a haughty Dalmatian, and said, "What kind of minister of culture is he? Why couldn't you have chosen another one?"
"I'm sorry," said the prime minister. "The problem is that culture isn't that well funded. If I were to assign to the post a larger dog, it would die of hunger."
"Who?" the Labrador wondered. "The dog or the culture?"
I didn't hear the reply. A banging sound came from behind the door, and I woke up. I couldn't go back to sleep for a long time. I kept thinking, "That was some kind of dream!" It's likely that every dog dreams of being a human, if only for a few minutes.

Dear readers! 
Currently the book is being published on Amazon. In a few week from today you will be able to read the rest of the story on Amazon Kindle or purchase a paperback version on Amazon.com. Beleive me, you won't be disappointed as you discover the rest of Trisong's adventures, they will get even more interesting! Once the book is published I will post a link to its Kindle and paperback versions.

Misha Samarsky