The Adventures of Zoe, the Wonder Dog
By Carrie Jacobson
The story so far: James Dunning lost his job and moved in with his wife’s mother, who is allergic to dogs. He brought Zoe, his old, nearly blind lhasa apso, to the Pike County shelter and left her there, tied to the fence, in the middle of the night. Before daybreak, Zoe met Kaja, a big red chow-German shepherd, and the two left the shelter to make their way back to James. They’ve been joined by Loosey, a cat, who’s most recently helped them make their way across the bridge over the Neversink on Route 209.
In the morning, at the intersection of Route 209 and Route 211 in Deerpark, the trio stops. Kaja can smell water, and the rich scent of tilled soil. But which road to take?
She nudges Loosey toward a tall tree, and Loosey understands in an instant. She’d lived with dogs her whole life and she likes them. Then, Thelma, the last dog, got old and died, and Marie went into a nursing home, and suddenly, Loosey was on her own. But she knows dogs, and so she leaps up into the tree and climbs high, high above the little building on the corner, high above the house across the street, higher than the fire station roof.
From the branches, she can see the fields below, and a river snaking along one side of the road. She can see the mountains and a tower sitting high in them. She can see houses, and a road that curves in one direction and climbs a small hill in the other.
She comes down the tree – always harder! – and the three decide to walk along the flat road that skirts the fields. They’re hungry, and there should be mice or voles to catch and eat there.
Loosey does just that, catches two mice, and the three eat, and then drink from the river, and make their way along the road. It narrows and climbs, runs past houses set back in the woods, and past dirt roads and big patches of forest. Cars zoom by, and the three shrink back into the underbrush.
In the afternoon, the three come to a place where the road widens and there are more houses. Kaja can smell people, and a bright mix of cooking smells, from houses and from restaurants. She can hear people talking and laughing, and she knows this is a town, and that towns are dangerous.
They scramble down a bank, away from the main road, and cross under a bridge. It’s quieter down here, and darker, and they run along this road, down a hill, away from the town, Kaja in the lead, Loosey following Zoe. Night is coming, and the air is getting sharp and cold, and it doesn’t feel safe here.
Just then, there’s a loud noise, louder than any of the three has ever heard, a noise of metal and machine and iron, and a smell of something harsh and dark, and then a long, screeching, horrible screaming whistle – the three stop and flatten themselves, make themselves as small as possible – and the train roars past, cabin lights coming on, whistle blaring – and then it’s gone, and Kaja and Zoe and Loosey run as fast as they can.
They end up on the big road again, and this time, Kaja can smell horses and cows, and it’s a good smell, a smell that means barns and water and hay and maybe even food. A smell that means safety. They trot along the road, and as the day darkens into night, they make their way up the drive into Pierson’s farm.
There’s a light on in the barn, and a girl is singing as she does her chores. She’s raking a stall when the three friends arrive at the door, and she looks up and laughs.
“Well, hello!” she says, and they know they’re safe for the night.
Carrie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org