Chapter 22 – Phil, the Autistic Boy, and Shark Bond

After Pixie and Isaac vanished from Shark’s sight, he sat for a moment to think about his day and the information he picked up around the “Demure”. 

It looked like they were not going to be the only dogs in the club’s vicinity that night. Duke and his pack were frequent Friday visitors; this Friday was not an exception. 

He noticed Duke and his pack of eight wandering around the Chinese food place earlier that day. It was unusual for such a large pack to form in his neighborhood, but there it was. Duke’s pack was wilder than the average urban dogs and unfriendly to other packs. They didn’t like Isaac and Shark as much, especially since Duke got rejected from Marshall’s mentorship. 

The old pug decided not to take him under his guidance as Duke was reluctant to listen. He was stubborn, but not stubborn in the way Isaac and Shark were, just bullheaded, fighting against everyone else’s will for nothing. He lacked discipline and humility – two critical attributes that were required to get on Marshall’s team. 

Since the rejection, Duke carried resentment towards Marshall, Isaac, and Shark. The basset wasn’t as convinced that Duke is not their friend but Shark was suspicious. 

Maybe it was because of his lost faith in others due to his sad destiny with Matias, who knows? Or maybe he was just overly cautious. Regardless of what was the reason for the mistrust, he was in an alert mode as far as Duke and his pack were around. 

In all that mess, Shark loved the Chinese food place because of one very important reason: Phillip. 

Just as Isaac befriended Daisy, the ice cream girl, Shark had an unusual sympathy for Phillip. Phillip, or Phil, as Shark loved to call him, came to visit his father at least once a week. James, his dad, was a vet whose office was just a few shops away from the Chinese place. Sometimes, when his dad was called for emergencies, Phil stayed over the weekend, keeping him company with the sick animals. It was the most fun Shark, the abandoned corgi, ever had with a human after Matias left him. 

Shark didn’t like hanging around grownups too much – they were loud, always in a hurry, and traitors, just like Matias. It couldn’t escape him that even the dog owners who brought their home dogs to the vet for interventions were like that. 

“How do these dogs manage to stay calm and be so happy?” Shark often wondered seeing his canine friends driving around in cars, being carried in fancy bamboo baskets, and getting spa treatments every two months. 

But Phil, the boy? Phil was something different. He spent most of his time alone and he rarely spoke a word. He was unusually silent for a small boy, but that’s exactly why Shark grew fond of him. 

Shark knew that Phil was special but he didn’t know why not that he needed any explanation. Phil was autistic and, just as much as Shark, he didn’t like spending too much time around people. He preferred to be left alone, minding his own business. 

After having finished his Friday afternoon quest for leftovers around the Chinese place, Shark hopped over to the vet’s office to see if the boy was there. It was Friday, so it was entirely possible that he was. 

He looked through the glass, and much to his delight, noticed Phillip sitting close to the window. He had something in his hands, a weird quadruple bird with eyes in the center, and one other thing with buttons that Phil was currently obsessively investigating. Shark had no idea what that was. 

“Hmm, what sort of bird is this? I haven’t seen anything like it – it has four wings. Are those wings? What’s that sound it is making? Well, it’s not that terrible, it’s quieter than the hair dryer, that’s for sure.” Shark’s thoughts accelerated as he was trying to get to the grip with Phil’s new drone and remote control. 

Suddenly, Phil lifted his eyes and noticed Shark seating by the window. The boy wasn’t scared. He calmly took his drone and his remote and got out. He stared at Shark for ten seconds or so as he was talking to him without words. 

Shark wasn’t afraid of the boy. His mouth was open and his tongue out, he was smiling. The boy walked to the tiny nearby park, which, luckily, was well lit, because it was already getting pretty dark. 

His drone lit up, too. Shark watched what happened with an open mouth. He was curious. Phil pushed a button, the quadruple bird lifted up and started flying, circling around their heads. 

Both the boy and the corgi looked at the drone above for a few minutes until a worried voice yelled from across the street:

“Phil! Phil, what are you doing out there? I told you not to go out on your own, especially after dark!” James, his dad ran over the street in what seemed like only two seconds. 

”Gosh, I have one surgery taking longer than anticipated and you are already doing your own thing!”, continued the vet, calming his voice and gently hugging the boy, touching him cautiously around his shoulders, as the self-awareness struck him, warning him that he might stress the calm boy without any true need. 

“Come on, let’s get inside for now. I need to complete some paperwork: the handover with shift number two is due in five minutes. You know that I am the duty vet this weekend. We have plenty of time to play with the drone tomorrow. And we will have daylight, too. The weather forecast for tomorrow looks fine.” 

Shark ran away further and hid behind the nearby building once he noticed the grownup approaching.

Looking at the clear night sky, James abandoned the green park, throwing one long look at Shark at the end. James’ sad look was clearly saying that he had seen too many stray dogs for whom he could do nothing. 

As he was getting inside to provide care for the dog that would soon wake up on the surgery table, James sighed heavily and closed the door behind him, glad that he brought Phil to safety.       

Featured Image Credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Chapter 10, A Basset Named Isaac

Chapter 10 – The Cohabitation Experiment

From afar, it looked like a standoff. But that was far from what Isaac and Shark intended. This time, they needed all the help they could get from Pixie.

Isaac was pleased with himself. He got Marshall’s approval and Shark’s word to back him up if things go awry. But this wasn’t allowed to happen. Isaac just couldn’t imagine the consequences of failure. He would risk his position and his gang security. He could even risk someone else’s life.

Inhabitation that didn’t go according to the plan could have disastrous consequences. 

That is why he was unusually cooperative and at his best behavior when he blurted his first words to Pixie:

“Hey Pixie! You look cheerful today! Did you have a hearty meal, by any chance? From your posture and those fuzzy swathes, it looks like you’ve spent the night inside. Lucky you!”

“Stop it, Isaac! I don’t have the time to listen to your chit-chat or fake compliments! What is that you and this scrawny friend of yours want? He looks more like a chihuahua than like a corgi these days!”

“Is it because he wastes his time on looking for troubles around the block and in the outskirts instead of searching for decent food?”, angrily growled Pixie, remembering the problems Shark created for her on her territory in the last couple of weeks.

“Hey, watch it!”, Shark showed his teeth and took a step forward with his right paw planning to repay the compliment, but he was stopped in his tracks by Isaac, who was more tactful anyway, and on this occasion, he had tripled his focus and vigilance.

“Take it easy, bro! You know that Pixie wouldn’t let us near her if she wasn’t curious about what’s going on! Let’s give it a chance now, won’t we?”, he tried to calm down his friend by moving him to the side to chat without Pixie overhearing their intimate bro-to-bro conversation. 

“It’s time to turn a new page in our lives and save some humans with dreadful destinies along the way. You know that Daniel and Charlene stand a slight chance of ever being happy if we don’t interfere by inhabiting them both at the same time. And we need Pixie for that. I know you have a tough time trusting people after what happened to you with Matias. But aren’t we, as dogs, supposed to be the ones that show a character strength unusual for humans if we want things to get better around us?” 

“Come on, fella!” pleaded Isaac. “I know you often get angry and that you are sad most of the time. I am, too. I was born on the street, remember? At least, you had the chance to leave the good life once. I never had that.” Isaac attempted to knock some sense into Shark’s erratic behavior. 

“Who knows, maybe we’ll find our forever homes after this is over? You know what Marshall says: once a dog teaches a human how to love, they fall helplessly in love with them and never let the dog leave their side!”

“No way, Isaac! I am not going back to live with humans! Ever again! I just don’t trust them. Despite the tough times in the economy, I have a much better experience on the street than I had on the farm!” Shark was coming back to his usual quick wit after listening to his wise friend’s wise words. 

“I will help you now – I don’t want to disappoint you or Marshall, your friendship means the world to me, you know that! But humans – nope, a-a!” concluded Shark as they both got back to where Pixie was standing, losing her patience.

“Sorry, Pixie”, said Shark, rucking the apology from below his muzzle.

“Say, what dog? I can’t hear you!”, gleefully responded Pixie, although she knew too well that Isaac had persuaded Shark to apologize.

Shark was now squelching under the burden of his newly adopted collaborative behavior.

“I said I was sorry, okay? Don’t go overboard, Pixie, you know we wouldn’t be here if there wasn’t something for you, too.”, Shark didn’t want to completely toss his rebel persona in the dust.

“Spit it out, then, buddies! Let’s see what you have in mind”

“We want you to join us for a cohabitation plan, Pixie. We need you to inhabit a female by the name of Charlene.”

“We desperately need your help. Please don’t say no before you at least have the chance to listen to the plan in detail”, Isaac explained warily as he saw Pixie’s eyes grow with confusion and the hairs on the back perking up with surprise.

A Basset named Isaac - Chapter 6

Chapter 6 – The Dog that Didn’t Trust People

“Are you out of your mind?!” Shark couldn’t believe what his friend was suggesting. 

“My mind is a heated debate point lately. Everyone seems to wonder if I’ve lost it. Am I out of my mind? Not at all.” thought Isaac. 

“I’m quite in it, actually” he tried to calm his friend. He never felt more excited and anxious as he was explaining his concept for turning Daniel’s world upside down to Shark. 

“Relax, dog,” Isaac tried to instill a bit of his newly founded confidence about his ingenious method to Shark. “I know it’s weird. But that’s precisely why it will work.”

“Unheard of. Stupid, Ridiculous. Ha-ha. Foolish. Dumb. Shortsighted. The more I think about it, the less angry I get. It’s so nonsensical, that I’m starting to think of it as a huge joke. Unheard of. Unheard of!”, Shark repeated in a futile attempt to bring Isaac back to his senses. 

“Did I mention it’s dangerous and that it could boomerang to destroy all the effort we’ve invested in the last couple of years under Marshall’s apprenticeship”? barked Shark with an open mouth, half-wittingly, and half-scared. He couldn’t wrap his head around Isaac’s gullible plan.

“Ask Pixie for help? You’ve lost it, my friend! This challenge has gotten to your head. You are blabbering nonsense. Did Marshall approve your idea? Say what? He did?”

Sad Shark, a basset named Isaac, chapter 6

Image by Amit Karkare from Pixabay

“There it is! This is one huge mistake. I can’t believe what I’m hearing! And from both you and Marshall! From two of the most grounded people I’ve met in my life!” Shark’s old wounds started to split open as his old trauma of distrust started to cripple back in his newly-found life, one that he tried so hard to build on a sturdy base with devoted companions who never left his side.

But now, the fragile shell cracked through as memories flooded back to remind him of a painful past he was trying to forget.

* * *

Shark had a hard time trusting dogs. And people, too. Maybe even more so.

“People can be cruel. Flickering. Downright backstabbers”! he thought as he recalled his previous domesticated life. 

Those were the days. In the three years Shark spent with Matias, his owner, he was the happiest dog in the world. 

Sometimes, as he was falling asleep in the city at night, he dreamt of his old life. Woken by the sudden onslaught of wonderful memories, he often thought that that the life on the farm never existed. 

“Did I just made that up to soften the hard-hit of this urban existence?”Shark asked himself as he remembered the happy events on Matias’s farm. 

He was the only dog on the farm, but he never missed those of his kind. There was plenty to do and other animals to hang around with, play with, and keep an eye on. Matias spent a lot of his time around the farm and the fields, taking care of the crops and Shark was allowed to follow him wherever he worked. 

A Basset Named Isaac- Chapter 5, Squeal and Yelp

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

When Matias wasn’t with him, Shark wasn’t lonely. Not at all. He played with his best friends, Squeal and Yelp. Squeal and Yelp were two of the friendliest and dirtiest pigs you’ve ever seen. Matias didn’t name them, but Shark knew better to call them just as they sounded when snooping around the farm and in the mud. It was an unlikely friendship. Squeal and Yelp were often too lazy to wander around the farm and the surrounding land, keeping it safe close to the house. Shark, on the other hand, enjoyed long walks, And that’s what he loved coming along with Matias and the other animals. 

“How come pigs and dogs can become such friends”? pondered Matias as he was watching the unlikely bunch hanging out together. Yet the friendship flourished. The threesome enjoyed making a mess in the mud while Matias was busy with his city errands. Those city trips were a rare moment when Shark was on his own, not following his routine trajectory alongside Matias and whatever he was doing.

Shark loved Matias. It was his dream life. 

A Basset Named Isaac - Shark, the Corgi

Chapter 2 – Shark, Isaac’s Best Friend

But when it came to love, Isaac was anything but lazy. He would wind up all of his engines and often lost himself in the story. His relentless enthusiasm would take him for a ride and he just couldn’t curb his expectations. He kept coming up with premature conclusions, inaccurate assumptions, and wild projections, over and over again.  

“Am I the best hound to teach people how to love?”, Isaac asked himself after a couple of repetitive failures. 

He was. He just didn’t know it yet.

In his overexcited youthful attitude, he just couldn’t appreciate enough the changes he brought into people’s lives. Picturing the long-term effects of his lessons was a challenge. After all, for him, love was always in the now. 

“People wear those solemn, sober faces all the time. It’s like they carry the whole world on their shoulders,” he told Shark, as the two best friends wandered around the train station while they were looking for a new person to teach a love lesson among the commuters. 

Shark was a corgi-turned-stray dog and Isaac’s best pal. He got his nickname from his new street gang because he proudly owned the strongest muzzle in the block.

After his owner Matias left him on the street, he asked so many questions that confused him. The most common one was “How could someone that loved me for so long leave me like that?” 

But he just had to accept his fate and quickly became accustomed to street life. He was a cheerful corgi with a weird temper. As much as Isaac was agreeable, Shark was confrontational.

But they got along well, learned a lot from each other, and were the best partners on Marshall’s team for healing broken hearts. Despite their strong impulses to handle things fast, they still had the highest success rate in around dozens of blocks in the neighborhood. 

“Do you think this stellar reputation will follow us around for a long time?”, Issac checked with his friend with a doubtful face.

“Relax, dog”, Shark nodded in his laid-back manner, without uttering a bark. 

If a human had observed how Shark and Isaac communicated, they would have noticed just a couple of dogs wandering around the train station. The canine couple looked just like the standard strays that are looking for restaurant leftovers or a warm cardboard shelter. 

Most people wouldn’t have a clue that they were constantly communicating. Most people, but not all of them, as we will later see – a gifted autistic boy and a wondrous vet with the biggest heart somehow got to understand them. 

As a general rule, humans didn’t understand the hound language. Save for the common dog vocabulary, Isaac and Shark also had their jargon and a long history of inside jokes accumulated over the four years they hung out together under Marshall’s mentorship. 

“Humans give too much credit to words, bro!”, said Shark. 

“All they do is talk, talk, talk, and forget to listen. No wonder they don’t understand each other!” 

Shark oozed confidence as his friend stuck out his tongue and looked at him with a smile.

”I know, Shark. They rarely listen. Especially their own hearts!”, blurbed Isaac as he recalled the special skill that sometimes cost him dearly. He remembered his recent failures and wondered if he was truly qualified to teach lessons in love. 

“There, my sucker confidence took the better of me again!”, Isaac didn’t let his mind drift into the vulnerable territory as he and his bud concentrated on the task at hand.

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