Pink looked up from the pinecone she was gnawing on by the fireplace. She and Andeliya had been running about the house and playing, but Ally, the human in charge, had told them both to lie down, Right Now. Pink knew that when Ally had that tone, she meant it. Ally was having visitors and needed to finish straightening up. Three-and-a-half-month-old and six-month-old Šarplaninac puppies running about underfoot were not making it easy.
Normally, they’d have been outside at this time of day, but today was different. They had both had baths, for one thing! Pink didn’t understand why she had to be stuck in that water. It made her paws wet!
Ally seemed a little jittery to Pink, nervous. It was strange. She was usually so solid and calm.
“Tom,” Ally said, “lunch is ready to go whenever we’re ready. Is Luna in her kennel?”
“Yes,” Tom replied with a smile. He was used to Ally being very organised on pick-up day.
“What do you think they’ll be like?” Ally asked.
Tom looked at Ally and smiled, “Well, I think that if you didn’t already have a good feeling, they wouldn’t be coming here today.”
“That’s true,” Ally replied with a sigh. “I hope she’ll be all right in a city. From the photos they sent, it looks like there will be lots of space for her and places to walk, other dogs. They said there’s a Bernese Mountain Dog on their street, so at least there will be another large one. It will be very different for her than it is here in the mountains.”
Just then, the door knocked. Pink looked up from her pinecone and jumped to her feet with a yip. She barked her biggest bark to make sure that the humans knew the door had knocked itself. Andeliya did the same thing and curly tails wagging excitedly, they followed Ally and Tom to the door.
When Ally and Tom opened the door, Pink saw four humans. Two older ones and two younger. Pink gave a quick sniff; two females and two males.
“Welcome,” Ally said with a smile. “I’m glad you found us all right.”
“Hello! It’s good to meet you,” said the older female. “I’m Kathy. This is Brian, Brian’s son Mike and Mike’s girlfriend, Sarah.”
“Come on in,” Tom said. “Have a seat.” The cheerful, welcoming voices told Pink and Andeliya that all was well, and they ran over to sniff the new humans properly as they entered.
Everyone exclaimed over how cute the two puppies were and moved over near the fireplace to sit down.
“This basket of pinecones is lovely,” the human called Kathy commented.
Ally laughed. “Those are there because I know that puppies will chew at anything they can get their little teeth on. They can’t hurt a straw basket or a pinecone.”
Kathy smiled, “Thanks for the tip.”
All the humans started to talk then and get to know each other for a few minutes.
“Which is Pink?” Brian asked.
“The little one,” Ally told him. “The older girl is Andeliya. She’s six months old and new to our kennels. She came from a breeder in Calgary.”
Both the new female humans started to squeal with delight. “She’s so sweet!” It made Pink’s ears itch and she had to shake her head.
“Why don’t we eat,” Tom invited, and all the humans gathered around a pretty table in the sunroom. He pulled a little gate across the doorway to keep the puppies out. Pink sighed, turned around and lay down with a humph, her head on her paw, and looked up at the table from under her brows. They were eating without her. Then Andeliya yipped on the other side of the room and Pink had to go find out what was going on.
After lunch, Pink watched as the new humans left the house with Ally. She sniffed around under the table with Andeliya to make sure they hadn’t accidentally dropped any food that needed to be eaten. Little bits of bread, cheese and … Pink wrinkled her nose and stepped back. That little green bit didn’t smell good at all, acidic and nasty. How did humans eat this stuff? Oh!! That smell the humans called ‘cheese’!!! She quickly gobbled it down and followed Tom out as he left the house.
Outside, Tom and Ally took Brian, Kathy and the other new humans over to the kennels. Here, the adult dogs lived with their puppies around them. There were fenced off enclosures for individual dogs and a large, open space where the puppies and dogs could run in the grass.
There were dogs in several of the enclosures. The first was Pink’s mother, Arusha-Luna, a beautiful, dog with a brown face, golden eyes and oatmeal fur mixed in with darker brown on her back.
“This is Luna, Pink’s mother. She gets so upset when people pick up her puppies, we have to put her in the enclosure,” Ally explained to Kathy. “Pink is her fifth and last, this year.”
“It must break her heart to have her babies leaving,” Kathy said. Pink touched her nose to her mother’s through the fence.
Ahead of them, Tom was introducing Brian to Pink’s father, Bigor. He was a very large dog and had a lot of black in his thick, long fur. His mane was luxurious and he was majestic. He was walking freely, greeting the humans and accepting their praise as if it was his due.
“He’s wonderful,” the human called Mike said. “How big is he?”
“About 165 lbs,” Tom said.
“Wow!” all the new humans exclaimed.
“You’re going to be a big girl, Aleksandra,” Mike laughed. Then he started to play with Pink in the field while the others met Bigor and Pink’s cousin Jemmo. Mike was funny! He always lost the races and everything. Pink liked him!
Kathy had been looking at Luna, Pink’s mother, in her enclosure, barking. It was clear she was upset. She must be so worried about what was going to happen. All of her babies had been given to new homes and Pink was the last of this litter. Finally, Kathy went over and crouched down in front of Luna.
“Hello, Arusha-Luna. My name is Kathy,” she said, keeping her eyes from meeting the dog’s for too long. It would be rude and confrontational to look her directly in the eye. “You must be so worried about what’s going to happen to Pink. I promise you, Luna. She will be a part of our family.”
Luna began to calm down as she listened to Kathy’s voice. There was something she trusted in it and slowly, she stopped barking.
“We’re going to name her Aleksandra,” Kathy continued, softly. “We know that Šarplaninac is a very old and noble breed and that Aleksander the Great’s mother is said to have had them. So, we’re naming your girl after him.”
Luna sat down and looked Kathy in the eye. There was no anger or aggression in Luna’s golden eyes, just confidence and understanding. This time, when Kathy spoke again, she kept eye contact longer.
“Aleksandra is going to live in a city called Toronto. There are lots of parks there and places she can run with other dogs. And we have a garden that will be hers. We will love her and look after her as if she were our own baby puppy. I promise you, we will.”
Kathy knew that Luna understood. Her last puppy was going to be loved and safe. That was important. Luna was content; still, she held the human female’s eyes a few moments more. The human males tried to interrupt at one point, but Luna growled them away. She was talking to Kathy and nobody else.
Eventually, it was time for Kathy and Brian, Mike and Sarah to leave. They had a long drive home back to Canada. Ally and Tom gave Kathy an envelope. “Here are her papers,” Ally said.
“We’ll take good care of her, Ally,” Kathy replied, and they hugged.
Pink didn’t know what was going on, but suddenly, she was in the air in the one called Brian’s arms, and then she was in a box, and there were new smells all around her. Odd smells. She didn’t like it one bit! She howled her outrage, repeatedly, and humphed and plopped down when nobody saved her, looking up with reproach in her eyes.
“Remember to let her figure things out for herself,” Ally said. “She’s intelligent and needs to know she can do things.”
“We will,” Brian replied.
“Thank you so much for trusting us with her,” Kathy said. “Bye.”
Ally turned to Pink. “Good-bye, Pup Pup,” she said gently with a caress of a fluffy, soft ear, before returning to stand with Tom, who put his arm around her.
Pink wasn’t sure what was happening. A big door slammed shut and then, suddenly, the world was moving and vibrating. Ally wasn’t there anymore, and neither was Tom and she was alone with the new humans. What was going on? Pink let out a whimper. Where were her mother and father?
“It’s all right, Aleksandra,” Mike said, reaching into her crate from his seat and putting his hand on her back. Pink liked Mike, even if she didn’t know what an ‘Aleksandra’ was. Mike had played with her. Mike smelled like the grass on the mountain. He was solid, like Ally.
“Dad,” Mike said, “pull over when you can. I want to bring her into the back seat with us. We’ll make sure she’s secure and safe, but she’s alone and scared back there.”
As soon as he could, Brian pulled over and they all got out of the SUV. Mike reached back and pulled Pink out of her crate. He set her down on the back seat while he attached her leash to her collar and stood at the door waiting to see what she would do. Pink looked around. She could smell grass out there and wanted to be in it. She looked down. It looked firm, but it was a far drop.
“Ah, we should help her,” Kathy said, starting to move forward.
“Ally said to let her figure things out for herself, Kat,” Brian reminded her. “Let’s see what she does.”
Kathy sighed, “All right. You’re right.”
Pink, in the meantime, had stretched her little body down toward the floor. Where was it? Reaching with her paws, trying to find it, she slipped off the seat and landed in a lump. Pink looked up and humphed, one ear up and one down. Then she looked around her. She could smell grass and she went to the door.
There was a ridge that she had to get over to get to the next step down. Pink studied it, looked over the ridge at what came next, looked around to see if there was another way, came back and finally, decided she had to go over the ridge. She humphed. And sighed. Looked at the humans, who looked back at her. And tried to go up over the ridge down to the running board. And got stuck. Her little legs weren’t quite long enough.
“Can I help her now?” Kathy asked, looking at Brian, one eyebrow raised.
A few minutes later, Pink had peed and had a sniff at the flowers, then Mike picked her up and put her back in the SUV, between himself and Sarah, with her leash secured to the seatbelt. Brian and Kathy got in the front, and they began the long drive home to Toronto.
After a while, Pink began to sigh and wriggle a little. She had a bit of room to move, but she wanted to move more!
“You’ll be all right, Pup Pup,” the one called Kathy said. Pink knew Ally called her ‘Pup Pup’, too. That felt good. It was familiar. And she had fun in the grass just now. But Pink had never been with anyone but Tom and Ally, Luna and Bigor. What about Andeliya? And what was that thing poking her? She tried to twist and see, but couldn’t. It was under her!
“The seatbelt is under her. I think it’s making her uncomfortable,” Sarah said.
“Here’s my jacket,” Mike replied. He folded it up and put it between the seatbelt and the puppy.
Pink looked at the jacket and looked at Mike, then lay down once more. There was no more pokey thing! He fixed it! Just for her! Pink looked up at Mike for a moment, then curled up and put her head on his leg. She missed her mother and father, her cousin Jemmo and Andeliya, Ally and Tom. She wasn’t sure what had happened to them. But Mike was here and he made the pokey thing go away. And then Sarah put her hand on Pink’s back, Kathy said it was all going to be all right and Brian said to ‘Go Seepies, Puppy’, and somehow, Pink knew she would be fine. She sighed once, closed her eyes, and let the movement of whatever she was in, soothe her to sleep.