Or: Wire Dog’s Huckleberry
Written by Tom Johnson, Illustration by Alice Jones
Wire was lying in his doghouse feeling lonesome. Ellen was at school, and Mom and Dad were also gone, and he was by himself, and anxious for Ellen to come home and play with him. Even Blue Jay and Red Bird were in a neighbor’s tree. Squirrel was chattering about something in the back yard, but it didn’t sound interesting. Wire let out a big sigh, covering his head with his paws. Life just wasn’t fair sometimes.
His big ears perked up suddenly when he heard a car screech to a stop on the street, and the driver yelled something, then drove on. Wire looked up to see an unusual sight. A strange dog was running from the street and heading right towards him. With his tail wagging he came to stop in front of Wire’s doghouse. Wire saw that his shaggy fur was clotted with something that smelled funny, and he must have been going through garbage cans from the looks of him.
“You should always look in both directions before crossing the street,” Wire said.
“Hi,” the new dog said. “I’m never in any danger. My special Person always laughs when I do that.”
“Well, it’s dangerous, and you shouldn’t do it,” Wire scolded. “Ellen warns me to be careful.”
“Is Ellen your special Person?”
“Sure,” Wire said. “But Mom and Dad are special too. And we always stop and look both ways before crossing streets. Everyone should.”
“Ah, don’t be a spoiled sport,” the new dog told him. “Where are your special Persons now?”
“They’re gone,” Wire sighed. “I don’t have anything to do.”
“Then come with me,” the shaggy dog said. “This is a new neighborhood and I want to see everything there is.”
“But I’ve all ready seen it,” Wire said, not very interested.
“But I haven’t, and we’re new. I bet we can have fun exploring. Come on,” he begged.
“Where are you from?” Wire asked.
“Somewhere back over that way,” he said. “We just moved here and my special Person is looking for a job. He told me to have fun while he’s away. He calls me his Huckleberry, from a book he read once. Huckleberry Finn, he always calls me. What’s your name?”
“I’m Wire,” Wire Dog told him. “Huckleberry is a weird name.”
“I think it means that I’m curious and not like other dogs. I like to run wild. My special Person likes that about me.”
Wire was a little bit leery of following Huckleberry, but his curious new friend had a nice personality, and seemed likable enough. So throwing caution aside, he joined in the outing.
“What’s that funny smell?” Wire asked before they’d gone far.
“I think it’s called oil,” Huckleberry said.
“Yuk.” Wire sniffed.
Passing the yard next door, Huckleberry spotted the neighbor’s cat, Sampson, and took off chasing him. Sampson ran for a few feet, then stopped and spun around, slapping the shaggy dog’s nose with his sharp claws. Wire thought it was funny how quickly his new friend decided not to chase the cat after all.
“They usually run.” Huckleberry said when he rejoined Wire a minute later.
“Hey, the door’s open in that old barn up ahead, let’s go inside,” Huckleberry said, not waiting for Wire to reply.
Wire entered the door behind Huckleberry and glanced into the semi-dark interior; a little light was shining through windows on the walls. Then an awful smell tickled his nose.
“Food!” Huckleberry barked, racing suddenly towards an old trashcan along the back wall.
“Don’t eat that stuff,” Wire cautioned. “It might be poisoned. Besides, it smells terrible.”
Instead of listening to him, Huckleberry gulped down the smelly stuff from the can.
Rolling over on the floor afterwards, Huckleberry said, “This is living. I’m free and wild, and can do anything I want. That’s what my special Person says all the time, too. We’re just alike. No leash, no fence, nothing to tie me down.”
Huckleberry came for Wire the next day, and the next, and next, and for a whole week, and they ran and played, and had great adventures. They became good friends, though Wire hesitated doing everything that his new friend did. Still, he could not stop the shaggy dog from taking chances and venturing into dangerous places. It seemed curiosity was always leading him into new places to explore and experience. It got to the point that Wire looked forward to his friend coming every day.
Ellen noticed it, too. Sometimes Wire was gone when she came home from school, and didn’t return till late at night, and she was beginning to worry about him. She knew it was good for Wire to have this new friendship, but she also knew it could end up being a problem. Only time would tell.
And one day it happened. Huckleberry didn’t show up. Wire was sad, but he figured his friend would be around soon, so he waited.
Days passed, and still no sign of Huckleberry, and now Wire was beginning to worry, and he was saddened by the shaggy dog’s absence. He would lie by his doghouse and stare in the direction his friend always came.
More weeks passed, and now Wire was really feeling abandoned by his friend. Ellen watched him from her window, and knew he missed his playmate.
Finally, after a month, Ellen decided that the shaggy dog was not coming back, and it was up to her to console Wire. Coming from the house, she sat down beside Wire and rubbed his head with her hand.
“Wire, sometimes friends leave us through no fault of our own. Things happen, people move away. There could be a dozen reasons why your friend has not come to see you. My guess is that they moved, and your friend has a fresh neighborhood to explore. He will find new friends, just like you will.
“Look at my friendship with Abigail, and maybe you will understand a little better. Some day she may move away and I’ll never see her again. Or, perhaps we will move, and she will never see us again. And we will miss each other, but we will also find new friends, maybe even another bookworm to read stories to us.
“In the meantime you’re forgetting the friends that are still with you. There’s Squirrel searching for another acorn by that tree over there. Blue and Jay are splashing in the water fountain. Don’t you hear them? Sampson is playing with his rubber mouse. Mom and Dad are still here, and you can play with me. There’s no need to be lonely.
“Remember your friend, and how much he meant to you. And he will never truly be gone.
“Now. Come inside, I have a new issue of your favorite comic book adventures of Miss Moonbeam!”