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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: The Family Pet (05/15/08)

TITLE: Trophies And A Soft Mouth
By Darlene Casino


“Mom, you won’t believe what Mike’s brought home…look, you’ve got to see this.” screamed my sons. “What?” I responded from under my pillow.

It didn’t seem that much time had passed since I had settled them before the television for Saturday morning cartoons. I worked the night shift, so after a few specific instructions, I had retired to my room for my morning nap.

“What’s he done now?” I whimpered.

‘Mike’ was our very large, black, Labrador Retriever. His mother was our pen dog and he’d been whelped in our enclosed front sunroom. Early on we detected a spot of larceny in his heart.

Many neighbors had grown fond of his friendly visits as he canvassed the neighborhood, first following the boys; then returning because of the little treats they lavished upon him. No one paid much attention when a child’s toy or a sweatshirt turned up in our yard. Every now and then he’d bring home a newspaper or some other treasure. Nothing was ever damaged and my husband explained that the dog was, after all, a retriever with a very ‘soft mouth’.

One afternoon we heard a friend calling him in very excited tones. Going to the door we saw her chasing after him with her bare feet and a large fork in her hand. True to form, ‘Mike’ arrived on the porch with his latest acquisition that he gently placed at our feet. Right behind him came the neighbor who quickly scooped up her dinner roast! Breathlessly, she explained: “I had just placed it on the grill, and turned my back for a few minutes. When I turned around I saw “Mike’ casually stroll up to the grill and with one quick motion, the beef was in his mouth and he was headed for home.”

We apologized profusely but she waved us off, and with the fork on one side of the meat and her hand on the other, she returned to her house. We strained to hear her mumbling something like “I can wash it off, they’ll never know.”

“Look, mom.” the boys said in unison; I felt something soft fall across my back.

I reached my hand behind my back and grabbed the ‘thing’, while almost simultaneously sitting up on the side of the bed. I felt my eyes bulge open.

There on my lap was a beautiful fur stole. The lining felt like satin and it bore a label saying ‘Chicago Furriers’. My heart was beginning to pound and I noted an opening in the lining, along the seam. So, okay, maybe it was torn a bit. I gently slid my hand under the lining, walking my fingers along places where pieces had been joined together.

I heard myself saying, “Oh no God, please no”.

Never having been up close and personal with a real fur, my mind was racing and drops of sweat dampened my brow. My body seemed to know what my mind was rejecting: This was a real fur and my dog had stolen it!

Thoughts of jail and headlines began to flood my being. For some minutes I even experienced the terror of ‘flight or fight’ response. I wondered if someone had returned home from a long night, leaving their car door open and the stole on the seat. Maybe people with furs hang them outside for an airing. By now my sons had tuned in to my panic and were taking turns stroking the stole and then my head.

‘Mike’ arrived and climbed up on the bed, pushing the boys aside. Very gently he laid his head on his greatest trophy, gave a contented sigh and closed his eyes.

I thought of driving up and down the streets, looking for a woman feverishly tearing her car apart or frantically uprooting her well-manicured shrubbery. What then? Sheepishly offer the stole that I’d ‘found along the road on my way to the store’ and then making a fast exit before she found the new ‘flaw’

Later, I arrived at the police station with the stole in hand. “Officer,” I said “my dog brought this home this morning.”

I never heard another thing about the fur. I was just grateful.

Several months later both ‘Mike’ and his mother were relocated. They had brought much love and laughter into our lives. Did I mention that he probably gained his retrieval skills from his mother? Yup, on her first hunting trip she brought home the biggest squash!

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This article has been read 584 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Carol Sprock05/22/08
Great use of dialogue and flashback examples--really engaged me since I wanted to know more. The last paragraph, however, just didn't work for me in bringing closure on Mike and his thievery. (Unfortunately I think of a suggestion--sorry.) My favorite phrase was "detected a spot of larceny in his heart." That seemed to be the central defining characteristic of Mike. I laughed aloud about the stolen roast.
Patty Wysong05/24/08
I loved hearing of Mike's capers, so funny! The ending didn't work for me either, but by then I understood more about why you whimpered at the beginning. What a character he must've been!
Marilyn Schnepp 05/27/08
A delightfully funny tale of a beloved "thief". Very entertainining and I enjoyed the romp; however, like the other commentators, the last paragaph was a disappointment after reading such a great entry...but it was written very well. Loved the Title.
Joshua Janoski05/29/08
Congratulations on taking 8th place in your level with this piece, Darlene!