You’d think basic obedience training would be easy for a werewolf, but it wasn’t. Patrick spent most of the afternoon working with me on how to heel, sit, and other basic commands so it would look right. Charles and the Alpha stopped in, mostly because my mental rants to them were driving them crazy until Alpha put an end to it. “Patrick is away from his mate and his responsibilities to his new Pack because he wants to see Jessie protected. You need to shut up, listen and become the best damn service dog the world has ever seen, or you’ll be away from her even longer.”
My ears when back and I whimpered; he was right. “Sorry Alpha.” I focused on the commands, and by dinner I could pass the obedience course without corrections.
Patrick was pleased, and he told me to heel as we walked away from the indoor field we were using, across to the castle for dinner. I was still under Alpha command, I couldn’t shift back, and as we walked into the main dining room everyone stared at us. I growled, not pleased with their reaction. Patrick grabbed my ear and twisted, he wasn’t Pack so he couldn’t communicate mentally. “You’re still on duty, a service dog never growls unless his charge is in danger,” he said. He let go and I followed him to his seat, sitting behind him at his command. The food came out, and it smelled wonderful; all the things I had missed about my homeland’s food for months. I sat patiently, waiting for the Alpha to give me the command to shift and join them, and they didn’t. An Omega brought two bowls in and set them against the wall. “Go eat,” Patrick said as he turned to me.
The humiliation. Normally we only ate in animal form if we had hunted or we were being punished; our meals were mixed in the bowl and given to us that way. I moved over and saw there was dog kibble in the bowl and water. “You have GOT to be kidding me. Where’s my food?”
“You have to learn how to be a service animal for Jessie; she’s not going to feed you people food, and you can’t turn your nose up at what she gives you. It’s a high-quality dog food, plenty nutritious. Quit complaining, it’s the only dinner you’re getting,” the Alpha said. His voice sounded mad, he expected more.
I focused on the big picture. I needed to get through this training so I could be with Jessie. I stuck my muzzle in the bowl, crunching the dry pellets. I was hungry, and I had to admit they weren’t the worst thing I’d ever tasted. It just sucked. I figured the faster I ate the less I’d suffer, so I wolfed the food down and then washed the taste out of my mouth with a long drink. When I was done, I returned to a sitting position behind Patrick.
As the people started getting up, some would scratch my ears or pat my head as they walked by. This was humiliating; I was not some juvenile on punishment, I was a senior Beta. One of the children came up and gave me a big hug. “Can Cuddles come play outside later,” she asked as she scratched my neck.
“He’s got more training,” Patrick said. I licked her neck and face as she squealed and ran away to catch up to her parents. “Good boy,” he said. “A service dog is trained to ignore people around him and stay focused on his charge. People might pet you, call you names, even try to feed you. You need to ignore them unless your charge tells you it’s all right. If that happens, you need to be like your namesake- friendly, non-threatening and safe. You can’t give Jessie reason to wonder if she will be safe with you.”
I nodded my head as he got up. “Heel,” he said, and I came around to his left side, my head even with his hip. He walked me through the castle, using the commands I’d learned and adding additional ones. He had me open doors, fetch things, even sit in a corner. “You’re always watching,” he said. “Sometimes Jessie might put you somewhere out of the way, maybe she’s working or meeting with people. You need to stay out of anyone’s attention, blending in to the background. Never let your guard down, remember your primary duty is to protect her from danger.” He called me to heel and I followed him outside.
He showed me a hand signal for “go play,” and explained what it was. “She’s not going to need you by her side all the time, and you have to go to the bathroom sometime. The ‘Go Play’ command allows you to run off and burn off some steam and leave steamers in the woods. Don’t go so far you can’t keep your eyes on her, but at least poop behind a tree or something.” I ran off into the trees, barking excitedly as that would be expected of me. I found a good spot and dropped a deuce, then peed on a few trees along the edge. “Cuddles! Come!” I ran back as quickly as I could, coming around to sit at his left side. “Good boy,” he said, palming a liver dog training treat. It was pretty tasty. “I’m going to give her some of these, Larry will help train Jessie on how to command you and run you through your paces. This is what is normal for training our dogs. Do your job right and you might get a treat.” I looked up at him, tilting my head, hoping this would end soon.
We trained the next morning on attack and protection commands, which were far easier for me, and reviewed all the other commands and hand signals I had been taught. After lunch, Charles was with us as a Pack Omega drove us to the airport. We suspected Patrick might be under surveillance, and we didn’t try to hide his departure. His presence at the Pack was no secret, it was part of his training to take the Beta position in Moscow.
It was a nice day, so instead of being stuck in the big dog kennel in the back, I was in the back seat with my head out the window. It was the first time I’d done that, normally we were never in our wolf forms in cars. I could see why dogs liked it so much. We drove onto the airfield where the private jet from the United States had just landed, and parked to wait for it to taxi in. The airport tanker immediately drove over to start fueling it up.
When the steps came down, Theta Charles walked me to the stairs and I bounded up them. I had my service animal vest on, plus that stupid collar. Patrick handed the dog kennel up, it was still in pieces to fit through the door, then he joined us. His parents had brought the suitcases with most of his stuff, as we were flying to Moscow next to see him off on his new job.
It took an hour before the pilots were ready for takeoff, and I laid between the facing seats of the Learjet III as we taxied out to the runway. “You look cute with that collar,” Beta Female Abigail said. I just huffed and put my head between my paws for takeoff. “You’re going to have to work for your mate, but she is a good young woman and deserves to fall in love. Treat her right, she’s important to us.” I just looked up at her, head to the side, tongue out. I loved Jessie, I would never hurt her and she knew it. “If we can just keep her safe until the court case is done, Yuri loses.”
Patrick shook his head. “It isn’t over then, though I can’t wait for him to lose out on three billion rubles. In six months, the Council decides on the leadership of her father’s Pack. I want to be Alpha, Mischa and I could become the Alphas, but I’d rather you take it, John. It’s her birthright, not mine. There will be other chances for us.”
“That won’t be easy,” Beta Peter said as we took off. “John here has to keep her alive, reveal our existence to her, get her to accept him as her mate AND want to go back to Russia where Yuri still wants her dead. He might not be able to get Yevgheny’s fortune back, but he could get her Pack, its assets and its territory unless John here can defend it.”
I growled at the thought of my Jessie being in danger. I would be by her side for whatever she chose, and if that meant she took over the Moscow Pack, so be it. If she decided to travel the world, start a business, return with me to Scotland or just live with me in the woods, I would be fine with it. I just wanted to be with her.
“You need to figure out how to get her wolf back, John.” Patrick was looking out the window as we pulled into the air. “We all know it is there, buried deep. Father Kempechny must have used his magic to push it down, thinking it would save her. You two need to figure out how to break the spell.”
I put my head down, magic was not my thing, and I didn’t like witches. Charles just laughed. “You don’t like witches, but your mate IS one now, you fool. She’s got his magic now, you two need to figure it out.” They talked most of the flight, and when we landed in Moscow I stayed on the plane with Charles. Peter, Patrick and Abigail all gave me a hug and wished me luck before they went down the stairs. I was happy for Patrick; he’d proven himself to be a good wolf and a good ally to have. He and I shared the frustration of having a mate we couldn’t have yet, although he was far closer than I was to that goal. I hoped we could all get together again the next summer.
The flight crew shut everything down and went to the hotel to rest. Charles and I had to stay with the plane in the hangar, leaving only so I could relieve myself in the weeds and rocks out back. The next morning, the crew arrived with Patrick's parents before sunrise and we were on our way back to the United States. We landed in London, changing out flight crews and refueling. We flew across the Atlantic to St. John’s in Newfoundland, staying there for twelve hours before continuing to Minneapolis. Charles took pity on me, ordering steaks for me and taking me for walks to stretch my legs, but we couldn’t go far without clearing Customs.
Finally, the last leg of our flight ended at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. We taxied to a cleared section near the terminal. My crate and his luggage were loaded onto a cart, and we walked across the tarmac as he pushed it; I was on a leash in the heel position. Charles processed through Customs on a tourist visa, then we were sent to a room to wait for the animal inspector. An hour later, after Charles provided my shot records and a recent vet exam, I was examined then we were allowed to go. I held my paw up and shook his hand as he smiled. “Nice dog you have there,” he said. “Wolf hybrid?”
Charles nodded. “The breeder finds them to be highly intelligent and trainable. He just completed training and is going to a very special woman,” Charles said.
“Well, he’s big enough she can ride him around if she gets tired,” he said. “Good luck.” We walked out the door and through the terminal, me staying close to him. I saw what Patrick warned me of; a service dog, despite the signage, attracted a lot of attention. The fact that I was freaking HUGE for a dog didn’t help. I couldn’t count the number of times I heard “Mama, PUPPY!” as we walked through to the pick-up area.
Finally, I jumped up into the back of a Ford Expedition with a familiar scent. I nuzzled up to Alpha Stan Larsen in the back seat as Charles took shotgun. “Nice collar,” he said as he brought his head to mine. I transferred allegiance to his Pack again; the Alpha had insisted, as Jessie’s protectors were both from this Pack and I would need the link to communicate. “Welcome to Minnesota, I hope this works,” he said over the bond.
“Do you know where Jessie is? Is she all right?”
”I have little communication. My men aren’t in range for linking and are under orders to communicate only with one person and that isn’t me. As far as I know, she’s fine. You are going to return to our Pack and wait for our contact to arrange you to be delivered. We’re being watched closely, so it won’t be easy. My patrols have identified at least four werewolves near our borders, and humans have placed cameras around our borders, even in our territory.”
“You didn’t remove them?”
”No, that would arouse more suspicion. The Pack is under a no-shifting order and we’re trying to play it casual. The longer we go without them seeing her, the better.” He scratched my ears. “Your previous Alpha command is reinforced by me; no shifting unless an Alpha directs it or it is necessary to protect Jessie. I’m sorry, but to maintain appearances, you’re going to be housed with the other dogs we are training.”
“You’re putting me in a damn kennel?”
“Yes.” Crap. Concrete floor, chain link fence, a grate to pee through and a dog bed. Humiliating.
We arrived at their homes thirty minutes later. I was taken out and led back to the kennel and training area, where I was allowed to run around and play for twenty minutes before I was put away. I put my head down, nothing to do but wait.
At least they left the radio on for me.