Your Service Dog
Beta John’s POV
Four days later
The light in the kennel turned on, and the dogs started barking. I lifted my head, pissed that I’d been kept up most of the night by the dogs who barked at every sound.
I was exhausted and pissed off; I was being kept here in case we were being watched, and we still had no idea where Jessie was.
“Get up, Cuddles. Time to go.” Charles opened the gate and I followed him outside the building. I ran into the woods to take care of my morning business and trotted back to where he was standing by a car. He held a bowl, inside was some cut up chunks of steak. “Enjoy it while you can, buddy. I’ve got a fifty-pound bag of kibble in the back for you.” I looked up at him, shook my head then went back after the raw meat. I gobbled it down, then drank from the bowl of water he’d brought along. He opened the back door of the Ford Explorer, and I jumped in. The rear seat had been folded down, and a thick blanket was in place. I turned around a few times and laid down, my head forward as he got in. I whined, wanting to know what was going on.
“Larry sent a message last night, they are safe and in a good place,” he said. I wagged my tail at the news. “He’s going to meet us this morning, so I can transfer you to him. I don’t know where they are, and I don’t want to know.” It made sense to me, the fewer people that knew the safer she was. “We’re going to drive out with the other people heading to work this morning. My mate is flying in from visiting her family in Alaska, then we are going to the Bahamas for our honeymoon. No one will question my movements, at least that’s what I hope. You’re just one of their dogs.”
I didn’t care, I was getting out of the kennel and getting closer to being with my mate again. My tail was whapping hard against the blanket as he got in. We drove south, through the town of Stillwater and continued south along Highway 95. He got off the road once, circling around to make sure we weren’t followed, then continued. We passed I-94 and my ears perked up when we turned into Afton State Park. The car had a state park permit, so we didn’t have to stop. “Any tails will have to stop at the Ranger station and get a permit. We’re safe for now.” My ears perked up, and he pulled ahead into a parking lot at the south campgrounds. He circled the lot, it was late in the season and a weekday, so it was nearly empty. He stopped next to another SUV and put it in park. “Let’s go, boy.”
He got out, and I saw Larry step out of his car and embrace Charles before he opened the back of his car. Charles opened the back of his, grabbing the big bag of dog food as I jumped out. I put my feet up on Larry’s shoulder, pressing my head on his shoulder. ”Thank you for watching over her,” I said.
“Just play it cool, she still doesn’t know about us,” he said. “Now get in.” The bag of food was put in the back as I jumped into the front seat of the small car, the seat was back all the way. Charles got back in his car and continued driving. “He’s going to drive around the park and throw them off the scent. Keep your head down until we get back to the freeway,” Larry said. We pulled out of the lot, we’d been there less than a minute, and Charles was nowhere to be found. I relaxed into the towel he’d placed over the seat, her scent was strong in it. “I thought you’d like that, she used it last night. You’re a lucky man, you know that right?” I woofed at him. I couldn’t wait to see her.
“I need you to keep calm while I tell you this stuff, all right?” I nodded as we drove through the park access road towards the entrance again. “You know that she has the powers of a witch, right?” I nodded again, I didn’t like it but it had already saved her life once. “All that power and no knowledge of how to use it is dangerous. We brought a friend of Alpha Esca’s over with us on the freighter we came over on. That’s why nobody found us, we were in a cabin on a bulk carrier bound for Duluth.” I just stared at him, it was genius and it obviously worked. “We’re hiding with a coven up in Grand Marais,” he told me.
My eyes widened; witches as a whole were not trustworthy, that is one reason we dealt with only one of them. “Can you trust them?”
“They haven’t done anything yet to make me not trust them. Miriam is related to the Head Priestess, but we’ve only been there for a day. They don’t trust us, I’ll tell you that. We are relegated to a guest house in the back yard.”
“Why aren’t you with her?”
“Miriam is, they are sharing a room. The coven members don’t like werewolves.”
“I’m not staying in a guest house. I need to be with her.”
“I know. We’ll work that out. Now, we’ve got a long drive, you should take a nap and stay out of sight.” I didn’t need to be told twice.
I felt him push my shoulder; I raised my head and looked at him. The sun was bright, it was midday. “We’re here,” he said. I perked up, looking out the window. We were in the driveway of a large, Victorian-style house with a round turret on the right side. The grass was neatly cut, and topiary trees broke up the expanse of lawn. In the back, a smaller cottage sat beyond the formal garden and a small pond. My tail started to wag, I was so close. “Stay by me, Cuddles. Remember, you’re a service dog. Best behavior.”
“I know what I have to do,” I said.
He got out, grabbing the gear, then let me out. He gave the hand signal for ‘heel’ and I did. “Good boy.” He attached the leash to my collar, and put the service animal vest over my back, buckling it around my front legs. When he started walking towards the back yard, I stayed alongside him in a perfect heel. It had been drilled in to me, over and over, that I had to be gentle and well-behaved if she was going to accept me being around all the time. I took in the scents; most I didn’t like, the stench of witchcraft around them. One, however, drew me like a magnet.
We rounded the back of the house and Larry stopped; I dropped into a sitting position at his side. Miriam and Jessie were sitting cross-legged at the edge of the pond, and a ball of water about six feet across was hovering over the surface. “Focus, Jessie. Raise it up and rotate it.” I watched, fascinated, as the ball went ten feet in the air and started to rotate. I could see the goldfish trapped inside, swimming around trying to find their way out. “Now I want you to make a fireball in your right hand.”
I was amazed as a ball of flames appeared, but the ball of water lost its shape and fell back into the pond. “CRAP!” The flame disappeared as well.
“You have to focus, child. With practice, it will become second nature and you can do more than one thing at a time.” She got to her feet. “We have a guest, I’m going inside.” She looked over and saw me, her mouth dropped open a little. Larry started walking towards her as she stood up.
“You are making progress, Jessie,” Larry said as he walked up and stopped, me sitting by him.
“Not fast enough,” she said. “Who is this?”
“This is Cuddles,” he said as he looked down at me. “Patrick wants you to have him. He’s a fully trained protection dog, but he also is qualified as a service dog.”
She looked at me, stepping backwards as the scent of her fear came over. “He’s HUGE,” she whispered.
“He can be intimidating, but his name is Cuddles for a reason,” Larry said. “He’s just a big love-love under all that fur. Come say hi.”
I sat there, tail wagging, quivering as she gulped and started coming towards me. “Nice doggie,” she said as she came to me. I sniffed her hand, she smelled amazing. I licked her fingers, she pulled back a little then moved forward and started scratching my ears. I looked up to her with a love and devotion I didn’t have to fake. I’d die for her, without hesitation.
“Cuddles, shake,” Larry said. I lifted up my right paw, and her hand went down to take it. “See? He’s a nice dog.”
“Look at those teeth,” she said. “He’s like a small horse!”
“He is a big boy, Patrick likes the intimidation factor of a big dog. He’s been trained as a service dog for epileptics. If you black out again, like you did in the car, he’s trained to break your fall and stay with you until you can get help.”
“Do I need him? I mean, I have you guys around.”
“We shouldn’t be so close to you all the time,” I said. “Plus, there are places he can go with you that we can’t, like bathrooms. He’s perfectly behaved, and trained to operate in crowds without losing focus on you.”
She knelt and started scratching under my chin. “He is a good-looking dog. I never got to have one when I was a kid.” I let my tongue loll out the side of my mouth, delighting in the tingles as she touched me. “I like him.”
“Good. Let me show you how to use him.” We spent the next two hours together, her holding my leash as Larry taught her the commands and hand signals for obedience. When she was comfortable, he took the leash off me and we did it again, this time adding signals like “Fetch,” “Track” and “Clear.” The latter was for entering a room or building. As I checked the cottage rooms, he explained to her that I would make sure there was no one inside, plus I was trained to locate explosives and firearms by smell. I came back out, sitting by her side to indicated everything was good. Finally, he taught her the hand signal and command for “Attack” while I was sitting out of sight. “Don’t use that one unless you have to, because he will chew him up good until you call him off by calling him back to HEEL.” They walked back to me.
“What if I freeze up or faint?”
“Then Cuddles will protect you. He can sense your fear, and he will keep you safe always. Now, he’s been working hard and so have you, so to keep him fresh you need some play time together. Cuddles, STAY.” He went to his car and got a Frisbee. Jessie’s eyes lit up, and my tail started to wag furiously. I knew this would allow me to get closer to her, and help her accept me as more than just a guard dog.
He tossed it to her, and she looked down at me. “Cuddles, FETCH!” She tossed the Frisbee along the expanse of lawn, and I was off like a shot. Werewolves are not Frisbee dogs, but I didn’t care. I chased it down, my big strides closing the distance before I leaped high in the air and snatched it. Turning, I ran back to her, dropping it at her feet while I shook with excitement. She picked it up. “Uh, puppy slobber,” she said as she shook her hand. She tossed it again, and for the next ten minutes we played together until Miriam called for her to come in the house for dinner.
Larry turned around, he told me he wasn’t welcome in the house. Brian was going to get pizza for them after he completed his patrol of the surrounding woods. I went to heel at her side, and a woman met us at the door. A severe-looking woman in her forties, her graying black hair in a bun, she didn’t strike me as a good person. “What is this animal doing here?”
“Cuddles is my service dog, Gwyneth. He goes where I do.”
She looked at me. “He’s a real dog?”
She didn’t know what to say. “Of course he is. Patrick raises and trains them.”
Miriam came to her side. “Patrick’s family is the one paying for her boarding and her training. If he gave her the dog, it belongs with her.”
She clearly didn’t like the idea, but greed must have won out. “Fine. If he makes a mess he’s your responsibility. Keep him out of my rooms.”
She gestured for me to sit in the corner as we entered the dining room, and I watched the interplay as she ate dinner with the women of this Coven. I paid attention to the names, the relative powers, and the looks each of them gave Jessie as they ate. They respected and feared Miriam, but they were jealous of Jessie’s powers. As Miriam talked about their training plans for the night, I could see Gwyneth glaring at her.
As I followed her out the door following dessert, I sent to the others. “Something is going on here with the High Priestess and her coven. Start looking for another place to hide,” I said.
“Is Jessie in danger?”
“I don’t know, but I’m not comfortable keeping her here.”
“We’ll start looking,” Brian said as I followed Jessie into her room.
I sat to the side as Miriam taught her about tapping In to the energy in the nature around her. By the time Miriam went off to shower, Jessie was exhausted. “Come on, let’s get you fed and ready for the night,” she said. Brian had dropped off the bag of food, to my chagrin, and she poured some into a bowl by the bedroom door. I ate quickly, and drank, then she took me out the back door. “Go play,” she said as she sat in a chair by the door.
I ran into the woods, taking care of business without taking my eyes off her. When I trotted back, she was starting to fall asleep in the chair. I pushed my head under her hand, my eyes looking up at her. She scratched my ears, then got up. “I’m going to bed,” she said. I followed her into the bedroom, and waited outside the bathroom door until she came out and got into the full-sized bed. Miriam was already asleep, so she turned out the light as I laid between her bed and the door. “Goodnight, Cuddles.”
I put my head down, listening to her breathing and heartbeat until it evened out as she fell asleep. I dozed off myself, until I sensed something was wrong. “No… NO! NOOOO!!!” Jessie was tossing in her bed, having a nightmare. I jumped up on the bed, straddling her as she struggled in her dream. I licked her face, causing her to still, and her arms went around my neck as she buried her face in the soft fur under my chin. She calmed but didn’t let me go. I was fine with that. I settled in the bed as she rolled to face me. She went back to sleep, her head touching my shoulder as I put my head down and slept.