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The Great Escape

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In book #1 of the Ingo series—The Great Escape—we get to know the character Ingo, who is the protagonist and mastermind of several contemporary adventure books to follow. A touch of magic realism provided by Ingo’s ability to understand human speech and the first-person mixed human/dog POV, together with a humorous and at times self-deprecating tone of the writing, make this stern and troubling subject an amusing yet educational read. Without being preachy, the book teaches new words, concepts, the idea of consulting dictionaries, and in general, solid core values. Ingo grows to experience the effects of the draconian “Eastern Block” regime on his beloved human family. His daily activities, no different than those of a human child, all involving lots of human characters and very few dogs, continuously provide opportunities for him to experience life and emotions from a mixed human/dog POV. With his excellent education and magical ability, the character develops into a reliable family member and a life partner for his young Master Lani. The book is funny, realistic fiction books with spot B&W illustrations—beautiful old-school graphite pencil illustrations manipulated digitally—is also expected to resonate with all dog lovers, regardless of age.

Fantasy / Humor
Lani Gavin
4.0 1 review
Age Rating:

Chapter One-The Magic Gift

My mother, Heidi, says that my main goal in life should be to find the love and friendship of a good master. I am still a baby dog, but at least I have a dream.

Call me Ingo, although my full name is Ingemar von Ulmbach. Yeah, it’s a pompous one. My friends call me Ingo.

It’s the end of April. The sun finds its way in through the open door. The patch of warmth and light makes the straw-covered shed floor into a puppy’s heaven. I can hear, and recently I can see, those big guys playing outside behind the fence.

Mom Heidi spends her time inside with us pups. My three sisters and I are still too young to be out there with the rest of them. But we got to meet them all a few days ago. They came in, one by one, to sniff us. My father, Nino, is stunning looking. His coat is as golden as Heidi’s and mine. Judging by how he carries himself, you can tell that he is either the alpha dog or has a severe attitude problem. Uncle Hugo and Aunt Karen look very elegant in their shiny black coats. The rusty masks give them a melancholic look, ready for a romantic masked ball.

I wonder who am I going to take after?

The rest of the family are a couple of older ladies in their conservative and spotless black coats. So, these guys are my biological family. We all have Anglo-Saxon names because of our origins, but now we live at Norbert’s farm in Morania, an Eastern Bloc—communist—


The big hairy guys start barking with excitement. We have visitors. A small white car parks in the backyard, and Norbert greets his guests, a tall slim gentleman, and a girl. Norbert brings them straight to us. My little heart is pounding so hard that I can’t hear anything else. The visiting-girl picks me up and holds me close. The height and bright sunlight make me dizzy. I can only see her blue eyes and a few glimmering drops of water running down her face. Salty little drops of water they are.

“Oh, he’s kissing me, see? He’s tasting my tears. I think he likes me. He smells like raisin muffins,” the Blue-eyed Girl giggles while talking to the Tall Gentleman.

What are raisins muffins? I hope they’re something good. I like her. She smells happy, and she is very gentle with me. She is my favorite visitor and will make a good master for me. I’m sure she likes me licking her face, but I’m not sure about the raisin muffin smell. Is it a good or a bad smell? I hope she likes me, and maybe she’ll adopt me.

The Tall Gentleman has white hair and wears seeing glasses. He scrutinizes me, checking the bump on top of my head, my ears, and my paws. When he’s done with the inspection, he lowers me gently to the ground and puts his arm around my Blue-eyed Girl’s shoulders. They start walking back to the little white car.

“What do you think? Will he do?” The Tall Gentleman jokes with her. “In another world, he would be the ultimate Best in Show dog.”

“He is gorgeous, isn’t he? The girl turns around and says,

“Soon, Ingo. One day I’ll be able to show you a better world.”

What does she mean? Where are they going?


In the following days, Norbert leaves the shed door open so we can explore the outside. It’s a world of smells.

When it first begins to rain, the earth’s perfume, the new grass, the flowers, the wind, they all have a dizzying smell. My sisters and I discover the world with our little noses—they are useful tools, and we use them all the time.

We spend the days in the big dog pen with the hairy bears—relatives of mine.

DWG #1Caption: I’d better make sure these hairy bears don’t step on my little boy.

Norbert often allows us, the little ones, to go in the garden with him. The days get longer, and the sun grows brighter and warmer.

Around noon, we have a short rain shower. My sisters, Norbert, and I are in the garden. As usual, my mind is on one thought. When am I going to see the Blue-eyed Girl again? Will she adopt me and take me away with her? It will be my job to make her happy.

My sisters finish with all the flower-sniffing they can handle and return to the dog pen. I’m the only pup still in the garden.

The flowers are blossoming everywhere, and their aroma gathers these buzzing-flying things that don’t leave me alone. I grunt and whine in their direction,

“What do you think I am? A flower or something?”

Maybe they like my raisin muffin smell.

One of them lands on my nose, and it tickles me, but I let her be. Yes, she is a Bee.

DWG #2

Soon, she calls upon her swarm of bees, but they’re missing a crown on their heads. The one on my nose must be the Queen Bee. They buzz a magic dance above and around me and then vanish.

I sit there, giddy, among the flowers and the butterflies.

I hear Norbert call me, “Ingo, get out of the garden and back to the shed, boy.”

I can’t believe my enormous ears. I understand Norbert’s words. Wow. Is this for real? I feel different and powerful. I know things I didn’t before. Something magical is happening to me.

I hide behind the watering can next to the garden’s gate to test it. My sisters are already in the big dog pen. I hear Norbert say again,

“Ingo, we need to get out of the garden. I can see you behind the watering can.”

Yes, I understand that, too. Amazed, I rush out of the gate and head full speed to the straw-covered shed.

My mom, Heidi, is in there, enjoying a moment of peace without us pups.

“Mom, I need to tell you an important thing. I understand Norbert’s words, Mom”.

“Interesting, you’re just like Maggie, your great-grandma. Did you get the Queen Bee to sit on your nose today?” Mom asks me knowingly.

“I did, I did. Why, Mom?”

“It’s curious because usually, only the girls on Maggie’s side of the family have the magic power but never a boy. You must be quite special, Ingo,” says Mom and gives me a big lick on the top of my head.

“You must have smelled the petrichor, right?”

“Mom, what is petlichol?

“Petrichor, Ingo, not petlichol ... is the perfume of the earth. It’s that special smell the earth puts out when the first drops of rain come after a warm day,” responds mother Heidi.

“You need to taste a tear of your master and smell the petrichor. If you are lucky and the Queen Bee sits on your nose, you have a chance to get The Gift. If you don’t chase her away, she will honor you with a magic bee-dance and the power to understand human speech.”

“Yes, I did. I did smell the petli...trishol, Mom.”

“Use your gift wisely, my son,” she says, giving me another motherly and loving lick.

My head is spinning, and all this information makes me tired.

I lay down to take a nap, and I remember the blue eyes. It makes me dizzy. I fall asleep, and the Blue-eyed Girl is there in my dream.

Every few days, Norbert brings in more visitors, but none of them picks me up. My sisters are in great demand, and soon, one by one, the three of them leave with their favorite visitors.

Only my Blue-eyed Girl is not coming back. Maybe I was wrong, and she didn’t like my raisin muffins’ smell or me licking

her face. It goes to show you I’ve got a lot to learn.


We have a spring shower again. The rain sound makes me want to go ... outside—if you know what I mean. But it’s so muddy, and my stomach is full of mashed potatoes and eggs. If I go out, it will drag in the dirt. I’m debating this thought when I see the little white car pull in. It’s the same car that brought my Blue-eyed Girl here a few days ago.

The surprise startles me, and ... I don’t have to go anymore. I did it right here on my front doorstep, and I’m lying in it. I had an accident, but I’m still a pup and not fully trained.

My initial joy turns into sadness because my Blue-eyed Girl didn’t come this time. The Tall Gentleman is alone. He’s a well-mannered and distinguished older man whose fine breeding is visible to the naked eye. Norbert chats with his guest while filling a big box with straw.

“So, what do you think about our only boy? Isn’t he perfect?” Norbert, always proud of the pups his canine produces, asks the Tall Gentleman.

“He is quite the specimen. In America, he would have an exceptional career at the Westminster dog show. Unfortunately, in this communist country we live in, there aren’t any career prospects for him, and nothing good awaits him. He is lucky to be adopted by a fine family who will love him and care for him.” The Tall Gentleman’s face shows sadness and regret. He puts me in the straw-covered box, and into the little white car I go—on the backbench.

What’s going on? Where are we going?

The Tall Gentleman is an okay guy because he’s friends with my girl, but he’s no favorite visitor material. I don’t think I’ll find the love and friendship in him Mom talks about.

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