Deep in the woods was an old hunting lodge owned by a middle-aged man. Inside of that house, one late afternoon, was the two loyal hunting dogs. There was a tall skinny one named Zip because of his speed and agility. There was also a larger one that was more muscular named Munch. Zip was a Whippet-Greyhound mix while Munch was a Doberman-Wolf mix. Anyways, these two dogs were at home awaiting the return of their master.
“Hey, Munch! Our master is late! He never stays out this late without us!” Zip said to his friend.
“Perhaps he stopped by the shop to get us a treat and is having trouble finding one good enough for us,” Munch said, stretching and yawning.
At that moment, a pickup truck rumbled into the driveway.
“Oh boy! The master is home!” Zip cried out.
“We shall greet him when he opens the door,” Munch said, trying to keep being patient.
Their owner opened the door and instantly the two dogs ran to him.
“Hey, master!” Munch cried out.
“We want treats!” Zip cried out.
“Give us treats?!” Munch asked.
“Treats?! We know you’ve got some!” Zip barked.
“Yeah!” Munch agreed.
To their owner, it just sounded like they were barking for no reason.
“Hah hah... Happy to see me, are you?” the owner asked.
He was holding a small kennel in one hand.
“We are happy to see you, are you hiding out treats in that plastic thing?!” Zip asked.
“Treats! We want treats!” Munch said.
“Calm down, doggies... I’ve got something special today!” their owner said.
“Big juicy treat?!” Munch asked.
“Thousands of little treats?!” Zip asked.
“Treats!” Munch said.
The owner put the kennel on the ground and opened it.
“Oh boy! How do we get the treats out it’s too...” Zip begun, but he fell silent when he realized there weren’t any treats in the kennel.
“Hounder, come on out and meet your new buddies!” the owner said.
The two big dogs were confused at first, but they were even more confused when a puppy came out of the kennel. It was a beagle-basset hound mix with ears so long they dragged on the ground. The pup squirmed across the ground like an inchworm, his little back arching and then falling.
“Ahhhh! The master brought home a giant inchworm with ears!” Zip cried out, falling over.
“Oh, my, gosh... Umm... I think that thing must have climbed into that box and eaten all our treats... Please take it back and get treats...” Munch said, pawing at the puppy.
“Hi!” the puppy yipped.
“AHHHH! IT CAN TALK!” Zip screamed.
“Well, how do you like the pup? He’s your new hunting partner, so you’ll have to teach him what to do and what not to do,” the owner said.
“No treats? Just a giant inchworm with ears that can talk?!” Zip asked.
“Don’t whine, Zip... You’ll teach Hounder bad things...” the owner said.
It wasn’t long before Hounder was old enough to hunt with Zip and Munch. The months leading up to this were very unpleasant for the two older dogs. Now that their owner had a younger dog, he paid more attention to it than to them. Also, even though they still were receiving the same amount of treats as usual, they had to share them with the pup!
“Hey, Zip! Does it look like my ears have gotten even longer?!” Hounder asked one time.
“Yes, they are too long! Are you sure you’re a hunting dog?!” Zip asked.
“As sure as can be! I bet I’m braver than you and Munch combined!” Hounder boasted.
“Not only have your ears gotten bigger, so has your ego!” Zip said, turning his head away in disgust.
“Were you born that big or were you once my size?” Hounder asked.
“What?! What is that supposed to mean?!” Zip asked.
“It’s an innocent question...” Hounder said.
“Yes, I was born this big!” Zip snapped back.
“So then you still have some growing to do if you’re still the size you were when you were born, right?” Hounder asked.
“Oh man, you got me there...” Zip said, “That hurt!”
“Guys, you have to be quiet if you want to hunt...” Munch said in a hushed voice.
“Right... Hey, let’s send floppy the other way to see if he can track down anything. If he gets lost, no big deal,” Zip said.
“Go ahead...” Munch said quietly.
“Hey, pup! We have a special assignment for you!” Zip said.
“My name’s Hounder... What is my assignment?” Hounder asked.
“We want you to head that way...” Zip said, pointing his nose the direction opposite of where they are headed, “Go find as much prey as you can and bring it back for us.”
“Alright Zip, Munch, you two are the best!” Hounder said.
“Break a leg!” Munch cried out.
“Thanks!” Hounder cried out.
He vanished into the undergrowth and Munch and Zip chuckled evilly. After awhile, Hounder called for Munch and Zip to come find him.
“I guess the little twerp is lost!” Munch said.
“Fine! I guess we have to find him!” Zip said.
Zip ran off deep into the woods, following Hounder’s call. He was careful not to step anywhere that might hold a trap. Munch, though not as agile, quickly caught up with Zip and even passed him slightly. They skidded to a halt suddenly as a strong scent hit their noses.
“Hey guys! Um... Do bears happen to have fluffy brown hair...?” Hounder asked, tilting his head to one side. His long ears dragged on the ground and looked cut up slightly.
“Uh... Yeah...? Why...?” Munch asked.
“Can they stand up on two feet sometimes...?” Hounder asked.
“How do you know of this?!” Zip asked.
At that moment, a bear loomed over Hounder and the other two hunting dogs.
“AHHHHHHHH!!! A BEAR!!!!” Zip and Munch screamed.
Munch grabbed Hounder by the scruff and they all ran away from there as fast as they could. Their owner was confused at first by why his hunting dogs were fleeing. That was until he saw the bear! He ran too, but his dogs out ran him, leaving him behind with the bear. Unable to out run the bear, the hunter jumped down a hole to avoid the bear. Luckily, no creature was inside the den at the time and the bear could not reach the man. The dogs ran home while the bear was distracted.
When the dogs made it home, Munch dropped Hounder roughly on the ground and glared at him, snarling.
“Why didn’t you run when you knew you were near a bear?!” Munch asked.
Hounder appeared to shrink up at that. He whimpered and gave Munch an innocent face.
“You could have gotten us all killed!” Zip said.
“I’m sorry! I just wasn’t afraid!” Hounder said.
“Not afraid?! What?! How can any sane dog be unafraid of a bear?!” Munch asked.
“I just wasn’t. There was no reason to fear. You proved it to me when you swooped in ad rescued me,” Hounder said.
The other dogs fell silent.
“My ears are too big, if I had run from the bear, I’d’ve tripped and then the bear would’ve eaten me. So I stood there and waited, and you guys arrived. You proved that no matter the situation, someone could rescue me. There is no reason for me to fear,” Hounder said.
“Hounder...” Munch said in a much gentler voice.
“What?” Hounder asked.
“What if we hadn’t arrived in time...? What if we hesitated a moment too long...?” Munch asked.
“I’d be dead, but you guys would live. It wouldn’t hurt you guys,” Hounder said.
Munch hung his head in embarrassment. Zip didn’t dare look at Hounder.
“Am I in trouble?” Hounder asked.
“No, go to bed... We’ve had a long day... Munch and I will sit and wait for the master’s return,” Zip said.
“Good night, Munch and Zip!” Hounder called out before curling up to sleep.
It was a long night, but eventually, the man came home. Munch and Zip greeted him and then went to bed. The man sighed in relief after seeing that all his dogs came home safely. Hounder was fast asleep in his bed and did not stir.
As Hounder grew older and slightly larger, he became very good at hunting just like Munch and Zip. He still kept tripping over his over-sized ears though. The hunter was rather impressed with Hounder and rewarded him with extra treats. Again, Zip and Munch became jealous.
“Hey master, why don’t you love us anymore?! Haven’t we always been loyal to you?!” Munch asked his owner one time.
His owner couldn’t understand what he was saying as it only sounded like barking to him.
“Be quiet, Munch...” the owner said.
“You let Hounder make a lot of noise, so why not me?!” Munch asked.
“I said, quiet!” the owner said.
Munch felt hurt by this and went off to find Zip to comfort him.
“Zip! I have something important to tell you!” Munch said to his old friend.
“Yeah? What is it?” Zip asked.
“The master hates us! He prefers Hounder to us!” Munch said.
“That’s messed up! We’ve been around for longer, why should that twerp get more love than us?!” Zip asked.
“I’ve got an idea, Zip!” Munch said.
“Huh? And what would that be...?” Zip asked.
“We should murder the pup and blame it on the wild animals so that the master will pay more attention to us!” Munch said.
“Murder the pup?!” Zip repeated, staring in horror at his friend.
“Shhh... Be quiet... Hounder might be listening...” Munch said in a hushed voice.
“I don’t think we should murder him... How about we just beat him up so he knows we are in charge of him?” Zip asked.
“Hmm... Maybe...” Munch said.
“When should we do it...?” Zip asked.
“When we go out hunting today...” Munch said.
“Alright, sounds like a plan!” Zip said.
The owner got up later and fetched his hunting rifle.
“Hounder! Zip! Munch! It’s time to go hunting again!” the owner called out.
“Coming, master!” Hounder cried out.
He came running down the hall and tripped on his ears, rolling until he was stopped by his owner’s shoes.
“Hi, master!” Hounder barked.
Zip and Munch joined him at the door.
“Let’s go,” the owner said and he led his dogs out into the woods.
“Hey Hounder, Zip and I discovered this really brilliant area of the woods where the animals are too stupid to hide, would you like to come with us?” Munch asked the pup.
“Sure! I bet that’d be fun!” Hounder cried out, he obviously didn’t hear the last conversation the two older dogs had.
Munch and Zip lead the young dog deeper into the woods.
“I don’t see any animals...” Hounder commented.
Before he could do anything else, Munch grabbed him by the ears and swung him around.
“AHHHHHHHH!!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!!!” Hounder cried out.
Zip jumped up and knocked Hounder out of Munch’s mouth, causing him to fly and hit a tree. He whimpered and then fell limp. Zip and Munch gave each other a high-five and then ventured off into the woods to hunt. After they had found and killed as munch prey as they could carry, they reported back to their owner.
“Zip, Munch! Glad you’re back! I was about to call for you guys!” the owner said.
His excitement faded as he saw that his youngest dog was not with the other two.
“Where’s Hounder...?” the owner asked.
Munch set his kill down and said, “I have no idea.”
“You two were supposed to keep an eye on him! How could you not know where he is?!” the owner asked.
Zip set his kill down as well and said, “We tried, but he wandered off on his own claiming he was brave enough.”
“I don’t know what you’re trying to tell me, but the kill can wait. We must find Hounder!” the owner said.
Munch deliberately led his owner in the opposite direction of where they attacked Hounder. Zip followed, also acting as though he knew where he was going. The owner followed them unknowingly. Munch and Zip kept on leading their owner around until it was so dark that he begged to be led home.
Weeks went by and they never seen Hounder, even after wandering to where he was attacked. Their owner was getting ill because of all the worrying he was doing. Even the attackers were starting to worry.
“Munch... I think we may have gotten Hounder killed...” Zip whined.
“That’s what I intended in the first place... But I don’t really want him dead...” Munch said.
“What are we going to do?!” Zip asked.
“I don’t know...” Munch said, “Even if we told the master what we’ve done, he wouldn’t understand what we are saying...”
“We must keep searching for that dog...” the owner said, coughing.
Munch sat down and whined. He had no idea where to search and they couldn’t follow any scent trails because they were all worn away by that point. Zip sat next to him and also whined.
“Sitting and whining won’t bring Hounder home... I understand that you guys miss him...” the owner said.
They kept searching over and over again in the same few places, hoping Hounder would smell them and come to them. They didn’t find him; he had vanished! Even the owner gave up eventually.
It wasn’t until one particularly cold morning that they heard a howl at the door to their hunting lodge. The owner and his dogs arose from where they sat and went to the front door. Sitting there at the door was Hounder, now a full grown dog because of how much time had passed. He wasn’t alone though; huddled close to him was a silvery gray pup.
“I’m home, master! I brought this pup with me,” Hounder said, nuzzling the freezing cold pup, “The others froze to death, can I bring him in?”
All three inhabitants of the house were confused, but they willingly took in the pup. They welcomed Hounder home for they had missed him so much. From then on, neither Zip nor Munch ever picked on Hounder again.
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