Chapter 32 - Ashore
Apoc looked at me.
I yelped, and yelled and yes, barked. It was just easier, and louder.
My cries echoed off the canyon walls.
I heard them yelling and motioning to one another. One of the trucks drove away. I heard the squawk of radios. And then we were passing underneath the bridge. I looked back at the bridge happy knowing that I would get another chance to try to communicate.
My joy disintegrated when I saw the hunter’s truck pass across the bridge. Damn him. But the rangers seemed not to notice that the killer was in their midst. Then we rounded another bend in the river. The water was rougher here, more rocks and shallower. I saw a Ranger SUV on a small sandbar jetty. Two rangers were standing by the SUV with rifles on their hips. The Ranger truck slid to a stop, and the two rangers inside jumped out and quickly fastened a rope to the back of their truck. One of the rangers was wearing a harness and strapped into it. And then he took a run at the water, and started to walk out into the running river. I watched as he lined up on our little waterlogged canoe.
Apoc peeked over the edge.
I noticed the men on the shore changed stance, and they were aiming their rifles at the boat.
‘No wait’, I looked at them, ‘let me tell you what happened’.
I barked. ‘See just a harmless dog, and her friend’. I thought back about Blossom as a puppy, and remembered the way she would wriggle with excitement to see me.
I tried to wriggle, and look excited.
They were yelling back and forth.
“I got it” said the one in water.
“I’ll radio back and let ’em know we found the canoe and the two stowaways.”
The other unarmed, ranger stood behind the truck with a long metal pole with a hoop on the end. I could see large steel cages in the back of the truck. For a moment, I was struck with fear. I’d been in a cage like that for a only a short time, but I would never forget how it felt. Treated like a dog, without enough room to turn around. With no where to go to relieve myself, and how horrible that truly is when your sense of smell is so acute.
But the waves of shivering fear passed and probably appeared to be excitement.
“Good Dog. Be a good doggie. Nice and calm. Let’s not wake up your friend there.” Said the one in the water as he clipped onto the canoe.
I couldn’t decide if I should go forward, and try to act excited or stay where I was or sit or what. The ranger with the rifle on shore still had it trained on the canoe... and now I could see that it was trained on Apoc.
“Sit, stay, we got you now,” he said in his most soothing voice.
I sat and looked at him.
“Good Doggie. Wow, kind of dog are you? I’ve never seen a breed like you.”
You have no idea, I thought.
“You must have been somebodies pet, but your friend... he’s kinda dangerous.” Said the one gently stepping backwards dragging the canoe towards the shore. “So everybody just stay nice, and calm, and it’s all good.” He kept up the calm chatter all the way to the shore.
The ranger with the pole lined up on Apoc. And the ranger with the rifle angled out for a clear field of fire.
The other Ranger returned from the truck. “Apparently they are some well connected rich asshole’s private pets. Captain says we are to take them into custody and then back to the station where we will turn them over to a Dr. Shen.”
I groaned with disappointment. Apoc looked at me, and everybody freaked out a little. The ranger with the rifle looked a little twitchy.
“Hey it’s okay,” said the guy pulling the boat, and then continued in the same fake calm tone. “Everybody just shut up, the one on the end here is pretty smart. Very well trained. And recognized the name when you said it. So why don’t we keep everybody here happy and safe. Good girl. It’s ok.”
I knew we were going back into prison, but best not to make things hard there might still be a chance to plead my case. So, I pretended to be like Blossom, and wagged my hind end.
“There, that’s a good girl. Now be good, we’re almost there.” He produced a leash with a loop collar from his waist. “Can I put this on you girl?”
He held out the leash and collar.
I couldn’t look at it. I just closed my eyes, and held my neck out. I felt it cinch up around my neck, and for a moment felt like I would be sick. Images of the last few months flashed through my mind, slowly they retreated. But I still felt raw, and betrayed. Think like a person, act like a dog, I kept telling myself. Use your brain, you can figure a way out of this. You have power, and intelligence that they don’t know about...
“C’mon girl,” he motioned towards him the leash slack. I jumped into the shallow water and walked to the beach. “See I told you guys, very well trained. Just probably doesn’t like her master very much.” I sat on the edge of the water and looked back at Apoc, who was looking at me like I’d betrayed him.
Please Apoc, I have a plan, I thought at him. Just don’t fight ’em now they’ll shoot you, I looked at him pointedly. I don’t know if he understood, but he turned and snarled when the ranger with the pole began to move forward. The ranger with the rifle twitched, the strap buckle clicked loudly in the silence.
It was a long moment, and lasted forever.
Finally everyone unfroze, and began to breathe again.
He lifted the pole again.
Apoc growled low, brow furrowed.
The ranger with the rifle took aim.
Apoc looked at me. Slowly, I put my head down, and closed my eyes. I held it out for a long moment, before looking back up to find Apoc staring at me. I wasn’t sure he understood, and was about to repeat the action, when he sighed and put his head out and closed his eyes. Ears all the way back, but breathing calmly.
The ranger with the pole moved the loop around Apoc’s neck and cinched it tight. Apoc stepped from the canoe and stumbled a little in the water. The rangers were frightened, but to their credit they realized that Apoc was coming with them of his own free will.
“Well, fuck me sideways. I’ve never seen anything like that.”
“I swear that dog told the wolf what to do.”
“Told you it was smart.”
“Smart enough to talk to a wild timber wolf? I thought timber wolves ate dogs for breakfast.” Both Apoc and I stared at the ranger. Who promptly, shut up and looked surprised.
“Shhhh... no more talking,” said the ranger with the pole as he guided Apoc to the truck. “Somebody get the cage down.”
But Apoc had other ideas, he lept unsteadily onto the tailgate - the ranger with the pole was completely unprepared for a vertical move and didn’t catch up until Apoc was standing waiting for the cage to open.
Apoc wanted them to know he was choosing. He was showing his pride. Some warm feeling I couldn’t quite name bubbled inside of me at Apoc. I was happy though, because all of this unexpected surprising behavior was going to work in my favor. I was sure it was going to make the rangers more willing to listen to me.