Toby Finds A Friend
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H W Shelton
The fence around the yard allowed Toby to only go so far.
He had the run of both front and back yards without having to stop, but that was when he was a small puppy and his humans didn't want him to venture outside the yard and get lost.
He was growing up pretty fast now, at 8 months old he was starting to look more like the German shepherd he was and found that he didn't want to stay behind the fence any longer.
With each new day he would run to the gate in the back yard and touch it with his nose and push on it to see if it would open for him.
But it wouldn't.
He wanted so badly to be able to go outside that wooden fence and explore the woods beyond.
There must be secrets untold down in that green valley and meadow that he could see by standing up on his hind paws and looking through the slats on the fence.
Surely his people wouldn't mind if he just went down there and looked around for a little while, he would always come back home when they called him.
There must be a way.
There was and Toby found it one day.
Out in the back yard he found that by using his front paws and digging he could make a hole under the fence just big enough for him to squeeze his shaggy body through it, just like that he was free!
Stopping on the other side of the fence and looking back at the house to make sure no one had seen him escape, he turned and made a beeline down the small incline, out of his yard and into the woods.
Wow! This was a new world out here.
Bushes, trees and grass that he had never seen or smelled before, so many new things to check out, he tried to do just that with everything he saw.
There were butterflies and bees flying by, he saw all kinds of birds that he had only seen from the fence.
What a beautiful new world.
With his nose to the ground and his short tail wagging, Toby walked and walked, finally he was tired. Sitting down on his haunches he looked behind him to see if his people were standing by the fence waiting for him with lunch.
He couldn't see them, he couldn't even see the fence.
Worse than that, he didn't even see his house or his yard, nothing but trees and bushes.
He was lost!
Toby knew that his people would come looking for him.
They did that one other time when he first moved in with them, the boy had left the gate open and he wandered around a little outside.
They ran out and picked him up, holding him close and loving him as they brought him back inside.
They would do that again, he was sure of it.
Until that happened he might as well go on and look around some more.
There, up ahead, through a clearing in the woods, he saw that beautiful meadow that he used to see from up in his yard, it was sitting in that valley just the way he had seen it. Glancing around behind him, he couldn't see his people yet so he was going to go check that place out before he had to go back to his yard.
It was a little farther down the hill than he thought to the meadow.
Finally there it was, standing right in front of him and looking every bit as beautiful and green as he had thought it would.
He took a step forward and he was standing on the softest, greenest grass that he had ever seen in his young life, it smelled so good.
There were hundreds of flowers blooming everywhere, they were all different colours.
He would just lie down here among them and maybe take a short nap.
He knew that when he woke up, his people would be there and carry him back home and give him some lunch, he was getting a little hungry.
His sleepy eyes told him that a nap was first, maybe just a short one.
Toby eyes jerked open!
He hadn't been asleep very long, what was going on?
He raised his head and before him stood the biggest cat he'd ever seen!
Toby didn't know it, but he was looking in the face of a very hungry mountain lion.
"Hello" Toby barked. "Who are you and what's your name?"
The big cat just stared at him and licked his mouth with a big red tongue.
"My name is Toby and I live up on that hill behind us." Toby barked again. "Where do you live?"
At this point the mountain lion seemed confused.
Most animals he came across showed fear when he approached them but here was this dog-like creature that wanted to talk to him and be friendly.
Most confusing, it almost made his hunger go away.
Toby wagged his tail as best he could and stood up to get a better look at this strange cat. He was much bigger than the cat at home.
"Do you not have a home?" he barked again "are you waiting for your people to come and get you to? That's what I'm doing."
The lion, sitting down now, didn't know quite what to make of this.
He could just eat this dog and be done with it, but for some reason that he couldn't explain, he didn't mind talking to this little pooch.
There would be time enough to do his "lion thing" later.
Looking around to make sure no one was watching him, the mountain lion did something that he didn't do very often, he talked right back to this little dog.
"I live here in the mountains, this is my home." the lion replied.
"Wow!" barked Toby, "that's so cool, do you live with your people?"
"I have no people," the lion growled, "I don't need people."
"Who feeds you when you get hungry?" little Toby asked.
"I feed myself, I hunt my own food." the lion replied. "Who feeds you?"
"My people feed me" came Toby's reply "Who tucks you in at night and pats your head?"
"No one does, no one touches me" growled the lion.
"But how do you know you're loved," asked Toby, turning his head to the side.
"If no one touches you, how can you know?"
"Love!" roared the lion and almost laughed, "that is a human thing, not for us animals."
"But I like being loved by my people," Toby said, "it makes me feel warm and needed."
"You have been brain-washed, little dog," came the lion's reply "but I suppose it's okay since you are a people animal and not a mountain dweller like me."
Toby looked down at the ground and shook his little head. "I don't think I'd want to live without people loving me, you don't get lonely"?
"Well," the lion said with a faraway look in his eye, "sometimes I do. It's lonely being by yourself all the time and no one to talk to."
"You can be my friend and I'll talk to you anytime." Toby said standing up and wagging his tail so hard that his whole body shook.
"Just don't get carried away now little dog," the lion said with a hint of laughter in his voice " I guess that wouldn't be such a bad thing."
"You could come up the hill and see me just anytime you want, we could maybe go for walks in the woods and eat lunch together and..."
"Hold on there now, little dog," the lion said with a grin on his mouth, "let's do this thing slow so I can get used to it."
The lion laughed this time.
"What's that?" Toby said, turning his head around to see where the noise was coming from.
He heard voices calling his name.
The lion stood up and growled.
With his long tail twitching, his ears forward to hear better said "Your people are coming for you, little dog, so that means I'd better leave now."
"Do you have to go now?" Toby said with a frown on his face, "I've really enjoyed our talk and getting to know you, do you promise to come up the hill and see me?"
"I do" the lion replied, then continued, "thank you for being my friend little dog, you can maybe tell me more about this 'love' thing sometime."
With a move that was too quick for Toby to see his friend was gone, disappearing like a shadow into the trees.
"Toby!" came the call again, "Where are you boy?"
This time Toby barked and glanced back over his tail one last time before he ran toward the call, knowing that his people were coming to take him home.
Running as fast as his short legs would carry him, Toby saw the boy kneeing down with his arms out and a big smile on his face.
Running and jumping into the boy's arms, being held close with loving hands, he knew this was the life he wanted.
He wished, for a second, that his new found friend could know this same feeling one day. He would teach him if he ever got the chance and he hoped he would.
Looking back down the mountain, Toby knew he'd made a friend that day.
The boy turned around with his best friend in his arms, started back up the hill to the place with the fence that Toby never wanted to leave again.
This was home and this was where he belonged.
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