Last Edit: Sep 17th, 2015
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I always thought getting a dog would be fun. Something to play with even if I had to clean up after him take him on walks and all that. Mom gave me the lecture I’m sure every parent does. “He was my responsibility.” I didn’t care. I wanted a dog, a puppy, preferably a golden lab and that’s what I got on my thirteenth birthday. He was everything I hoped, beautiful gold coat, big brown eyes and a muzzle that always seemed to smile at me. I remember picking him up from the crate and holding him in my arms, little legs dangling as his tail wiggled behind him. He seemed so happy to see me. I named him Jake.
Being a dog owner wasn’t everything it was cracked up to be after all. Jake was incessantly into everything. I caught him rummaging around with one of my sneakers, all chewed up when I got home from school all day. Another Mom had me clean up when he wet all over the carpet. He tore into food, whined incessantly and as he grew bigger, he could practically pull me along on his leash. Still, I loved Jake and he loved me and we became the best of friends.
Other than Jake, I had a lot of other stuff to do. There was junior high, basketball, and my friends Jess and Mason. We’d known each other since kindergarten. Jess was kind of a tomboy, always wanting to do anything Mason and I did, and we didn’t argue; otherwise she’d beat us up. Lately though she’d been acting more quiet and reserved, and neither of us really knew why.
“Hormones,” Mason figured.
He was always guessing, thought he knew better than me. We’d sat through the education classes back in school, but most of the time we were goofing off too much to pay it attention. Eventually when the changes came for us both, we were kind of shocked but curious all the same. We shared a lot together, but I guess any boys our age would. The one thing we did share for certain was basketball, and maybe something in Jess.
Ok it was a lot more in Jess, but she was my best friend. I didn’t know what I was feeling, how to express it, so I tried to play cool. So it was for me for the time that Jake was growing up from a puppy into an adolescent dog and as he grew I saw a lot of the same changes in him that I saw in myself. His bark deepened and he got stronger, lankier in the legs with paws too big to grow into yet. He didn’t listen though, not at all, and I’d be dragged down the street till I almost imagined I’d be bloody by the end.
Finally my mom had enough. “Kaeden you need to take that dog to obedience training.”
“But mom, why can’t you take him?” I asked.
“Because you promised you would watch over him, Kaeden. He’s like a little brother, you have to take care of him.”
“I guess I should have wanted a little brother then…” I grumbled.
My mom fished into her pocket and got out a hundred dollars. “Go down to the pet store and see if they have some training. Don’t come back without signing up.”
I sighed and pocketed the money, going to fetch an old, beat up collar and lead. Soon as I did, Jake came running, bumping into walls and sliding across the floor. His tail was wagging so much it sent the rest of his body in motion as well.
“Ok Jake, calm down. Sit boy.”
Jake didn’t respond.
“I said sit!” I said, trying to push his butt down. He sort of did, but came right back up. I gave up at that point and just took him firmly as I could. “Ok boy lets gooooo-“
No sooner was the door open and we were off, him tugging on the lead and me trying to keep up. It was like wile-e coyote chasing the roadrunner.
The pet shop was just down the way, but halfway there Jake saw a squirrel and gave a terrific lunge. I tried to hold him back but his collar was too old and it broke. He went running and I was sent sprawling on the sidewalk. I hit the pavement hard, and felt a sting of pain. I stumbled up to see blood trickling form my palms. Jake was off, barking, leaping around. I stormed over. He turned around happy as could be.
“Bad dog, bad dog!” I shouted waving my finger in his face. He stared at me, confused. I took the bit of lead and did something I’d promised never to do. I hit him, square on the behind. “Bad dog!” I shouted again, taking his muzzle in my hand. He seemed to get the message because his ears fell back and a look of fear trickled into his eyes.
Looking at him, I sighed. “Sorry Jake. I guess this is why you need training.” I tied the lead around his neck as an impromptu collar. “Guess I need a new collar too.”
I got to the shop and went inside. All around there were the sounds of birds and other things, a scent of pet food and cat litter. I’d been in here a few times, and I knew the owner, Mister Medives. He was a weird old man with hair like Einstein but bald at the top. He always wore spectacles on the end of a long thin nose and he would glare at you from behind the counter until you bought something.
He was doing it now, glaring. “Well boy. Back again for more food?”
“Hi Mister Medives. No actually, I came to sign up for pet training classes and get a new collar.”
“Humph, I see. And this –animal- is your pet?” He asked.
I nodded, “Yeah this is Jake.” Jake stood there, wiggling his tail.
“Mmm, not well trained then? Let us see. Sit!” Almost immediately Jake sat.
I stared at him, but Mister Medives held up his hand. “Shake.” Again Jake obeyed, lifting his paw. “Roll over.” He fell down and rolled over on his back.
“How … how are you doing that?” I asked. “He won’t listen to me.”
The old man chuckled, though it was icy cold. “Oh I have a knack with animals. Sometimes you have to get into their mind, walk a mile in their shoes if you wore them.” He said. “Well let’s see about that collar first.”
He walked down to another aisle where there were a ton of collars along with other things. Jake followed along. “I think I have something here,” he mused.
While he was looking around I saw a collar in a box high on the shelf. It was blue, which was my favorite color, with a tag that looked like a weird sort of star. “What about that one?” I asked.
“That? Oh no, that is not for sale.” He said, pushing it up again. “Hmm, maybe I have one in the back. Wait here.”
He shuffled away and I looked through the collars. None of them were what I wanted though. I glanced back up at that first box. I didn’t know why but something compelled me about the strange, elusive collar. It sat just on the edge of the shelf and if I used the others as a sort of ladder I could reach it.
I looked over at Jake. “Keep a watch boy, promise not to tattle on me!” He just wagged his tail like a dumb idiot. I set my sneakers snuggly on the shelf and climbed, one after the other. I managed to just barely get my finger on the box and pulled it down.
The box was light in my hands, and I could clearly see the blue collar inside with the strange star shaped tab, but there was something else with it. It looked like a little necklace, with the same star. Glancing around me I could hear mister Medives still rummaging around in the back. I got another box that only showed the picture of a collar inside and opened it. As I switched the boxes and put one collar into the other’s place a necklace fell out with it.
I heard Mister Medives coming, but I had no time to climb back. I closed my new prize and quickly came up to him. “Mister Medives, I found a collar but this one fell back down.”
I held it out. There was a terrible moment as he looked at the box in my hand then at me. He glowered for a moment and grumbled, taking it from my hand and putting it firmly back on the top shelf. “Well, then you have something you want. I will ring you up and I can sign you up for the training class in front.”
“Thanks, Mister Medives.”
He came up and stood behind the counter. I felt weird. I mean, I’d never done something like this before. It was not like me. I began to sweat as he scanned the box, tracing his fingers over the edge. “This was opened once … probably a return, are you sure you want it?”
I nodded dumbly and he shrugged and got out some paper work. “Alright, that will be sixty-six dollars and six cents.” He said. “For both the training and the collar.”
It seemed like a strange number, but I didn’t think anything of it. I held out the hundred dollars. He took it and got me the change. “Sign here, then.”
I did. He grumbled and took the sheet. “Alright everything is in order. Get going.”
“Right,” I said. “Thank you Mister Medives!”
I took off out of there, quick as I could, running with Jake fast as I could manage. I didn’t stop till I got to an alleyway near the house. “Phew, we did it boy!”
Jake just waggled his tail, panting happily.
“Alright, let’s see our prize.” I said opening the box. There was the collar, and now that I looked at it, I saw how really strange it was. The color was a deep sapphire blue, like someone had drained the ocean and put it into it. It was made of leather, but the leather itself was stamped with weird symbols and language I didn’t recognize. The tab itself was a star, but it was upside down. The clasp was a dark iron.
The necklace was much the same, with a blue crystal in the center of a silver upside down star and weird letterings on the back. There was space on it for a name too.
“Wow, this is cool, huh boy?” I said.
Jake of course just stood there. I smiled and opened the collar. “Here we go boy now stay still.”
He wouldn’t of course. Almost immediately as I tried to put it on him, Jake squirmed one way. “Come on Jake,” I said. “It won’t bite.” Again he squirmed and lifted his head this way and that.
Finally I managed to get the collar around his neck and closed the clasp on it. “There, we’ll have to get your name and my address on it later.” I said. I looked down at the necklace. I wasn’t really one for them so I just put it in my pocket. “Okay boy, let’s go home.”
Jake started to tug, and I pulled back. “Oh come on, boy, heel!”
Suddenly the dog obeyed and started to slow down and traipse at my heels. I stared a moment, wondering what was going on. “Sit!” The dog sat. I grinned. “Huh, maybe Mister Medives doesn’t need to train you after all.” I thought looking at the remaining change. “I’ll just keep this and buy you something fun later.”
When I got home Mom asked how much everything cost. I told her it cost ninety and the collar cost ten. She wasn’t happy, especially since I didn’t have a receipt. “You’ll have to work it off then.” She said.
I didn’t care, I was just happy that I had some extra spending money. I was about to feed and give Jake some water when there was a knock at the door. It was Jessie and Mason.
“Hey Kaeden, want to come play basketball?”
“Sure!” I said, starting to grab my sweatshirt.
“Don’t’ forget you have home work to do since you were out with the dog.”
“But mom …”
“No but’s young man. You need a shower too so get moving.”
I sighed, feeling my cheeks burn. “Sorry guys, duty calls.”
“Alright, just try to hurry and get it done, then you can come play.” Jessie said.
I went upstairs, grumbling, and started to undress. As I did I felt something in my pocket. It was the necklace. Shrugging I put it into my dresser drawer and finished undressing then enjoyed the feel of the warm water on my skin. After a few minutes I got out and dried off.
When I got to my room both Mom and a pile of books were waiting by my desk. She didn’t look happy.
She didn’t say anything, just opened her hand. Inside was the remaining money. I gritted my teeth, remembering I’d left it in my pocket.
“Cost the full amount huh?” She said. “I can’t believe you, Kaeden. Not only did you lie to me, you were going to keep this money. That does it, you’re grounded for a week.”
“A week, but…. But tomorrow’s Friday and there’s a basketball tournament this weekend!”
“No butts,” She said, her voice icy. “You’re lucky I’m not going to do worse.”
“I was just going to use the extra money to buy Jake a toy since he’s been trained."
“The dog isn’t trained,” She said. “It doesn’t happen instantaneously.”
“Yes he is, watch!” I looked where Jake lay on my bed. “Down boy!”
The dog perked his ears and wagged his tail but didn’t move. Mom didn’t look impressed. “No video games and no TV either.”
“What? No. Come on, you were listening before. Sit!” Again nothing happened. I looked over to her desperately. “Please, you’ve got to believe me!”
“Nope sorry kiddo.”
“But … but this isn’t fair!”
“Life’s not fair.” She said. “You shouldn’t argue with me and you shouldn’t lie. Being untruthful will only get you bad things. You’re lucky your father isn’t home or you’d be in real trouble. Now hit the books.”
I started to protest, but there was no use. She was really peeved now. Sighing I took Jake by the collar. “Stupid dog. Why didn’t you do as I asked and get off the bed then sit?”
Almost immediately he sat up and jumped down off the bed and sat on his haunches, looking up at me expectantly. I sighed and sat down to the inane task of home work.
From my seat by the window, I could look out over the back yard and see Jessie and Mason playing basketball at her house. The sound of the dribbling ball was like water torture. I managed to get most of my homework done before dinner but when I sat down I got another lecture from Dad.
I didn’t want to hear it. I feigned being sorry but I didn’t really care at that point. He must have figured that out because he tacked on two more days to being grounded.
I had to feed and water Jake, of course, and then take him on a walk. Dad told me to go down the block and back and return in ten minutes. That left no time to do anything or sneak in a single round of basketball. I hooked up the collar and trounced out the door.
When we passed by, Mason called out too me. “Hey Kaeden!”
I looked over and Jessie tossed me the ball, but I threw it back. “I can’t. I’m grounded.”
Both their faces fell. “Aw, that sucks!”
“Yeah, all because of this stupid dog.” I said. I knew it was my fault, but it was easier to blame Jake.
Jessie glared at me. “Aww, he’s just a Dog Kaeden.” She knelt down and rubbed over his ears and face. Jake nuzzled happily against her. “See? He just wants love.”
“Whatever,” I said, looking over at Mason. “You agree with me, right?”
Mason shook his head. “He’s just a Dog, dude. I had a dog when I was a kid remember? Had to take care of him but he was the best friend on four legs I ever had.”
I scoffed at them both, not being in a mood to deal with them. “Yeah, sure. You guys enjoy your freedom, I’m going to get mutt face here and I guess we’ll sniff half the neighborhood.”
I left before they could say anything else. Jake kept sniffing every tree and bush. “Come on, there’s got to be one you like.” I said.
He just wagged his tail up at me. I sighed. “You know what, if you’re not going to go fine, but I don’t want to get in trouble.”
I had to finish my homework of course, and Jake lay on my bed as always. I could still hear the basketball so I shut the window and closed the drapes. Mom and Dad were talking about Jake downstairs too, and I didn’t want to know what they were planning so I closed the door.
I figured I was already in trouble so I said the hell with my homework and plopped down on my bed with my sneakers on, (just to say an extra insult to Mom who hated when I did that.) I dug a comic book from beneath my pillow. It was one of my favorites, Wolf Boy. It was about a boy who ran away from home and became a werewolf. Reading through it, I couldn’t help but fantasize. Wolf Boy was free and able to do whatever he wanted and here I was stuck at home.
As I was reading I heard Jake whine. “What is it now…?”
I looked and saw a dark stain on the edge of the carpet.
“Oh no…” I groaned. I had to act fast. I was pissed off but leaving it would make things worse. I got an old shirt out of the dresser and quickly got to work on the stain.
“Stupid dog…” I muttered on my hands and knees. “You’ve got it so easy.” I tossed the dirty rag of a shirt into the hamper and sighed, slumping back down on my bed. As I did I noticed the little necklace glinting inside the opened dresser. I got it out and held it up.
The blue jewel seemed to almost glow in the light of the room, the space for a name distinctly empty. I looked to it, and then to Jake’s collar and figured “the hell with it.” I unclasped the chain and put the thing around my neck.
It was light but warm against my skin. Once I had it on I sat back and kept reading. Jake sat at my feet, his head resting on his paws, dark eyes looking up at me. I could almost feel him staring through the comic.
I sighed and scratched his head. “You’re lucky you know? You get to be a dog. You don’t have school or parents to boss you around. You can do anything you want.”
He lifted his head and his tongue lolled out. I laughed, “You don’t even have to shower or wear dumb clothes. All you have to do is run and be a dumb dog all day. What a life! I wish I was the dog and you were the boy so you would have to deal with all the dumb human stuff while I was free.”
I felt a little shiver running through me as I said that but I didn’t pay it any mind. Just then, Mom knocked on the door. “Kaeden, Dad and I need to go down the street a minute. Stay here and get to bed! Be sure to put the dog outside.”
“Alright, Mom!” I shouted back. Once I heard them drive away I took Jake downstairs and set him up outside, chained to his doghouse. He whined softly, wagging his tail and I petted his head. “Have a good rest bud.”
I went back to my room to finish my comic. As I sat down on the bed I noticed that I still felt chilled. There. Getting up I went and made sure the window was secure, but my whole body felt weird, achy. Despite the cold I was starting to sweat.
“Am I getting sick?” I wondered.
Then my right hand started to cramp. It was terrible, like someone had taken my fingers in a vice and was slamming it shut. I let out a yelp of pain, but no sound came. My fingers curled in on themselves without my wanting them to. The cramping continued and all I could do was stare, transfixed and watch as each of my fingers began to shrink. They weren’t just shrinking, they were balling up. My thumb was the worst of all because it was pulling up to the side of my wrist.
I tried to move them desperately, but all of them felt stiff. I managed to do it through the pain and then wished I hadn’t. As I stretched my malformed fingers, the tips of them began to ache as well and I saw the nails on them begin to thin and stretch out into blunt claws.
At first I couldn’t believe it, my hand with claws, but then again as I looked at it, it wasn’t so much a hand anymore and those weren’t fingers. They looked more like stubby toes like….
“Dog’s paws.” I whispered. I quickly turned over my hand. Sure enough my palm was starting to darken and puff out, the lines giving way to thick padding. My thumb had morphed into what looked like a dewclaw, and dark brown fur was starting to grow from the back of my hand and swarm my changed digits.
“Oh shit oh shit!”
I stumbled back and fell onto the bed, watching my malformed hand as it morphed. The fur was quickly spreading up my arm. My mind raced and my heart began to beat in my chest. What was this? What was happening to me? I saw the comic on the bed, the page fallen over to show Wolf Boy half transformed. No, this wasn’t that, this wasn’t a full moon and that wasn’t a werewolf paw. My gaze fell down to the necklace. Sure enough the blue stone was glowing bright as a flashlight.
“It’s the necklace!” I tried to grab it with my unchanged hand but as I did it cramped. I cursed and twisted around, trying to get a look at the clasp in the mirror even as my fingers began to distort. My thumb started to withdraw, pads started to form and fingers started to turn into toes. I felt the clasp, just barely … “I can get it off….just a little…”
SNAP. Instantly my fingers lost mobility and my other hand morphed.
“No, no!” Panic set in. I turned back around and stared at the mirror. I swore that my nose was starting to look a little darker.
“I got to get help!” I scrambled over to the phone, but I couldn’t pick it up. All I could do was nudge it over and mash buttons uselessly. By now the fur had grown up my arms and overtaken my elbows. I felt a surge of muscles in my arms.
A terrible pain surged through my arms as the elbow joints locked into place. Sitting there with my new paws on the floor, I watched as all sign of my elbows disappeared, the fur flowing up my arms towards my shoulders.
I turned towards the door. Maybe I could get out, I could still manipulate the door. I stumbled over to it and managed to fumble with the handle and push it open. As I did I felt my shoulder shift and snap out of place. All mobility was lost in them as my arms shifted in their sockets. My arms, my hands … they were useless now. Looking at them I felt my stomach drop. They weren’t arms or hands anymore, they were forepaws and forelegs.
I twisted and turned, feeling as the fur began to cascade down my back and over my chest. I tried to shift my new “legs” to get out of my shirt, but it was useless now. The fur started to creep up my neck which started to thicken.
I turned towards the window.
“Help!” I shouted. “Hell-ruff!” I suddenly felt my throat burn as the fur overcame my adam’s apple. I could feel my vocal chords stretching as soon as I had spoken. My voice deepened and twisted slurring the words. I tried again but I couldn’t get my tone above a deep husky sound like a dog’s bark.
“No.” I moaned.
My heart was beating fast. What was worse, I could feel things starting to happen inside me. There were sickening sounds as my organs lurched and twisted and bent into new shapes and configurations. My ribs started to crack as my chest began to compact and my spine to tighten against my back. I felt the distinct sensation of each organ twisting and changing, taking on inhuman definition inside me. When the shift hit my stomach I wretched and fell over as I emptied the contents of my stomach into the trash can. As I stared at the half digested food, I realized in that moment that I like dogs could no longer digest all that humans ate.
“Please, stop. Please.” I begged. There was no answer, no reply, even as I felt my heart shift in my chest and begin to pump changing blood throughout my veins. My shirt was voluminous on me now, draping over my changed torso. I could see the fur poking out from it. With some effort, I lifted it up only to watch my gut twisting around like a scene from the movie aliens. It thinned out and fur overtook it. The last thing I saw happen was my belly button disappearing.
I just stood there, stunned, staring at my reflection in the mirror, this half human half dog looking boy. I was still recognizable though.
“Mom, Dad… please, come home.” I whispered. Surely they would see me change, they would do something. The street was empty, silent. I desperately looked around. I had to find a way out, to get the damn necklace off before it changed me completely. That or find a way to maybe break the window and try to yell for help even with my husky voice. I started forwards again, but just then I felt something start to happen in my thighs.
“No, oh no…” I begged.
I felt the surge, and a click. In that moment I realized what was happening … too late.
My hips popped out of socket and set me sprawling onto my back as they reformed and reshaped. Fur swarmed down my abdomen even as my thighs surged with a new strength. It wasn’t bulking up though, they were starting to thin into the haunches of a dog. The fur quickly swept down between them. I closed my eyes a moment, not wanting to know what was happening.
Fear took over, I could only open my eyes again and watch as my legs started to shift and change. I felt powerful cracks and pops the knee shifting down as the space between the ankle and calf shortened. My femurs thinned, my jeans now swallowed my changed legs as they shifted to a truly inhuman shape.
My legs were dog’s legs. Dog’s legs attached to human feet in black converse sneakers. I tried to reach forwards, but the laces prevented me any sort of purchase with my fingers. I saw the shoes bend and twist, and I felt my toes start to cramp. I could feel them thickening just as my hands had. The rubber tips of the sneakers outlined the tips of claws, and I felt pads grit against my socks.
My feet shifted and twisted, thinning out, the shoes now voluminous on them, held only by the laces like comic “booties” I knew without looking that I know had hind paws attached to my new hind legs
Something compelled me. I twisted around and stood … on all fours. It felt strangely natural, standing there reduced to the state of an animal wearing human clothes and with a human face attached to a canine body. There was a twisting from my behind, and I turned my head. A fleshy new limb poked from the loose end of my jeans, brown fur coating it even as it fell between my legs like what happened to dogs when they were frightened.
Tail. I had a tail.
I felt a whine come out of my throat. “Prrrueeese….sthrooop.”
My voice was nearly gone now. I turned and watched, unable to take my eyes away from the final changes. They came swiftly and just as painful at the west. My whole jaw popped out of socket as it began to push out into a muzzle. My teeth shifted even as my thinning tongue traced along their shapes as they sharpened into fangs.
Fur swept over my face as my cranium caved in. My human brain fell in on itself, and I could almost feel it shrinking in my skull, forming in on itself even as I still had the capacity of human thoughts and the realization that I was losing everything I used to be.
My nose was dark and wet now and it joined with my mouth as both pushed into a proper muzzle. I wanted to close but could only watch as my ears began to grow thin and pointed, pushing their way to the top of my scalp. What remained of my brown hair shortened into a cap of fur indistinguishable from the rest of the chocolate colored fur.
My eyes were still my eyes. Staring at them, I saw the pupils shift slightly, but I was still fully aware, fully human inside a Dog’s body. I lifted my head and this time my voice cracked one final time in a howl. “Nooooawoooooof!”
The next several moments were a chorus of pops, pulls, shifts and groans. Everything was out of place, and yet in place. I felt this strange tugging at my mind, a pulling as if something was being taken, and then a pushing as if something else was in its place. I must have passed out then, because I mercifully don’t remember it ending.
Someone was shaking me. I heard a voice and I felt light and warmth. Blinking, I opened bleary eyes. The world wasn’t coming into focus, but I could hear someone saying my name. “Kaeden? Kaeden?”
“Uhnnn,” I heard myself say. “Oh, I had the most awful dream. I dreamed I turned into a dog.”
“Master?” My eyes opened fully. The world was different. My room was huge around me but everything looked like it always should. The voice came from the doorway, and a strange blonde haired boy standing completely naked in my doorway.
“Hey what the hell!” I shouted, skirting back. He flinched and knelt as if trying to look less threatening.
“Kaeden, master.” He repeated.
“Master I … ” I took a look at him again. That wild blonde hair, those dark brown eyes, soft and almost like a worried dog’s. Then it hit me.
“Jake?” I started toward him but felt my hand move first on the carpet. I stared down and froze. Dog paws stared at me from the floor. I felt my eyes bugger out of my head. I twisted around. Dog tail, dog body, dog ears flopped on my head. My clothes still hung, if barely to my body, but I was a dog. I was a chocolate colored lab.
“It wasn’t a dream. I’m a dog!” I wailed, though I was still talking and understood myself, the sound was that like a dog’s howl. I stared at my reflection in the mirror. I was changed, but I could still see in colors, still understand speech. The necklace still hung around my neck and … I turned back. The boy was wearing a blue collar.
“Jake!” I said again, hoping he understood me. “Jake can you understand me.”
The boy nodded and beamed happily, flopping down onto the floor with his hands resting before him. It was bizarre, this naked human kid sitting like a dog.
“Master! You recognize me!”
“What happened to you?” I almost was afraid to ask, but I had to know.
“Oh! I was outside in the yard when all of a sudden strange things happened. My fur disappeared and I grew thumbs and hands and feet, but lost my tail. Then everything started spinning and then I felt weird outside. I was afraid, but I knew you would know what to do master.
“How did you get in here? Mom and Dad locked the doors”
“I got in through the dog door like I always do. The house was quiet and I knew your mistress and master weren’t at home so I came upstairs. Your door was opened and I came inside.”
“But how can you talk?”
“I don’t know master! It just comes to me! It feels just like barking only with human words. I know I can’t speak as well as master does though! But master is speaking my language! I can understand him too!”
It had never occurred to me that I was barking like a dog. My own ears registered human speech. Jake bounced forwards bounced about on all fours, which still looked weird as a human doing it. “Oh, master, isn’t this wonderful? I don’t know how but I am human! Isn’t it exciting?”
“Jake stop it! This isn’t right. You’re a human and I am a dog. We have to fix this!”
“Oh yes, yes master! I will help fix it! But how?”
“Ok, first please just… get a bathrobe on or something! You can’t walk around naked!”
“I can’t?” Jake asked, blinking.
I sighed, he was still a dog inside, unaware of human things. “Yes, that up there!” I tried to point but of course just lifted my paw, so I turned towards where the robe lay in the hamper.
“Oh! The white fur coat master wears sometimes. Yes!” He hopped over and wiggled next to it, trying to nose his way under the thing to get it on. He squirmed this way and that but still failed.
“Oh, just keep it like that, at least you’re covered. Now, that collar and my necklace changed us. You have to take my necklace off, and I bet you have to take your collar off too. Let me see.” I took a look. His collar was loose on his neck, and my necklace was pretty loose as well. “We need to switch them!”
“Ok Master I will change it!” He crawled over on all fours and started to look like he was about to bite my neck.
I backed away. “Hey! What are you doing?”
“Taking off the necklace! Biting always helps me chew through a collar!”
“No, just grab it!”
“Grab it?” He looked at me with the most puzzled expression.
“You’ve got hands, stupid, thumbs! I don’t!”
He stared down at his hands now and lifted up one. I saw him flex the fingers cautiously. “Hands. Yes! I have hands! I have thumbs! Just like master did!”
“Right. You’ve never had them before.” I realized he wouldn’t know how to use them. “Ok, just…slide your collar off and I’ll slide my necklace off. Then we’ll go from there.
He tried but it was difficult for him. “It is hard master!”
“Ok just use the mirror to see!”
“Oh, yes the thing that has another dog in it. Hey!” he pointed at the half clothed boy in the thing. “There is a boy in there!”
“That’s you Jake!”
“It is?” he blinked. “Wow. I am a boy.”
I would have face palmed if I could. “Concentrate Jake! Jake bent forwards and the collar slid off, I did the same but it felt weird doing it since my new front legs weren’t easy to maneuver. I imagined it was just as hard for him since he was unused to joints as he was to fingers.
“Ok, now Jake. Hold still.” I had to pick up the necklace with my mouth. Luckily he was a little thinner than I usually was so the thing slid along his head and down onto his neck.
“Ok, now the hard part.” I approached the collar. I’d seen dogs wiggle out of collars by holding them with their paws. I tried to do the opposite but it was too hard. Jake tilted his head and watched me.
“What are you doing master?”
“Trying to get this collar on!”
“Oh! I will help.” He came forwards and leaned down, picking the collar up in his mouth. He held it up. “Put your nose through it now master!”
I stared at him, surprised. I hadn’t really thought of that. I crept forwards, almost dreading what I was about to do, and it didn’t feel any better as I felt the collar slide around my neck. It fit a little too snug. “Ack. It’s tight! Oh well, won’t last long. Here we go!”
I waited a moment but nothing happened. “What? Why isn’t it working?”
“I don’t know master. This is human magic, I think, if there is a magic. Dogs don’t know.”
I racked my brain. “OK, I was laying down, I thought about what was going on. Mom was angry and I was angry. Then I wished …” The realization hit me. “That’s it! I want to be a boy again!”
Nothing happened. I tried to repeat myself. “I wish I was a human boy again and Jake was my dog.” Again nothing happened.
Jake frowned. “Maybe it doesn’t work master?”
“Crap. It must only work with the necklace not the collar. You need to make the wish Jake. You need to wish us as boy and human!”
“Are you sure master? I don’t want to mess it up.” Jake said.
“Do it Jake!” I barked. “Do it please?”
Jake gulped and nodded. “Okay. I wish Kaeden and I were boy and dog.”
I felt the little chill and sighed closing my eyes and anticipating the change. But nothing happened. There was no pops, no pulling of muscle. I opened my eyes. The blue light had surrounded us both. It swirled and stretched and surged in a pulsating glow that grew brighter and began to spread.
Jake wasn’t changing, but I could see letters begin to scrawl on the silver surface of the star. J…A...K…E.
“No!” I scrambled over to the mirror. Sure enough I could see my name being scrawled onto the pendant of the collar. N…a…d…e…a…K.
“Kaeden.” I could barely speak. More things appeared beneath it, my address and phone number. The collar twitched and expanded, naturally moving to fit my neck. I turned and saw that the necklace had adjusted to Jake as well. Finally the light vanished and we were left exactly as we had been.
“No! You did it wrong Jake!” I barked.
“Oh! I’m sorry Master!’ Jake said. “I didn’t mean to!”
“You’ve got to change us back, you’ve got to wish I was the human master and you were the dog.”
“Okay I…” Jake started but was interrupted by a voice from downstairs.
“Jaaaake!” Both of us froze. It was my Mom! She was home and I could hear her coming upstairs.
“Crap! Mom’s coming! She’d going to see you! Quick, get into bed and turn off the light. Pretend to me but don’t talk! I’ll get under the bed!”
“Oh, um, ok master!” Jake scrambled under the sheets and I slid under the bed. I could hear Mom’s footsteps just in the hall. Jake turned off the light just in time because a minute later I saw the door open and Mom standing there.
She was in shadows as she padded over across the floor and knelt down at the bed. I felt her rest against the bed reaching forwards. Probably combing Jake’s hair like she sometimes did mine. “Honey? Are you asleep?”
Jake feigned a moan. Mom just chuckled. “I wanted to tell you I am sorry at how I reacted. I wish you had been honest with me about the money. I won’t ground you for your basketball game, but you will need to do double chores next week alright?”
Jake huffed an answer and Mom reached over and turned on the light. I could see her and Jake in the mirror and I felt my blood freeze. She didn’t react at all seeing a blonde haired boy in the bed. Instead she just smiled and leaned over to kiss his forehead. “That’s my boy, Jake.”
“What?” I felt myself say, and I knew in that moment it was a mistake. Mom shifted and peered down. “Ah that’s where you are Kaeden, you silly dog.”
She grabbed me gently and hauled me out. I struggled, still in the remnants of my clothes and she chuckled. “Looks like you’ve been getting into Jake’s clothes again.”
“What? No! Mom it’s me!” I cried, trying to talk. She didn’t seem to understand.
She looked where Jake sat in bed. “Jake you know I don’t want the dog in here at night.”
Jake sat up, and I could see him shift in the sheets. He didn’t speak though, just bowed his head and looked puppy dog sorry.
“Well come on Kaeden, let’s get you out of those things.” She pulled my shirt and jeans off, along with everything else. My shoes she managed to loosen from my paws. “Jake, you shouldn’t dress up the dog, you’ll ruin your clothes.”
“No! Mom, they’re mine! Mom! It’s me! I’ve been turned into a dog! You’ve got to hear me! Jake tell her!”
Jake just looked at me and gulped. I knew he was hesitating because of my earlier order.
She interrupted him before he could say a word. “No arguments young man. Come on Kaeden, outside.” She took me by the collar. I tried to fight, to squirm away. I was strong but she was stronger.
“Jake, help me!” I cried.
Jake started to get up but mom looked at him, “Get to sleep young man.”
Jake looked sheepishly at me and mouthed, “I can’t disobey mistress master.”
I stopped so suddenly Mom jerked forwards I was his master but he saw Mom as my master since I listened to her like he listened to me. If he disobeyed her, he disobeyed the higher being.
“Noooowoooo!” I howled.
I was dragged out of my own room and down the hall and down the stairs. As we went I saw all the pictures hanging there showed Jake as he was instead of me. Mom dragged me out into the yard and tied me to a pole near Jake’s house, only it now had my name on it.
“There you go Kaeden, now you get some sleep too you silly dog.”
I tried to bark, to plead with her but it was no use, she didn’t seem to understand me. I could only watch as she turned and went back into the house. I stared up, pleadingly at my own window. I could see Jake staring out at me from the darkness of the window. He put his hand on the window and looked forlornly at me. Then he disappeared. I was left out in the dark, in the cold of the night.
Jake whimpered softly as he slunk around in his master’s room. His body felt cold even with the strange fur thing Master had made him wear. He shivered, sniffing the air, but all the smells he was used to were gone now. Pricking his ears did no better, all he could hear was the sounds of the house. He was alone, he was human and alone, and master was outside where he couldn’t reach him.
Jake had wanted to protect master, to obey him, but the big mistress hadn’t let him. He was master’s friend, but he knew master didn’t disobey his mistress, and so he shouldn’t. Shifting on all fours across the carpet, Jake moved to the reflective thing again and stared at himself in the mirror.
He couldn’t see colors, his eyes were still dog and he had a normal dog’s vision so he could see the details of his strange body. All his beautiful golden fur was gone. Well, there was some of it on his head and some other strange spots on his body. He tilted his head and the boy did the same. “Oh Master, what can I do?” he asked. “I wish I could start to understand this.”
The necklace glowed and Jake blinked as a gentle warmth filtered through his mind. Suddenly he felt a creeping awareness growing in the dog’s brain that had expanded to fill a human skull. He lifted a paw, the human lifted his own paw. No…not a paw. Hand.
Jake didn’t know how he knew that, but suddenly he did.
“Hands,” Jake whispered. He spread out his toes in the light. Not fingers toes, thumbs! He had thumbs! He had never had fingers or thumbs. He’d seen humans do amazing things with them, and Jake always wanted some. Now, as he inspected his hand…he saw the other changes to him. He had new joints in his forelegs … arms, another correction.
So it went. Knees, skin, hair. He still had ears, he still had a nose, but he somehow knew they weren’t as sensitive as a dog’s were now. For Jake, it was like all the wonderful things he usually smelled had been taken away. He’d been left as close hard of hearing and mute to smells as a dog could be. He still had his sight, a dog’s sight. But then again, he wasn’t a dog anymore.
“I’m human…” Jake said aloud. A smile spread across his face. “I am human!”
He looked to the necklace. Master said it held the power to wish things with the necklace. Jake might be able to change himself and Kaeden back. Curiosity though was a greater mistress.
“I wish I knew how my hands and arms worked.” He said. Slowly, the creeping muscle memory came to him. He started to flex then ball his fingers. He twisted his arm and dipped his elbow. That grin spread wider across his face. This was fun!
He looked down to his legs and feet now. They looked so funny, not at all like dog’s legs. Sitting like a dog would on its haunches felt weird with some of the new things he understood.
“I wish I knew how to stand and walk on two legs like a human does!”
Once again, the muscle memory trickled into Jake. Slowly he shifted, using his new hands to steady himself on the bed he got up and wobbled into place. For a moment, his heels remained raised, but as Jake got used to it, they lowered flat. The wobbliness left and he stood. Jake hesitated, and then started to take a step forwards.
It felt weird for him at first, not leading with his forelegs. As he took his first step though, it came as natural as the other way had. Giggling, he took another step and then another. Soon he was running around the room on his hind legs. “I’m walking! I’m walking!”
“Jake!” He heard Kaeden’s father. “Stop running around and get to bed!”
Jake was so surprised he stopped and stumbled forwards onto the bed. His dog instincts felt fear and shame for getting into trouble, something that his dawning human ones shared. Excited as he was, Jake knew he had to obey. Sliding up, he smoothed his way into the bed.
A human bed, his bed. Jake nuzzled into it and felt the satin sheets upon his flesh. It never felt quite like this on his dog’s body. Sighing he curled up but found the position not comfortable. He tossed and turned until at last he found sleeping on his back felt just right. It still felt strange though, but a simple wish changed that.
He sat for a while, soaking in the warmth of the changes he had made. His night vision made the room bright as day but he was used to that from being a dog. For all his excitement, Jake was actually kind of tired. Curiosity could wait for the morning. As he nuzzled into the pillow, Jake closed his eyes. Blearily he made a wish. “I hope that master will get used to his body as I am with mine.”
I didn’t get a lick of sleep. I kept hearing things, smelling things. Even the slightest sound of a leaf was like a boom in my head. It didn’t help that it was cold, even with fur, and I didn’t want to sleep on Jake’s bed. No, never. I wanted my human bed.
Barking wouldn’t help. Everyone thought I was a dog by this point. I was stuck until I could talk to Jake and get him to change us back the following day. Thinking about that now though, I felt a thrill of fear. Jake would have to go past my parents, get up, and get ready for school before he could get to me. Any number of things could go wrong.
I knew for certain Jake was still very much a dog in his mind, so he could put himself into all sort of terrible situations before he even got halfway down the stairs. He wouldn’t know how humans walked or talked, he wouldn’t know how to get dressed. It would be a disaster. I only hoped his problems wouldn’t become mine, though my earlier mistakes with mom seemed to carry over with him.
Groaning, I stood there, even though my arms and legs were tired.
“Not arms and legs….four legs, I almost forgot.” I refused to sit down on my haunches. I wanted to be up, ready to bolt for the doggie door and run up to catch Jake. I only had to hope Mom or Dad would come out to get me first. They sometimes did, but I couldn’t be sure now.
The full weight of everything that had transpired was still a rush in my mind. I couldn’t accept the fact I was a dog, but I was. I was still human inside…still cognoscente, and that I could bless my stars. I cursed myself for being so stupid. Mister Medives was right about the damn collar. He probably knew what it did and was trying to keep it away from me.
“No, Jake wouldn’t do that, would he?” I wasn’t so sure now.
Jake had effectively taken my life, but I wasn’t about to take his. Still, as I looked around in the dark, I wish I could see more than a few feet in front of me. The colors of the night were dark but vivid to my human eyes, but everything else was shadow. That was another thing, the last thing of me that was human. Maybe it had to do with my soul. Mom said once that the eyes were windows to the soul. I couldn’t’ be sure about this part with this sort of magic.
Hours passed, and exhaustion started to nag at me. My eyes started to flutter closed. I fought it, but it was a losing battle. With great care I slumped over onto my side and tried to roll onto my back on the grass, but it wasn’t very comfortable. Begrudgingly I slid over and laid on my belly, forepaws splayed out.
“Wait…” I thought again about them. Yes, my forepaws. Wait, that’s not what they really were or had been. Shaking my head I tried to picture what they once were. For the life of me though I couldn’t imagine it. I couldn’t remember the term for them. I gazed helplessly. I had toes, pads, just as a dog should, but I hadn’t before. The meaning and the purpose of those things humans had was lost to me. My legs though, what I knew to be my original legs, those I still knew.
I felt a shiver, and a tingle. My heart skipped a beat. “Jake…” He’d made a wish.
“Oh god!” I racked my brain trying to think of every part of me. Most of it was intact, but my forelegs and forepaws …their perception had utterly changed.
“Crap.” I shifted and stood up on them, on all fours. Wait…this wasn’t right either. I tried to picture standing on two legs but some part of me knew that my balance wasn’t meant for it. I tried to lift myself up, to stand, but I only flopped back. The motion made me dizzy and felt wrong. I gulped. Somehow I was now comfortable with being four footed. “Jake… I’m going to kill you.” I growled.
At this point, the sprinklers suddenly came on and began to soak the grass. It was so quick that it scared me. I felt the bone chilling water and stumbled back, slipping but naturally righted myself with my new footing. I glanced behind me to the dog house, the dog bed. I padded inside. The bed was warm dry, just the way it should be. It smelled like dog. I grumbled and laid down on it, watching the water spray along the outsides.
Why couldn’t I go inside, sleep on the bed? Why did I have to sleep out here? Then again, this was my bed.
“My bed?” Should it be? No. I knew it wasn’t, but the thought was there just as easily as the opposite thought. Jake was doing something I knew it. There was nothing I could do but sit and wait.
“Jake, Jake time to get up.”
The sound of Kaeden’s father echoed in Jake’s mind. Blinking, he shifted where he lay. He’d had the most wonderful dream he’d been turned into a human, with human hands and thumbs. Groaning he turned over.
“Jake, come on now, time to get up for school son.”
This jostled Jake a bit. He blinked and opened his eyes. Kaeden’s room lay before him in muted tones of black and white. Kaeden’s father standing at the door looking at him. “Come on, up an at’em! Get up, showered and dressed! You can’t be late for school!”
Jake still wasn’t fully aware or awake. He reached up and without thinking he rubbed his eyes, then he realized he did so and with what had been his forepaws. He stared at the fleshy things, then down at the bed and his body. It was true! He was human. So excited, Jake started to wiggle, then recalled he no longer had his tail.
“Mmrph,” He thought. “What good is being excited without a tail?”
“Jake did you hear me? Get up and get dressed and showered. No excuses!” Then the door was closed with a loud bang. Jake skulked back against his sheets. The big master was scary when he started to get mad. He didn’t want to disappoint him.
Without thinking about it he swung his hind legs around and slid out of bed onto his hind paws. He stood there a moment, allowing this to sink in. He’d rose out of bed as naturally as any human, he was standing just like a human. Sure his sense of smell was muted, and his ears weren’t as keen but he could walk like one!
Of course, now he had to “showered and dressed” as the big master asked. He wasn’t sure what a showered was, but he assumed he meant like a bath. Jake hated baths, and he used to hide or drag master around when he tried to give him one. Maybe big master wouldn’t notice if he didn’t bathe.
He did say to get dressed. Jake knew that humans wore things over their skins to hide themselves, though he didn’t understand why. Standing there as he was, he couldn’t reason why humans needed anything. Still, master never went out without clothes or things on his feet so Jake probably had to.
“Oh, I wish I knew what to do.” No sooner did he say it, did Jake suddenly feel a sudden wave of self-consciousness. Standing there naked, he felt weirdly exposed. Shivering he wrapped the bathrobe closer around his body. What if someone had seen him! Wait … why was he thinking this way all of a sudden?
A hand reached up to touch the necklace. “A wish of course, he’d changed something about himself, some perception. Humans weren’t dogs, they couldn’t just run around willy-nilly, you had to be decent. Jake wasn’t sure how comfortable this change made him.
“I wish … “he stopped. The thought of wishing back was there but, the notion of altering himself so that he felt right being naked felt weird … wrong. Jake struggled for a moment and then shook his head. “I knew how to wear clothes!”
The answers came, and with them knowledge of clothing. He knew shirts, shorts, pants, undergarments socks and shoes. Dressing himself felt so strange, pulling clothes on bare skin wasn’t like wearing fur at all. He just seemed to go on autopilot. As he finished up, Jake watched as he slid his feet into master’s sneakers and started to lace them up. The human footwear was strange but comfortable on his paws. They would do in the absence of pads on his feet.
“Feet … not paws.” He paused and stretched out his hind legs. No, not hind legs anymore, just legs, and feet. Standing back from the bed he looked in the mirror. A boy stood there, a boy who looked and dressed like any other boy.
He heard Kaeden’s mother calling downstairs. “Jake! Breakfast!”
His answer came as a low “ruff”, very foreign to his human ears though he understood what he meant to say. Clamping his mouth shut, Jake walked towards the door and put his fingers on the handle. With a deep breath, he turned it and stepped outside. His first real steps, his first opening a door on his own. These things came so naturally now it almost seemed without thinking.
Downstairs, Kaeden’s mother had a full spread of eggs and bacon at the table. There was more bacon on a plate in the center, and glasses of some kind of white stuff. Jake stood a moment in the doorway feeling awkward. Kaeden’s’ parents didn’t seem to pay him much mind, his father was reading a paper and mother was just sitting down. Jake realized that to them, he was as naturally a boy and a son as Kaeden had been.
“There you are. Took you long enough. Come on and eat before it gets cold!’ Mother said. Jake just nodded and moved to sit in a chair.
He’d never done it before, but sliding the thing back and placing his behind in it was very different form standing to eat or sitting on his haunches. He didn’t have much time to think about it though because of the smells all around.
Bacon was something he rarely had as a dog, and just the thought of it made his mouth water. Grinning he reached forwards with his fingers to take some up. The moist meat crackled slightly beneath his digits. He brought it to his mouth and chomped down as he always did. The wonderful savory flavor washed over his taste buds. There was more bacon too, as much as he could eat!
“Maybe being human wouldn’t be so bad after all.”
“Sorry son?” Kaeden’s father asked.
Jake hadn’t realized he’d spoken aloud since he’d done it so softly. He felt stupid now, because he’d promised master he wouldn’t speak.
“Jake? Is everything all right?” Mother asked.
Jake felt his stomach drop. They were both staring at him now. He opened his mouth a moment unsure what to do. “I wish I knew what to say…” The thought was so quick he couldn’t stop himself from thinking it.
Words, letters, meanings flooded Jakes mind in an instant. It was so much, a world of things he had perceived but never understood. Jake’s mind actually hurt from the effort and he groaned a bit and hugged his head with his hands. Kaeden’s mother sat up worriedly. “Jake, what’s wrong.”
“Nothing … “Jake answered a moment later. “N…nothing’s wrong …mom.”
The words came out almost instinctively. He knew why he said it too, to stop her worrying. “Just didn’t sleep well is all.” He concluded.
Kaeden’s Mom nodded and heaped more bacon on the plate. “Well finish up, bus should be here anytime now.”
Jake obeyed, but his heart started to thump wildly in his chest. He’d called big mistress Mom, but she wasn’t his mother. He had spoken, and understood what he said. Maybe this was getting too deep.
“Uhm, Mom, maybe I should stay home from school today.” He said, an excuse, his first ever. He didn’t know if it would work.
“Are you feeling sick?” His father asked.
“Well … no it’s just…”
“No excuses, you are going to school if you feel well enough to. No arguments. You are going there and you are going to have a good day.” Kaeden’s mother said plopping a sack in his hands. “Here’s your lunch, now go catch the bus.
“No butts! Go! That’s an order. Don’t forget your backpack”
Again, Jake’s dog self couldn’t disobey. With a heavy heart, he picked up the pack hurried to the Door. All he could think about was master, what he would do or think when he woke. He only hoped he could make it to school, let alone through it. He didn’t even know what school was. What was worse, he knew for a fact he’d need to make wishes to understand it, and that would mean more changes.
“Master is going to kill me.” Jake moaned aloud as he hurried down the walkway.
I dreamed I was chasing myself, my human self, in the dog form. My human body was running away, waving, and I was trying to catch up. I knew my legs were twitching because I was conscious of it, but the dream was also so real it felt right to chase. I was just about to catch up when the human me stopped and turned and I saw it was Jake.
“That’s a good boy Kaeden! You’re a good dog…”
“Kaeden, come on boy! Time to get up. That’s a good dog!” The voice sounded familiar through the haze of my dream. Something warm kissed my skin and my eyes opened blearily. A muzzle was the first thing I saw. Beyond that was the face of my dad, leaning down to undo a chain, a chain attached to my collar. I was a dog, it wasn’t all a dream. Only the chase had been.
“Oooh,” I moaned and rolled over, none too happy. Last night’s ordeals had been exhausting.
Dad looked down to me in concern. “Goodness, you must have tuckered yourself out boy. You and Jake are too much alike. Teenagers, pshh.” He went back to the house.
Jake! The collar, the wishes! Maybe I wasn’t too lake! I sprang to my feet. The doggie door was just ahead. Before dad could react, or I was thinking about it I started forwards and tripped over my own four feet. I blinked. Walking on all fours was nothing like walking on two. Just coordinating these four limbs was completely alien. I struggled back to my feet and tried a few steps, but again I fell.
“Damn it, I’ve got to get this! I’m wasting time.” Once more I got to my feet, and this time I consciously concentrated on the movement. Right back foot, left front foot, left back foot, right front foot. A few hobbled steps, then a few more. Slowly I started to understand, but it took every ounce of concentration.
“Right, come on legs!”
I trundled into the house and the warm smell of bacon immediately caught my nose. My stomach growled, and some subconscious thing felt a powerful pull toward that smell.
“No! I got to get to Jake, I got to set this right.” I saw the stairs and stumbled up them. My bedroom was just ahead, the room still open just a crack. I pushed through with my nose and bounded forwards barking.
He wasn’t there. I spun around. “Jake!”
He wasn’t there. The sheets were flopped over, the bathroom was empty, but there was a towel and signs he’d been through my clothes. “Oh I am going to kill that dog.”
“Sorry boy, Jake’s already gone to school.” I turned. It was my Mom standing at the doorway. She smiled and snapped her fingers. “Don’t worry he’ll be back after school. Now come on, I bet you’re hungry.”
“School?” The thought sent a chill through my spine. Jake among other kids, doing things with my friends and dealing with all the stuff I usually did. He’d ruin everything for me, I’d never live down the embarrassment. How was Jake going to talk to anyone or know what to do?
The answer came quickly as anything else. The necklace. He’d must have made wishes before and he might have now. My parents thought he was their son and Jake was still a dog, so he must have obeyed and used wishes to make it so he could. As it was there was nothing I could do now, Jake was gone and I was stuck at home as a dog. This hit me hard and I slumped a bit.
“Aww, come on Kaeden. He’ll be back. Come on, I made you a nice breakfast downstairs.”
My stomach growled. I –was- hungry. Standing up I begrudgingly followed her. She started rummaging through things on the counter and I stood and waited at the table. When my dad saw me he chuckled. “Going to eat with us humans, huh, Kaeden?”
I wanted to protest, but before I could do anything he reached over and his hand reached up and began to rub along my scalp. It was the most wonderful feeling, like what a good massage must feel like. My irritation was forgotten as I leaned into the scratching.
“Alright Kaeden, breakfast.”
The sound of this snapped me out of my thoughts and I lumbered over … only to find two dog bowls full of kibble at my feet. I stared at them, and then at Mom as she went and got the last bit of bacon from the table.
“Eat up boy.”
“But….its dog food … “It must have sounded like a whine because she gave me a look. “No, no bacon for you buddy. It’s not good for you. I’ll get you some treats later.”
I stared back down at the bowl of dog food. The smell wasn’t appetizing at all, no wonder Jake didn’t want to eat it. The rumbling in my stomach wouldn’t stop though so I begrudgingly started to eat. The flavor was odd to my tongue, the texture chalky but it sort of tasted like what I imagined to be powdered meat. It wasn’t real meat or anything I was used to though, and the smell didn’t help much either.
My dad got up, “I got to get to work.” He kissed Mom on the cheek. “Love you Hun, bye boy.”
Mom had gotten her purse, “I have to run too. You guard the house Kaeden. I will be back later.”
Then they were gone. I was left alone in the house, by myself. It was surreal, strange and silent inside. I’d never been home alone before, though I’d always wanted to be. The idea of it kind of was thrilling. I might be stuck as a dog, but at least I didn’t have to go to school and be bored.
“I can do whatever I want!” Without thinking I loped into the family room and jumped up on the couch, something Jake wasn’t supposed to do. “Time to watch some cartoons!”
As I reached for the remote, my paw caught my eye and I suddenly realized those stubby toes couldn’t work remote controls. “Damn.”
My next thought was better food, but that was gone just as quick. I couldn’t open drawers or doors. In fact, all the doors outside were locked except the doggie door.
Maybe I could just go outside and jump in the pool.
Going out that door was a little weird. I’d not really thought about it going in, but the fact I was using Jake’s door sort of bothered me. Outside, the lawn still glistened with dew and the sun shone above the trees. I could hear the sounds of lawnmowers and people beyond the fence. I rounded the corner of the house to the little pool we had, but the cover was on over it. There wouldn’t be any swimming for that either.
So I was stuck as a Dog, with nothing to do, nothing to occupy myself. My one dream of being home alone at thirteen with total freedom and I couldn’t do anything.
I sighed and then the fence caught my eye. There was a low spot just in one corner, a spot I hadn’t seen before. Jake must have dug it out, because it looked like I could just barely wiggle through.
“Maybe I can run to the shop. Mister Medives might be there, he might know what happened. It’s better than sitting around here bored all day!”
I reached forwards with my new paws and lowered onto my belly. The boards rubbed along my neck. I had to squirm with my feet, not used to really doing anything like this or having dog legs. As I continued it suddenly caught the collar. It snagged and I was yanked a bit, choking me. I gagged and lowered my head. Bending my neck I twisted and turned. Before I could react, the latch caught and the collar suddenly snapped out of place and fell into the dirt.
I stared at it. This collar had already caused me a lot of trouble. I didn’t want anything to do with it frankly but it was the one thing that meant going back to myself. Now though I had no way to put it back on.
I looked to the fence, then back to the yard. I could stay here, wait, hope that Mom would be back, but who knew how long she might be. I could go out, risk whatever was out there and take the collar with me to Mister Medives in a vain hope he could help me.
Desperation outweighed reason. I didn’t even care about risks, all I wanted was to get out. I picked up the collar in my teeth and this time wiggled under the fence without a problem. I was out, I was free.
My street opened up for me, a street of houses now quiet with a lack of people. Mister Medives’s shop was only a little ways away. Hardly any distance. I could be there and back and transformed, that meant Jake would transform back to a dog at school but I didn’t care at this point. I started down the street as a brisk trot, all the way grumbling about how easy walking on all fours was for me now.
Jake wasn’t sure what to do. He stood there in the aisle of the bus full of human children all laughing and talking and throwing things at one another and he just didn’t know. He’d never been to school before. Master always went, he got on the school and then he disappeared. What happened next, Jake couldn’t imagine.
“Hey! Kid. Come on take a seat, we need to go!”
Jake turned and looked at the driver of the bus who was glaring at him. “Oh, sorry….”
It still felt strange to be able to talk. He looked around and then he saw two people waving at him. It was Mason and Jess, Kaeden’s friends. “Jake! Back here!”
“Come sit with us.” Mason said.
Jake gulped. The two children were smiling, warm and friendly. The magic that changed him and master’s lives must have affected others too. Jake sat on the edge of the seat while jess and Mason scooted over. Jess grinned to him, “You seem a little frazzled this morning Jake, something wrong?”
“Oh n…nothing,” Jake said. “I’m glad I’m here at school.”
“At school?” Mason said. “Dude we’re just on the bus, it’s just a drive yet.”
Jake looked at both of them puzzled. This wasn’t school, it was transportation? What a strange thing humans had. The bus lurched and got on its way and Jake felt it shift beneath him. It was weird sitting on the bench, he was used to standing, jostling about on all fours in the back of cars. The other kids kept talking, laughing and throwing things. It was very loud, maybe too loud and Jake wasn’t sure he liked it.
Suddenly he felt a hand on his. “Jake? You ok?”
Jess was looking at him, concerned. He looked back. He knew this girl, knew her from when he was a small puppy. She was always sweet and kind and treated him with affection. Now she knew him as a boy, but he really didn’t know her. To her, he was what Kaeden should be. It felt wrong. “Yeah. I’ll be ok.” He said.
“So did you get Kaeden enrolled in obedience class?” Mason asked off handedly.
“Yeah you’re dog stupid, you know the chocolate lab? God what’s into you? Did you not sleep?”
Jake shook his head. They had no memory of Kaeden of course, but now the perception had changed. IT was Kaeden who was signed up with that strange man in the shop. That man, he might have answers, maybe Jake could talk to him, and surely he could help. He started to get up.
“Hey! Sit back down!” The bus driver yelled.
Jake obeyed. He might be human but he still had to listen to humans. Jess nudged his arm. “Hey, what’s up? I know it’s something, come on, spill the beans.”
“I just don’t’ feel myself,” Jake said. It was the first truth he really felt he could say. “Like I don’t belong.”
“Well you’ve got me and Mason, silly. You know that.” She smiled and the way she did it made Jake feel warm and fuzzy inside. It wasn’t unpleasant at all. He found himself smiling back.
School was an even stranger experience for Jake. He found himself surrounded by packs of other young humans in crowded hallways and crowded rooms. They sat for hours while an adult human lectured them at the front. There were letters and numbers on the board that meant nothing to Jake. He frowned, staring from his seat. All he wanted to do was get up, get outside, and go find that man.
“Jake!” The teacher’s voice caught him off guard.
“What’s the answer to this algebra problem?”
Jake stared at the board. The numbers and things were all a jumble to him. Even if he –had- paid attention it would make no sense. He consciously felt all eyes on him.
Oh, I wish I knew the answer.
“42.” He said almost without realizing it.
The teacher looked at him and then at the problem. “Correct. Well why don’t you come up here and write an equation yourself, instead of looking out the window.”
There was a titter through the room that made Jake feel self-conscious enough, but now he was being called up. He stood, walked up to the board and took the little white chalky thing the teacher offered him. It didn’t smell edible. He looked at it and then at the board, then back. All eyes were on him and there was another snicker.
Oh, I wish I knew what to do.
The answer came, just as quickly as the question did. He felt a pang in his mind and suddenly numbers and equations flooded his dog senses. It was such a rush that he felt dizzy a moment.
“Jake, are you all right?” The teacher asked.
Jake nodded, though he’d swooned against the board. “Yeah… uh…what about this?”
He wrote out an equation on the board, and somehow he understood it. The thing was the teacher was watching him with great interest. When it was done the teacher looked it over, frowning. “Very good, you can take your seat.”
Jake did though he couldn’t help but feel he was in trouble. When the bell Rang the other students got up but the teacher motioned him to her desk.
“Jake, I am impressed. That was a very advanced equation. I honestly thought you were struggling in math, but maybe we just haven’t applied enough to you.”
Jake gulped. Somehow he had just made himself super smart. “Thanks.”
“You keep up those studies, Jake. Now get to English class.”
Jake nodded and went out into the hall. His mind was abuzz. Each wish he made he knew he was becoming more competent, and while the human things were exciting, he felt some part of himself starting to slip away.
“Ok, no more wishes!” He promised himself. “I have to just be quiet.”
Jake had no such luck. In English, the books they were reading were very advanced, and he couldn’t make heads or tails of the words. What was worse, he was supposed to pair off with another student to read.
“Uhm, can you do it?” Jake asked her. She looked at him funny and shrugged and started reading aloud. As Jake listened his stomach churned, but slowly as she talked, he found himself getting interested in the words. The story of this Huckleberry Finn was strange but intriguing. He wanted to understand it. Just that desire alone and he felt a small tingle inside his brain.
The words used and the cadence of the characters suddenly became more clear. Jake suddenly knew the story, this boy and a slave on a river. As he listened to it, Jake couldn’t help but empathize with the character of Jim. Jim was a slave, he wanted to be free, to be recognized as a man and find his family. Now, transformed as a human, Jake started to realize himself how much he didn’t know, how much he wanted to learn.
“I never realized being human was like this.” Jake thought. He asked to borrow the book and the girl let him have it. He put it in his pack and continued with his day.
It wasn’t until third period PE that Jake found his self-consciousness re-emerge as he had to get undressed around other humans. He never thought that being naked again so briefly could be so terrifying. No one looked at anyone else, but he did quick glances.
“Hey Jake, eyes on the prize bud.” Mason said, and Jake felt his cheeks blush. As they started to run, Jake was left alone with his thoughts. He wanted to understand, to fit in here, to be smart and appreciated like Jim did. It was a very foreign emotion, but very human. Looking at the world around him, Jake couldn’t help but be curious.
He was used to the monochrome vision of his still dog eyes. Now, he wondered about what humans saw. “I want to see everything like a human does.”
For a moment there was a flash of white, and then Jake’s eyes were opened in a whole new way. A panorama of colors, shades and hues that he had never even dreamed washed over his vision. The subtleness of some and the blazing hues of others were so strong. Jake actually tripped and fell, stumbling onto the side. He felt a jab of pain, looking down he saw red blood seeping from the wound.
It hurt, but, the feeling of hurt was small compared to the wonderment he felt. He had never dared to dream what colors might be like, heck he didn’t know what colors were till now.
Jess jogged up next to him. “Hey you ok?”
“Here, let me help you up.”
Jake looked at her, this girl with hair the color of cornflowers and eyes blue as the sky. She held out her hand and as Jake took it, he felt the softness of her fingers. That same wonderful warmth trickled through him. Jake didn’t shy from it this time. “I want to know what this feeling is.” He thought.
A seventh grader’s thoughts and memories blossomed into his mind. He felt them, creeping their way into his brain and with them simpler thoughts, dog’s thoughts started to dim. The world seemed so bright and new, and yet he knew it as if he’d lived this life every day. He started getting feelings and emotions he never had felt before. Just thinking Jess, he felt that same tingle, and now he realized that this was what humans called a crush.
That made him freeze a bit. He was crushing on his master’s best friend. It was terrifying and yet wonderful to him. He wanted to feel it, and yet the dog part of him worried about it.
Being human was strange, frightening, but it was also wonderful. To a dog’s mind, it was the ultimate freedom. Now he realized just how much more complicated it was, but again just how much more wonderful. What would Master say when he learned about all this? What would he think? Then again, he wasn’t here, Jake was. A tiny seed of rebelliousness now planted firmly in his brain.
He was the human now, not Master. He still loved him, the dog part did, and he always would. The dog part worried, wondered what was happening, it was afraid. The dog wanted to do what his master said. Despite that, his growing human mind felt a strange pity for the dog part. Those dog thoughts and feelings were so simple compared to what he now was starting to experience. Human emotions, human understandings, human life.
Jake smiled to himself as he made his first conscious realization. “I am human.”
Now he felt Jess’s eyes on him. He recognized it as one of concern. “Are you ok?” She asked.
Jake smiled to her and nodded. “I think so…”
I ran as fast as I could down the street, past shops and houses that I knew by heart from my walks with Jake. All the way my heart pounded in my chest. I didn’t know why but I had this weird creeping feeling of dread in my gut. The collar was light in my mouth, but just the thought of it being loose worried me. I couldn’t lose it, not now. IT was my one chance of getting back. So long as I had it I had some semblance of my identity.
“I just hope Medives will turn me back. He might be mad. Then again what if the magic makes it so he doesn’t remember?” I shivered to think of that. “Jake will do it through! He’ll transform us back! He’s a good dog.”
Then again he was human now, at my human school with my human friends and classmates. Everything I had done before the change seemed to register with him now, so I figured whatever he did, it would do something to me. I didn’t want to think about it.
The shop was just ahead, I sprinted to the door and skidded to a halt. There was a sign on the door, “Out till Saturday.” I felt my heart drop. The shop was closed. Medives was gone. I felt a whimper escape my maw.
“-o…” I turned and ran around the back, trying to look for a way in, but there wasn’t one. I sagged. I’d come all this way for nothing. I had no choice but to wait for the weekend, wait another whole day as a dog.
: I walked slower back to the house, not wanting to really hurry where I might otherwise sit and linger with boredom. Part of me wanted to run, I mean I was a dog now. I didn't have to go to school, I could run to the park or find a pool but without a collar that was a risk. Besides, I was tired from my run here. Unused to the sort of energy I could spend with four legs. As I rounded the corner to the house, I felt something prickle in the back of my mind.
I turned, swearing I'd seen a truck follow me...but there was no sign of it now. Grumbling I figured it must be some part of the dog's mind that had invaded mine. I got around to the back of the house and the little hollow where I could skirt beneath. I scooted my head under and deposited the collar first, not wanting anything else to happen to it. Then I started to wiggle to make my way through...
As I prepared to squirm forward when something grabbed me around the neck and yanked me back with a sudden movement. It happened so quickly that I couldn’t react. I turned and saw a man in a kaki colored outfit standing there holding a long pole to which my neck was attached by a plastic lead.
“Easy there boy. I won’t hurt you.” I felt my heart leap in my dog chest. I knew this man. He was the local dog catcher. I tried to turn my head, to pull away but the pole and the noose were tight around my neck and made me gag.
The hole was right there just inches away. Freedom, of a sort. Home. But now, so far away. "Come on pup, let’s get you to the truck, can’t let strays like you into people’s backyards.”
I shook my head and tried to fight. “Wait! I'm not a stray! This is my house....please!”
Of course he didn't understand me. I tried to grip my toes into the earth, but it made no difference. Within moments I was in a tight metal box. I tried to whirl around but the door was slammed shut. A moment later I heard the truck start and we began to move away. "Wait! No! My house! Please!" There was nothing I could do but watch the back of my house...my chance to go home disappear through the small metal slits of the cage.
I couldn’t think of it being worse, but then I remembered the collar. I’d deposited it through the hole in the fence to my backyard. That collar was not just my identity … it was my ticket to humanity. I lunged against the door but it was hard metal.
That collar meant freedom, it meant becoming a boy again. It was growing further and further away. “Noooooooowooof!” I howled burying my face in my paws. The house and the collar were gone.
The drive seemed to take an interminably long time. Finally we suddenly stopped and the door was opened. I wanted to bolt, to get away, but the catcher was there with the lead. Easy now boy. I was thrust headlong into a cavalcade of barks, meows and howls. There were dozens upon dozens of dogs in cages all around me. There was so much noise that it was deafening to my ears. So many smells that my dog’s nose couldn't relate to my human senses. It was all too much as the catcher thrust me into an empty cage
“There now, we'll find your home or at least a home for you boy...don't worry. He smiled and patted my head. “A big chocolate lab like you? You'll make some kid a good pet!”
I hadn't even considered that possibility… until now. Of course, that was what happened to animals at the local shelter. I didn’t want another home and I didn’t want to become someone's pet! But I couldn’t communicate it to this man who now held my future in his hands. I let out another soft whimper, and as I did he reached down and began to pet my head. At first I tried to pull away but as he did my body seemed to react automatically. It felt so good, relaxing. My moth popped open and my tongue hung out. My tail began to wag, especially when he started to scratch behind my ears.
“That feels so good. Wait! No! What am I thinking?”
This wasn't how I wanted to feel, or wanted to act but it came naturally now. I closed my eyes, trying to fight it, but...it felt good, comforting.
Eventually he stood. “Well, just get used to your new neighbors bud. We’re a no kill shelter, but hopefully we will get you a home sooner than later.”
I shivered slightly at the words mostly born out of relief. But what if it wasn’t as quick as the man seems to predict? It could be months, months meant years to a dog. I’d go crazy confined in this cage. Bored to tears, nothing to do but sleep and eat all day. I was effectively severed from my old life. No computer, no TV, no phone, no games… everything I took for granted might become a distant memory unless I can get free and get my hands (well, my paws) back on that collar.
I stared down at those paws now and realized now how useless they were. They were strong and sturdy, but they couldn't hold anything. I had other things, new senses. I could hear well, but over the din of the shelter...it was pointless. What about my nose? Too many smells. The dog’s mind might be able to sift through them, but I didn't dare open the door and let that in.
I sighed and slumped. I don't know how long it was but I must have dozed off because I woke to the feel of hands on my head. "Good doggie.” The voice was young. I opened my eyes. A little girl stood at the cage. She was probably nine or ten, with sandy blonde hair and dark green eyes. She beamed. "What a pretty lab.”
For a brief moment it was almost like I have been woken from a dream. But my snout bumped the front of the cage as the little girl dangled her fingers through the bars to pat at the top of my head. "Would you like to be mine?" She continues, as if having a real conversation with me.
I blinked, looking to her. At first I wanted nothing to do with her. I mean, she was a little kid, I didn't know her. She had on a pink dress and blouse, feet tucked into little pink sneakers. This was the sort of girl I avoided like the plague at that age. But then I thought. This could be my ticket out of her. I started to bark and move around trying to "Dance" happily
Her entire face broke into a happy, pleased smile as she saw your reaction. "You do like me!" She said with a little trill of jubilation. "I knew it as soon as I saw you. We'll be best friends." She turned and ran away. For a moment I felt fear well inside me. Why would she leave me here? Then I heard her coming back, shouting excitedly.
"I found one! Mom, come quick. I want you to see him. He's perfect!"
I heard an adult woman's patient voice informing the little girl that she would be right there. When the little girl and the adult woman returned accompanied by the man in the tan uniform. “There he is!” The girl announced.
I smiled as best a dog could and waited, waggling my tail, the dogcatcher handed the woman a clipboard. All right, he's all yours. I checked him out while he's asleep, gave him a few shots so he's good there, but you might want to "fix" him eventually. That made me whimper, a thrill of fear in my throat. Luckily for me the woman seemed to be in a hurry. “Perhaps later, I am afraid I don’t have time right now! Come on Katie, let's get our new puppy home! "Yay! The girl exclaimed. The cage door was opened and they looped a new lead around me. "What are you going to name him? The mother asked. The girl smiled. "Brownie!"
“Brownie? That’s a stupid name for a dog,” I thought. Of course, I had named my own dog Jake. I heard the click of the cage door and the dog catcher fastened a temporary collar and a leash to my neck. He handed it to the woman but she gestured to her daughter. "Oh, this dog is Katie's," she said. She thanked the man for all his help. "Shall we take Brownie to his new home, dear?"
Katie nodded “Come on brownie!” I immediately started off, and the girl was pulled along. “Whoa, heel boy!” She pulled back with surprising force and I felt myself gagged. Stopping me short
"He may need some training, dear," the mother said. "He still is mostly a puppy, I think." She looked to the dogcatcher for confirmation, and he nodded. "I included some numbers for dog trainers in the paperwork," he informed her. Katie looked at me and smiled. "Let's try this again, Brownie."
I gulped. I didn’t like being choked and if I wanted to get home, I would have to start listening. I had to swallow my pride and ‘behave’ as a dog. The less waves I made the better. Maybe if I could convince her I was trained, I could get away. I moved to a slow walk behind her heels though it felt odd...no, stupid to be just following a kid I could have ignored if I was a human
"See? He's a quick learner!" Katie said proudly.
“Must have some previous training after all,” The dogcatcher said, scratching his head. WE were lead out of the facility and to a waiting vehicle in the parking lot outside. The asphalt was very hot for my tender paw pads and I felt like I was trying to tiptoe across the hot pavement as I waited for Katie and her mother to load me in.
Finally I was. It was a minivan crammed full of soccer stuff. I never liked or played soccer. There was old French fries beneath one seat. I was so hungry that I didn’t think twice as I nabbed it and choked it down, ignoring how disgusting it was.
Standing was very hard...I kept jostling around with the car, and sitting didn't feel right. No wonder Jake was never comfortable in a car. Eventually we ended up approaching a familiar intersection! I could see my house up the way, but we turned down the opposite street and headed down to the end.
I whimpered again as I saw my home recede in the distance. It must have brought concern to Katie because she hugged me around the neck. "Don't worry. We are almost there," she said. She petted my head and, once again, I reacted without thinking. My tongue lolled out and I started panting and, to my dismay, drooling, too.
“You will love your new home," Katie said. "You will have lots of toys… and we can play dress up!" That last bit made me cringe but she kept petting me, making it difficult to focus with the waves of pleasure that coursed through my dog body.
We pulled up two a simple two story house, not too different from mine. There were kid’s toys in the yard. As the door opened I saw my chance to bolt but the girl again pulled back. “Heel Brownie! Easy boy! I know you’re anxious to go inside.” She pulled me along to the door as her mother opened it
Katie’s mother looked at her daughter "Use a firm tone with him, dear, and make sure he knows his place." Obviously, she felt my place was to be subservient as a proper pet, and not cause any unnecessary disruptions or problems to the household. "And keep a strong hold on the leash, dear," she added as the three of us way up a walk toward a front door.
The girl nodded. “Yes mom.” She closed the door and undid the clasp on my collar. I was free … sort of. Trapped in a house, but at least I didn’t have a leash. “Come on Brown...let me show you my room.”
I didn't really want to go...but...there was nothing else I could do. I followed her up to possibly the most pastel colored room I could imagine...this was indeed a 10 year old girl’s room....exactly the opposite of what I wanted to live in
I tried to tell myself that this would be simply a temporary setback. “She's a 10-year-old girl. I can outsmart her and make a break for it. I just have to be patient and go on playing the role of pet dog as best I can.” The best way to do that was play along, so I sat on my haunches and waited as Katie busied herself jabbering away and pointing out all her clothes and toys and knick-knacks.
Finally she pulled out what looked like a ballerina outfit. “This is my old outfit, it won’t fit me but it will look good on you.”
“Oh no!” I started to back away. Playing dog or not, I didn’t want anything to do with that outfit.
She caught me, cornered against the door. “Oh Brownie, don’t worry! It will look good on you.” She pulled my paws through the sleeves before I could react. The little outfit was snug on my torso. Katie smiled and pulled me to a mirror. “There, you look great”
I stared at my reflection. A dog in a kid’s ballerina outfit. I wanted to die in seeing it. I could never have subjected Jake to such an indignity. But Katie looked very happy at how I looked with the bows and ruffles.
“Well at least no one else will see me.”
“Mommy, come look at Brownie.”
Her mother came and smiled down at me, though I could tell she was just indulging her daughter. "He looks very nice, dear."
Katie threw her arms around my neck. "Oh, I love him so much, mom. Thank you for letting me get him." She squeezed a little too tight, I could barely breath. Then she relaxed and I felt her rest her head on mine. It was strange but...weirdly it felt nice. I sighed. She was just a kid, how could I blame her.?
Then I remembered my plan. Now was my chance! I lifted up my paw to shake or give a high five
"He knows tricks!" Katie shouted in delight. She gave me a high five and I lifted my paw on my nose as if embarrassed. “That's right. I’m a smart dog. You know you can leave me alone in the backyard.”
Katie’s mother glanced to her watch. "We should get him settled for the night."
“Can he stay in my room?" Katie asked. I looked to her mother, hoping against hope that she would not allow it. Getting into the backyard was my best chance of getting home to Jake, the collar and a way out of this
The mother sighed. “Of course dear, just not on the bed!”
“Yay!” Katie squealed. “Slumber party! She hugged me tightly and I groaned...this was going to be a long night.
“Don’t forget you have school tomorrow. He’s probably hungry too.”
It was true. I’d never been so hungry! It had been ages since I had anything to eat. I was used to grabbing a snack any time I wanted one. Chips or fruit, soft drinks, as close as a fridge or cabinet. Now I was utterly dependent on Katie.
She smiled and nodded. “Come on Brownie, I have just the treat for you!”
I followed her down, hoping against hope that it would be something delicious, but I was dead wrong. A bowl of mushy canned dog food and fresh water were my entrees for the evening. The stuff smelled terrible to my nose, but I was too hungry to care. I started to scarf it down, and was surprised when it actually tasted somewhat ok. I still could have gone for a burger. Katie squatted beside me and watched me eat.
“Wow, you eat like a horse, Brownie!” I wanted to glare at her, but I was too busy eating. She reached over and combed her fingers through my fur. “I’m so glad I found you Brownie. We’re going to be best friends forever.”
I swallowed the last of my food as she said it but felt about ready to gag, not because of the sweet sentiment but the possibility it was true. A lifetime as a dog, as a human boy trapped in a dog’s body, fully aware, able to see everything in living color.
“No, not going to happen. Sorry kid.” I thought. She continued to pet me though and my tongue lolled out of my mouth. It felt so good. “M I could get used t- NO! Damn it.” I’d let the dog slip a bit. I stood up and trotted to the door wagging my tail. Now was my chance to get to the backyard.
“Oh, got to go Brownie? All right.” She opened the door and I bounded into the backyard. The backyard was about the same as mine, with a lawn, but there were planters all along the walls and the walls themselves were tall. I didn’t trust my legs to carry me over that height. I sniffed around, trying to find a way out, but I couldn’t’ find any. Even if I did, it could take months to dig a hole like Jake did in my own yard.
Sighing, there was nothing I could do but some business, though I felt very self-conscious about it. I pondered staying outside and starting to dig, but the thought of a night outside in the cold and the dark like last night didn’t sound good at all.
“Come on Brownie, come inside!” I did and she held the door opened. “Wipe your paws.”
I didn’t pay that much credence until she caught my feet and wiped them off with a towel. “There we go. Come on, let’s go to bed. I’ll read a story to you.”
“Oh joy,” I thought.
A couple minutes later she was in bed, reading one of her books to me. I sat at the foot of the bed on the floor only half listening. All I could think about was my own bed, my own room, not this pastel colored nightmare. I was so glad I was an only child, well, used to be. I had to get back. Eventually Katie started to yawn and turned off the light.
“Good night Brownie.” She said, touching my head and combing her fingers over it. “I love you.”
That made me feel a little bad. Here I was, her perfect pet, and all I wanted was to leave. I gave her fingers a little lick and then rested my head. The day’s events whirled around in my mind. I wondered what happened to Jake, and I wondered how it would affect me. I could only imagine the sorts of problems he had caused. I finally fell asleep, though I swore I heard my name called in the distance.
Jake smiled to himself as he made his way to his last period class. Already he felt at the top of the world. Thanks to those carefully made wishes, he found he could actually learn things from his classes, and he had very much enjoyed that. At lunch he'd inadvertently made a wish to know where to sit, and moved to sit with the most popular kids in class. After a conversation, they'd warmed up to him and even invited him to a party on the weekend. Now as Jake went to his locker, a hand suddenly grabbed him from behind. "Alright Jake, where's my money!" A huge human kid loomed over Jake now, sneering
He had never seen this friend of his master's. He had a bit of inkling about money, but he knew master well enough to know that he wouldn't have stolen money from one of his friend. He just tried to stay calm, although he felt like he needed to retreat with his tail between his legs. "Did you lose money? I can help you look for it?"
“Don’t play dumb, Jake. You owe me money like you do every day. Pay up, ten bucks!” The older boy clenched his fist. “Or else Ill lock you in one of these lockers!”
The boy seemed hostile, and every one of Jake's dog senses picked up on it. The kid seemed to mean business but Jake didn't even know if he had money. He looked in his pocket for the leather holder that Master always carried around with him. There was money inside, but also a picture of himself with master, only in their new roles.
The larger boy took the leather thing from him. “Hey, whose this, your girlfriend?” He pointed at Kaedan.
“That’s my master,” Jake replied, telling the truth.
The boy looked at him and then burst out laughing. “Did you hear that? He calls his dog his master!”
The whole hallway erupted into a chorus of laughter. Jake felt his cheeks burn. Somehow he knew he’d said the wrong thing.
Jake closed his eyes and wished he knew what to do and a surge of courage filled him almost instantly. Jake suddenly grabbed the boy by the wrist and slung him about, slamming him against the locker. “Listen you jackass! Don’t make fun of me, and don’t take people’s wallets! You are going to treat other kids with respect and stop taking kids money from now on or I’ll make sure you regret it!” Jake bared his teeth and actually growled.
The other boy slunk back, his eyes wide as saucers. “Ah! Don't hurt me!” He raised his hands defensively, dropping the wallet. “Okay! I’ll do it, just get away from me you psycho!”
As the boy threw up his hands and begged for mercy, it triggered the appropriate response from Jake. If he had been a dog, the bigger boy would have ran whimpering, tucking his tail between his legs in a show of complete submission. After all, dogs don't usually attack an opponent in the process of demonstrating submission. Jake shoved the bigger boy away. "Don't forget what I said, or I will come looking for you," he said.
The other boy staggered away, not looking back. Jake’s breath came hard, his blood felt hot and his whole body tingled. Then he felt the rush of raw emotion slip away and with it went all the self-confidence and strength he’d had. Suddenly he felt afraid. He hadn't known he possessed such strength and now that he had it he wasn’t sure what to do with it. Humans weren't like dogs, and looking around he could see all eyes on him. They were all just as surprised, some afraid too. “What have I done?” He wondered.
Jess came up, cautious. “Jake...what did you do?”
“I just, I did what I thought I should,” Jake whispered. He looked to his hands. He was shaking.
“Hey, it’s ok Jake. Its fight or flight sometimes with guys like that. I think it was incredibly brave.” She smiled as she said it.
Hearing her praise and seeing the admiration in her eyes, Jake felt another feeling, which he was less able to describe. He suddenly felt very shy and awkward, and mumbled something about how it wasn't such a big deal.
"Are you kidding? No one has ever stood up to that big jerk!" Jess aid.
About that time, Mason ran up. "Way to go! He will never bother anyone in this school again." Mason slapped Jake on his back, which startled him and caused him to yelp.
Jake smiled but just then the teacher came to the door. “Ok enough dawdling out here, everyone inside for final period!”
Jake smiled as Jess and Mason walked with him through the corridor. He felt confident again, pleased by how well he had been able to adapt to this place called school. He wondered why Master complained about it so frequently. As he sat in class, Jake started to think about his day.
He'd adjusted well to human school and now with the weekend coming up, he might have a lot of time playing with his new friends. But...that would mean he would still be a human, and that meant master was a dog. Jake whimpered to think about it. He liked being human, but Kaeden was his friend, he couldn't keep him like that ... could he?
As he kept thinking about it, there had been no real harm done. The change hadn't caused any direct harm to his Master. "He might make a good dog, just like I am really becoming a good boy." Of course, some of his success had been helped by those additional and illicit wishes granted by the magical necklace that now hung around his neck. He decided maybe he should wait and see how things proceeded. He almost convinced himself that Master might actually find he liked life as a dog.
“Wait, how could I think that? Master was originally human after all. He still has a human mind, human emotions. I can’t imagine what he’s going through.” Jake felt his fingers clench on his pencil. He could only imagine master at home, scared, waiting as he always did for him to come home.
As the class ended, Jake took up his pack and sighed. “I guess I have to go home and help him turn back, but I don’t want to be a dog again, at least, not yet.”
As he trudged out, Jess caught up with him. "Hey... what’s wrong Jake?"
Jake froze. What was he supposed to tell her? Fumbling through all the ideas in his mind, he could only think of a half-truth. "Oh, it's just Kaeden. He's been acting weird lately."
“Weird? He didn’t seem weird to me yesterday.”
“It’s hard to explain,” Jake said. She caught his hand and pulled him to a bench. As their fingers touched, Jake felt that same warm sensation like when he was petted. He gulped. “Well getting into more trouble. I'm supposed to train him and stuff.”
"You just have to be firm… and patient." She laughed and squeezed his hand tighter. "I know patience is not one of your strengths, but I know you can do it."
It was strange to hear her talk about Master as she would himself to Jake. Such words as firm and patient didn’t have much meaning until today. He knew tones of voice well enough as a dog, pleasure or displeasure that commanded him. Now, such things were harder to know. He did know that a lack of patience was what lead to this whole situation on master’s part. Maybe Kaeden might learn some patience after this fiasco.
Jake smiled as he thought of this, looking at Jess. It was strange, this sensation. As a dog, he never really thought much about jess, she was human like any of the other humans, but now, he almost thought of her like he had female dogs. It was different though, the sensations were more muddled, confused and uncertain.
"Earth to Jake," Jess joked. "You zoned out again. You looked a million miles away. What is going on with you, boy?"
Jake shook his head and came out of his own thoughts. He looked to her. “Oh, nothing. Just thinking of stuff. Jess, how long have we known each other?
She laughed. "Since kindergarten, seven years ago silly. You suffering from amnesia or something? Get a bump on the head when I wasn't looking?"
Seven years. Such a span could be a long lifetime to a dog. Jake had already grown to an adolescent in the short time he’d known her. “I guess it feels shorter than that.” He felt butterflies in his stomach...not knowing what to say or do. He wanted to, desperately, to be able to act like a normal kid with feelings to his friend. “I wish I could understand what master would when it comes to girls.” He thought.
Jake felt that inner shifting as thoughts rearranged and his brain seemed to overwrite the unnecessary information of a Dog in this matter. Immediately he worried that it must have been a wasted wish, because when it came to girls, even Master's thoughts seemed hopelessly confused and tentative.
Jake frowned, feeling these new sensations. Humans sure were weird when it came to females to court. Wait, this wasn’t courting was it? It felt sort of like that, but more complex. For a dog, it was a simple matter of scent and time. He felt so confused.
Jess just looked at him. “Jake what’s wrong? Come on, talk to me.”
The concern in her eyes was enough to worry Jake. He shut his own. He didn’t want to do it, but he had no choice. “I wish I knew how a human boy should properly act when he’s in love with a girl my age.”
That seemed to do the trick. Questions leaped to his lips before he realized them. "You want to do something after school? We could go grab something to eat or something." OK, it didn't help his vocabulary, but it did seem to improve his mental blanks.
Jess grinned. “Sure...why don't we go to the mall arcade? You can show me how to win at Space Invaders!”
Jake didn't know what that was but he decided he could learn. “Ok! How are we going to get there?”
She got to her feet. “I’ll go home and get my bike, wait for me at the corner, ok?”
Jake nodded and she ran off. He watched her go for a while and felt a smile trace across his lips. Then he realized he was alone and got to his feet, running in the same direction. Bikes, he knew master had a bike in the garage. But he’d never used it. He’d chased after it of course. Approaching the house though, Jake felt apprehension. Master was in the backyard, waiting for him. He ought to go and check on him, wish him back, but all he wanted to do now because of his wish was ride with Jess to the mall.
“I’ll just go on a quick trip, he can wait a little while!” Jake thought as he tried to be very quiet and stealthy entering the garage. Sure enough, Master’s bike sat there at the back.
Looking at the bike, Jake cautiously kicked the tire with his sneaker. It didn’t bounce out to attack him but he didn’t have any idea how to use it. ““Well that’s easy to fix, I wish I knew how to ride master's bike.”
The knowledge and balance quickly came and Jake grinned as he took to the seat. He set the balls of his foot on the pedals and began to pump. The bike whizzed beneath him as the movements came naturally as walking on four legs. It felt exile rating! Still being extra quiet, he raced out of the garage and met Jess at the corner.
She grinned when she saw him. “There you are. Come on, I’ll Race you Jake!” Before he could respond, she took off
Jake felt a surge come through him and he set his feet and started off. The wind whipped through his hair as the pavement whirled beneath him. This was even better than chasing squirrels. Jake found himself opening his mouth with his tongue out like he usually did, jess blinked back at him.
“What are you doing?” She laughed
He was stunned. At first it felt like a reprimand, until he heard the tone of her voice. She sounded like she wasn’t angry at all, just curious.
“Why does blending in have to be so difficult?” He fumbled for something to say in response. “I uh...was just being dumb!”
She shrugged. “Whatever... weirdo!”
If he were a dog his tail might have tucked between his legs. She’d called him a weirdo, and he didn’t want to be a weirdo. “I wish I knew how to act more like a normal kid.”
Jake felt the warm tingle as new information filtered into his brain. A boy his age might act silly like he just had, it was perfectly normal, but he just had to temper it so the girl would think he was cool. Jake groaned as he felt these new thoughts and understandings write over his dog ones.
He felt the dog’s simple thought of human relationships become more concrete. He didn’t know it then, but in that moment, his mind had shifted. He still felt the puppy like exuberance inside him as he pedaled, but now it was on a leash held by human intuition.
Setting his feet firmer, he whizzed past Jess. “Slowpoke!”
“Hey!” She giggled and came after him.
The two were neck and neck, sliding into the parking lot at almost the same time. "I beat you!" He said. "You were way behind me."
She huffed and skidded to a halt. “In your dreams! She said, though it looked like she had fun too. The two locked up their bikes and Jake approached the huge mall building. As they walked inside, Jake wondered what got into him while they rode. He’d never teased anyone, but now he realized that kids his age did so, even when they liked another person.
“Sure is strange,” he thought. “I just don’t want to say the wrong thing again. I wish I wouldn’t slip with doglike thoughts when I speak when I’m around Jess.”
He felt a tingle, but no overt change to himself. He only hoped it worked. They entered the mall and Jess ran up ahead a little bit. “Come on, I’ll buy us some corn dogs!”
He was hungry. But Corn and Dogs?
“Sounds delicious, I’ll have a lemonade too” He said without thinking about it. He wondered what lemonade was, and then the exact definition came to mind. “Cool,” he whispered.
She lead him to a little stall where she bought what looked like sticks of meat battered in some kind of sauce, as Jake ate them he found them pretty good. Jess sat beside him and the two talked about the day, about normal human things. Jess laughed and joked with him and as she did, Jake felt himself feel more and more happy that he was there with her.
He noticed that she too seemed happy. Her eyes weren’t leaving his and she was tapping her toes lightly against his own sneakers. Eventually though, she got a strange look on her face and rested her hands in front of his.
“Hey um Jake? Since we're alone right now, I wanted to ask a question. Do you like me?
He gulped down another bite of the corn dog. "Yeah" he answered. "Of course, I like you."
She kicked him under the table. “That's not what I meant”
He reached down and rubbed at his leg. "Ow! Well, just say what you mean." He said with just a hint of exasperation. "I can't read your mind."
“We've known each other since we were kids Jake, we've always been close. You've been my best friend, and we've shared everything together. I know you've noticed how I've been acting. A lot of ... stuff's been going on with me, a lot of changes and... .well." She blushed. "Today, I felt like you ... might want to be together.”
There was a long pause as Jake felt his stomach drop. Jess continued on. “You seem more in tune than I have ever seen you. Like you've matured. I know it’s weird, someone doesn't just mature in a day but ...you have. You’re less that boy that's just my friend and maybe you’re more... like someone who could be my boyfriend. Does that make any sense?"
Jake didn’t know what to say. It only got worse when he saw her flush, staring at the look on his face. “God, what am I saying? I don't know if that's how you feel. I’m sorry, just forget it. ". She stammered
Jake shook his head. He didn’t want her to look or feel unhappy like she seemed to just now. “I wish I knew what to say to her.” He thought.
Then the words came in a huge rush. “No, that sounds really good. I mean, well, I am very sure I would like that. I mean, being your boyfriend.”
She smiled and reached across the table. “Really?”
Somehow Jake sensed what he’d just done was a massive commitment, but as she took his hand he felt that electric sensation again from direct contact with her. He nodded his head, but then asked, "Of course, but could we get more of those corn dogs?"
She giggled. “Sure!” But you're buying this time.”
The two stayed at the mall for a while and even played at the arcade. Jake had to use another wish to figure out the game but eventually they started to bike their way home
“I hope your folks won’t be too angry with you being out. You’re supposed to be grounded, you know?” Jess said
Actually, he hadn't thought about that at all. "Oh no! I hate to get in trouble."
As they pulled up along their street, Jess put her hand on his shoulder. “Ill cover for you okay?”
Jake felt a little relieved. “Ok, thanks Jess.” As they walked up tot he house, Jake noticed Kaeden’s parents car wasn't there. There was a note on the door. "Jake, we had to go out this evening. There is food in the fridge. Don't forget to take Kaeden out. We didn't see him in the yard. Love Mom and dad.
"It's your lucky day, Jake. They're not home!" Jess said. “See, there's nothing to worry about.”
He nodded. “Why isn't Kaeden in the yard though?” He went out the back door and looked around. “Ma...I mean...Kaeden?? There was no sign of the boy turned dog. Then Jake noticed the collar over to one side...by the secret hole he'd dug when he was a dog.
He heard Jess's footsteps as she came up behind him. "What is it?" She asked.
“Kaeden’s gone.” The words came out hoarse from his own mouth. He picked up the collar, holding it in his hands. This collar was master's connection to him, to returning human. Not only that, Kaeden was gone! Gone he didn't know where
"Maybe he's here somewhere, but hiding." She put two fingers in her mouth and whistled. In his old body, that sound would have been almost painful. It still caused him to jerk his head up in alarm.
Nothing happened. “We ...we need to look for him.” he said.
Jess nodded and followed him out. The two began to walk down the street, calling Kaeden’s name. For Jake, it was a strange experience...going after his master as his Master had one time. Jess was there, helping but as it grew dark, there was still no sign of him.
Jess offered a comforting hug. "He'll turn up..."
The sensation of the hug was shocking in its intensity. It disrupted all his concentration of trying to determine Master's whereabouts. He just wanted the hug to go on forever, just like he would always want Master to scratch behind his ears for hours at a time if Master had ever been that patient or cooperative.
Jake sighed. “I wish... she could stay with me so I could always feel like this.”
When nothing happened, Jake sighed. “I guess it only grants wishes with a change.” He thought. “He was tempted to try it out but he didn't want to harm jess. "Well I’ll see you tomorrow." he said.
"I could help you look for him a little longer. Maybe he is somewhere nearby."
Jake frowned. “I want to look but...I don't want to get in trouble.”
There might be a chance though. Jake looked at the collar. “I wish that I knew where master was?” Again nothing. He sighed and sat down on the porch of his house. This stinks.”
"He'll probably come home on his own," she said. “Dog’s know their way better than humans.”
“Except he’s not really a dog,” Jake thought.
Seeing his despondent look, Jess leaned down and kissed his cheek. "I am sure he is OK, Jake."
Jake tensed, feeling the kiss. This was....different from licks or pets. It went right to his heart, to his core and felt so good. He smiled and with surprising courage he kissed her back on the cheek. “Thanks...”
It was now Jess’s turn to be the one on an awkward footing. She blushed a very deep red and after a moemnt returned the kiss again. "This has been such a nice evening."
“I ...guess, even with Kaeden missing.” he said. Looking to their feet. “Do you... want to come inside?”
"I can’t," she said. “But maybe tomorrow, assuming your parents haven’t still grounded you for life.” She laughed as if she were joking.
Jake frowned, remembering that he was supposed to be in trouble. A sudden and brilliant inspiration came to mind.
“I wish that as their new son, I had done the right thing when it came to the necklace and collar so that I wouldn’t be in trouble now.”
He felt the necklace warm and the warmth trickled over him the note changed in his hand. “We're going away for the weekend sweetie, have fun, you deserve your first chance to be home alone. Food's in the fridge, thanks for taking Kaedan out before we got home. Be sure to take care of things while we are gone. Love Mom and Dad”
Not only that, Jake felt new memories in his head. He still remembered what happened before, but now he recalled that Medives had given him the collar and necklace.
He smiled, delighted by this unexpected change of fortune. "You know, there's no rush," He said showing her the note again.
She took it, as if she had never seen it, and read it. "Wow, I wish my parents trusted me like that!"
He grinned. “So...wanna uhm, stay over?” he asked.
She thought a moment. “Sorry, Jake, I still can’t tonight but I might tomorrow.” Jess gave him a kiss on the cheek. “I should go for now, good night!”
He felt so good that he hated for her to leave. He wondered if he should wish for this glorious time as a human boy to never end.
When she was gone, Jake was left alone with his thoughts. he couldn't believe how he had acted, he'd nearly risked everything. It was thrilling in a good way but also a terrible risk. Losing the necklace would mean Master was stuck. At the same time though, it would mean he could stay as a boy.
Jake thought for a moment though...there was that term... master. it was used in the Huckleberry Finn book, and now...it seemed odd to his human mind to think of a dog that way..
That story had expanded his thinking. After all, he hadn't been a slave to his master. He had been a friend and companion, although sometimes Kaeden was too preoccupied to live up to his obligations in that regard.
He wondered what would happen when Kaedan turned them back. Part of him did want to but...the new part it liked being a boy, but would Kaedan even allow that?
He liked the memories he was making, and he liked Jess, and school, Mason and corn dogs. In short, being human was a roller-coaster of an adventure and he wasn't sure he wanted to get off.
Master...Kaedan might MAKE him get off though. He frowned. This was so hard. “I wish I had some advice on what to do.”
Just then, there was a knock at the door. He went to it and called out. "Who...who is it?"
A gruff voice answered back. "You know perfectly well, little pup."
Jake felt like his blood freeze. It was Medives. His voice abandoned him for many seconds. Finally he opened the door. The old man stood there glaring at him from behind his spectacles. “Well now, a fine human you make, little pup. I see you’ve gotten used to standing on two legs.”
Without so much as asking, Medives entered the house and circled him. “Yes, a fine transformation. One wouldn’t know you were once a dog, unless they saw in here.” He tapped Jake on the head. “I have a feeling that might soon not be the case, hmm?”
Jake wasn't sure how much he trusted the man. But he did nod his head, knowing it would do him no good to attempt to lie to the man. “I know I’m becoming more human in my head and in other ways too. It’s frightening but wonderful. I don’t understand it though. Please, can’t you help me?”
The old man sighed, “Welcome to being human ‘child.’ If I had the answer to give you I would. Unfortunately, humans are very complicated creatures as I have learned in my study of them.” He paused, noticing Jake’s expression of confusion. “Oh you mistake me for human no doubt. Yes, I look very much like one, but I am something far more ancient than that. Taking a human appearance has its advantages though.”
“Who … what are you?” Jake asked.
“Oh, I have many names, many forms. Sometimes I am a great terrifying beast, other times I am as small as a bug. You could say I encompass the very essence of “change.” I go when and where I am needed and I can be in many places, or none. For now I am here, in this room because you possesses something of mine.”
Jake’s hand went to the necklace but Medives waved him off. “Don’t worry, I won’t take it from you or turn you back to a dog. I am not a cruel being by any stretch of the imagination. I know what happened, and I know what you yourself have done and I must say I am impressed.”
“You are?” Jake sat on the floor at his feet, a very doglike gesture.
The man nodded. “You changed....as did your former master when he stole my necklace and the collar. He should have listened to me. This is all a part of responsibility, something he lacked.”
What could he say to that? Of course Master should have listened. If he had listened, none of this confusing episode would have ever happened. "He… normally he would never steal for anyone. Something about the necklace and collar…. it attracted him."
Medives sighed. “Things like those object always do attract humans. Technically it’s not his fault. But you’ve used it well, far better than any previous owner. The necklace and the collar are yours now, and they will work only for you
“But what about Master?” Jake asked.
“You should perhaps consider not calling him that anymore. He is not your master, at least, not now. Unfortunately, he is now trapped, lost at least for now. Were he here, he would likely want to be human, and you would grant that wish I know. The question is, would you obey his wish that you were dog?”
Jake frowned. It was true, Master would want him to be a dog.”
“I want to stay human,” He said.
“Well I could help you with that. I could make you forget being a dog, and help Kaedan forget he was human.”
Jake blinked. A strange part of him was tempted by that, but he shook his head. “No! I couldn’t do that to Kaedan.”
Medives chuckled. “I thought you would say that. You are becoming ever more human the more you make wishes. Soon it may be irreversible for you, but even if it was, I think you wouldn’t lose the core of being a dog.”
“What do you mean?” Jake asked.
“Consider what you just said now. You are very selfless. You would be human, but you wouldn’t sacrifice your human friend. Not only that, you’ve been very selfless in your desire to learn to be a good human, focusing on yourself and not seeking to change him. Without the collar on, your wishes couldn’t affect him but they have changed the nature of yourself and how you came to possess this life. Unfortunately however, it is only a matter of time until your human’s mind begins to slip away.”
“Slip away?” Jake cried. “You mean, he’d become a dog in his head?”
“Well, he already allowed that to happen with a wish. His mind started to alter and he opened the door to the dog’s consciousness. If he lets it take hold, it will start to replace human thoughts with dog thoughts in order to survive. Instinct will always trump intellect when it comes to magical transformations. The collar was meant to serve as a tether between you two. Without it, there’s nothing to stop that. He may soon be lost.”
The word sounded horrible, especially for a former dog. It was the cruelest of fate to be lost from one's family and owners. Then the rest of what Medives said sank in. If master slipped away, he might never turn back. That meant Jake could stay human, but at great cost. Jake wasn’t certain he could do that to the boy. No, he couldn’t not to Kaedan. He was still his friend for all his faults.
"I have got to find him! Can't you help me?”
The old man shook his head. “Without the collar, his location is out of my control.” he said.
“What am I going to do? I don't even know where to start looking for him. Maybe I should wish that he never made the original wish. I am sure he didn't mean it."
“I’m afraid that would not work. The collar is yours now, you changed the nature of how it came to be here, even if the result of him being a dog is the same. The only difference is, your wish can’t change his memory or perception of what happened. That is the one grace keeping his human mind intact.
He is human, Jake, more human than you when he started to change. You still have that selflessness and loyalty as a dog that will color you in a way he can’t at the moment. In many ways, you are what he could become if he were to learn and listen.
If you want to find him, I would say trust your heart. You are his dog still, and so long as some part of you stays that, you can find him. The real question is, what will you do? I sense he has been found by someone, and to take him away might hurt that person.”
Those words didn't really make sense. Who would have found him? It wasn't in Master's interests to run away from home. They needed each other if they were ever to get each of their lives back. "What if I do the wrong thing?"
“There is no perfect answer.” Medives said. Your former master was likely taken because he was foolish and got caught. Perhaps the local dog catcher could help you?”
"Dog catcher!? The concept of someone who spent his time catching dogs was quite unnerving. "How… how would he know?"
“He likely caught your "dog" and gave him to a human.”
Now began to make sense. What else could explain it? "So, I can just find that person and tell them to give him back to me. Right?"
“It’s not that simple. Think of yourself as a puppy when were adopted. You remember missing you’re brothers and sisters, but Kaedan became your family. So it is with him to a human. He is family to another person now and to take him away would be to deprive that person of his or her pet.”
"But…but he's not someone's pet. Not really. He's Master!"
“rue, but they don't know that. To them he's a dog, their dog.”
“Then I would tell them the truth,” Jake insisted.
“Not all humans believe in magic. Without the collar on him, you could not prove it, and even if you did few mortals believe in magic. Telling a total stranger, you would be considered insane and you couldn’t use a wish on them to change their opinion. No, I would caution you to keep it secret, save for a few people you truly trust. You share the secret of this magic, it binds to them as well.”
“Binds them?” Jake asked.
“Anyone who knows of the change cannot be wished to forget it again.” Medives said.
This was getting much more complicated than Jake was prepared for. The dog part of him wanted to just curl up in a safe bed and let someone else handle the entire mess.
But Jake wasn't a dog, not anymore. He was human now with human emotions and responsibilities. Medives seemed to sense his conflict because he patted him on the head. “You may make the right decision. But, as they say, fate will tell."
He stood from the chair. “I had best be going. I have an appointment with a young man who wished to be brave as a lion. He didn’t realize of course, he’d become one. I suggest either getting some sleep or thinking of what you will do. The real test is what you will do when master wants to be human and you his dog.”
That made Jake whimper a little. Medives chuckled. “Trust your heart. Perhaps your master will also have learned a lesson the hard way.” Then he vanished into thin air.
Jake stood there for a while thinking about what Medives had said. He looked to his human hands, to his human feet. The idea, the thought that he might soon become a dog again troubled him. He wanted to stay human, to learn more. He felt guilty though, knowing well that it meant Master was a dog...
His loyalty tugged at him, told him he would have to find and help his Master. It was a dog's loyalty, playing at a human's growing sense of self. He felt torn. There was nothing he could do now but sleep and rest, and hope the answers would come in the morning.
The next morning Jake woke up to the silence of the house. As he stretched under the comfortable covers of the bed, he remembered everything in one big rush. He was human, in a human bed and human house.
“It’s much more comfortable than the old blanket outside,” he thought.
His stomach grumbled, he was hungry. Jake thought a moment. And then it came to him. Bacon! He could make as much bacon as he wanted now!
He threw back the covers, pulled on some clothes and walked down to the kitchen. His old water and food dish sat next to the door. Jake frowned, thinking about master.
“Master would likely hate dog food.” His cravings interrupted that thought though and he grinned. “But I get to have human food.” He opened up the fridge. "Having thumbs is awesome!"
Besides bacon, there was soda and juice, and eggs and grapes. He didn't find much appeal in some of the fresh vegetables in the produce drawer of the fridge. He brought out the soda, the juice, eggs, grapes, chips, salsa, basically every bit of junk food he'd never had as a dog but always wanted, until the table was full
He looked at it all with eyes that might be much bigger than his stomach. He was amazed at the variety of tastes of the different foods. Salty and spicy and sweet and sour. It was very overwhelming after a lifelong diet of dry dog chow, water and occasional treats.
Jake started to eat, and eat and eat. He ate until he felt sick....his stomach grumbling at him for the torture he'd put it through. "Oohh...I thought...I thought humans could eat anything.” he groaned
He looked at all the food still on the table and groaned again. The sight of food was adding to his nausea. He put the rest of it away, his stomach still grumbling. Now he was alone he thought about the talking box the family enjoyed.
“Master never really gets to watch it alone.”
He looked at the device to control it.
All the buttons on the device baffled him. He punched at a few of them and nothing seemed to happen. He had seen all the humans in the family using it by pointing it at the box. When he tried that, it didn't seem to work.
"I wish I knew about human electronic things like this and how they all worked like a human my age would!"
A data dump of knowledge dropped into his brain, covering not just the television set but computers and smart phones and email and photographs and streaming music and much more.
Jake clutched his head feeling it all filter in. A thirteen year old his age was not just good at it, he was a master! Of course, with the growth of information in his mind, he felt a part of his simpler dog thoughts slip away and he wasn’t sure what they’d been.
At least the TV was a sinch, and he even had an inkling how to get beyond parental controls. As he experimented he found there was a world of information beyond just the house or school!
Then another thought came to mind. Perhaps he could GOOGLE something about the necklace and collar. He didn’t know anything about GOOGLE before, but now, it was foremost among his tech vocabulary. Master’s father had a computer upstairs and he knew how to use it now.
Jake wasn’t certain he wanted to, but decided to try. He went upstairs. Turning it on, clicking and dragging things came as easy as fetching a ball. He thought about what Medives had said about the dog catcher and it didn't take him too long to find a page for the local no-kill shelter. It even had the names and photos of some of the staff.
Suddenly he saw master! At least, a dog that looked like master but there was a little logo of a paw in a heart to symbolize the "happy ending" for animals at the shelter.
Jake frowned. He decided he had to try to call. Master's smart phone was there and thanks to the wish he could use it. It was very strange to just pick up and dial then hear someone who wasn’t there speak to him. Hello, Animal Shelter. How can I direct your call?”
Jake held his breath. Now he wasn’t sure what to even say. The voice came again. "Hello… can I help you?"
“Uhm, yes. I am calling about the chocolate lab. He’s number 46B. I think that’s my dog.”
Jake heard the person on the other end clicking around on a computer. "Ahh…yes, he was picked up without a collar yesterday."
“Yes, he's my dog, I would like him back please.”
"How old are you?" The man's voice registered some suspicion.
“Thirteen,” Jake answered. It was true now that he was human.
The man sighed “Do you have anything to Id that it is your dog? Because I have to tell you once he is already adopted, we generally don't give out any information on the new family."
Jake frowned. Master had a picture of himself when he was a dog in his wallet. The picture was changed now. “I have a picture of me and the dog. And I have his collar.”
"Well, you have your parents bring you down here, and I will see what I can do since the dog was just adopted yesterday."
"But my parents are out of town, and I need to get him back before they get home!"
"Look, kid, I feel for you, but I am going to need to deal with an adult. No parents, no dog. You have them call me when they get back."
"Alright." Jake hung up the phone feeling helpless. "Dang it."
He slumped back in the chair and stared down at the collar in his hands. He sighed and wished he knew what to do. He felt a strange sensation seem to pass from the collar into his hands and through his body.
Jake frowned. Thinking to himself. He thought of Jess, of everything he had gone through. Being a dog, he was used to being around humans. So he left the house and went to her home, knocking on the door. “Jess?”
It didn't take her long at all to open the door. "Jake! I was just thinking about you!" She invited him to come inside the house. "Did Kaeden come home?"
He shook his head. No and I called the shelter. He's been adopted and they won’t talk to me about an adult.”
"Who adopted him? He's your dog!"
“I don't know, they won’t listen or believe me.” Jake sighed. Until now he knew what to do...how to do it. He cared about Jess, and he knew he had to trust her but how could she trust him if she didn't know the real him.
Jake waivered, feeling the effect of his last wish on his decision. “Jess … I need to tell you something.”
"Sure, what is it?" They had wandered into the living room and she flopped onto the sofa and looked up at him.
Jake looked to her and felt as if his stomach were doing flips in his gut. He sat beside her and crossed his feet at the ankles and rested his hands in his lap. “I wish... Jess knew about the change, who I was, and really am.”
She winced a moment, pressing her fingers to her temples as if in pain. “Uhn. What?” She shook her head and blinked at him. As she did, the look in her eyes changed. She leaped off the couch and stood, staring at him. "Wait. You, you’re Jake! You’re supposed to be Kaedan’s dog!”
Jake nodded, feeling his heart ache for fear of her. “Yes.”
“And he, he’s now your dog.” She stammered.
Again Jake nodded. “Yes.”
“But I remember you as a dog, and growing up as a boy. Is this some sort of… this can't be real!”
Jake sighed. “It’s true. I had to let you know, you’re my friend now. Everything’s changed and it’s still changing. It didn’t feel right to lie to you.” He looked down. “Now you know and you'll probably stop being my friend.”
She was torn. In a way, she had been lied to. She should be mad. But she looked at him and those sad eyes. "No, I don't want to stop being your friend. But you really were Kaeden’s dog. The same dog that used to lick my face when I would visit him?"
“Yeah but. I was a dog then, I didn't know what I do now.” he said “Being a human is.so complicated.”
Jess smiled and pulled her knees up against her, hugging them to her chest. “Yeah, I guess it would be. It’s a lot to take in for me too. But we just have to figure out how to get Kaeden back and then get him back to normal, right?"
“Yeah but if he goes back, he’ll want me to turn back to a dog... I like being a human.”
“Oh, I didn’t think about that.” She paused a moment. “It might be weird, knowing what I do now, but I like you being human too.”
“Really?” Jake asked.
She nodded. “Don’t get me wrong, Kaedan’s been my friend forever, but you are now too in a way. You’re also a lot more thoughtful and kind than most human boys I know. My Mom says everything happens for a reason. Maybe this was all sort of meant to be. It was Kaedan’s own fault for making that wish after all.”
“Maybe,” He said. “But Kaedan didn’t know this would happen. He isn't really a dog ... he's your friend, a human.”
She sighed. "It is complicated, isn't it?"
“I told you, being human was complicated.” He looked to his feet his shoes. “If I don’t get him back, he could be stuck as a dog and lose himself, but if he becomes human he'll turn me back to a dog.”
"I wonder how he's doing," she remarked in a speculative tone.
“I don't know.” he said. “He’s probably scared, like I was. We should look for him.”
"Where would we start?” She took his hand and squeezed it again like she had the previous night.
Jake smiled and thought for a moment. “Well what would a human do if they lost their dog?”
"Well, we would probably put up posters asking people to call if they have seen him."
Jake snapped his fingers. “That might work. I have a picture of Kaeden and me.” He brought out the photo.
Jess took it, shaking her head. “Wow, even the picture switched. That necklace is something. No wonder you were afraid to let me keep it. Well, I love graphic design. Let me scan your photo and I will create a poster. We will carpet the neighborhood with them. We will find him, you will see!"
“Ok! Let’s do it.” He followed her upstairs and in an hour, Jess had a few dozen flyers. “You take this street, Ill take that one!” She said.
As he put up posters, he had time to think on everything. He really had deep feelings for Jess, and look at everything she kept doing to help him out. He had to think that his Master had never quite fully appreciate Jess. But then again, Master was not quite the same as Jake was now.
Jake remembered what Medives had said. He was still becoming more human with each wish, but he might not lose all that made him a dog. As he walked down the street, he saw a little girl kicking a soccer ball into a goal, but he paid her no mind as he put the poster up on a telephone pole across the street
He just had to hope that someone would see the poster and bring Master home… and before Master's parents got back from their trip and found him missing.
Suddenly he saw Mason coming towards him. “Hey Jake! Dude! We have basketball today! Did you forget?”
“Oh, I did, sorry.” Jake said. “I was too busy, Kaedan’s gone missing. I have to look for him.”
Mason looked at the posters still in Jake's hand. "Well this is a big game, man. We need you on the team. Come on, you can look for the dog later. Go back to your house and get your stuff then meet me at the school.”
Jake wanted to protest but it did feel good to be wanted so badly. Being part of a team sounded like it could be very exciting.
“Ok,"Jake said. He jogged home and went up to master's room. He found master's basketball clothes and put on new sneakers. He found a ball in the closet. “I better make sure I can play. I wish I knew how to play basketball as well as master does.”
By the time he met Mason, thoughts of looking for Master were distant to the anticipation of play. The other boys were all very enthusiastic and Jake found the game exilerating. He loved to run, to chase, and he found the dribbling of the ball and the throwing and tossing very engaging. He skidded and swished, dribbled and passed. The team was a good, cohesive pack!
“Wow, basketball is fun!” He was pretty good at it. Mason and the others kept encouraging him with praise and pats on the back each time he scored a basket or stole the ball from one of the other team's players.
The team had a harder time in the second half, the opposition was very good. Jake didn’t mind though. He was having fun, and there was a different sort of spirit to this. As the game time ended, the two teams were tied.
“Jake! You gotta make the tie breaker shot!” Mason called out.
Jake nodded and took it in his paws. Standing there alone, he felt a weird sort of stress. All eyes were on him. He didn’t understand this feeling, but it was hard to focus. He closed his eyes, tried not to think about it, and then threw the ball. It bounced and came back. The buzzer klanged and the other team got the ball.
Mason glared at him “Jake! Dang it!”
Jake blinked. “Whats wrong?”
“You let the other team get the ball numbnuts! If they get the point, the game’s over and we lose!”
The rebuke felt like he’d been swatted on the nose turned against him. When the other team got the ball, Jake desperately tried to block it but the other team made the point. The buzzer went off again and the opposition gathered around cheering each other on. Jake’s heart sank.
His team was even more angry now. “Great job Jake....way to lose the game.”
If Jake still had his tail, it would be between his legs right now.
“How could things have turned so completely wrong so quickly?” He wondered. It wasn't fair, but that didn't make it feel any better. Even Mason looked away when Jake tried to find some sympathy and understanding.
He stood there, feeling helpless. Chasing a ball was usually fun but humans dealt with such things in ways he wasn't sure he liked. The fun spirit was gone now, replaced by a panging in his chest. He'd failed. He was left alone on the court, staring at the ball.
“Stupid! That was so stupid, Jake!” he shouted, kicking it hard with his foot. The ball rebounded and hit him in the face and Jake fell back onto the ground. His nose stung and bringing his hand up he found blood there. Almost without thinking he licked at it, tasting the tang. It was different too, not like his blood as a dog and licking it didn’t help him feel any better like before.
Wiping the blood away he walked back home alone. As he came up he came across one of the crumpled posters. Picking it up he looked at the image of a dog and boy on it. “I should have been putting up the rest of the posters, not playing in a game.” He thought.
He crumpled it further, feeling angry. He hadn't asked for any of this, and was just trying to do the best he could. Why did he have to feel bad about everything all of a sudden? Then it came to him, these were part of human emotions. Dogs didn't understand them, they were the same things that tied his feelings to Jess too.
“For all the good feelings, there must also be bad ... just like with the food this morning. It tasted good, but he couldn't just eat everything in sight.” Jake flexed his fingers. “This is just part of being human...being me now. I didn’t have to deal with mood swings, tantrums and things like that. I just have to live with it.”
Jake went home. He felt dirty and thought about what master used to do. He normally didn’t like baths, but taking a shower felt good and it it felt nice to be barefoot after he dressed and went down to the kitchen.
This time he opened the fridge and ignored the mounds of food. Looking at the different items, he knew what he had to do. “I wish I knew what a human kid should eat so I wouldn't get sick.”
With that to assist him, he made a simple sandwich of lettuce, turkey, a light amount of mayo, on two pieces of bread. It was more than enough for his needs. It wasn't too bad. As he was eating he heard a tap on the glass, Jess had climbed over the fence and was ouside.
“Hey! Jake! Where have you been? Did you finish with your posters?"
“No, I had to go play basketball.” he said. “We lost.”
Jess seemed perturbed a moment then softened. “Oh I forgot about that you still are Mason's friend and he doesn't know the truth. I'm sorry. He can be a jerk sometimes, but don't worry. He and the others will get over it. You cant win them all.”
He liked the sound of that phrase. "But they seemed to expect I should have helped them win."
“Mason and some of those guys put way too much emphasis on winning. It's really about how you play the game. You know, Kaeden’s not the best either, he struggles. If you wished to be just like him, figures you'd fail too. Failing is part of being human.”
To have her explain it made things all that much more clear. "Thanks," he told her gratefully.
She smiled. “It’s what friends are for. So are you going to offer me something to eat? I'm hungry!”
He laughed and fixed her the same sandwich he had just eaten.
“I guess you wished to be a chef.” she said kicking her feet in the air beneath her “So....what do you want to do now? We just have to wait to see if someone shows up or calls about Kaeden.” She paused a moment and shook her head. “It feels strange to say that.”
“I don’t know,” Jake admitted. “Maybe you could stay over this time?”
She thought for a moment and then nodded. “Alright, Let me just call my folks and tell them. I’ll have to say yours gave permission too but I think it will be ok.”
A minute later she came back in. “They said it was fine! Guess Im sleeping over tonight. It’s been a while since I could, Kaedan’s not been comfortable with it since we were kids.”
“Why?” Jake asked.
“Well … you know, me being a girl.” She said, blushing.
“Oh,” Jake blushed back.
“I'm going to go get some pajamas I’ll be right back.”
Jake settled back for now. There was nothing he could do but wait and hope At least he had his new friend for company, but he wondered what Kaedan was going through.
Being a dog wasn’t nearly as easy as I’d hoped, especially the life of a dog whose “owner” was a very active and energetic little girl.
Katie spent a lot of time playing soccer in the yard, talking to her friends on the phone, and then five of her friends came over for a slumber party.
My brain was in constant “dog mode” trying to act natural. Eventually I started to zone out. I must have done it for a while because when I came out of it, everything was finally silent and dark.
It was weird, like waking from a dream, but I hadn’t been dreaming. I dimly recalled all the indignities I dared to think about, with them jabbering, talking, trying things like perfume and lipstick. I was dressed up, my toenails painted, and I had to endure a few truth or dares directed at me.
Then they’d started throwing a ball and I’d kept running after and catching it. The way it happened, I felt so stupid to think I was doing things Jake did, but the dog part of my brain felt so happy.
It was painfully embarrassing, and exhausting, and what was worse with all the petting it was hard to not start feeling nice despite everything else. They all had thought I was "so cute!"
Any other time, I might have liked being the center of attention, but not when it was a group of squealing nine-year-olds. I’d let the dog deal with it, but … at what cost? It felt like I’d opened the door a bit too wide, because now I could feel small changes to the way I was thinking.
“Good dog, good brownie.” The words rang in my head and brought my dog’s heart joy.
“What have I done?” I wondered, resting my head forlornly on the paws. “I’ve got to get back to being human before I start really becoming one in my head. I wonder what Jake is doing.
I imagined he must be confused and frightened without me there to guide him through the situations he’d have to deal with. I had been stupid to ever leave the yard, but I hoped to remedy the problem sooner than later. All I needed was an opportunity to make a break in the backyard, it just hadn’t happened yet.
Maybe now was a good time. The bedroom door was opened. Sitting up I padded carefully around the six sleeping girls and made my way downstairs. The glass door to the backyard was closed. I pawed at it. Katie's mother was still up and came over.
“Oh poor brownie. Katie forgot to let you out. Here, go on dear. Do your business.”
That had been one of the hardest things about this change. Getting "walked" for the purpose of "doing my business." But I ignored that for now and went outside, hopeful that I might be able to get away.
But there was no way for me to get out ... digging would take forever. I was trapped unless I could get out the front door and that wasn’t about to happen right now. I went to the back door. Katie had left her sneakers and a soccer ball there. I sighed and nudged it with my nose. I had missed the basketball game today too.
I wondered if Mason and my friends had won their game without me there to help. Sometimes, I did tend to take a lot of credit as being one of the team's star players. Thinking about it now, I started to realize how full of myself I had been. That wasn’t the way a human should act.
“A human,” I thought. “But I’m not now, I’m a dog and becoming more a dog somehow, I can feel it even without the collar.” Just thinking about it made me nervous.
I looked at the shoes. They were a stark reminder. I couldn't play, eat human food or do anything a human could do. It made me feel nervous. I couldn't help myself. The dog part started to chew one of the sneakers. I wanted to stop but it felt too nice to stop. Something about demolishing the shoe made me feel more relaxed.
I was soon shaking the shoe back and forth like a wolf might have shaken its prey in its jaws. I found myself even growling softly as I chewed and shook the damaged shoe. Then I realized exactly what I was doing...I stared at the ruined sneaker.
“Wh...what got into me just now?” Then I realized. “I let it happen again!”
I Shuddered and tried to think of something human. Reaching for the other untrained shoe, I tried to put my paw inside to remember what it was to wear such a thing, but ...it didn't work of course. The shoe wouldn’t fit and it looked strange with me flopping my paw in it.
“Maybe I’ll have better luck with the ball.” I tried bat it around the yard with my paws, but the efforts were clumsy at best. All I succeeded in doing was knocking it back into my nose. It hurt a little, but not quite as much as if I were human at least. My hope was it might remind me of competing with my team, but again, no such luck.
I heard Katie’s Mom calling me. "Brownie, you done yet?"
I sighed and came back inside. I laid down on the floor, not wanting to go up with the little girls. Eventually, she too went to bed and I was left alone trying to find ways I could communicate.
As she was reading, I noticed the Magazine. Normally I could read the words on the back cover, but as I looked at it I realized that the shapes which once formed letters to my mind were all a jumble.
I shook my head. “No, I should know those!” I tried again, but no good. I knew it was a magazine, it had words and I should read it but I just couldn’t now. That made me panic. If I was forgetting to read, what else would I forget?
I decided to try to do a mental countdown of everything I should know. There were gaps, and in their place were new things. Like my feet and hands, I already thought of them as paws, but I couldn't remember what having human fingers, toes, wearing shoes felt like...or holding a pencil.
That was when I knew I had let my mind lapse too much, and the dog Id become had begun to filter into my head, filling in spaces I let it go to in my boredom. Or necessity.
I shook my head. I had to find some way to get out, to get to the collar and Jake. But I was helpless for now. Eventually Katie’s Mom got up. “Alright, I'm going to bed, good night, Brownie.”
After she left, I paced around the room, looking for something useful.
The first thought was trying to work a pen by holding it in my jaws, but all I could do was make illegible scribbling on a sheet of paper. The next plan came when I saw her mom’s unguarded cell phone on the table. My paws weren’t dexterous enough to work it, but maybe I could use the pencil to dial my own phone. I could remember numbers at least!
I dragged it down and got a pencil. It took a lot of gumming to get the thing to turn on, and my drool started to penetrate the case but I managed to get it to work – barely. I dialed my number with great effort and hoped Mom and Dad didn’t pick up.
It rang and rang, and I felt my heart thudding in my chest. No one picked up. Finally I heard it go to voicemail and I heard dad’s voice on the machine. I composed myself and hoped that Jake would get the message before anyone else because only he would likely understand my barking. At least, I hoped so.
“Jake, Jake its me! its Kaeden. I'm at a home, at a girl down the street's house! Please you have to come get me, I'm going crazy and I feel myself slipping. Please Jake. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I was stupid, impatient. Please, if you come get me Ill never be impatient again. The address is…” It was at that point my drool did in the phone and it shorted out and went dead. “No! Damn it!”
I tried again, desperately, but there was nothing I could except hope it was enough. I hid the phone beneath the couch in the family room so that Katie’s mom wouldn’t find it easily, and then curled up on the floor.
I felt my heart sag. “This is all because I wasn't responsible. If I’d just done the right thing, if I’d been patient with Jake and not tried to do it easy and quick I wouldn’t be here.”
All I could do now was wait and hope. I must have fallen asleep because I remembered dreaming. I dreamt that Jake came and found me but didn’t remember me being anything but a dog. Then I dreamt I was in school as a dog, but all dressed up in Katie’s ballerina outfit. Everyone was laughing.
The last dream was the most vivid. I was in Medives’ shop, sitting, staring up at him as he sat behind the counter. All he did was shake his head. “I told you that wasn’t for sale, ‘boy’. You should have listened.”
I tried to beg and plead to him, but he just kept shaking his head. “I’m afraid I can’t do much, mutt. You’ll have to hope your own dog finds you. Then again, even if he does, I very much doubt either of you will be the same again.”
I wanted to know what he meant, but after that there was nothing but a chaotic mess of dog dreams where I chased things. My human mind couldn’t keep up and I drifted away into them.
“At least these are happy,” I thought, and somehow felt my tail wagging in my sleep even as my legs twitched. “Get back here you damn squirrel.”
Jake woke. He'd fallen asleep on the couch, and Jess lay sprawled next to him. She was smiling in her sleep. Jake looked at her and smiled in turn. Was it just a dream? Was it a part of that strange wonderful dream. Then Jake noticed the collar sitting where he'd left it on the coffee table.
"That was strange," he whispered out loud. He had been dreaming about taking Kaeden for a walk. As they had walked, Kaeden did all the normal dog things. Sniffed fire hydrants, chased squirrels, barked at imaginary things. When he tried to get master to focus on human things, he had just looked up at Jake with big, adorable but vacant eyes.
He’d woken with a start after that. The room was still dark. Jess lay curled up next to him now, like a puppy herself. Her hair was disheveled, but she was smiling in her sleep. It made Jake feel a little better.
Then he saw the collar sitting there beside him. Picking it up in his hands, he traced his finger over the tag with Kaedan’s name. This was his collar, his responsibility now, but Jake wondered if he should be the dog again.
It wasn’t an easy choice after all his experiences being human. He decided to go get a drink of water. But on his walk into the kitchen, again past the empty food and water dishes, he noticed a flashing red light on the phone. His knowledge of electronics told him that someone had left a message on the phone and that he should probably play and listen to the message. He got a bottle of water from the fridge, then pressed the button on the voicemail.
The sound of a dog barking could be clearly heard through it. At first, Jake’s mind felt confused by the sounds, but then the words slowly translated themselves in what remained of his dog’s brain. It was Kaedan! He sounded frightened, desperate even. He spoke very rapidly, begging Jake to find him, telling him he felt himself slipping. He mentioned a house down the street, but before he could provide the exact address the message ended abruptly.
Jake felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickle. Turning around he ran into the family room. Jess was still sleeping and he shook her. “Jess, Jess, wake up!”
She groaned and blinked, looking at him. “Jake?”
“I know where Kaedan is! He called the house.”
“He … called here? How? He’s a dog, he can’t work a phone.”
“I don’t know but some part of him must still be human because he did. It sounded desperate though, he might be slipping.”
She shook her head and got up, going to the kitchen. She clicked on the voicemail and listened. “All I hear is barking.”
He looked a bit embarrassed as he remembered the actual content of the message. "Oh, yea. It is just barking but I can understand him. I think it must be that we're still sort of linked, or maybe because I was a dog. But this is good news, right?"
“Well yeah! We need to go find him though, if he’s down that other street it can’t be that far. Come on, I’ll bring the collar.”
Jake nodded and went to the door and got his shoes. Jess seemed a bit slower. “I hope...I hope he lets you stay as a human.” She said. “If he doesn’t, I’m going to make him wish he’d stayed a dog.”
That somehow made Jake feel a little better. “You won’t hurt him though right?”
“Let’s hope I don’t have to. You have every right to who you are now, at least, I think so.”
Jake smiled and took her hand. Then he leaned forwards and kissed her gingerly on the lips. Jess paused a moment, blinking but returned it with a smile. “You sly dog.”
Jake just grinned. “Let’s go.”
It was only eight am but it already had been a long day. I’d woken blinking my troubled dreams away only to be greeted by a strange sight. My eyes, normally used to color, had desaturated so everything seemed muted. That wasn’t all. I found myself moving without really thinking about it, getting to my feet and licking at Katie’s cheek.
She squirmed and rubbed her eyes before wrapping her arms around me. “Good morning Brownie.” Something about the way she said it made me feel nice.
The human part of me tried to reason why I felt this way, but even those thoughts were dull. The dog brain, my brain, seemed to be in control. I followed her downstairs and was let into the yard. I ate the food, drank the water from the dish and listened as the voices of humans around me bantered back and forth.
The girl’s were still there, all watching cartoons, but the images and words on the screen didn’t make much sense. I tried to figure it out, but what did human things mean to a dog? The human part of me wanted to fight, but I just felt exhausted. It was so easy to just let the dog go on autopilot, to let the smells of things be translated to simple dog thoughts. Maybe it was the stress of it all, maybe I just was tired of fighting.
Eventually, all the girls went into the street and began throwing the ball again. I heard Katie’s mom call out to them to be careful in the street and they said they would be. For me, careful didn’t mean much, my eyes were on that ball, my ball. I bounded after it, lunging and catching it in my mouth. I didn’t even care I got it all slobbery, it just felt good to be praised and petted.
“Maybe I should just let go,” I thought. I began to close my mental eyes, to willfully let the dog take over. Then I heard my name shouted somewhere. I snapped from my thoughts.
It was two voices, both familiar. One I knew was Jess and the other, it sounded like the boy that Jake became. My heart began to beat wildly in my chest. I felt my tail begin to wag as my tongue lolled out. My own name was the spark in my human mind as it clawed its way from the darkness.
They sounded like they were just down the street. I started barking. “Jake! Jake! I'm here.”
I saw them coming down the street. Katie did too. “Brownie?” What's got into you?" She asked.
I keept barking, calling, and I saw Jake turn my way. His eyes widened and I saw him smile. Something about that called to both my dog and human selves. Jake, my Jake … my best friend.
Without thinking, I started running.
“Brownie!” I heard Katie call. I didn’t listen, I was bounding down the street, fast as my legs would go. “Brownie, heel boy!”
The words heel boy tugged at my dog self, but I fought against it. Jake was closer now. “Kaeden! Master!”
“Brownie! Brownie!” I heard Katie, like a tiny speck. I tried to drown it out. I thought of Jess, of Mason, of Jake. I wanted to be home, be in my human bed, wear human clothes. I wanted to play basketball, go to school, even deal with being grounded.
“Brownie! Heel boy, heel.” Then she shrieked. “BROWNIE!”
That same moment, I saw Jake stop and his eyes widened. “Kaedan!”
Something else happened in that moment, a loud screeching sound. My ears flicked, my body tensed. My eyes caught the movement of something large. I turned just in time to see a car hurtling toward me. Everything seemed to stop, go in slow motion. I saw the car, I saw Katie and Jake screaming and I saw myself in front of it.
It was a weird experience, almost like I was outside my body, looking down at my dog self. I circled around it, saw everyone and everything involved. I saw the passengers in the car, my parents, staring bug eyed at me.
“I’m going to die,” I thought. “My own parents are going to run into me and I’ll die like a dog.” I felt strangely calm about it. All emotion was gone. I closed my eyes, pictured myself as a human, all the things I’d miss. I’d never grow up, never marry, and never have kids. I wouldn’t play the big games or maybe become an astronaut.
Of all these things, the biggest regret was Jake. I felt I’d let him down. I was going to die now because I wasn’t responsible. I’d let this happen. Now I would pay the price. I closed my eyes, felt the impact and then everything went black.
Kaedan lay in the street unmoving and Jake felt his heart thumping in his chest. Kaedan’s parents had lunged out of the car as soon as they hit the dog, and the little girl who’d been chasing after him had run over crying. Everyone, even Jess was crowded around the boy turned dog, and all Jake could do was stare.
He hadn’t seen the car until it was too late, and everyone else probably hadn’t seen him till it was as well. Kaedan’s parents were distraught, not because this was their son, but because it was their dog. The little girl was in tears, talking about how it was hers, crying about how she hadn’t trained him right. Jess sat, with Kaedan’s head in her lap looking at the chocolate lab. She could hardly believe that this was the best friend she’d known since kindergarten. Now he lay, hardly breathing in the street as a dog. The worst part was, she was one of the only two people there who knew the truth.
“Unfortunate.” The voice came from behind Jake. He turned and saw Medives standing there behind him. The old man had a frown on his face. “I did not foresee this.”
Jake looked up to him. He could feel tears welling in his own eyes now. His heart ached. “Please, help him.”
Medives shook his head. “I cannot. It is not within –my- power to, but you, you can. You know how, there in your dog’s heart.” As he said this, the old man tapped Jake on his chest. “Make a wish for change.”
“But, they’ll all see. You said … “
“I said many things. It is your life and it is his. The boy has been brought to heel by his actions, by his instincts. This is the moment of greatest change, Jake. Make the most of it.”
Jake clenched his fingers. He nodded and stepped forwards. “Let me though,” he said.
Kaedan’s parents stared at him, and the little girl too. The whole world seemed still for Jake. Only he, Kaedan and Jess were in focus as he knelt down. He ran his fingers through Kaedan’s fur, felt the gentle breaths, the slight heartbeat. The dog’s eyes were opened, but looking through him and not at him.
Jake smiled and looked at Jess. She looked back, tears streaming down her face. Jake was calm, though his own cheeks were wet. He put a hand to his necklace. “I wish … “
It was not the end. I felt something tugging at me, pulling me back. For a moment I thought it was another out of body experience because I was looking down at the body of a chocolate lab. Then I realized I was, that I was kneeling over myself, in Jake’s new human body. It took me a moment to understand it as I looked to Jess.
“Jess?” I glanced around. Katie, my parents, the car, everything around us seemed to be shifting, slowly disappearing until it was just us in the street with Jake.
“Kaedan?” She asked. Her voice sounded choked.
“What happened? Why … why am I in Jake’s new body?”
“He … “She stammered. “He wished that you and he would switch places, that it was he in your body and you in his. He wished for everything that happened to undo itself.”
I stood in shock staring down at him. He lay silent, unbreathing. I felt my breath choke a bit. “He … did that for me?”
She nodded, combing her fingers through his fur. “He said it was the only way.”
“How do you remember, how do you know all this?” I asked.
“Jake wished me to know before, while he was human. He said that I was a part of the wish now, just as you were. He said I would remember because he loved me.” She shook her head and buried her face in his fur. “Kaedan, I never knew it. I loved him Jake. I never loved anyone like that before.”
I stood there, staring. Without thinking, I put my hand on her shoulder. Then I scooped Jake’s body, my dog body up from the street.
Jess spoke about what happened, told me what she knew while we walked. I didn’t say anything. I felt the full weight of him in my arms. It was like a sack of memories, of all the experience and al the hardship I had endured. I carried him and all of that and laid it upon the grass of my home.
“Jake, Im sorry. It should have been me Jake. I was selfish, irresponsible. Truth is, I was a very poor human and an even worse dog. I wish I could do it all over, take it all back.”
I felt a hand take my own. Jess was looking at me, smiling even through her tears. For a moment I felt a warmth between us and then suddenly the world swirled around me. I felt dizzy, delirious.
When I came to, I was still standing with Jess, but I was in a different place. I was in the pet shop, standing in front of the counter. The two of us looked to one another, and then to a figure behind the counter.
“Well now, I wondered when you might show up again.” The old man leaned forwards peering at us. “That was a bold wish just now, rather selfless if I do say so, boy.”
“What happened?” I asked.
“You wished it yourself, things are the way they were, before the wishes before the collar.” He said.
“Then Jake…” I asked
The old man smiled and gestured behind us. I turned and my heart leapt. Jake stood there, exactly as I remembered. His tail wagging, tongue lolling from his mouth and big happy eyes. He came trotting right up, licking at my face.
“Oh Jake! You’re alive.” I could have cried, but then I realized. “But he’s not human.”
“No he’s not.” Medives said, holding up something in his hand. I saw the collar and the necklace. “But he can be if you will be responsible for what happens.”
I looked to Jess. Her eyes spoke it all and I knew the own answer in my heart. “I don’t have the money to pay for it though.” I said.
“You can pay in due time. I have need of a helper in my shop, perhaps you three can stay and I can teach you all a thing or two to help Jake in his new life. It will take patience and time, and you should also wish for a special someone to take your place as the pet of that little girl.”
I thought about it a moment and nodded. “Deal.”
Medives smiled and for the first time I felt it genuinely was warm and happy. He handed me the necklace and I put it on.
“Come on Jake, come on boy!” I patted my hips. He came over, wiggling and waggling. I spoke to him in a gentle firm tone. “Heel boy, heel Jake!”
He obeyed. Stopping, staring up at me, at the collar. For a moment our eyes met and as I fastened it to his neck I thought I saw a glimmer of recognition, deep within. He was waiting, watching me. There was still some part of the boy he’d become, buried deep inside. He waited there baited upon my every word from that one command.
I closed my eyes and took a breath. I thought of Katie, waiting for Brownie to come home. I thought of my parents, waiting for me and for Jake. I thought of Jess, and her love. I thought of myself, of my love for Jake … my best friend. I smiled and for the first time I knew exactly what to wish for.
“Jake,” I thought. “You won’t ever have to heel again.”
Special thanks to Tane for helping me hash this out.