Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 31 The L.A.S.E.R. Room

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 31 The L.A.S.E.R. Room

Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 31 The L.A.S.E.R. Room

“Did you ever find out what in the world Harley’s building over at her Brownstone?” Roper asked Harry.

He was sitting behind his desk flipping through a catalog of fabric swatches the day after the party.

Harry nodded briskly. “Yes, Sir, I did. I went over there the other day as you asked, Sir. She took me into the basement addition she’s putting in to create enough space for her new bionic hippo, Sir. You met him yesterday at the adoption party, remember?”

“Oh yes,” Roper said. “I do remember. Unusual looking fellow, wasn’t he? But I thought she was getting a horse. I distinctly remember her telling me she was adopting a horse.”

“Well, Sir,” Harry began cautiously. “She referred to him as a water horse, but -”

Roper paled and reached convulsively for his ever-present glass of mole waters. “Water horse?” he whispered.

“Now, Sir,” Harry spoke quickly. “Sir, you remember we talked about this? A water horse is just a very snooty way of referring to a hippopotamus. Harley adopted a bionic hippopotamus, Sir. Not a water creature … completely,” Harry murmured the last bit so quietly that Roper couldn’t hear clearly.

“No water?” he asked.

“No, Sir, no water,” Harry answered blandly, not even a little bothered by the lie.

“Oh, well,” Roper said, considerably calmer. “That’s good. You had me scared there for a minute, Harry,” he chuckled. “I wouldn’t have put it past Harley to try and sneak in some sort of swimming hole or some other thing having to do with – well, you know …” he trailed off and took another sip of his drink.

“She thinks I overreact to danger, although I can’t imagine why,” he said confidentially. “I believe strongly, as you know, Harry, in being 110% prepared 110% of the time. And as I’ve said many, many times … danger is dangerous and it lurks in every corner.”

After another healthy sip of his drink, Roper continued, “Harley’s much too careless regarding matters of safety. Don’t you remember when she suggested pulling up the carpet in the streets at last month’s Council meeting? I mean, that would be terrible – cars speeding along over 4 miles per hour, careening around corners, screeching tires! And suppose there was an accident? Suppose you needed to get out of your car suddenly and had to step out on bare cement??” He shuddered dramatically. “Can you imagine anything more dangerous than cold paws on a hard surface, Harry?”

Harry shook his head solemnly. “No, Sir. Certainly not, Sir. Cold, hard surfaces are clearly listed in your Decree of Most Dangerous Things, Sir. I believe they fall in between venomous insects and hot beverages, Sir.”

“Exactly!” Roper cried. “Harley is known to be reckless and unconcerned with not only her own safety, but the safety of everyone else. You just cannot be too careful when it comes to safety. Am I right, Harry?”

“You’re certainly correct, Sir.”

“So. What is she building to “accommodate” her new bionic hippo horse thing?” Roper asked. “Some sort of cage with hay or one of those clear tube thingies people put around the ceiling?”

“You mean a hamster run, Sir?”

“Sure, sure, a hamster run,” Roper replied, absently flipping through fabric swatches again.

“Harry, do you think this color of red velvet would clash with my gleaming butterscotch pelt?” He pointed to a swatch.

“Uh, no Sir, definitely not, Sir. Red is a very good color for you, Sir. Powerful.” Harry glanced at the fabric sample then tried to steer the conversation back on track.

“Well, Sir, with regards to Harley’s addition …” Harry paused, thinking of the right way to word his response. “Well, Sir, it’s really more of a garden-like setting, Sir. No water, of course,” he lied quickly, “but very bright lights – she’s installed Solar Tubes that let sunlight come directly in while keeping air, weather, nature, and the like out, Sir.”

Roper looked up sharply from his swatches. “Bright lights?” he shrieked. “Solar Tubes?” He reached for the glass of mole waters. “What in the world is she thinking? We can’t have sunlight in the Under Dome! It might cause widespread panic and blindness! We could have some sort of skin dissolving epidemic on our paws!”

Harry tried to soothe Roper by saying, “Sir, I’ve been assured by both Harley and her engineers – one of your own Architectural Engineering Vole Squads, Sir – that no sunlight will ever leach out into Greater Under Dome, Sir. It will be completely contained within this …” Harry tried to recall the name Harley had used. “… this ‘Laser Facility’, as Harley calls it, Sir.”

That did not have the effect on Roper Harry had hoped. His eyes bugged out and he began to pant in fear. “Laser Facility???” He began to chant about deep shallow breaths and swoon in his chair.

Harry struggled to think. “Yes, Sir,” he said crisply. “A L.A.S.E.R. Facility – it stands for ‘Long Awaited Spot (for) Everyone (to) Relax’, Sir. It’s an acronym.”

“An acronym?” Roper asked tremulously. “What’s that, Harry? I thought she was getting a hippo!”

Harry fought the urge to roll his eyes and answered patiently, “An acronym is an abbreviation – a word that is formed from the initials or parts of other words. Like T.E.N., Sir. It stands for The Under Dome Emergency Network. Do you understand, Sir?”

“Oh.” Roper visibly relaxed. “I do understand. That was a very gentle and clear explanation, Harry. Thank you. So, if I’m hearing you correctly, Harry, Harley has built some sort of botanical jungle room for her hippo horse and it’s completely water-free?”

“Yes, Sir. You are completely correct, Sir. No water of any sort involved, Sir. Completely safe and waterless, Sir. Just plants and light and a juice bar,” Harry confirmed.

“Ooooh,” Roper clapped his paws together. “She’s added a juice bar? I just love juice! Maybe I should go and visit her – see what this thing is all like?”

“Uh, Sir, have you forgotten about the Solar Tubes, Sir? You wouldn’t want to accidentally get sunlight on your pelt, Sir.”

“Oh,” Roper said, “You’re quite right, Harry. That wouldn’t be good at all. And since sunlight is dangerous, well, you know how I feel about danger, Harry. Perhaps I’ll just send her a nice card and a fruit basket or something.”

“Yes, Sir,” Harry sounded relieved. “I think that would be most wise, Sir.”

Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 29 Adoption Day Part Two

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 29 Adoption Day Part Two

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 29 Adoption Day Part Two

The ride home was a little tense and a lot crowded. Mandrake, the bionic water horse, was uncomfortably wedged into the third row seat of the van. The seatbelt wasn’t quite long enough to latch around his substantial middle, so Harley was laying on her back in the seat next to him, holding the buckle-end of the extended belt as tightly as she could. Her hind feet were braced against the side of the van, her front legs extended over the top of her head as though trying to execute a lateral pull down with the seatbelt. The strain of exertion was beginning to make her cranky.

“Are we about home?” she demanded, sounding slightly out of breath. “I’m not sure how much longer I can hold this belt in place.”

Gordy turned around from his position in the front seat and snuffled loudly.

“Well, that’s good,” Harley panted. “My legs aren’t long enough to have the proper leverage for this kind of activity. Also, I’ve got an itch on my snout but if I let go with one paw the ricochet of this seatbelt might kill someone.”

Mandrake reached over and gently scratched Harley’s snout with his hoof.

Harley started, then realized what he was doing and relaxed slightly. “Why thank you, Mandrake,” she said. “What a thoughtful young hippo you are!”

Mandrake smiled shyly.

B.H. turned around in his car seat to grin at Mandrake. Then he began to chatter away, telling Mandrake about the Brownstone, his room and how much fun they were going to have once they got home.

The van pulled to a stop in front of the Brownstone and Harley let go of the seatbelt. It zinged out of her grasp with lightning speed, arcing wildly toward Mandrake’s head.

“Look out!” Harley shouted, scrambling into a sitting position.

Mandrake turned his head sharply to look at her. As he did, the belt zipped by, narrowly missing his ear. He heard the whine of the fast-retracting belt, felt the wind rush by the side of his head and squeaked in alarm.

Harley leaped into his lap and began patting him on the head, face and shoulders. “It’s okay,” she murmured. “There, there, it’s all okay. You’re safe and loved and there’s no reason for you to become a cutter.”

Mandrake looked at her with big eyes, blinking slowly. He nodded, then awkwardly patted her on the head with his hoof. He snorted softly, indicating that he wanted out of the van.

“Okay, everyone,” Harley demanded loudly, “get out of the way. Traumatized hippo here! Make some room before he starts cutting!” She all but pushed Mandrake from the van.

Standing on the sidewalk in front of the Brownstone, Harley observed Mandrake carefully, looking for any signs that he might be feeling emotional distress. Satisfied that he seemed calm and happy, she took his hoof in one of her paws and B.H.’s small paw in the other.

“I feel like we should say a few words since this is such a special occasion,” she said. “Anyone want to, I don’t know … do that?”

Prescott and Gordy both turned away uncomfortably, snuffling and shaking their humps. B.H. whispered something too quietly for Harley to hear then looked intently at his cowboy boots. Mandrake gazed down at her, expectantly.

“Okay, then,” she muttered, “I guess I’ll say something.”

She cleared her throat, took a deep breath, then said dramatically, “Today, we welcome Mandrake into our family. We are a diverse and multi-cultural tribe of indigenous nomads who have come together to create an intricate and aerodynamic nation.” She paused as though collecting her thoughts, not noticing the odd looks she was getting from the group. She continued speaking, warming to her task. “Though we have many differences, we are one in spirit. As my Native American Dachshund ancestors believed, I, too, believe that we are all endowed with the gift of gab, the ability to come together as a family and pursue warm gravy. On this day, we bring Mandrake, a bionic water horse, into our family. Welcome, Mandrake. We are proud and glad to receive you into our clan. May your life with us be fulfilling and abundant and may you not become a cutter. Amen.”

Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 28

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 28

Adoption Day had finally arrived and Harley, Gordy and Prescott were having a difficult time keeping B.H. calm. He had leaped out of bed at 5:20 a.m. and raced into Harley’s room. He’d proceeded to jump on her bed, shaking her out of a sound sleep, which had not pleased Harley in the least. After shooing him back to his own room she’d tried to get a little more sleep, but found it difficult to reclaim the totally relaxed state of rest she’d been experiencing.

When she finally gave up on sleep and trudged slowly into the kitchen for a mug of gravy, she had found Gordy and Prescott, each of them in a similar state of bleary-eyed exhaustion. From their snuffling and hump shaking, she determined that B.H. had visited his overwhelming excitement on them, as well.

Now, after she had finally managed to settle B.H. enough to eat some breakfast and brush his teeth, she was trying to wrangle him into his ‘going somewhere’ clothes so she could comb his hair. “Darn it, B.H.,” she said crossly, “hold still. I can’t tie your shoes if you keep wiggling and jiggling around so much.”

B.H. ceased his fidgeting briefly, but was soon overcome with excitement again and he began to squirm and bounce, chattering about how much fun the new hippo was going to be and how much he was looking forward to having a playmate.

Exasperated, Harley jerked off the still untied sneakers and went to B.H.’s closet. “Here,” she said, turning back to the vole. “Wear your cowboy boots. Then I won’t have to fight with you over tying your shoes anymore.” B.H. happily pulled on the bright blue boots, all the while continuing his happy jabbering.

After several minutes of dodging and ducking, B.H. finally held still just long enough for Harley to swipe a brush over his head. The vole’s fine hair went smooth for a short minute before springing back up in an unruly looking wave over his forehead. “This darned vole-lick of yours won’t lay down, B.H.,” she muttered, trying to smooth it down again with first the brush, then her paw. Finally, she sighed. “I think that’s as good as it’s going to get, B.H.. Maybe you should just wear a hat.” Shaking her head, she took his jacket down from the closet and handed it to him. “Better wear a sweater, B.H., that adoption agency is always really cold.”

At last, the family was loaded into the van. Prescott was driving while Gordy had claimed shotgun. Harley snapped B.H. into his seatbelt and then, adjusting her own, announced, “Alright! Let’s get this bionic waterhorse show on the road!”

Traffic was light and the drive unremarkable as the van wound its way through the carpeted streets of the city. B.H. had suddenly stopped his excited chatter and now sat quietly, looking out the window of the van with big eyes. Harley noticed that both Buffaloes were unusually quiet, as well. She felt her own excitement turn into something more like nervousness as the van turned into the parking lot of the Under Dome Rehoming and Adoption Center for Voles and other People.

Prescott parked and turned off the engine. The group sat in silence for a few moments. Harley looked at B.H., who was quietly working at the buckle of his seatbelt. She watched Prescott adjust his tie in the rearview mirror and saw Gordy pull down the sun visor to check his hump and swipe a hoof over his beard. Harley unlatched her own seatbelt and smoothed her eyebrows with her paw. “Are we all ready?” she asked anxiously.

Each of the others nodded and the group left the van, walking quickly toward the entrance of the building. Prescott held the door open and Harley and B.H. entered the lobby, looking around curiously. Harley spotted the manager coming toward them and bent down to speak to B.H. quietly.

“Are you sure you’re ready?” she asked. B.H. nodded solemnly. “Now, B.H., this is serious – we can’t bring him back once we take him home. So if you’re having second thoughts or want to adopt something else, now’s the time to speak up.” B.H. shook his head and whispered that he was very happy to meet his new hippo. “And you’re sure about the name we picked out?” Harley added. B.H. grinned happily and nodded again. “Okay, then, here we go,” Harley said firmly, straightening up to greet the manager, a slightly overweight but attractive vole.

“Hello there, you must be the Harley Bishop Family,” the manager extended a neatly manicured paw. “I’m Noreen.” Harley shook her paw, as did the others. “I know this is a big day for you, but there are just a few details we have to take care of before you can take the newest member of your family home,” she smiled. “If you’ll just follow me, Harley. The rest of you can wait right over there.” She pointed toward a seating area filled with comfortable furniture, a book shelf and a large television. B.H. scurried over and plopped onto a fluffy chair. He located the remote control and immediately turned on the TV, settling happily into his seat. Prescott and Gordy each patted Harley on the head and went to sit with B.H.

Harley followed Noreen into a small but neat office and sat where Noreen indicated she should.

“There are just a few papers that we need to review and sign and then you’ll be all set to go home,” Noreen explained, shuffling through a stack of files on her desk. “I understand that you’ve been told about your hippopotamus’s special needs?” She slipped on a pair of reading glasses and looked up at Harley.

“Well, yes, if you’re talking about his bionics and such,” Harley said. “Although I’m not entirely sure why it’s such a big deal.”

Noreen looked at her a moment before dropping her gaze to the now open file in front of her. “Well,” she began, “aside from the obvious issues presented with a bionically enhanced being – super strength and speed, enhanced motor function, increased appetite, and the like – there may be some emotional issues that arise. It’s very difficult for non-bionic people to understand the strain of maintaining the control necessary for a bionic – in this case a bionic hippo – to exist in a normal world. Chairs may not be designed to hold his heavier frame, for example. And a broken chair could lead to him feeling insecure about his size. We wouldn’t want him to begin to exhibit any self-harming habits such as eating disorders or cutting, for instance, as a way of expressing emotional distress. It’s very important that you recognize any signs of depression or trauma, therefore, and be prepared to deal with anything that arises.” She gazed at Harley expectantly.

“So you’re saying I need to watch him and make sure he’s happy?” Harley said.

“Exactly,” Noreen confirmed. “We do offer a series of counseling sessions for all our new adoption families, at a significant discount, of course. You’re more than welcome to sign up for them before you leave today, in fact. Most of our families have found the classes to be invaluable while integrating their adopted children – or whatever – into their households.”

“I think I’ll pass,” Harley replied. “We’re pretty laid-back at home and we’ve been doing a lot of research into what will make him feel comfortable. I think we’ll do okay on our own.”

Noreen pursed her lips in disapproval, but only said, “Well, fine, then. Sign here and you can meet your hippo.”

Harley scrawled her signature at the bottom of the page.

“By the way,” Noreen examined the paper, then looked at Harley, “have you picked out a name?”

“Yes,” Harley said, rising from her chair. “We’ve decided to name him Mandrake.”

Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 25

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 25

Early Tuesday morning, Harley and B.H. were settled into their favorite booth at the Southside Cafe. Harley bit into a gravy-filled donut and smacked her lips in appreciation. “You really can’t beat a nice, healthy breakfast to get your energy up in the morning, B.H.,” she told him. B.H. nodded and eagerly tucked into his own breakfast – a stack of bacon cheese pancakes and gravy.

“I know things have been pretty chaotic around here lately,” Harley addressed the top of B.H.’s head as he bent over his pancakes. “I wanted to talk to you about, you know, things,” she added. “Like, are you feeling comfortable in your room? Do you like living with the Buffaloes and me? Things like that.”

B.H. looked up, mouth full and nodded happily.

“Okay,” Harley continued. “Well, that’s great, B.H., because we really love having you in our family.” She drank from her mug of gravy and belched loudly. B.H. giggled, drank from his own, much smaller mug, belched and giggled again.

Harley chuckled and patted him on the head. “Anyway, I know you were pretty scared back at Thanksgiving with that whole ‘Isis’ thing. And the parade last week was certainly more excitement than I bargained for,” she shook her head in disgust. “So, are you scared or worried or anything?”

B.H. shook his own head and kept eating.

“Oh, well, that’s good,” Harley signaled the waiter to bring another plate of donuts. “I want you to feel, you know, comfortable and everything. I don’t want you to think you’re in any danger or whatever. I mean, Roper’s kind of ridiculous and obviously Cookie – I mean, ‘Isis’ – is crazy, but that’s just sort of the way things are here. It’s perfectly safe – I’d never let anything happen to you.” She was watching B.H. earnestly, hoping to convey the care and concern she had for him without expressing any actual emotion – which made her very twitchy.

B.H. continued to chew his pancakes and looked at her, wide-eyed.

She drank more gravy and shoved another donut into her snout. Swallowing, she looked seriously at B.H. “B.H.,” she began gently. “I was thinking that you might be a bit lonely. You haven’t really made any friends since you came to live with us, and even though I’m very exciting and dynamic, the Buffaloes are pretty boring. I mean, Gordy likes to play board games and Prescott has that super cool button collection, but, well, I thought you might like to spend time with someone different once in a while. Someone you have more in common with.”

B.H. looked thoughtful. Then, he nodded his head excitedly before returning to his breakfast.

“Okay,” Harley declared. “Well, then it’s settled. I think we should get you involved in some clubs or maybe a sports team. Maybe you could enroll in a class or two at the University? Would you be interested in joining Vole Scouts?”

Harley and B.H. discussed a variety of social opportunities over the rest of their meal. Afterward, Harley paid the check while B.H. used the little vole’s room.

On their walk back to the Brownstone, Harley listened as B.H. chattered happily about the many exciting activities that had been proposed.

“You know what, B.H.?” Harley asked suddenly. “I think we should consider adoption.”

B.H. looked up at her questioningly.

“Well,” she explained, “we adopted you and that’s working out great.” B.H. grinned. “So I think we should adopt again. Maybe not another vole, though. I mean, voles are good and all, but we should diversify. Bring someone from another culture into our home,” she reasoned.

B.H. nodded.

“We’ll visit an agency after we talk to Gordy and Prescott,” she said. “Now, let’s go home and look at The Under Dome University course catalog. Maybe we can find a film class to enroll you in!”

B.H. giggled and turned in a circle as they continued to walk.

*****

After supper that night, Harley and B.H. sat with the Buffaloes in the family room and discussed their ideas for adoption. Harley also took the opportunity to tell them that she had enrolled B.H. in a class at the University. Upon further questioning, she informed them that he had been particularly interested in “Circus Stunts,” a semester long course that would prepare him for life under the Big Top. Gordy also thought the class sounded like fun and announced he was going down to the college and enroll himself. B.H. responded with much clapping and enthusiastic jumping up and down.

The next morning, Harley and B.H. went to the Under Dome Rehoming and Adoption Center for Voles and other People. Harley explained that she was interested in the adoption of what the Center called a “Non Traditional” placement. Which was a snooty way of saying ‘someone who wasn’t a vole’, in Harley’s opinion. They looked at well over a dozen portfolios and finally narrowed the field to three potentials.

With the portfolios spread over a conference table in front of them, Harley and B.H. discussed each one carefully. Harley was prepared to defer to B.H. in the final decision, but wanted to make sure he understood the permanence of the adoption.

“Now, B.H.,” she said firmly. “I want to make sure you understand that which ever portfolio you choose is fine with me. But it’s not like when we go to the shoe store. You can’t pick out a pair of shoes and then take the shoes back in this case. Because we’re not really talking about shoes. We’re talking about people. And people aren’t shoes. I mean, you’re going to pick one and we’re going to take him or her home and you’re going to have be satisfied with that. We’re not going to bring them back and tell the adoption people that the shoes didn’t fit, or they weren’t the right color or they didn’t go as well with that pair of yoga pants as we thought they would. And we’re not going to be able to put them in a closet and leave them there until we have our spring yard sale, then sell them for fifty cents to the vole down the street who likes sparkly flip flops. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

B.H. shrugged and shook his head.

“Let me see if I can explain it this way, B.H.,” Harley tried again. “When we go to the shoe store and I buy you a pair of shoes, it’s because you like the shoes and I want to make you happy so I get you the shoes you want. But then, when we get home with the new shoes, sometimes you decide youdon’t like the shoes after all and so I take you back to the shoe store and we return the shoes for a different pair or sometimes I just get my money back because you can’t find a pair of shoes you really like. When that happens, we just go home without any shoes at all and then you don’t have any shoes. Do you understand, now?”

B.H. looked at her for a moment, then he untied his shoes, took them off and put them on the table in front of her.

Harley rolled her eyes. “No, B.H., I don’t want your shoes,” she said, handing them back to him. “I’m saying this is not like shopping for shoes.”

The vole shrugged again and began putting his shoes back on. He muttered something quietly.

Harley sighed. “What I’m trying to tell you, B.H., is that once you make a decision about who we’re going to adopt, you can’t change your mind. It’s forever. Like when we adopted you. We can’t send them back. So I want you to be very, very sure. Okay?”

Nodding in understanding, B.H. finished tying his shoes and then pointed to the portfolio lying open in front of him. He tapped it with his paw and smiled.

Harley looked over the information carefully. “Are you sure, B.H.?” she asked. “This is going to be a big responsibility, you know. Are you sure you’re ready for that?”

Grinning happily, B.H. nodded emphatically and tapped the portfolio again.

“Okay, B.H., let’s go let them know we’ve made our choice. We’re getting a water horse!”