Chapter 1: How a Dog Met a Boy

The great, black doglike creature stood higher up the hill than the teen he was watching wander around, obviously lost. He watched the boy look around, confused. He appeared to be thirteen or perhaps fourteen years old and he was definitely lost. He moved like someone who had no idea where he was. Then the giant animal sensed a faint hint of the panicky thoughts radiating from the boy. Could it be? Could this unlikely specimen be one of the special few? He dared not hope, and yet ... He crept nearer and listened.

Gage admitted to himself he was lost. He wasn't completely afraid yet; but he had reached the point where he admitted to himself he was for certain lost and he started to feel more than a little nervous about it. He and his parents had gone to the Superstition Mountains in Arizona for a vacation. It was late spring and the desert was still green. The early spring rains caused the giant cactuses to become all swollen with the water they had stored inside to help them survive the hot dry summer season when it never rained.

Right then, to the young man, those big barrel cactuses all looked very scary and quite threatening. Who knew what or even who was hiding behind them just waiting to pounce on a guy? That was when Gage admitted to himself; well maybe he was a little afraid, not too much, but a little. It was just when a guy got even slightly lost everything began to look scary.

"I thought I came this way," he muttered to himself, "Nothing looks right. It all looks different."

"Perhaps because it is different, foolish boy." The rumbling voice seemed to come from all around him and inside his head at the same time. "Could it be you are on the other side of the hill from where you think you are?"

"Hey, who said that? Come on out and show yourself. I'm not afraid," he yelled.

"Oh yes you are afraid," the voice answered him, "and you know you're afraid and you're afraid to admit you're afraid."

"I am not afraid," Gage said in a scared, quivering voice.

"Well, if you're not afraid, then why are your knees shaking? And your chin is quivering too. That seems pretty afraid to me."

"Well all right then, so I am a little bit scared." He paused a moment, then asked, "How come I seem to hear you in my head? Where are you? Are you scared, too?"

"Well now, since you admit you're scared I'll answer your first question. The reason you hear me inside your head is because where I'm talking to you is inside your head."

"Oh, that's impossible," Gage replied, "People only talk to each other with their minds in comic books and old Star Trek reruns. Why won't you show yourself?"

"Okay, here goes. Just turn around and look behind you. Here I am. Now don't you get all sissy scared on me."

Gage slowly turned around. Suddenly, his eyes grew round and wide and he yelled, "Hoo boy!" He bent forward and prepared to start running as fast as his strong young legs would let him. In front of him he saw the biggest, blackest dog of some kind or other he had ever seen before in his whole life.

"Hey, I thought I told you not to get all sissy scared on me." Somehow, when he looked at the big, black, four-footed monster, the voice in his head became even clearer. The huge dog stood there with a big, wide grin on his face. This made him not seem quite so fearsome. Awesome, yes, definitely awesome, but not quite fear making. He looked almost friendly.

"Hey. I'm not a sissy." Gage indignantly told the beast, "If some great big ugly, hairy black monster showed up in front of you, you'd be scared too."

"Hey, yourself, puny little pink creature, watch who you're calling ugly. I think I look quite handsome. After all I have all this beautiful black hair all over my body. And what do you have? All you have is a little patch of yellow fuzz on your head."

"Wait a minute," Gage told his new acquaintance, "You still haven't told me how come I hear you in my head. People who hear voices in their heads are nuts."

"Usually you would be correct with the unkind remarks you made in a thoughtless sort of way. This is the exception to the rule. I am here, you are here and we are 'talking.' Also you are definitely not one of the unfortunates whom you call 'nuts.' Ergo we converse, therefore we are." Somehow the big monster dog's face appeared smug and self-satisfied.

"How come you use all those big words, if you're a dog?" Gage asked. "I never heard of a dog who knew big words, before."

"Oh ye of little imagination and less mind. My last companion was a scholar, a gentle man of many interests." Gage sensed, a great sadness in the mental voice as the big dog continued. "He has been dead these many seasons and I have been seeking a new companion, one who could detect my voice ever since. There are so very few of you, you know. Besides, I am quite brilliant in my own right. It's hereditary you know."

"No, I didn't know. Do you mean not everyone can hear you?" Gage hadn't considered that possibility. "Then what will people think if I tell them I talk to a dog who knows big words?"

"Well, one possibility is they will think you're nuts." The dog cocked his head to one side and grinned.

"Oh man, now we're right back where we started. When I tell my folks I met a dog who talks and only I can hear him, they will say I'm nuts for sure," Gage replied.

"There is one solution to your little problem you know."

"What?" Gage asked.

"You don't tell them." The big dog looked at Gage doubtfully, "I know you're such a blabbermouth, you could never keep a secret."

"I can so keep a secret."

"No you can't because you have a big blabbermouth."

"Well, it doesn't matter, anyway," Gage told his new acquaintance. "If you'll tell me which way to go, I'll get back to my folks."

"Do you mean you'll go away and leave me here alone?" There was a hint of alarm in the dog's gruff mental voice.

"Well, you can't expect me to stay here forever, can you? I got my own family and they need me."

"Then why can't I go with you? I'd like to belong somewhere again." Gage sensed a great loneliness in the great beast.

"Well, come on, we'll see what happens." Gage was doubtful. "What's your name, anyway?"

"Just call me Dog." Gage got a sense Dog didn't care what he was named.

"Okay," Gage told his new friend, "but I got some doubts, I got some real big doubts. You don't know my mom. When she makes up her mind nobody can change it."

"We'll see." Dog led Gage around the hill and back to where Gage's parents were sitting in the shade of their big motor home, drinking iced tea and listening to the FM radio play old people's music from the eighties and early nineties. "There you are. You aren't going too far away from the ... GOODLORD THERE'S A MONSTER BEHIND YOU, LOOK OUT." His mom was the best "screamer" of any female parental unit he knew of back in Minnesota. Gage was willing to bet she could be heard almost all they way back to Minnesota.

His dad was much less excited. In a very soft and controlled voice he said, "Now Son, when I tell you to, you walk slowly toward the door to the motor home and slowly go in. Honey, you slowly get up and very slowly go to the door when Gage opens it and slowly go in and lock the door. I am going to try and distract it, whatever it is."

"Dad, he thinks you're funny. He likes the way you are trying to protect Mom and me. If he wanted to eat me he would have done it up on the mountain. I want you to meet Dog, he's lonely."

The big, black scary beast sat on his haunches and held a front paw up to be shaken. He looked right at Gage's dad, grinned and waited with his paw up in the air. When nobody moved, he opened his mouth and went "meow." It was a credible imitation of an old tomcat.

Gage grinned and said, "See? He does imitations, too." Dog still waited for his Dad to shake hands.

"Who ever heard of a dog that sounded like a cat? I bet he must be some special breed and valuable too. Where's his owner I wonder?" He walked over to Dog, who now didn't seem so dangerous and said, "Hello boy." He "shook hands" with Dog who then returned his paw to the ground.

"Well, Mom, Dad, he doesn't belong to anyone. His master died a long time ago and he has been waiting and looking for the right person to be with. He says, er..." Gage caught his slip and said, instead, "He won't go to just anybody you know.

"Can I keep him? He followed me back here and he's a real great person and, well... ," Gage was excited he had found Dog. At that moment he realized he wanted to keep Dog. Somehow Gage realized Dog would be very special to him, in fact he already was.

"Well, Son, we will have to take him into town and find out who owns him," his dad replied, "If nobody has reported him missing, maybe we can cross that path when we get to it." At least his dad was sort of thinking about keeping this strange animal.

"Oh no." his mother cut in, "We'll cross that path right now. There is no way I am going to travel with a big, mean and smelly old animal. He might even eat us in our sleep. I am putting my foot down right now." And to prove it she raised her foot slightly off the ground and stomped it back down.

Dog wandered slowly over to Gage's mom and rubbed his head gently against her leg. Then he lay down on his back and stuck all four feet in the air and said, "Wuff." in a very low voice, not quite a growl.

"He likes you, Mom." Gage exclaimed. "See, he isn't smelly or dirty. He rides in a car real good, too." Gage thought for a moment and added, "I bet."

His mother relented a little. After all, the animal seemed to be okay. He looked big and scary, yet he acted like a little puppy almost. "Well, we'll see," she let herself soften up a bit.

"When we get back to Apache Junction we'll ask the police if they know of anyone who lost this dog. You can tell he has been taken good care of." From Mom Gage knew this was very high praise. His mother was not a fan of any big animals, except horses or cows that were supposed to be big.

Dog wandered over to a cactus like plant and bit off a shoot of it and brought it to Gage's mother and laid it at her feet. He looked at he expectantly.

"Whatever is this for?" she asked.

Gage read the answer in Dog's mind. "It's Aloe vera plant, Mom, sometimes called the burn plant. It grows wild out here on the desert. You got a sunburn coming on and the juice of a leaf of Aloe will make your sunburn go away. Your nose looks like Rudolph's right now and it isn't even Christmas." Gage grinned at her.

With mock seriousness, Mom looked at Gage and said, "I know I have a sunburn coming on, Gage. It isn't nice for you to make fun of anyone, even when you don't mean to be cruel." She thought a bit and added, "Say. How do you know so much about a medicine plant? Even more to the point, how did this dog know to get it for me?" She began to frown. There was just too much not known about this strange beast.

"Aw, Mom, he was just trying to be nice to you. See? He likes you." Dog had picked the long, thick Aloe leaf up and offered it to her again.

"I'm not so stupid I got to have a dog prescribe medicine for me." She accepted the proffered gift as she remembered what she had seen on the Discovery Channel about the healing properties of Aloe. Reluctantly, she went inside the motor home and began to peel the tough outer skin off the Aloe leaf with a paring knife. She rubbed the juicy pulp of the plant on her sun burned nose and the backs of her arms and neck. Almost immediately, she could feel the soothing plant juices do their job.

She came back outside and smiled at Dog. "Maybe you aren't so useless, after all," she told him and patted him on the head. Gage got the distinct impression Dog was going to make his mom pay for not taking him serious. He, Gage, didn't get the feeling of anything painful happening, only he got the feeling there would be a lesson somewhere in the future; he was very certain of it. Gage already knew Dog did not like to be taken lightly by what he considered "mere humans."

Gage and his parents readied the motor home for the trip back to town. The aluminum chairs were folded up and placed in the storage compartment and the now empty iced tea jug was washed and put away. Because of the possible dangers of loose objects when traveling, it was best for sloppy housekeepers to not own a motor home. A knife left out on the counter in the morning could fall off and cut somebody's foot in the afternoon.

After he was invited inside the motor home for the ride back to Apache junction the first thing Dog did was to look around. He found a knife left out and barked once, letting his right paw rest by the offending blade. Gage's dad saw where he had his paw and said, "You found some real smart dog, there." As he took the knife and put it away where it belonged, he said wistfully, "I like this dog, he's as smart as my boss at work." Dog looked at him and gave a bark. "Well, okay, then, he's smarter than my boss."

Dog gave a small "woof" of agreement and nodded. He curled up under the table in the breakfast nook out of the way of careless feet. Gage saw his dad look approving at the way Dog settled himself in for traveling. "I think you found yourself some kind of fine dog there, Son. I truly do. Now don't you get disappointed if someone claims him."

Gage grinned, "Don't worry, Dad, nobody is going to claim him. I already know he doesn't have anyone looking for him." His dad looked at him, wondering why Gage was so certain about the dog.

Gage's mom sat in the passenger seat as usual while his dad drove the big forty feet long home on wheels. Gage sat on the seat at the end of the breakfast nook where he could use the table to place his games while he played them. He was seat buckled into place and feeling bored. He looked out the window at the passing landscape and sighed.

He was still daydreaming when he heard Dog in his head, "Look out the window." There was a man lying in the ditch alongside the road. He was obviously injured; a motorcycle lay in a twisted wreck a few feet away.

"Dad. There's someone in the ditch back there. Stop," Gage called to his father.

""Uh, what?" his dad asked.

"Go back, Dad there's a man laying in the ditch back there, it looks like a motorcycle accident. He was bleeding. Dog smelled the blood."

"I didn't smell the blood. I saw it." Dog corrected Gage mentally

"Whatever," Gage thought back, "If I tell them you 'saw his blood' they would think I was real nuts and needed a keeper."

"They would be right," Dog thought right back at him. "Besides, how can I smell blood through the walls of a motor home?" Gage mentally shrugged his shoulders.

The big motor home came to an easy stop and then began slowly backing the distance it had traveled between the time Gage called and his Dad stopped it. Using both side mirrors, his father carefully backed up until Gage exclaimed, "There he is."

His mother looked out her window and said, "Yes, I see him too." Before the vehicle was stopped completely, she was out of her seat and hurried back to get her big emergency first aid kit out of the storage closet in the bedroom. Gage's dad put the shifter in park and set the emergency brake. He opened the side door and hurried to the fallen man who was bleeding from a bad cut on his leg. There was a lot more blood on the ground under him.

Mom hurried up with the big kit, took one look and said, "Honey, take the cell phone and call 911. He's bleeding bad." As Dad called 911, Mom quickly cut away the injured man's pant leg. She cleaned the wound with alcohol in order to get a better look at the cut. Blood was slowly spurting out of a gash above the knee. She took a length of rubber surgical tubing and made a tourniquet around the man's thigh above the cut. The bleeding stopped.

She took the phone from her husband as he handed it to her, "Hello, who am I talking to?"

"You got the emergency dispatch here, Ma'am. Like I told the gentleman, we only have one ambulance available right now in this part of the county and it's taking a ten year old girl into Mesa to get her appendix out. There isn't anyone else available for forty-five minutes to an hour. Sorry."

"Well, I am an OR nurse and have seen too many injuries like this man has. If he doesn't get medical treatment immediately, he is going to die."

"Are you giving your 'expert' medical opinion, ma'am?" the voice asked sarcastically.

"Yes, an expert opinion is exactly what it is." She took a deep breath and continued. "Look, Goober, or what ever your name is, I am rendering first aid to an unconscious accident victim. My husband and I shall place him in our motor home. We are headed west on the highway toward Apache Junction and would like to be met by a highway patrolman who will escort us to an emergency treatment facility. Now I don't have time to talk to an amateur so I'm hanging up. You just make sure we get our escort."

"Oh, you're going to get your escort, all right, not to the hospital, though."

"You idiot." she told him and tossed the squawking phone on the ground and got busy. She took out a sterilized needle and suture and sewed up the torn artery as best she could, then let the tourniquet ease off bit at a time. There was still a slight seepage around the stitches. She quickly applied a tight bandage around the wound.

"Now, Gage, when your father and I roll him over on his side, you slip this blanket under him. Keep it straight, now," they rolled the big man over on his side and Gage slipped the blanket under him. Then he was rolled over the other way, oh so very easily and the blanket was straightened out.

They tried to be gentle as possible, using the blanket as a makeshift travois. They dragged the man back up the gentle slope, out of the ditch and right up to the side door of the motor home. He was a big man and heavy. "Sheesh, this guy weighs a ton," Steve Ryan, Gages dad complained. "Man, we don't have the strength to pull him up inside. He has to weigh at least two hundred and fifty pounds." Dog barked at them.

"Mom, Dad, if you take the ladder going to the top of the motor home loose from the clamps and bring it here, you can use it as a ramp and maybe slide the man up the ramp and on inside."

His father looked at him with approval and said, "Smart thinking there, Son." Gage smiled modestly, and didn't tell them it was Dog's idea.

In less than five minutes his dad was back with the ladder and propped it in the door. They couldn't get the man on the ladder while it was propped in the doorway. Steve placed it flat on the ground and worked it under the injured man just like they had the blanket. Then they lifted one end and muscled it up into the open doorway. He was still too heavy and awkward for them to lift the rest of the way in.

"You know, if Dog lifts the other end of the ladder you two can slide it right inside. Dog will do it if I ask him."

"Hush, Son, let us think. How are you going to ask him to do anything? He's a dog and Dogs don't talk people talk." Mom was still thinking hard as she answered Gage.

Suddenly the other end of the ladder rose up into the air. The big monster dog had it in his teeth and was holding it up with seeming ease. A growling noise rumbled in his throat. In silence the amazed adults slid the big man into the motor home, rolled him off the ladder and made him as secure as they could.

Gage's dad climbed into the driver's seat and buckled up, still shaking his head in amazement at the strange dog. Gage sat back in his chair at the dinette table. The motor home slowly moved forward and picked up speed. They were almost to town when a siren wailed and hooted urgently behind them. They pulled over to the side of the road. A deputy sheriff came up to the driver's side and asked for driver's license and registration and proof of insurance.

"Sir, we have a badly injured man in here who needs immediate attention. Can all this wait till we get him to the hospital? We need an escort to get him there, so if you will please lead the way."

"Sorry, Lady, I was told to intercept you and check you out." The cop waited for the requested papers.

Gage's dad usually the mellowest man in any group. All the mellow evaporated as he got a glint in his eyes. "Give me the phone, Hon," he directed his wife. She accepted it from Gage and handed it to him.

"Hey." the deputy sheriff yelled.

"Mister," Gage's dad said, "either shoot me or shut up. I don't care what you were told. I am calling a television station to send a camera crew out here to film this man as he dies while you act like a jerk. Then I am going to sue you, and the man's family is going to sue you."

He punched in Information and when the operator came on asked for the phone number for Channel Four. "Yes, please connect me." He waited a bit until someone answered his call, and then said, "Hello, I am in a motor home pulled over to the side of the road with a dying man in it. The police refuse to let me get the man to an emergency room for treatment. Sure, I'll tell you where we are. Oh yes, his badge number is three nine..."

"Okay, follow me" the defeated deputy said. He got in his patrol car, pulled out and headed down the road. Mom took the phone and started talking to the TV reporter. Dad followed closely behind the deputy as they passed the Apache Junction turnoff and headed straight into Mesa.

When they arrived at the hospital, there was a television cameraman, complete with a news crew waiting for them. Attendants hurried out with a gurney and placed the still unconscious man onto it and wheeled him inside. One cameraman was pointing his camera at the motor home and the Larsen family. The other camera was aimed at the deputy sheriff who was yelling, "I ain't got nothing to say. I just do as I'm told."

In the meantime, Gage was bragging about how his dad forced the deputy take them to the hospital. He also bragged about how his mom cleaned the wound and sewed it up and how Dog lifted the end of the makeshift ladder-used-as-a-stretcher up in the air so it could be slid in. "The guy must have weighed a ton." Gage exclaimed, "You should have seen how Dog lifted him right up and my mom and my dad slid him right in."

"Yeah, and if Gage hadn't seen him and told me to stop none of this would be happening. And you should have seen Linda, my wife, sewing him up." His father was praising everybody except himself.

In fact, everybody was so busy bragging on everybody else, they forgot all about the injured man. "What is the name of the man who got hurt?" a reporter asked. Nobody knew. One of the assistants ran quickly inside to the admissions desk and hurried back out a couple minutes later. She whispered to the reporter and got back out of camera range.

The young woman who was on camera held up a hand dramatically and announced, "Well, this is news with a twist. The accident victim is reportedly the professional wrestler 'Mangling Milton The Minnesota Monster.' Talk about a coincidence. I see you people have Minnesota plates on your motor home. Are you fans of his?"

"My mom won't let me watch wrestling on TV," Gage answered.

"We don't watch it all very much. He looked kind of familiar, but we didn't recognize him." Gage's mom stated. "When we first saw him, all we saw was someone hurt and in need of help, and nothing else."

A nurse came out of the hospital and asked Gage's dad, "Are you the people who brought in the accident victim a little while ago?"

"Why yes, we are," he answered.

"His wife just now arrived and would like to speak to you," The nurse turned around and headed back inside. Gage and his mom and dad followed the nurse and the reporters followed behind, making it a long procession as they hurried down the hall and into the waiting room where a single female figure stood alone, watching them all approach.

"Here they are, Mrs. Milton," the nurse told the waiting lady.

The big, blond woman stood slightly over six feet in her low cut boots. In her black leather motorcycle pants and vest, holding her helmet in the crook of her elbow, she looked like a Viking warrior woman brought into modern day times. She tossed the helmet onto a chair near her and rushed to meet the family who had rescued her husband and saved his life.

"Hi, I'm Peg Milton, Ralph's wife. I want to thank you so much for what you did for my husband. The doctors told me if you folks hadn't happened along when you did Ralph would have died."

"Ralph Milton?" Gage's mom asked, "Oh we don't know anything about any Ralph Milton. We helped a wrestler named 'Mangling Milton' a little, not any Ralph Milton."

Peg Milton laughed, "Oh, his given name is Ralph. But how would it look to have a big ugly gorilla like my husband get into the ring and have the announcer say, 'And in this corner, Little Ralphy Milton.' It wouldn't work." Everyone in the room laughed at her imitation of a ring announcer.

Gage's dad laughed with the rest, "Well, no matter if his name was Sue, we were glad to have been there at the right time. Now the real heroes are my son Gage, for spotting your husband lying there in the ditch and my wife for the way she took charge of what had to be done and did it. Back home she is an operating room nurse and is forever taking another class for something or other that has to do with medicine. Me? Well I just drove and lifted what little I could."

He paused a moment in thought and then said, "This new dog my son has sure did his share too. When we couldn't lift him into the motor home, Dog grabbed one end of the ladder we were using for a stretcher in his jaws and lifted that end up all by himself. I guess your husband was saved because all of us did our parts and worked together as a family.

"Could I meet this wonder dog of yours? They said it would be hours before he will wake up in the recovery room. And I would really like to meet your amazing dog."

"Can she, Dad?" He'll behave, I promise you.

"Linda? What do you think?" his dad asked his mom.

"Well, I guess it would be okay." She turned to Peg Milton and said, just don't try to get too familiar with him. We're barely starting to get used to him."

Gage led the way back into the parking area. Unnoticed by anyone else, the Channel Four cameraman was still shooting everything as it happened. Since it had started out to be what is called a slow news day everything was being televised live. People all over the area from Gold Canyon to Apache Junction to Phoenix were watching the drama as it unfolded.

The lady newscaster intruded just enough to keep things moving. Everyone trooped out to the motor home. Just as they got there Dog, who was waiting inside, opened the door and shoved it back with his nose. He stood there as regal as a king of the canine world. He lifted one front paw up to be shook, as Peg Milton approached. She shook his paw and he sat while she patted him and made over him. He kept a silly grin on his face, the whole time

"Ooh. He is so beautiful." she enthused, "Would you consider selling him?"

The silly grin left Dog's face and he backed up and growled. "Ma'am Dog decides who he wants to be with. He doesn't like the idea of someone trying to buy him." Gage told her.

"You mean you think he understands me?" she asked in astonishment.

"Well, you ask him for yourself. You'll see," Gage answered.

"Dog, would you mind if I bought you and took you home with me?" She asked. He answered with a menacing growl. Her eyes got big and she backed up a step.

"Well, what if I just forget all about it and just thank you for helping my husband?" she asked. He said "Wuff." and began grinning again.

The whole crowd applauded. Most of the people present thought it was a clever trick Dog had been taught. A few others believed he understood what was said and everybody was entertained.

"You know what would be great?" she asked the Larsens, "How about when my husband recovers and is able to wrestle again, you people and this wonderful dog all get in the ring with him and me so we can introduce the people who saved his life? The wrestling fans would love it."

"Well, maybe, if it isn't on a school night. Gage is a school boy, you know and needs his sleep," Gage's mom said.

Just then a man came up and, shoving his way through the crowd, handed a folded paper to Gage's mom. "What's this?" she asked.

"It's a summons to appear in court to answer charges of practicing medicine without a license." He smirked and turned to leave.

Peg Milton let out a yell, grabbed the man and lifted him high in the air and began to spin him around like a fat baton. Then she sat him down on his feet. "Oh I wanted so much to drop you. I guess I'm just too much a lady to get real violent." The now very scared and dizzy man staggered off. The crowd all booed and hissed, just like at the wrestling matches.

Peg looked at her new friends and asked, "Now who would want to do something like this? You saved my husband's life and you get charged with a crime. This is wrong, very, very wrong. Can we go somewhere and talk?"

The early evening newscaster repeated the story of how the Larsen family saved Mangling Milton's life. They also reported the way pretty, young and skilled Mrs. Linda Larsen, nurse and mother was being subjected to harassment and threatened with punishment for saving a man's life. The response was fast as many people called the TV station. Some of the callers just complained and other callers suggested violence.

People called the television station, demanding the Larsens be left alone. Only one person called and said she should be punished and he sounded suspiciously like the 911 operator who had first been called.

The next morning, a note was delivered from the court stating the whole thing was a "clerical error." Relieved, the Larsens were glad to head for home. It had been fun to visit Arizona for a while. Now that their vacation was nearly over it was time to leave. Dog stayed at Gage's side during the rest of the day and slept outside at night.

They began to prepare for the homeward journey early the next morning. After breakfast was finished and the dishes done, everything was put away in its proper place and they were ready for the road. Dog foraged for his breakfast during the night and had dined on two slow rabbits and a ground squirrel, so he was happy.

Everybody was anxious to get home. Gage was excited to show Dog his new home. All Gage's parents wanted to do was kick back and relax for a day or two before they returned to work. Dog was interested to see how many changes there were in this part of the country in the last hundred or so years.

Steve drove and Linda sat in the passenger seat. Gage sat buckled up at the dinette table and played his computer games. At the same time he tried to learn to better communicate mentally to Dog. Dog lay on the floor, relaxed and happy to have found another companion.

Gage's Dad stopped to fill up both tanks with diesel fuel and check the coolant. Gage and Dog got out and stretched. Dog sniffed the air with his sensitive nose and turned to Gage. "Let's run," he invited. Gage raced after the monster dog as they ran through the weeds and brush behind the service station.

"Whoa! Your Dog looks just like pictures of the Ghost Dog of the desert!" the cashier exclaimed as she looked out the window at the dog and boy running. "We got some pictures of him and he looks just like your dog." She pointed to a magazine rack by the register.

"Look at this," Linda said as she picked up a cheaply printed paper back book titled, "Ghost Dog, Phantom Of The Desert."

"Yah, get it and bring it along," Steve told her as he paid for the fuel.

Gage's mom looked nervously at the big dog as he and Gage got back inside the motor home. She looked at the supposed actual picture of the Ghost Dog and back to the big monster panting happily away as he lay on the floor next to Gage. The picture was a blurred photograph of some big, black animal. It was so blurry though it could almost be a picture of anything smaller than an elephant or a giraffe.

She looked back at the dog lying quietly next to her son and said to herself, "Maybe we got the Loch Ness Dog."

"What did you say, Honey?" Steve asked her.

"Oh nothing, I was just thinking out loud."

He told her, "Don't worry about the dog. While you were resting this morning, I called the Apache Junction police department and asked if anyone had reported a big black dog missing. He said the only big black dog missing in those parts was the Ghost Dog and anyone who found him was welcome."

She looked nervously at her husband, "He said what?"

"He was just joking. There have been sightings of a big black dog in those parts for almost fifty years. He never hurt anyone, just scared people is all."

She laughed, "Well he sure scared us when we first saw him."

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