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Canine Misfits: Chapter 1

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Ralph and Pat Coppola with their canine “misfits.” (Photo by Helen’s Photography)


“Canine Misfits” is a new feature in The Cross Timbers Gazette that we hope you will find entertaining and a pleasant addition to the newspaper. The stories were written by longtime Flower Mound residents, Ralph and Pat Coppola. The retired couple started out chronicling the antics of their five rescued dogs. Over the past couple of years, they developed their stories for children.

Ralph and Pat likened their “fur babies” to a military troop whose mission is to protect them from vermin and critters every time they are let out in their backyard. The Coppola’s literally picture them talking to each other as they plan strategies to capture the “enemy.” The stories are told from the perspective of Lieutenant Tess, the oldest of the rescues and leader of the pack.

“Canine Misfits” is a chapter-by-chapter serial that will run monthly in The Cross Timbers Gazette. We hope you find “Canine Misfits” as entertaining as we do and a fun read for children of all ages, and, even Mom and Dad might get a kick out of it, too.

Ralph and Pat look forward to hearing from you and what you think about the stories and suggestions you may have for future stories.  Please address those messages to the editor at

Bella (top left), Ruby (top right), Barney (center), Opie (bottom left), And Tess (bottom right).

Chapter 1                                                                                                                           

My army of five highly trained canines have already been fed and are in their uniform of the day.  King Ralph and Queen Pat, who are in charge of this camp, opened the rear door at the break of dawn.  The five of us scrambled into action as we flew past Queen Pat like a jet plane.  Sergeant (Sgt.) Opie was the first out with Private (Pvt.) Bella right on his heels.  I grabbed my binoculars and followed closely behind with Corporal (Cpl.) Barney and his bugle in tow.  Private First Class (Pvt.) Ruby trailed the group, as usual, looking over her shoulder to see if someone may have left a morsel of food behind.

Our camp was surrounded by a six foot high wooden fence.  It seemed sturdy enough, but my troops knew it can be easily penetrated by cunning and sneaky vermin wanting to get inside.  One in particular was a grey squirrel that we referred to as “the enemy”.  The King and Queen called him “Snappy”.

Our reconnaissance revealed that Snappy loves the acorns that fall from the old oak tree.  We had been waiting for Snappy to make one of his typical strafing runs, gathering up as many acorns as his mouth can hold.  That day, he sighted us and scurried up the old oak tree in just a matter of seconds.  Sgt. Opie was the first to catch a glimpse of the enemy.

“I see him!  Twelve o’clock high!” Sgt. Opie yelped out.

Since I’m the lieutenant and the ranking officer of this troop, I took a position on top of the hot tub to get a better view of the action.  I raised my binoculars and zeroed in on Snappy who perched himself on a limb about eight feet from the ground.  Cpl. Barney, my radio man, climbed up on the hot tub cover and stood beside me.

“Cpl. Barney, call in a perimeter strike,” I barked.  But before Cpl. Barney could relay the command, a streak of white dressed in green and grey “camos” blasted through my field of vision.

“If I time this jump right, I think I can grab him,” Pvt. Bella cried.  With that, Pvt. Bella took a bounding leap and ran up the tree to within a few inches of the branch on which Snappy sat.  Snappy’s eyes opened wide in surprise.

“No one has ever got that close before!” Snappy gasped.  “Who is that and how can it jump that high?”

Snappy quickly shimmied up a few more feet, confident he had moved out of range.

Both Sgt. Opie and Pvt. Bella positioned themselves under the tree and were screaming at Snappy.

“Come down from there!” they yelled in unison.  “You have no right to be here!” Pvt. Bella growled.

Seeing that this required more thought, I summoned my troops. “Soldiers, retreat to my position.  We need to draw a battle plan.”  And on my order, Cpl. Barney sounded the retreat.

Sgt. Opie obediently made his way to where Cpl. Barney has set up the command center on the wooden deck near the barracks.  Pvt. Bella, staring up at Snappy, was still screaming her head off.

Sgt. Opie turned around.  “Private Bella! You heard the lieutenant’s orders. Retreat to the command post.  Now!”

Pvt. Bella looked up at the enemy.  “We’re not through with you yet, squirrel!” she barked, then dutifully trotted to the command post.

Pvt. Ruby finally joined up with the rest of the unit.  She had been through this exercise many times before and didn’t do much to engage the enemy.   Sgt. Opie took notice.

“Private, why weren’t you at our side?” Sgt. Opie scoffed.

“I figured you guys had it under control,” Pvt. Ruby replied without apology for her lack of hustle.

Sgt. Opie just rolled his eyes and walked away.

Quite a character, that Pvt. Ruby.  She transferred here from another outfit about eight years ago.  She loves to eat, so I made her the company cook.  Pvt. Ruby started out a shapely seven and half pounds of Chihuahua, but now she’s about twelve pounds.  Over the years she’s been eating more of her own cooking than the rest of the troop combined.  The King and Queen call her “Hoover”.  They say she can clean the food off the floor faster than any vacuum.

You might wonder why Ruby is still a private first class after all these years.  Personally, I don’t think she really cares about climbing the ranks.  She can be a bit feisty when she doesn’t agree with an order.  She thinks there is nothing we can do about it.  Don’t tell anyone, but she’s probably right.  If we threaten her, then nobody eats!

“Lt. Tess?  Should I set up mess here?” Pvt. Ruby inquired.

“Yes, private.  It looks like we’re going to be here a while,” I replied.

“Great,” Pvt. Ruby answered, her mouth salivated at the thought of the tasty meal she was intending to prepare.  “I think I’ll make my famous enchiladas for lunch today,” Pvt. Ruby responded.

And on that note, I prepared my battle plan.

 Stay tuned for the next action-packed chapter of Canine Misfits.

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