by Ralph and Pat Coppola
We hope you enjoyed Chapter One of “Canine Misfits.” If you missed our first column, please click here.
Chapter Two picks up where Lieutenant Tess, our storyteller, left off. Tess is the oldest of the rescues and leader of the pack. We came across a picture of Tess in her uniform. Looking good, Lieutenant! Maybe we can dig up some photos of Sergeant Opie, Private Ruby, Corporal Barney and Private Bella in their uniforms and show them in the chapters to follow.
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Inside the barracks (actually, the sunroom of the King and Queen’s house), Lieutenant Tess, the leader of the pack, stood in front of her motley crew.
“Here’s how I see it, troops,” I said in my best authoritative voice. “The enemy has been intruding on our camp all year and, frankly, I have had just enough.”
Cpl. Barney looked up quizzically. Sgt. Opie and Pvt. Bella discarded their dinner and stood at attention awaiting my pearls of wisdom. Meanwhile, Pvt. Ruby trotted over to see if any tasty morsels have been left over. She was in luck as Pvt. Bella, in her excitement, practically left her entire meal in her bowl. Pvt. Ruby then moved to each of the remaining bowls and licked them clean.
“No reason to wash these dishes,” Ruby announced to Queen Pat in her most proud little bark as the Queen reached for our chow bowls. “They are squeaky clean!” Ruby exclaimed.
“My, my,” Queen Pat said as she picked up the dishes from the floor and handed them to King Ralph to wash. “Ruby licked all of them clean, again. They may look like they have already been washed, but they need to be cleaned with soap and water and dried before we put them up.”
“Of course, but I’m not so sure I can make these look any better than the way you handed them to me,” King Ralph laughed as he proceeded to wash all five bowls.
“Private Ruby! Attend hut! Are you part of this battalion, or not?” I barked.
“Si, I mean yes, my lieutenant.”
“Then get over here with the rest of the troops.” That was an order I was constantly giving.
“Okay, soldiers, the battle plan has been drawn,” I said as I surveyed the backyard through the barrack’s windows. “We are going to attack at 1900 hours under the cover of darkness.”
The four soldiers looked at each other for an instant, then trained their sights back on me.
“Sgt. Opie, you are going to leave the barracks precisely at 1850 through the rear door and immediately hide behind the red oak tree in the southwest corner of the yard. Be stealthy, son. Don’t let that squirrel see you!” I warned.
“I won’t, Lt. Tess! My uniform blends in with that tree, but I’ll blacken under my eyes, just in case, so the moonlight doesn’t reflect off me and reveal my position,” Sgt. Opie responded.
A fine soldier, that Sgt. Opie. Truth be told, though, Opie spent a week in jail about nine years ago. He said he didn’t remember how he got there. He was found wandering around with no identification. Must have lost his dog tags! Hah, hah! All kidding aside, he was lucky that King Ralph and Queen Pat saw him and bailed him out.
Opie’s been told that he’s part Yorkshire terrier and part German schnauzer. Sounds fancy doesn’t it? But don’t let that fool you. He’s just a regular guy. At twenty pounds of sheer muscle, he’s a fighting machine. Not an ounce of body fat on that old dog. Opie rose up the ranks and made Master Sergeant of this troop, mostly because he’s a darn good soldier who patrols our camp every day. He’s my second in command. I may give the orders, but it’s Sgt. Opie that gets the troops to carry them out.
“Pvt. Bella,” I said. You are going to come up behind the enemy’s position by going out the side door and positioning yourself at the back gate precisely at 1852. And I want radio silence until I give the order to charge.”
“Sir, yes, sir!” Bella barked with great enthusiasm.
One of my best recruits, that Pvt. Bella. She’s a full bred, long haired Jack Russell terrier. She says there’s no mutt in her! As the story goes, the King and Queen just happened to be by the local animal shelter about two years ago. Bella was a brand new arrival, left by a family that couldn’t give her the attention she needed when their new baby arrived. Oh, yes, she is a handful. A bit loud and easily distracted, but I guess that’s part of her charm. Bella just turned five. She is the newest of the recruits. She holds the rank of Buck Private, which everybody gets when they join this army. She’ll be a captain someday, at least that’s what she keeps telling me. I have to say, she is a fearless soldier, always at the point, always ready to engage the enemy. She lives for the hunt. I also happen to know that she has a crush on the sergeant, but don’t tell anybody.
“Pvt. Ruby, you will flank Pvt. Bella taking point at the northwest corner of the yard, at 1852 hours.”
“But, my lieutenant, won’t I be seen?” Ruby wondered aloud.
“Not if you squirm all the way down on your belly, just the way we trained you in boot camp, private!” I said, truly disappointed by Pvt. Ruby’s lack of enthusiasm.
“That was a lot of years ago when I was five pounds lighter,” Ruby grumbled under her breath.
“What did you say, private?” I demanded.
“Nothing, my lieutenant. I’ll be in position as ordered,” Ruby said half-heartedly.
“Better start out at 1830 so you arrive at your post by 1852,” Cpl. Barney added sarcastically.
Ah, yes, Cpl. Barney. Corporal is the next rank higher than a private, first class or otherwise. And he lets Pvt. Ruby know it every chance he gets. Barney is always bragging that he is a Piebald dapple dachshund, whatever that is. All I know is that he’s black and white and has brown mixed in. He thinks he’s special because he has dots inside his spots! And one blue eye. Poor guy…he’s delusional sometimes. I often hear Queen Pat tell him how handsome and smart he is. Yep…delusional.
Barney has been with this troop since he was eight months old. He’s keeps saying he’s seven years old now, then he’s eight. Ask him again, and he’ll tell you he’s pretty sure he’s seven. I took pity on Barney. He tries so hard. So, I made him my signal man. His job is to let the King and Queen know when the troop is in need of grub, fresh water, or has to go out to the latrine and do their “business”. Barney is also the company bugler. When he plays the bugle, he insists on wearing this ridiculous helmet, an odd looking item with a spike on the top, typical of his ancestor’s heritage. Usually, I keep him back with me behind the action, because frankly, the corporal is no hero. Heck, as far as Barney is concerned, someone can get hurt protecting the house from those nasty creatures out there. And he doesn’t want it to be him.
“Cpl. Barney?” I called out.
“Uh, yes sir, I mean yes ma’am, no, I mean yes sir, Lt. Tess?”
I continued. “You are to be at my side, ducking behind the hot tub. Bring your bugle, but leave your spiked helmet in the barracks. When I touch the top of your head, you blow that charge with everything you have.”
Despite that Barney would not like my next order, I issued it anyway. “Then you run up to the front line and attack the squirrel’s position with the rest of the troops. Copy that, corporal?”
“Uh, yes sir, but what will you be doing?” Barney asked.
“Why, someone needs to hold up the rear in case the enemy breaks through our lines and tries to make a run for it,” I said, surprised by the question.
“Of course, ma’am,” interjected Sgt. Opie. “Please excuse Cpl. Barney’s need to question your direct order,” grunted Opie as he scowled at Barney.
“Okay, men. You have your assignments. God’s speed. Victory will be ours!” I vowed. “Now, get some shuteye. I want you all fresh and ready to fight tonight.”
Stay tuned next month for another action-packed chapter of Canine Misfits as they implement their battle plan.