by Ann Neal
“Look at her go! Look at that stride! She’s faster than a streak of lightening!”
“She’s like a ghost! Now you see her, now you don’t.”
“Run, girl, run!” the crowd yelled. “Hurray, she’s the winner!”
“Blitzen, c’mon girl, wake up!” said the woman’s voice. “You must have been dreaming about that rabbit again. Your legs were treading the air like crazy,” she laughed. “Let’s go, my beautiful greyhound, it’s time to go outside and go for a walk.”
“Oh, shoot, Nora, I was having the best dream.” From her favorite sleeping position, lying on her back, the greyhound awoke and reluctantly rolled off the sofa. With her rump high above her muscular back legs and her tail wagging slightly, she stretched her front legs low along the floor and yawned, sticking out her long tongue and showing a mouthful of menacing looking canine teeth. “Okay, I’ll do my business, get a treat and then I’m going back to sleep,” she thought. “I want to finish my dream.”
She stood patiently at the door while her owner, Nora, covered her with a warm fleece dog wrap. The petite woman bent over and kissed Blitzen on her head, her brown curly hair framing her pretty face. Ever so gentle with a soft voice, Blitzen took to Nora as soon as she met her. Never in her short life of four years, living the rigorous and strenuous routine as a racer on a dog track in Florida, was Blitzen so pampered and fussed over. She loved all the attention received from her newly adopted family.
“No, Gray Cat, you have to stay in this time,” said Nora. Gray Cat is the family’s feline pet, a gray shorthaired cat, and has become Blitzen’s trusted confidante.
“How come you get to go out and I have to stay inside?” he mumbled on his way back to the kitchen and into his basket, in which no dog would dare to tread.
“Stop mumbling and being so crabby, Gray; Nora should have called you Mr. Crabs. Would you rather I do my business in your cat box?” asked Blitzen. “I wish Nora would let me run loose around the neighborhood. I’d show her my galloping stride.”
“Don’t let it go to your head, Blitz, or you might grow antlers,” replied Gray Cat.
Blitzen was kept on a leash for her own protection, never before free to roam around cars and traffic. Oh, but she loved to run! “Tomorrow we’ll go to the dog park, Blitzen, but for now we’ll just go around the block,” said Nora, as if she read the dog’s mind. The sleek charcoal gray canine loved the park where she could meet other dogs and have some freedom to really run around. None of them could out run her, she made sure of that.
* * * * * * *
In her younger days as a racer Blitzen’s professional track name was “Thigh High”. Lined up in automatic gates that shot open at the start of a race, she and other greyhounds sped around a track after an ever evasive rabbit, cheered on by noisy onlookers, holding onto their race cards and hoping she would win for them. However, during the last year of her track time, it was becoming more difficult for her to manage a good showing. She had reached her prime as a racer; and while her owners had been kind to her, she was no longer useful to them and had to be retired.
In August, 2009, Blitzen was taken away from the track in her large wire dog crate by a rescue organization. She quietly endured hours of travelling until finally arriving at a far away destination. She was brought to a veterinarian for medical exams and other tests before being introduced to her new family, Bill and Nora Britton, who had been interviewed by the organization to make sure Thigh High would have a good home, which also included a daughter, Nancy, a cat, three reptiles, and four arachnids. Since the family had German heritage they decided to call her Blitzen, since “blitz” in German means “lightening”, an appropriate name for a former race dog.
It took a few weeks for her to respond to her new owners. They treated her lovingly, petted her often, gave her good food and treats, and allowed her to sleep on the couch and several dog beds that were sewn by Nora just for her; but the newness of her surroundings caused some trepidation, especially being around, of all creatures, a cat. She was lonesome at times, though, while the humans were working and at school. In a strange way, she missed her greyhound friends.
Learning to cohabit with a feline was Blitzen’s biggest challenge. She wasn’t sure what to do and was relieved that the cat was distant and kept out of her way, not realizing that he was apprehensive of this long legged, heavy footed newcomer to the household, not wanting to be stepped upon or accidentally kicked.
Gradually they became accustomed to one another; however, Blitzen would growl when Gray Cat suddenly disturbed her when she was trying to sleep. “What are you growling at me for?” hissed Gray Cat. “I was here first, so let’s make the best of it, okay? No one was more surprised than me, when you walked through the door. And all the attention you get, you are one spoiled dog.”
Blitzen rested her head on her front paws, her big expressive brown eyes looking sad. “Sorry, Gray Cat, you woke me up from a deep sleep. At the track I was awakened by the sound of noisy trucks or doors opening and closing.”
“Where are you from, anyway? How come you don’t go upstairs at night? You’d love their huge bed.” said Gray Cat.
“Don’t you know anything about greyhounds? We’re race dogs. That’s all we know,” declared Blitzen. “Besides, I’ve never had to go upstairs before. I’m afraid I’ll lose my footing.”
‘”It’s easy, silly. Watch me.” Gray Cat jumped off the couch and ran up the stairs. “C’mon, try it,” he yelled from the top step.
Blitzen unfolded her long legs and walked over to the bottom stair and looked up. “Where are you? I can’t see you.” The last few steps curve to the landing and Gray Cat was out of sight.
Blitzen hesitantly put one paw on the first step, but changed her mind, not relishing the feeling of being off balance. “Maybe another time, Cat.”
“Chicken lick’n,” teased Gray Cat from the landing, who thought to himself, “now I know how to get some peace and quiet around here.” Even though Gray Cat liked his solitary days of napping in the sunlight that warmed his bed in the kitchen, he longed for companionship after losing his older cat buddy, Bungle, a year ago. He and Bungle also had been adopted by the Britton family and loved them very much. He missed his friend. He thought sadly, “Why didn’t they get another cat?”
* * * * * * *
The quiet residential neighborhood in which the Britton family lived was about twenty years old and the homes were mid-sized with nicely manicured yards, many fenced in to keep young children and pets safe. Blitzen and Gray Cat’s back yard was fenced in, except for the far side where a thick hedge of shrubs, prickly wild raspberries and roses hemmed in the animals. The rear door of the home had been reconfigured with a pet door to allow for the greyhound’s tall size as well as for Gray Cat. When the Brittons were home, they opened the inner kitchen door, which opened to a small mud room for the animals to have access to the outer door, and then they were free to go in and out.
During the fall, large maple trees dropped many leaves, and the two animals acted like kids running and playing in the piles that Bill carefully raked. Eight year old Nancy sometimes threw a ball for Blitzen. The dog was a little awkward at first, but gradually learned to love her new toys. When she ran she looked like a small pony galloping around the yard.
Early December brought colder weather and many frosty mornings which made the ground white and very cold. One day the two animals were outside and walking around the perimeter of the yard, Gray Cat following behind Blitzen. “How long are you going to stay outside, Blitz? The ground is cold and hard for my delicate foot pads.”
“Quit your complaining, pussy cat.”
“You’ve already done your business, what are you looking for?” asked Gray Cat.
“I don’t know, but I picked up a strange scent the other day,” answered the greyhound.
“What kind of a scent?” inquired Gray Cat, running a few steps ahead of the dog. “I don’t smell anything different.”
All of a sudden, Blitzen stopped just at the edge of a row of small rhododendron shrubs that Nora planted last summer. “What… what? Do you hear something?” Gray Cat asked anxiously, walking underneath the stomach of the tall canine and peeking out between Blitzens’s two front legs.
“Shhh, someone is in the bushes. I’m going to growl to see if that scares it away.” Blitzen took a serious stance: and raising her upper lip and baring her teeth, she uttered a deep growl, scaring Gray Cat who scooted out from underneath the dog and ducked behind her.
“Geez, I never heard you do that before!”
A movement in the bushes and a soft whimpering made Blitzen woof. Bravely, she walked around the evergreen and issued another low growl. Gray Cat came around from the other side of the bush and sniffed at the brown dead grass closest to the pathetic sound they heard.
Staring into the thick brush, Blitzen spied two sad eyes looking at her. “All right, come out of there,” she said. “We won’t hurt you.” As they waited, Gray Cat’s fur was standing up and fluffed out. Blitzen’s ears were raised on alert.
From out of the thicket, a poor bedraggled pooch came into view. “I’m sorry to intrude on you, but I’m lost, hungry and it’s s-s-so cold,” said the dog, shivering. “I’ve been hiding in here for three days. I’ve seen you out in the yard and wanted to say something, but I was afraid. C-c-can you help me?”
“Oh, my goodness, you look like you’re starving,” said Blitzen. “Your legs are all scratched up. How did you get in this predicament, anyway? You look like you’re ready to collapse.”
“My owners moved away and they left me behind. Either they forgot or just didn’t want me anymore.” The dog whined and coughed.
“Come on, we have to get you inside to warm up and I know Nora will give you some food,” stated Blitzen.
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” said Gray Cat. “She may not like a strange dog in the house. Why don’t you save some of your treats, Blitz, and bring them outside for the dog, and you could drag out one of the blankets for him to sleep on?”
“Don’t you think that will look a bit weird, Gray Cat?” said Blitzen. “What if it rains or snows? Come on, we can only try.” And with that said, they escorted the wobbly slow-moving dog toward the house.
“What’s your name?” asked Blitzen. “I’m Blitzen and this is Gray Cat.”
“My n-n-name is B-b-bounder,” the shivering animal replied quietly.
“Bounder? Well, you sure don’t look like you could do much bounding right now.” declared Gray Cat.
“Gray Cat, that wasn’t very nice. You wouldn’t either if you were in his place.”
“Sorry, Bounder, didn’t mean to hurt your feelings,” said Gray Cat. “What kind of dog are you, anyway? You look like a mini Blitzen.”
“I’m an Italian G-g-greyhound.”
“Oh, so, do you like spaghetti and meatballs?” laughed Gray Cat.
“Really, Gray, stop kidding around,” said Blitzen.
They reached the deck. “Okay, Gray, I’m going to see where everyone is,” said Blitzen. “You and Bounder stay over there by the grill until I come back.” She disappeared through the opening in the door and Gray Cat and Bounder hid behind the grill.
A minute later, Blitzen returned. “It’s all clear. Gray Cat, if you don’t mind, would you take Bounder down stairs and let him have some of your food and water until dinner time, and hide him in the storage area for now. I’ll save some of my food for later on.”
“But what’s Nora going to think if she finds him?”
“We’ll figure that out when the time comes,” replied Blitzen.
* * * * * * *
Just as they were about to enter the house, the door opened and there stood Nora. “Well, guys, who’s your new friend? Oh, my, he looks like he needs some help now, doesn’t he?” She reached down to the scruffy dog to let the animal sniff her hand, and then she gently patted him on the head. The tan and black animal shifted its weight from one foot to the other and was noticeably shivering. “Let’s get you inside and I’ll find you a warm blanket and something to eat.”
She held the door for all three animals and they went into the kitchen. Blitzen and Gray Cat stayed right beside Bounder indicating their concern for a fellow four-footed friend. Nora supplied a fresh bowl of water and a little dish of warm chicken. He ate hungrily and he looked for more, but Nora said, “You shouldn’t eat too much at once, puppy. Your stomach may reject it.”
She wet a towel with warm water and wiped the dog’s face and along its bony sides and back, checking the scratches on his skinny legs and lifting each paw to look for cuts in the pads. “You poor pup, how long have you been on the loose? Your family must miss you.” The dog licked her face as she knelt down beside him. “You will stay with us for the time being. You’ll have a nice bed and blanket to keep you warm.”
Some time later, Blitzen was resting on the couch; Gray Cat was asleep in his basket; and Bounder was wrapped up in a blanket on one of the dog beds. He felt warm again and was so tired he could hardly keep his eyes open. He looked up at Blitzen and said, “I don’t know how to thank you. I would have died out there, if you hadn’t come along.” He whimpered a little.
“Think nothing of it, Bounder. You rest now and get some sleep,” replied Blitzen.
The rescued dog laid his head down and snuggled under the warm blanket and went to sleep. He didn’t open his eyes again until the next morning.
The rest of the family welcomed their new canine friend. Bill said he would put an ad in the local paper saying a dog was found with their telephone number. Nancy wrote out flyers with a digital picture of Bounder, and she and her mother tacked them up in stores and around the neighborhoods. Since he didn’t have a collar, there was no name tag.
One week went by, and then the second week passed with no responses to the ad or the lost dog notices. Nancy was getting quite fond of the small pooch and asked if he could sleep with her. They all laughed as they watched him bound up the stairs.
“Mom, I know what name to call him. Let’s call him Bounder.”
Blitzen, overhearing the conversation, agreed. “What a great name, Nancy. I couldn’t have said it better myself.”
Now there were two bowls at meal times and more water drippings on the floor, but no one seem to object. Soon Bounder was looking better, his eyes brighter, and his ribs were not so noticeable. He followed Blitzen everywhere and would nestle with her on the couch where they slept everyday.
* * * * * * *
It was Friday, a cold snowy day, and Blitzen and Bounder were sleeping peacefully on the sofa when Nora opened the door, ushering in cold wintry air that chilled the room. She was lugging a tall narrow box which she put upright in the middle of the floor. “Are you ready for Christmas? Only a week to go!” she said with a joyful smile on her face.
“Christmas? Now, what’s this all about?” asked Blitzen, as Nora went back outside, only to return with two large plastic containers. The dogs just gazed at her with blank stares.
“It’s the Christmas tree and the decorations, guys,” she announced.
“Pretend to look interested. This happens once a year,” said Gray Cat. “Everyone seems to go crazy, changing the room around, putting up a fake tree, lots of wrapped boxes tied with ribbon, and they all go to church and say Merry Christmas to one another. So get ready for lots of changes,” warned the cat. “Don’t be alarmed! The good thing is we always get a big sock full of treats.”
“What’s Christmas anyways,” asked Blitzen.
“I’m not sure,” answered Gray Cat. “They bring home many boxes, wrap them up in bright paper, only to rip it all off on Christmas Day. Humans have strange habits, but it’s a blast jumping in the pile of crumpled up paper and playing with all the ribbons. I love to chew on the crinkly red ribbons, but then I gag and Nora takes them away.”
“Thanks for sharing that, Gray Cat,” said Blitzen sarcastically.
“Nora does all this fancy cooking,” Gray Cat continued. “Lots of people come over with more fancy boxes, they visit for awhile, sing Christmas songs around the piano, then they leave. After the last party, on something called New Year’s Eve, the tree and decorations are put away and all is quiet again and back to normal.”
“So what are we supposed to do?” asked Blitzen.
“Just keep out of the way,” answered Gray Cat. “I usually find a place to hide and sleep down stairs. People will be sitting on the sofas so you two will have to go upstairs.”
“I remember a big party like that at my other house,” said Bounder. “I got stepped on a lot, so I went outside and hid under the bushes. When my owner found me, she scolded me for being unsociable.”
“Well, that’s better than being stepped on. If it wasn’t so cold out, we could go in the back yard,” said Blitzen. “Will there be many little people? They make me nervous ’cause they get right in my face.” Gray Cat nodded. “Oh well, upstairs it is, then,” she sighed.
Nora made a cup of tea and then began to move around the furniture. “Okay, now I can put the tree together,” she said. She had cleared a space in front of the windows and proceeded to erect the artificial tree. “I’ll wait for Nancy to come home from school and we’ll put on the lights and ornaments. What do you think?”
Blitzen and Bounder were resting on the sofa just watching Nora with bored expressions on their faces. “Aren’t trees supposed to be outside the house? This one doesn’t even smell like a tree,” stated Blitzen.
“You could show a little enthusiasm,” smiled Nora with her hands on her hips.
Gray Cat jumped onto the sofa and rubbed against Blitzen’s long nose. “Wag your tail a little. You’ll get used to it. Wait until you seethe tree with the lights on,” he said.
By dinner time the tree decorating was finished. Bill placed a silver star on the top branch, then Nancy flicked the switch and they oohed and aahed as the tiny colored lights provided a special holiday ambiance to the room. Nora wrapped a few gifts with colorful paper and ribbons and placed them underneath the tree, just as Gray Cat said, and large socks bulging with small gifts hung on a faux fireplace.
Nora, Bill and Nancy went out after dinner for the evening and the animals retreated upstairs to sleep uninterrupted on the comfortable queen size bed. All was very quiet and peaceful. It didn’t take long for Blitzen to get into a deep sleep, lying on her back with all four legs in the air. Gray Cat was asleep and dreaming on Nora’s pillow, his whiskers twitching, and Bounder was dozing on the bottom of the bed.
* * * * * * *
Suddenly, Bounder’s ears tuned in to a strange noise coming from outside on the back deck. He quietly eased off the bed, tiptoed to the top of the stairs and listened. Strange clicking noises came from the mud room and then footsteps coming into the living room. A stranger was in the house, so the dog went down about six stairs so he could look through the balusters into the room. The soft glow of the Christmas lights revealed a thief gathering all the presents and stockings into a large sack. Bounder, sensing evil afoot, lowered his small head and uttered a low growl.
Surprised, the stranger stood, tossed the sack over his shoulder, and dashed toward the kitchen. In a flash Bounder was down the stairs and raced right after him. Just as the robber was opening the door, the canine leaped up and caught the back pocket on his jeans tearing it off. “Ouch! You blasted mutt!” he yelled.
Clutching his booty, he shut the door quickly to keep the animal inside. Bounder stood on his hind legs and rapped on the door with his front paws, growling and making strange muffled barks because of what was in his mouth. The sounds of the commotion woke up Blitzen and Gray Cat who hurried down the stairs. “What’s the matter, Bounder? What’s all the noise about?” asked Blitzen.
“Hmmff!! Petouey!!” he spewed and the ripped pocket fell out of his mouth. “Someone was just here. He took the packages under the tree and the socks,” he answered excitedly.
“What?” Blitzen was shocked. “Man, if we were only on the sofa instead of upstairs, we could have stopped him.”
Gray Cat went back into the living room and sniffed around. Blitzen, also, her long nose to the floor, sniffed everywhere to try to get a scent. “Whoever it was smokes,” she said. “Can’t miss that stinky odor, and I think I smell grease or something like it.”
Returning to the kitchen, Gray Cat said, “Wish the back door was open for us. We could track him.”
“Nora and Bill will be really angry when they come home,” said Blitzen. “Good work, Bounder. That was really brave of you.”
“Thanks, Blitzen. It happened so fast, there wasn’t time to call you.”
“If they let us out, we’ll try to pick up a scent in the yard. Bounder, do you think you could lead us out through the back where you were hiding?” asked Gray Cat. “Maybe we could follow him, unless he hopped over the fence.”
“Goodness, Gray, for a housecat, you are sounding adventurous,” said Blitzen.
“Guess I’m just caught up in the moment,” replied the cat.
“I can try, Gray Cat,” answered Bounder. “I suppose we should do what we can tonight, or the trail will get cold. I learned that from a bloodhound I knew once.”
A noise at the front door caused them all to jerk suddenly and make a beeline for the living room, barking loudly, ready to pounce on whom ever it was. The family entered the room, put the lights on and noticed immediately that the cat and dogs were overly agitated. Then Nancy noticed that the presents weren’t under the tree.
“Daddy, where are the presents? The Christmas stockings are gone,” she cried.
Blitzen and Bounder ran into the kitchen and barked excitedly until Bill came to shush them up, only to find the ripped pocket piece on the floor. The tall slender man yelled, “Nora, come see this. I think our intruder is missing a pocket.”
Bounder woofed and wagged his tail excitedly and danced from one foot to the other as if to say, “I did it!” Blitzen and Gray Cat stayed behind him. “Well, boy, I think we have you to thank for this,” said Bill, patting the small greyhound.
“Dear, we must call the police,” said Nora coming into the kitchen. “Nancy is very upset. He took the present she made for you in school. Who would do such a thing?” She was angry and tearfully upset now. “I’ll take the dogs out for a quick walk, won’t be long.”
* * * * * * *
The policeman was sympathetic and took down all the details, as best the family could recall, with a list of the missing presents. He said there had been other robberies in the area, probably by the same person. Then he took his leave, taking the ripped pocket as evidence.
It was about eleven o’clock and the family double checked all the doors to make sure they were locked and bolted. Bill noticed that Gray Cat’s basket had been pushed under the table and pulled it out to its normal place. And in so doing, he saw a car key with a keyless remote attached. “Well, now, where did this come from? I wonder if it belongs to the thief and it fell out of the ripped pocket. I’ll put it on the table and check on it tomorrow.” Putting out the light, he retired upstairs.
Blitzen had been in the kitchen getting a drink of water and overheard his owner talking out loud. She walked over and sniffed at the key, since her head was high enough to rest her chin on the table. It had the same scent that was on the ripped swatch of material. Walking over to the sofa, she said, “Bounder, you get the bed tonight. You deserve it.”
“Thanks, Blitzen,” and he hurried up the stairs before his friend changed her mind.
“Good night, Blitzen. Finally, some peace and quiet,” muttered Gray Cat, as he headed for the kitchen. “Just let me snuggle up in my basket and I’m set for the night.”
The large greyhound jumped onto the sofa and scratched at her blanket to puff it up and make it comfortable for the night. However, she kept thinking about the key and a plan to find the thief. She waited until all was quiet upstairs, and then tiptoed out to the kitchen.
“Hey, Gray Cat, are you sleeping yet?”
“Not anymore,” answered the cat, who stretched and yawned.
“How would you like to catch a thief tonight? I have a plan. Are you game?”
“Aw, Blitz, can’t it wait until morning? It’s cold outside.”
Blitzen took the key in her mouth and showed it to Gray Cat. She plopped it down on the cat’s belly. “Look what Bill found in your bed before he went upstairs.”
“Hey, I don’t want your slobber on my fur,” said the feline, quickly sitting up.
“It’s just like Nora’s and I’ve watched her as she clicks something on it and the car beeps. I bet we could go around the neighborhood and find our thief’s car, and then we find him. Don’t you think that’s a great idea?”
“Really, do you want an honest answer? What makes you think he’s even near here? Now let me go back to sleep.”
“Why wouldn’t he be around here? He can’t go anywhere without the key, unless he has another one,” said the greyhound, getting antsy. “Well, you can stay here if you want, but I’m going to try it. I just have to get the door unlocked.”
Blitzen took the key and walked over to the inner door; and having observed the humans turn the knob to unlock the door, she dropped the key and took hold of the knob in her mouth and tried to twist it. The metal knob became slippery from the saliva, but she gripped it tightly and slowly it turned until she heard a click. The door moved slightly and a small gray paw reached in and opened it up wider.
“Thanks, Gray Cat. So you changed your mind?”
“I’d be lying in my bed worrying about you, so I might as well tag along to keep you company.”
“Okay, Gray, I owe you one. Let’s go,” said the canine, but not before reaching down and giving his friend a quick lick on his ear.
* * * * * * *
The two animals were out the door in a flash, Blitzen gripping the key in her teeth. Gray Cat led the way and found the clearest path out of the back wooded area. The dog followed behind, wincing a few times as her legs and sides grazed prickly stems. In a few minutes they were in the clear on the adjacent street, Maple Avenue. Lights were on in some of the townhouses; laughter and music was coming from a party across the street; and white Christmas lights were twinkling on a huge spruce tree.
“All right, now what?” asked Gray Cat, whispering and sounding a little nervous.
“We go to the middle of the block and I’ll step on the thing-a-ma-jig,” answered Blitzen, the key in her mouth making her words sound funny and mumbled.
Side-by-side, looking like Mutt and Jeff, the two friends walked to the designated spot, their eyes and ears watching and listening for any other creature or person out at this time of night. “Okay, now, how are you going to set this thing off?” asked Gray Cat.
Dropping the key and remote onto the ground, two heads hung over it, as if it was a dead mouse. “Well, do something,” said Gray Cat. “It’s cold out here.”
Blitzen placed her right foot on the remote and pushed. Nothing happened. The cat wiggled the object with his paw, turning it over. “Now try it,” he said. The dog pressed again and a tiny red light glowed, but no car responded to it.
“Let’s try the next block of houses,” said Blitzen. They moved along stealthily and in a sudden movement, the dog turned and walked out into the middle of the road. Once again she placed the key on the ground and stepped on the right side. Nothing.
Gray Cat ran out to join her. “Nothing’s happening. Maybe we should go back home.”
“Let’s try Cherry Lane. We’ll be going in the right direction to go back to our street. Hang in there, pussy cat.”
“Hmmph, I hate it when you call me that. I still think this is a crazy idea.”
Just then, a car turned onto the street and the headlights shone on them. “Quick, run for it!” Blitzen grabbed the key and they took off to the darkened sidewalk and hid behind some bushes. The car drove by slowly, but thankfully kept going. “We certainly don’t need the dogcatcher coming around.”
“Come on, Blitzen, my feet are frozen.”
“Okay, okay, but remember to stay close. There are unfriendly dogs on Cherry Lane and sometimes they’re out at night.”
They reached the corner and looking all around, they turned right and started down the sidewalk. Loud voices were heard from one house. A large evergreen covered with white lights suddenly went dark, causing the pair to stop short. Cautiously, they moved on a little further, and Blitzen stopped and dropped the key.
Gray Cat said, “Let me try, Blitz.” He pressed the remote, the red light went on, but still no vehicle responded.
“Doggone it! I know this idea will work. Let’s try out in the middle of the road again,” suggested Blitzen.
They walked out into the open space, and to Blitzen’s chagrin loud barking began somewhere.
“Rats, it’s Knockers. He’s a Great Dane, a lot bigger than I am, a loud bark, but he’s harmless as a pussy cat, no offense,” said Blitzen.
Blitzen ran across the street to where his acquaintance lived. “Hey, Knockers, it’s only me. Shush up, will you. I’m on a mission and I don’t want anybody around, okay?”
“Oh, hey, Blitzen, what are you doing on the loose at this time of night? Are you alone?”
“We’re looking for a thief who broke into our house tonight. Have you noticed anyone suspicious around here, lately?”
“I don’t think so. Who’s we?”
“Oh, meet Gray Cat. We live together.”
“Hi, Gray Cat! We have three cats in my house. Say, I heard my family talking about a robbery in the area the other night, too. Wish I could come out and help you. How in the world are you going to catch him?”
“He left his key behind, so we’re trying to find the car.”
They heard a voice calling the big dog. “I have to go. Hope you find your thief.” And off he ran into the darkness.
“I think we should get going, Blitz. I can’t feel my toes.”
“All right, one more try here and then we’ll go down Magnolia and we’ll be almost home. Stop your complaining. At least you can’t say we didn’t try to help.”
* * * * * * *
It was almost midnight and snowing lightly as the pair made one more effort to locate the vehicle that belonged to the key. However, this failed as well, and they began to walk towards Magnolia Avenue.
“I wonder if anyone has missed us yet. Bounder must be nice and warm enjoying the big bed all to himself tonight,” said Blitzen.
Making another right onto Magnolia, the deserted street was lined with lighted trees, shrubbery and many holiday decorations. They crossed the street and walked on the left side. Gray Cat suddenly stopped and asked, “What’s that thing?” A huge yard display was lit up with a sleigh, reindeer, candy canes and an inflatable snowman.
Blitzen put down the key and said, “I heard Nora call it Santa’s sleigh and reindeer.”
“They look like they could be your relatives,” teased Gray Cat.
“I have a longer tail and no antlers, but nice try,” answered Blitzen.
They continued walking, “Well, how far are you going before trying the gadget again,” asked Gray Cat. “We’re almost to our house.”
“We are three houses away. Let’s try it here.” Blitzen dropped the remote onto the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street from where they lived, put her big foot on it and pressed.
Bingo! A dark mid-sized car in the driveway across the road beeped loudly. The animals ducked out of view behind some shrubbery, because a street lamp on the sidewalk lit up the whole area. Blitzen kept pressing the remote and the car beeped until a man wearing pajamas and slippers came running out the front door. He looked all around, and, seeing no one, checked the door of the vehicle. Finding it open, he used the remote in his hand to lock it again; then he returned to the house.
Stunned, the four-footed pair just stared at the house through the gently falling snowflakes glistening in the light. Finally, Blitzen said, “Well I’ll be. I’ve walked by this house many times and Nora has even spoken to the guy. Gray Cat, looks like we found our thief.”
“Great work, Blitzen!” said the feline rubbing against her friend’s leg. “You are quite the detective, and you’re not so crazy after all. Now what?”
“We have to wake up Bill and Nora. Run home as fast as you can, go in the back door and wake up Bounder,” ordered Blitzen. “Tell him we found the thief and to bark loudly at the front door. When Bill and Nora open the door, run out and they will follow you.”
“Aye, aye, Captain Blitz.” Gray Cat dashed off.
Blitzen ran across the street and hid in an overgrown clump of bushes to the right of the driveway and near the man’s car. She waited about five minutes to give Gray Cat time to get home and accomplish his task. Blitzen missed her warm fleece coat, and sitting quietly, feeling the soft icy snow on her back, she began to shiver. When enough time elapsed, she thought, “Well, here goes.” She stepped on the remote. Beep! Beep!
A minute later the man came rushing out the door, with his coat on this time. He clicked his remote. Seconds later, Blitzen pushed hers. Looking around, nervously upset, he clicked the remote, checked to see that the door was locked again, hesitated, and then slowly walked up to the front door. Unaware that his every move was being observed, he glanced back at the car, turned and entered the house.
Blitzen waited a few more minutes and once more stepped on the remote. The man, who must have been waiting inside the door, rushed out, this time with a baseball bat in his hand. He looked up and down the street, and seeing no one, he walked behind the vehicle and headed for the shrubbery.
“I know you’re in there,” he said angrily through his teeth, but quietly, not wanting to awaken any of the neighbors. “Give me that remote or I’ll whack you with this bat,” he threatened.
Blitzen gripped the remote in her teeth, her muscles tense and her body ready to move at any given second. From her hidden position she stared at the man through the evergreen branches, waiting to see what the villainous human was going to do.
Reaching into his pocket, he brought out a flashlight and began to shine it into the bushes. Suddenly, he started beating the defenseless plants as he moved slowly around to the back of the shrubs. Whack! Whack! Whack! Closer and closer he came.
Just as he was within striking distance of Blitzen, who had crouched down as low as she could, she darted out through the bushes to the driveway and around the car. The movement startled the man and he rushed through the bushes in pursuit. “I’ll get you, you blasted dog. Are you trying to make a fool out of me?” he shouted.
Blitzen circled the car and ran back into the bushes. The man ran all around the vehicle and found himself standing alone on the sidewalk, befuddled and fuming, banging the bat against the mailbox post, thinking that the dog had escaped him.
All of a sudden Bounder was heard barking and running down the street, followed by Nora holding on to the leash, Gray Cat and the whole family. When they reached the driveway, Bounder suddenly stopped and slowly approached the man, who was now hurrying to the front door. The small slender dog stood and growled at the man. Gray Cat’s fur was all puffed up and he was hissing at the thief.
“What’s going on? Why are they doing that? I haven’t done anything,” the man declared, still holding onto the bat defensively.
“Nora, I think we’ve caught our thief,” said Bill. “Mr. McDonald, isn’t it? You recently moved into this house. Call the police, Nora.” She called, and they told her they were in the neighborhood.
“Now wait a minute. What do you think you’re doing? Who are you, to accost me in front of my house?” complained the man loudly, raising the bat somewhat threateningly.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” stated Bill sternly, who stepped up boldly and stood in front of the man.
“Oh, yeah, what are you going to do about it?” sneered the man.
Around the back of the car Blitzen quietly appeared. Nora gasped and said, “Blitzen, there you are, but how did you get here?” She stooped down and embraced her pet.
Bill walked over and reached to scratch her around the ears, but she put her head down and dropped the key. “Would you look at this? You are the sly dog!” He picked up the wet key chain and clicked the remote. The car beeped. Walking up to McDonald, he shook the key in his face and asked angrily, “Did you lose this key sometime this evening? It seems to belong to your car.”
“I-I-I lost it at the mall, I think. Where did you, or the dog, find it?” he asked.
“As if you don’t know, our house was robbed tonight, but our dog ripped a pocket off the robber’s pants and this key fell out. I’m sure the police can match the material piece with a pair of your jeans.”
“It wasn’t me, I swear. I’ve been home all evening,” declared the man, who was beginning to perspire, even on such a cold night.
“You stole Daddy’s present that I made him in school,” piped up Nancy who had been standing behind her mother. “That wasn’t very nice.”
The man was totally undone at this. He dropped the bat and slumped down on the top step of the porch and began to cry. “I’m sorry, I truly am. All the presents are in the hall closet.”
A police car arrived and stopped in front of the driveway. Two officers exited the car and walked over to the group. “Well, Mr. McDonald, we meet again.” Looking at Bill, the officer who had come to the Britton house after the robbery said, “We’ve been watching this character for some time now, but had no evidence to arrest him. Hopefully, we’ll find all the stolen items inside the house, and a pair of jeans missing a pocket, and then we’ll put this Christmas bandit out of commission. You have done a great service for your community.”
“I can’t take any credit for it, Officer,” said Bill. “When Bounder attacked McDonald and tore off the pocket, his car key dropped into the cat’s basket, but I didn’t find it until after you left. I left the remote on the kitchen table and somehow Blitzen figured out a way to track down the thief, along with Gray Cat. We were going to bring it to you tomorrow; however, our detective greyhound had another idea, how, we’ll never know. I guess we are the proud owners of the only canine Sherlock Holmes. So let us know if you have any other cases you want solved. We’ll hire her out!” They all laughed, except for Mr. McDonald, who was in handcuffs and being escorted to the police car.
A few neighbors had braved the cold and gathered on the sidewalk to see what was going on. “It’s all over folks. You can go back to your homes now,” stated the policeman.
“Officer, the stolen presents are in his hall closet. May we take them home with us now?” asked Nora.
“I’ll take pictures and document the evidence tonight, but I’ll have to take them with me initially to the station. Yours is the fifth robbery recently so there may be a stash of gifts to account for, and for all the other victims as well. You’ll have them back by Christmas, I promise.”
* * * * * * *
The snow was lightly covering the ground as the Britton family returned home. Nora prepared a snack of hot chocolate and cookies with a special treat for Blitzen, Bounder and Gray Cat. Sitting around the kitchen table, they talked and talked, rehashing the events of the day. Not to be ignored Blitzen grabbed one of her toys and was frolicking around, Bounder in tow, and Gray Cat sat on the sofa washing his cold dirty feet.
At long last, and the time approaching 1:00 A.M., Nancy yawned and rested her head against her dad’s shoulder. “Daddy, in our prayers tonight, we should thank God that we will have our presents back, but I want to pray for Mr. McDonald. I forgive him for what he did and I hope that he will find Jesus and the spirit of Christmas, and maybe he won’t want to steal anymore.”
“I think that is a very nice thing to do, Nancy,” said Bill, “and I want to thank God, also, for the wonderful pets He has brought into our family. What they did tonight was truly amazing!”
“And I think it’s time for bed,” announced Nora. The lights were put off and the family went upstairs. Soon all was quiet.
The two dogs and one cat decided to stay down stairs on the sofa, as if on guard duty. In no time Bounder was stretched out and snoring. Blitzen tucked her long legs underneath her and rested her head on a large pillow. Gray Cat curled up next to his friend.
“Wow, this night was better than any dream. I rather enjoyed being a detective,” Blitzen said yawning. “We make a pretty good team, Gray. What do you say?”
Knowing from past experience that Blitzen would eventually stretch out her legs, landing the feline on the floor, Gray Cat moved and settled on the pillow, purring, and the two friends were nose to nose.
“I say no more detecting until next Christmas,” answered Gray Cat. “Good night, Sherlock.”
“Good night, Watson.”
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