Disclaimer: the song remains the same dont own em, dont profit off em.
Notes: I never expected my little canine creations Elvis the Retriever and Ringo the Malamute to become as popular as they have! I just thought Id offer a little story about where the pups go when their people are gone. Surprisingly enough, though, they dont appear in this!
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Luna for looking this over and to Jeanne for letting me bounce ideas off her. The part of "Elvis" is played by Lisas Golden Retriever, "Duncan". Many thanks for the use of the picture! Lisa informs me that hes a LOT bigger now ! Also, I based the Casa de Canine on The Happy Hound Hotel, which has a website at http://www.geocities.com/thehappyhoundhotel/index.html
Chris Larabee looked up from the evening paper to find himself faced with a very formidable force two angry little boys. Seven year old Vin Tanner stood with thin arms crossed over narrow chest, his little jaw clinched tight. Beside him five year old JD Dunne stood rigid, tears flowing from big hazel eyes, his pudgy hands fisted at his sides. The first thing that crossed the blonds mind was that they had gotten into an argument. He put that thought aside though when he noted that they were standing shoulder to shoulder. A united front.
Taking the bull by its horns, the man asked quietly, "whats up guys?"
"Y aint takin Ringo an Elvis away," Vin said, his voice as angry as the big man had yet to hear.
"We dont wanna go to Disneyland if we gotta send the dogs away wed rather stay home so you can give them tickets back and the dogs can stay home with us and they dont gotta go anywhere," JD said in his usual warp speed style. The only difference this time was that every third word was punctuated with a sniff or a hiccup.
Folding the paper and setting it aside, Chris gave himself time to gather his thoughts. He dropped the footrest and raised the back of his Lazy Boy upright, then leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees. He looked into each little face as he said, "I thought we had this all settled the other night. The dogs will go to the pet motel while were gone. Mr. Cochran has enough on his hands caring for the horses and other livestock without two rambunctious pups to corral."
"Me an JD changed our minds," little Tanner said firmly.
"Yeah," Dunne agreed. Then, taking a breath deep enough to make the blond cringe, he continued. "We dont want Elvis and Ringo goin to that place cause them people wont take good care of em an they gots to stay in teeny tiny cages an nobodyd pet em an they wont get to play ball or take walks an theyll be sad and me an Vin wont have no fun cause well miss em an an an you cant take em there!"
Despite the lack of oxygen, JD began to cry once more. Great, gut twisting sobs that broke the ATF agents heart. He reached out and, despite the fact that they were angry with him at the moment, both boys slipped into his embrace. A few seconds later, Chris Larabee found himself with a child on each leg, two little faces buried against his chest. His shirt was quickly soaked through as they sobbed. JDs distress was clearly audible, each breath filled with gasps, sniffles and hiccups. Vin, on the other hand, wept silently, his little frame quivering with each soundless sob.
That was how Buck Wilmington found them a few minutes later, the two boys only beginning to calm down. He couldnt help but flash a smile at the expression on his old friends face. Sobering quickly under the weight of the sorrow that filled the room, he asked in a voice loud enough to be heard over JD, "What happened?"
Shaking his head, Larabee said, "Not certain. Theyve decided that Casa de Canine isnt a good place, and insist that we cancel the trip to Disneyland."
A deep frown settling on his handsome features, Wilmington shook his head. It had been his good fortune to win the four passes to the California theme park, and he had called in several favors to make the entire trip affordable for the four of them. Just the day before, the boys had been fairly dancing at the breakfast table as they made plans. "Weve got the whole thing set up, fellas, we cant back out now."
His words, delivered calmly, elicited another wail from JD and caused Vin to burrow deeper into Chris embrace. Larabee shot a frustrated glare at his friend. Buck heaved a deep sigh. Stepping over, he gently extracted the sobbing brunet from the blonds lap. JD stiffened, uncertain as to whether or not he wanted to be comforted by the big man. Need won out, though, and he curled into the beckoning embrace.
The two men slowly calmed the little ones down. As Vin relaxed into Chris embrace and JDs wails lost volume, they tried once more to get to the bottom of things.
Shifting slightly, Chris looked down into Vins flushed face. "Okay, pard, can we talk about this now?"
Scrubbing one hand over his face, the little boy swallowed hard and said in a choked voice, "Y-yes sir."
"Good. Now, didnt we talk about the place were going to board the pups?"
Buck looked down at the still sniffling but calmer five year old. "And didnt you boys agree that it would be a good place for Elvis and Ringo to stay?"
Nodding, the little boy answered, "Yeah."
Taking up the questioning, Larabee said, "So why did you change your minds?"
JD delivered the answer, the two adults hoping to keep up with this tirade. "Eli Joe said that it was really like a jail for amals an they wont have not even a rag to sleep on an nobodyll pet em or brush em or take em for walks or play with em an theyll be real lonesome an sad an Eli Joe said that if we dont pick em up on time they they theyll take em out an sh-shoot em!"
The tears began anew, each child once again seeking comfort in the arms of the man they called "Dad". It was several more minutes before things calmed enough for the conversations to resume.
Wiping the tears from Vins tiny features, Chris said softly, "okay. Lets talk about this. Didnt Buck and I tell you all about the place his friend Jean runs?"
"Yeah, but " Vin started.
"But Eli Joe said " JD interrupted.
Holding up a hand to quiet the children, Larabee said, "do you boys think that Buck and I would lie to you?"
"What? No!" Vin cried out.
"Course not!" JD agreed fervently.
"But you believe that Buck and I would send Ringo and Elvis to some terrible place that would mistreat them?"
"No s jist that " little Tanner mumbled.
"Eli Joe said they lied to you an that he knows cause his daddy taked his dog to a place like that last summer an they never went to get it an Eli Joes brother said that they killed his dog cause it was there too long an he telled Eli Joe that it was a really bad place an his dog was really sad fore it died!" JD hiccupped and sniffled through the long speech.
The two adults exchanged a look, realizing that Eli Jo had told them about the local dog pound rather than the rather upscale boarding facility Buck had made reservations at as part of their vacation preparations. Now, how did they help the two little boys understand the difference, though? Chris saw a gleam in the dark blue eyes of his friend and realized that the big man had an idea.
Getting the boys' attention Wilmington said, "Okay, tell you what. How bout I call Jean and see about setting up a tour?"
"A what?" Vin asked.
"A visit. She can show you around the facility."
Seeing the anger draining from the little faces and being replaced by curiosity, Larabee added, "Yeah. And after youve seen the place, if you still dont like it, well cancel the trip."
Buck flashed a shocked look at his friend, but finally agreed. "Yeah, no problem. How does that sound to the two of you?"
The boys still looked uneasy, but finally they nodded I agreement.
By the end of school the next day, Vin and JD were once more bordering on agitation. Their teacher, Mrs. Roquette, met Chris and Buck as they entered the small, private school to warn them of the boys states of mind.
"Were they around Eli?" Chris asked.
Nodding, the teacher said, "Once or twice, although it seemed that Eli was seeking them out. It didnt appear that he was doing anything other than talking to them, though."
"Sometimes thats all it takes," Larabee said softly, before excusing himself. Leaving Buck to explain the situation, he went to find the boys.
They were setting close together in the main classroom, looking as forlorn as the blond could remember seeing them in months. Silently vowing to have a talk with Joe Chavez about his sons penchant for causing problems, he moved to where the boys sat. "Hey guys, are you ready to go tour Casa de Canine?"
The boys exchanged looks before JD said, "Yes sir."
Lifting little Dunne up and settling him on one hip while he took hold of Vins hand, the blond moved back the way he had come.
The drive to the outskirts of town, where the canine boarding facility was located, was traveled in near silence. The only sounds came from the stereo and the occasional exchange between the two men. As they approached the front gate of Casa de Canine, two little heads popped up, necks stretching as the children tried to see through the windshield.
"This it?" JD asked curiously.
"Yep, this is it, " Buck assured the boys.
"Dont look too bad," Vin admitted.
"Looks pretty good," JD agreed.
Chris pulled up to the main building, stopping the truck. Typically the boys were out of their seatbelts and climbing out of their seats before he and Buck made it to the back doors of the big truck. This time, though, the men found themselves unbuckling and lifting the boys out of the cab. Rather than putting them down, the two men simply hitched them on their hips and started toward the building.
It looked like a large farmhouse, with a broad front porch extending the entire length. The house was well kept, with huge ferns hanging along the porch. As they stepped up to the door, it opened and a woman stepped out to greet them.
"Hi Buck," Jean Davis said cheerfully. She was petite, with light brown hair pulled into a ponytail. She wore tennis shoes, jeans, and a sweatshirt that proudly proclaimed, "My Pet Went to Casa de Canine and All I Got Was This Shirt." She offered a smile to Larabee as Wilmington introduced them, then turned her attention to the boys. "I hear you two have some questions about our facility."
The children looked shyly down from their perches and nodded. JD launched into one of his explanations.
"We dont wanna leave Elvis and Ringo here cause Eli Joe said you dont know how to take care of em right an theyll be sad an not go for walks an you you could could even h-hurt em."
A look of pain crossed the womans face at the boys distress. Compassionately she said, "I see. But your friend doesnt know me, does he?"
The two boys shrugged and JD said, "I dont think so. He never said your name."
Nodding, Jean said, "Then how about this? Ill take you on a tour and you can see some of the animals that are staying here right now. Then, if you still think this is a bad place Ill give Buck back the deposit the money he already paid me."
Turning the words over in his mind, Vin asked quietly, "But what if we like it? Yer sposed to git somethin if yer right bout somethin."
Grinning at the little boy logic, the woman smiled at Wilmington as she said, "Well, since Im working through my dinner time to show you around, if you like this place, you can take me to dinner. Hows that?"
Vin nodded his agreement and, as they all started into the building, JD asked, "do you like McDonalds?"
They moved through the reception area, which looked like someones living room. The exception was a reception desk to one side, where a young woman sat. Jean explained that the first step was providing proof of vaccinations and good health, a background without any signs of violent behavior, and other information that would help to assure both the staff as well as other pet owners that the animal wouldnt create problems. After that she led them through the other areas of the house. One room was set up for bathing and grooming the animals. They found a young woman there, carefully brushing through the long coat of a Pomeranian while classical music played in the background. She looked up as the group entered.
"Hi Jean," she greeted.
"Hi Dee," their tour guide responded. "Sorry for the intrusion, Im just showing these folks around."
"Hello," Dee said to the men and their charges.
"Hi," little Dunne chirped. "What kind of dog is that? Does he like to get brushed? Does he like that kind of music? Can I pet him?"
Laughing at the childs rapid fire questions, Dee responded "Pomeranian yes yes if youre really gentle." Then, as the boys were brought close enough to stroke the little dogs sable coat, she said, "You sure do ask a lot of questions little guy."
"Thats what my teacher says but Unca Ziah says you dont learn nuffin if you dont ask but Buck says "
"Buck says breathe Little Bit," Wilmington said, smiling as he pressed a finger to the childs lips. "Now, how about we let this nice lady get back to work?"
"Kay. Bye, it was nice to meet you I like your dog," the precocious child said. His last words were said over Bucks shoulder as the group moved on.
Their next stop was a small quarantine room, set up for animals that became ill while they were boarded. It was empty at the moment, but the boys liked the fact that there was a large animal bed and the room even had a rocking chair in one corner.
"Do you rock the dogs to sleep?" Vin asked as he touched the wooden arm of the rocker.
Smiling, Jean said, "Not usually, but sometimes a sick puppy might like to be comforted. One time we even had a mama dog have her babies in here."
"Really? We seen some kittens born once out in the barn," little Tanner informed her.
Seeing that the quiet little boy kept touching the chair, their tour guide said, "Would you like to sit in it?"
Smiling wistfully, Vin crawled into the big chair. He settled into the rocker, little legs sticking out before him. "Its real comfortable."
While he didnt say anything, Chris noted the look of contentment the seven year old wore as he rocked gently in the big chair. There was a rocker in the attic. Hed have to see what sort of shape it was in.
Leaving the sick room, they moved on to the second floor, which consisted of Jeans office, a staff room, and two rooms that had been set up with cages of various sizes. Entering one room, the two little boys looked at one another, deciding that this must be where the dogs stayed. But then a loud squawk caused the little investigators to jump, each one grasping hold of their adoptive dads.
Picking JD up, Buck said, "Look, kiddo, right there."
"See the bird, Vin?" Chris added, on hand resting protectively on the little boys shoulder.
The children looked to see a large, colorful bird sitting in one of the larger cages. Jean smiled at their expressions and explained. "We get all sorts of pets here. This is the Bird Room. Right now Picasso is our only guest, but sometimes we have all sorts of birds in here."
"Ill bet its noisy in here then," Buck commented.
"You wouldnt believe how noisy it can be in here, its just wonderful." Stepping to the floor to ceiling drapes on one wall, the woman drew them back, revealing a glass wall that looked out onto the grounds. "We put the bird room here because they get great sunlight and a nice view. Picassos a night owl though and prefers them drawn."
"Picsos a night ow?" JD asked.
"No, hes a macaw, sweetie," Jean explained patiently. "I call him a night owl because he likes the night time rather than the day time."
"Oh," the little brunet head bobbed. "Thats like Unka Ezra, Da says hes grumpy in the morning cause he stays up half th night."
Wilmington rolled his eyes and smiled, but didnt say anything. The group moved on. The last upstairs room contained smaller cages, one containing a guinea pig and another holding a pair of gerbils. Jean explained that sometimes they had the call to board rodents and other small creatures. The boys giggles rang through the room as they pressed their noses against the cage walls, watching the gerbils climbing through a plastic Habi-trail. The guinea pig chattered and chirped, rooting through the thick layer of pine shavings in the bottom of its cage.
The group trooped down the stairs and through what had once served as the homes kitchen. Now it was a staging area containing barrels and boxes of food for the visiting animals. Jean pointed out the high quality of the food, explaining to the boys that they used a special blend that was very healthy for each type of animal they boarded. The children nodded, but it was obvious that they were confused. Finally Chris explained that it was like the fact that he only let them eat fast food once in a while because the food they fixed at home was better for them.
They moved out into a large yard that extended out into a pasture. There were various areas marked by boundary fences which Jean explained were for the dogs to play together and also where some of her staff members walked their canine boarders. She explained that while some dogs liked to play together, others preferred being by themselves. Those dogs stayed in their pens during what she called play-time and were walked later.
At the mention of pens, the boys fell silent. They wanted to see where the dogs were kept, but at the same time they feared seeing the pens. Visions of desolate, concrete and steel cells bloomed in two young minds. JD wrapped one pudgy arm around Bucks leg, leaning against his adoptive father. Vin stood as close as he could to Chris, his shoulder pressed against the tall blonds thigh.
Seeing the mounting distress, Jean said softly, "Would you boys like to see the hotel?"
"Hotel?" Vin asked.
Nodding, the woman said, "Yeah, thats what we call the building where we keep our dog guests. Come on, Ill show you."
Little Tanner took Larabees hand while Buck pulled JD into his arms. They followed their hostess toward a large brick and wood building. As they drew near the door, Vins steps slowed. Finally Chris stopped, kneeling down to look into the big blue eyes.
Taking a deep breath, the seven year old nodded, squared his shoulders, and walked toward the door.
As soon as they entered the building, they were greeted by slightly muffled yips, barks and a few howls. They were standing at the end of a long hallway, a series of full and half doors on each side of them. Jean led them to the first door on the right. The top half of the door was plexiglass and the men held the boys up so they could see inside.
JD peeked hesitantly around from where he leaned against Bucks shoulder, then giggled. "Look, Vin!"
As big blue eyes took in the scene before him, the seven year olds smile sprouted and grew. "Look, Dad! Theyre like Ringo!"
The group watched as a trio of Malamute pups romped and wrestled on a tiled floor. One of them grabbed a large tug toy and coaxed one of the others to join in a tug of war. The third barked and yapped as it bounded around the tussling duo. While the boys watched the dogs, the men noted the large dog beds, other toys and a more than adequate supply of food and water. Chris also noted what looked like a camera in one corner and asked their guide about it.
"Yeah, we have cameras throughout the facility so that we can keep an eye on things. We have what we call the command center at the other end of this building. Its manned 24 7 365. All of my staff has training in dealing with most medical emergencies, and theres a veterinarian about ten minutes away."
Larabee nodded, admiration showing in his handsome face. "You seem to have thought of everything."
Laughing, Jean said, "thanks. We still have things come up from time to time but when we do we try to incorporate it into our policies."
The boys began to relax, and grew more enthusiastic as they moved through the big building. They looked through windows and over doors, checking out the accommodations. Puppies played, dogs snoozed, some were beyond the building, in outdoor kennels that Jean referred to as patios. They were even allowed inside one room, where a pair of pups played.
"Okay, Vin JD, this is Maggie and Gus. Theyre probably the most friendly guests we have." She settled on the floor, and the dogs promptly fell all over themselves coming to sit with her. "Maggie and Gus are Shih Tzus, and their owner boards them with us about every two or three months while she goes away on business. If youre really gentle you can play with them if youd like."
The boys looked up at their fathers, received nods, and settled on the floor. With excited yips, the two little dogs tumbled off Jeans lap and came to investigate their two visitors. The kennel owner watched for a few minutes to make certain things were going well, then moved over to lean on the half door that kept the animals contained.
"Jean, darlin, Ive gotta say Im impressed," Buck said.
"Me too," Chris agreed. "This is an amazing set up. When Buck told me about this place I never expected well, all this." He swung an arm around to indicate the facility.
The petite woman blushed under their praise. "Thanks. Ive always loved animals sometimes better than people."
"Ah, that explains why you know him," Chris teased, pointed at his friend.
Grinning at the blue eyed glare the big man shot at the blond, Jean continued. "So when I inherited this property from my grandparents, I couldnt think of a better use for it."
"Think youre right," Wilmington said, nodding toward where the two little boys continued to play with the dogs. "Looks like the boys kind a like it, too."
The tour continued, Jean showing them through the other buildings. They visited the Kitty Cottage, where cats were boarded in an environment that included places to climb, toys to play with, and plenty of places to hide in. The boys watched as the current residents chased one another, played and cavorted, groomed, or snoozed. Before they left, JD was wondering aloud just how much fun it might be to have one of the barn kittens in the house.
They ended the tour in the facility barn where larger animals such as horses were boarded, some on a permanent basis for city dwellers that also enjoyed the country life. Vin and JD told their hostess about the horses at the ranch. None of the adults missed how little Tanners eyes lit up as he spoke of Peso.
The tour ended just as the sun began to set and the little group returned to the main building. The facility owner ushered them to the little reception area, where they took seats on comfortable couches, the boys sitting beside their adoptive fathers.
Jean put on her best professional face and asked the two children, "So what do you think? Do you think your dogs will be safe here?"
Vin nodded vigorously and JD piped up, "Yeah, theyll like it here maybe not as much as if theyre home but theyll have fun and be okay and I think Eli Joe is a big dumbhead cause he dont know what hes talkin about an Im gonna tell him that when I see him at school."
The three adults nearly choked as they struggled not to laugh at the little boys rambling declaration. Recovering first, Chris said as sternly as possible, "JD, you will not call Eli Joe names, okay? Just because he doesnt understand something doesnt mean hes a big dumbhead."
Seeing the dejected look on the little brunets face, Jean retrieved two brochures from the holder on the end table beside her. Holding them out to the boys she said, "How about you take these to school with you and show this Eli Joe what its really like out here."
"Thank y maam," Vin said as he took the folded paper.
JD looked at the pictures and said, "Wheres Maggie an Gus?"
With a chuckle, Jean said, "They werent here the week we took the pictures. When we make new brochures Ill try to get them on the cover."
"Or maybe you could put Elvis and Ringo on th cover if y wanted," Vin said, blushing as he finished.
Smiling at the shy little boy, the woman said softly, "Id like that, honey."
"Well, listen, wed better go. Weve got to go get something to eat, and then you boys need to get ready for bed."
After the standard groans were voiced, Vin turned back to Ms. Davis. "Youre comin with us, aint y?"
With a confused expression, Jean said, "Coming where, sweetie?"
"To dinner you were right," Chris said, favoring her with a smile.
"Oh, but I didnt mean you dont have to " she stammered.
JD bounced from the couch and fairly leapt across the room to land in front of their hostess. Looking up at her with wide doe eyes, he said, "Puleeeeeeeeeeeeeease?"
His laugh booming, Buck said, "Now how can you turn down that face, girl?"
Shaking her head, Jean said, "You teach him that Wilmington?" Then turning to the little boy before her, she said, "Okay, Id love to go out to dinner with you. Let me get my purse, okay?"
JD nodded, moved so she could get out of the chair, and then went back to stand beside his foster father. Wilmington looked to see that the five year old was working something through, his little face scrunched up thoughtfully.
"Something on your mind, Little Bit?"
Cocking his head to the side, JD said, "Buck do y think peoples ever come on a bacation here?"
Trying to ignore Larabees sudden coughing fit that only barely disguised a laugh, the big man said, "Well, I dunno about that, but maybe Jean will let us come to visit."
The owner of Casa de Canine returned then, and the men stood to meet her near the door. Looking around at the group she was going to dine with, Jean said, "Well, shall we?"
"We shall," Buck said, offering her his arm. He reached for JD, only to find the little boy had slipped up on Jeans other side and slipped his hand in hers. Smiling, he led them out the door, Chris and Vin just ahead of them.
"So," Larabee asked. "Where are we going?"
"McDonalds!" the two boys cried out.
With a groan, the blond said, "Guys, you dont take a lady to McDonalds."
"But " JD started. Then with a stern look from Chris he swallowed his words of protest.
Looking back at the woman, Vin attempted to hide his disappointment as he asked politely, "Where would you like to go, Miss Davis?"
Feeling that deer-in-the-headlights feeling as she was pinned by the blue-eyed high beams, Jean turned her head, only to find herself nailed by a pair of hazel orbs.
With a sigh and a shake of her head, she said, "McDonalds it is."
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