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Authors: Margarita Engle

Mountain Dog

BOOK: Mountain Dog
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For Curtis and the dogs,

with love and gratitude

—M. E.

 

To Misha, a great mountain dog,

who helped our son to find his path

—O. I. and A. I.

 

FIDE CANEM
(TRUST THE DOG)

—Ancient Roman search-and-rescue proverb

 

 

THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE

—Official motto of search-and-rescue teams all over the world

 

CONTENTS

Title

Copyright Notice

Dedication

Epigram

  
1. Tony the Boy: No No No Maybe

  
2. Gabe the Dog: Yes Yes Yes Always

  
3. Tony the Boy: Scent Trails

  
4. Gabe the Dog: Word Smells

  
5. Tony the Boy: Trail Angels

  
6. Gabe the Dog: Roundness

  
7. Tony the Boy: Invisible Clues

  
8. Gabe the Dog: Hide-and-Seek

  
9. Tony the Boy: Fences

10. Gabe the Dog: Togetherness

11. Tony the Boy: The Rescue Beast

12. Gabe the Dog: Teamwork

13. Tony the Boy: Loser

14. Gabe the Dog: Boy Training

15. Tony the Boy: Lonely Smells

16. Gabe the Dog: Sniffing School

17. Tony the Boy: Insect Math

18. Gabe the Dog: Dog Truths

19. Tony the Boy: Uno

20. Gabe the Dog: Smelly Rhymes

21. Tony the Boy: Walking with Bears

22. Gabe the Dog: Chasing the Moon

23. Tony the Boy: Dancing Elephants

24. Gabe the Dog: The Smell of a Voice

25. Tony the Boy: Found and Lost

26. Gabe the Dog: Sharing

27. Tony the Boy: Shorelines

28. Gabe the Dog: Beach Dreams

29. Tony the Boy: When Elephants Jump

30. Gabe the Dog: My Wishful Nose

31. Tony the Boy: Dog Years

32. Gabe the Dog: Explosions

33. Tony the Boy: Trail Names

34. Gabe the Dog: Search!

35. Tony the Boy: Rescued!

36. Gabe the Dog: Winners

37. Tony the Boy: Puppy Testing

38. Gabe the Dog: Full Moon

39. Luz the Dog: Finding Home

How to Stay Found in the Wondrous Woods: By Gabe, Luz, and Tony

A Note to Readers

Acknowledgments

About the Author

About the Illustrators

Copyright

 

1

TONY THE BOY

NO NO NO MAYBE

In my other life there were pit bulls.

The puppies weren't born vicious,

but Mom taught them how to bite,

turning meanness into money,

until she got caught.

Now I don't know where I'll live,

or what sort of foster family

I'll have to face each morning.

I dread the thought of a new school,

new friends, no friends, no hope.…

No! No no no no no.

But the social-worker lady doesn't listen

to NO. She's like a curious puppy, running,

exploring, refusing to accept collars and fences.

She keeps promising to find a relative who will

give me a place where I can belong.

I don't believe her.

There aren't any relatives—

not any that I've ever met.

I know I'm right, but family court

makes me feel dumb, with judges

and uniforms

wrapped up in rules.

It's a world made for grown-ups,

not unlucky kids.

Even the angriest pit bulls

are friendlier than my future.

Everyone talks about dog years,

but all I can see now is minutes.

Each impossibly long dog minute

with the frowning judge

and cheerful social worker

feels like it could go on and on

forever.

Mom's cruelty to animals

was her fault, not mine, but now

I'm the one suffering, as if her crimes

are being blamed on me.

When the social worker keeps smiling,

I find it hard to believe she's actually found

a relative, a great-uncle, Tío Leonilo.

What a stupid name!

Maybe I can call him Leo the Lion,

or just
tío
, just uncle, as if I actually

know my mother's first language,

the Spanish she left behind

when she floated away

from her native island

with me in her mean belly.

The social worker promises me

that although Tío is old—nearly fifty—

he's cool.

He lives on a mountain, rescues lost hikers,

guides nature walks, and takes care

of trees. He's a forest ranger.

She might as well say he's a magician

or a genie who lives in a bottle.

I've spent all my life in the city.

All I know is Los Angeles noise, smog,

buses, traffic, and the gangs, and my mom,

the dogs, fangs, blood, claws.

Nothing makes sense.

Why would a cool uncle want to share

his long-lost relative's kid-trouble?

This can't be real.

Real life should feel real,

but this feels all weird and scary,

like a movie with zombies or aliens.

When a man in a forest green uniform

walks into the courtroom, he hugs me

and calls me Tonio, even though Mom

never called me anything but Tony

or Hey You or Toe Knee.…

Out in the hall, Tío shows me a photo

of a dog, a chocolate Lab—goofy grin,

silly drool—not a fighting dog,

just a friendly dog, eager, a pal.

Tío walks me out of that crazy

scary courthouse, into a parking lot

where the happy dog is waiting

in a forest green truck.

I have to meet Gabe's welcoming

doggie eyes and sniffy nose,

even though I'm not ready to meet

nice dogs, cool uncles, or anyone else.

Well, maybe just one sniff is okay.

When I pat Gabe on his soft, furry head,

he gives my hand a few trusting,

slobbery licks.

Yuck.

 

2

GABE THE DOG

YES YES YES ALWAYS

The boy sees how I sniff, and he breathes too, smelling the deep odors of night and bright fragrance of day. Time is all mixed together in one long, endless pleasure of sniffing. We open our noses, inhaling everything—all we need is in the air.

I love the sound of his boy voice. Tonio. Tony. Not a very hard name to remember. I love the smell of his hands. The finger scent rhymes with good smells, food smells, friendly smells. Only his shoes hold an unfriendly odor. Bad dogs have walked near him. Strange dogs. Dangerous dogs. Their stench rhymes with bear scent and lion scent and the stink of rough places where stray dogs are caged.

The boy moves his head in slow circles, eyes closed, nose open.

The truck roars up our mountain. Aromas rush in. We lift our noses

together, pushing our heads out the wide-open window

into a wild place

where only scent

matters.

We sniff.

We share the road,

the window,

and clear

invisible

air!

We will always be friends.

Always.

 

3

TONY THE BOY

SCENT TRAILS

I've slept in plenty of ugly

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