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by Fred Vogel

Fred's words have seen the light of day in Literally Stories, Flash Fiction Magazine, Literary Orphans, Crack the Spine, and elsewhere. He resides in Oregon.  

My sister's a bitch. It's all right that I say this about her, because it's true. She and I are yellow Labs. Her name is Candy. And despite the same yellow coat, my name is Coco.

Candy is the family favorite. She gets most of the love from the twin teens, Janie and Jack. They treat me alright but I don't think their mother cares much for me. I'm not sure why, I just sense it. Maybe it has something to do with the time she took me for a ride; just the two of us. I remember how much I enjoyed looking out the window, watching other cars pass by. She turned off the busy street and on to a quiet road, without cars, people or houses. She pulled over, got out, and came around to my side and opened the door.

            "Come on, Coco," she said. "Let's go for a walk."

That was fine with me since I was in desperate need of a tree. I snuck up on an unsuspecting sapling and let it have it. I was humoring myself about how much I was over-watering the poor thing when I heard the car drive off. By the time I turned around, my owner was headed in the direction from where we had just come. I figured once she realized she had left without me she would be right back. But as the daylight turned to dark, an uneasy feeling came over me – What if she had intentionally left me out there in the middle of nowhere? My instinctive nose sent me scampering up the road where I wouldn't make it back home until morning.

I busted through the side gate and bounced into the back yard, where I was greeted by my sister and the twins, who were all thrilled to see me. Jack hugged me for the longest time, pleading for me to never run away again. Run away? What had their mother told him? Janie ran into the house to share the good news with her mother - Coco had found his way home.

I don't think Janie and Jack realized just how much Candy and I needed one another because when Janie moved away, she took Candy with her. Then Jack took me to live with him down by the beach. From then on, I only saw Candy on holidays.

With Jack as my new owner, I did everything I could to make him love me. But then he met a female and they got married, and then they had a little female, and I became an afterthought.

I started hanging with other dogs on the beach, stragglers like myself, looking for a friendly pat on the head or a scrap of food. Tacos are my favorite human food, followed by ice cream and then maybe Oreos.

I would come home to visit with Jack and his family every so often but came to realize that it was probably in everyone's best interest if we went our separate ways.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but I never had a girlfriend until I was nine. I know what you're thinking, but let me tell you – you can teach an old dog new tricks, and Dakota was a fantastic teacher. She and I hooked up one afternoon while I was out paddling in the ocean retrieving a tennis ball someone had tossed in. On my way back in, I caught a glimpse of her parading on the shoreline, barking at the waves, and let me tell you, I was hooked. It was love at first sniff.

Her owners must have appreciated how well Dakota and I were playing with each other because the male came up to me for a friendly human to dog chat.

            "So, big fella. Do you live around here?" he asked, while stroking my back.

            Wagging my tail was the best response I could give.

            "Who's your owner?"

            I showed him my sad face.

            "You don't have an owner?"

            More sad face.

            He checked my collar for a name tag.

            "What's your name, big fella?"

            This is where it got difficult. I tried barking out co-co, but it came out sounding more like row-row.

            "Rolo? Like the candy? Is that your name?" he asked.

            I tried again but it was in vain.

            "Rolo. That's a cool name," he said.

            Yeah, I thought. Rolo's not so bad. I can live with that. And I certainly didn't want to be called Big Fella. So I wagged in agreement.

            "How would you like to come home with us, Rolo?"

            My wagging accelerated. Oh, please, please, please take me home with you.

The male walked over to Dakota's female owner to discuss my situation. The next thing I know me and Dakota - who gives great nuzzle by the way - are jumping into the back of their SUV and off we went, to begin the final chapter of my life.

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