I don’t understand my Girlpup; the rest of my Pack adores me. Packmom Doreen is always an easy conquest. She saved me when I was a puppy and I fell over my ears, and my legs wouldn’t stay under me. She is the most important member of the Pack—she feeds us.
Just not often enough.
Packdad Brian is very well trained and does whatever Packmom Doreen wants. In the last two years, I’ve become a model of the perfect hunting hound. Karly needs to see me for what I am, and she doesn’t.
When I prowl in her mind, I see how she pictures me—a clumsy, stupid, wobbly pup. I shouldn’t have to prove to her I am the best familiar in the world or that I am brilliant. I shouldn’t, but I know I’ll have to.
“George!” she shouts through panting. Why is she running? “Where the heck are you?”
Although Karly’s scent changed after her twelfth birthday from sweetmilkFrootLoops to that fakeflowerchemical that she thinks removes her odor, I know it’s her. Even if I can’t smell her, I can still hear her stumble over the path. Big rocks and trees that scrape the sky get in the way. She needs to get lower to the ground. Now she’s sneezing. If only she’d work with me, her allergies would go bye-bye. Whoever heard of an allergic witch-in-training? We can use green magic. But Karly will first have to trust me.
And she doesn’t.
Maybe when she gets older.
I continue to scrape my claws into the damp ground, searching for more smelltastes and listening for my Girlpup. She’s panting like it’s a hot day. At least she’s catching up. I am satisfied she’s okay, and dig like a badger with my wonderful big paws and claws, the ideal excavation tools. I wish I was digging up the den of a rabbit. I slow to sniff.
There’s no rabbit here.
Something different’s calling me.
What the heck is it?
Dirt and roots pile up behind me, and my rear is now higher than my front as I dig. I scrape against rocks and try to push them away. They aren’t rocks—too long and thin. I wrap my jaws around one and toss it with a headshake out of the hole. I find another and do the same thing, until there is a pile of buff-colored things that look like bleached driftwood.
I heave myself out of the hole and investigate my find. The thick sticks are hairy with fine roots. I pick one up. It’s light for its size, hollow, and about the size of a rawhide bone. It has a round knob on one side and is broken off on the other. I retrieve more pieces from the hole and sit.
Maybe they are old branches.
They don’t smelltaste like old branches.
Karly finally shows up, huffing and puffing, out of breath. She needs to get out more. I poke my nose into the pile of things I’ve dug out. “George, what are you doing? You aren’t, um, eating those, are you?”
I look at her like she’s crazy. I don’t eat wood.
Karly points to the things and counts them. “So what did you find? There are nine of whatever they are.” She bends down and touches one. “Weird, they look like someone snapped them in half.” My Girlpup takes one of the longer things and rubs off the dirt.
She drops it like it’s a pan just out of the oven. I take a sniff; it’s not hot. There’s something here, though.
Not a good something, either.
“G-G-George, those are bones,” Karly’s voice breaks as she stutters over my name. I take another sniff. Yeah, they could be bones. What’s the problem with that? I lick one. It tastes like dirt. They’ve been here a long time.
Just a bunch of animal bones. Maybe a big dog buried them. What’s bothering her? The hackles rise on the back of my neck. The not good gassulfurdrysnakecatstink smelltaste spins around my brain like smoke.
I hack and cough. I know exactly what kind of bones these are.
I look Karly in the eye and push a picture of a Halloween skeleton. I know she doesn’t like it when I go into her head without permission, but this is important. I am not sharing the good stuff, like manure, rotting fish, and dead animals.
“No way. These aren’t human bones,” she squeaks and backs up.
Nope, she can’t ignore these. I pick one up gently between my teeth and carry it to her feet. I carefully place it in front of her toes then shake my muzzle, lips flopping from side to side, trying to get the taste of Peep bone out of my mouth. Peep bone.
Bassets do not eat Peeps’ bones. We only chew non-peep bones. We need our Peeps to hunt for our fresh, meaty bones.
“George, leave it. We need to talk to Aunt Heather about them. She’ll know if they’re human or not, and what to do if they are.” Karly gulps. “If they aren’t…I hope they aren’t. You’ve never smelled human bones, so how’d you know?”
Um, I am your familiar. I have magical skills? There’s something off about the bones, and a weak scent gets stronger as I inhale.
It’s a really bad smelltaste.